Skip to main content

Goal: Deliver Benefits to the Public Volumes and values of nontimber forest products in the United States

Person harvesting black cohosh root

People harvest thousands of pounds of black cohosh root for its medicinal value every year. The wild-harvesting of this and other nontimber forest products contributes millions of dollars to rural economies. Evidence indicates that the ecological impacts of harvesting may be significant, albeit not well documented. (Forest Service photo by James Chamberlain)

Introduction

Wild-harvested plants and fungi from U.S. forests are critical to the food supply and financial security of millions of Americans. These nontimber products are essential to healthy, vibrant, and resilient forests. The National Assessment (GTR-SRS-232) is a comprehensive synthesis of the state-of-scientific knowledge that provides valuable insights to advance conservation and management of under-recognized natural resources and products.

Summary

Every year, more than $1 billion is contributed to the wholesale economy of this country from wild-harvested nontimber forest products. The food and medicine that are sourced from U.S. forests contribute directly to the health, well-being, nutrition, and food security of millions of American citizens. The income generated from the sale of the products adds to the financial security of people who often are economically marginalized. Many of the plants and fungi valued as nontimber products are cultural icons that are also valuable to people’s cultural identity. If they disappear due to changes in climate, habitat, or lack of management, these cultures will be irreversibly impacted. Wild-harvested plants and fungi are critical to forest health and resiliency, although the ecological impacts of harvesting and climate change are not thoroughly understood. No one knows for sure just what volume of nontimber forest products are harvested from U.S. forests every year. But the estimates are staggering: more than 15,000 pounds of medicinal plants were harvested from southern forests in 2013 alone. Most of these came from hardwood forests in Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Every region of this country produces important nontimber forest products: pine nuts from Southwest; beargrass and huckleberries from the Pacific Northwest; boughs from upper Midwest, and maple syrup from New England. The National Assessment (GTR-SRS-232) provides a comprehensive synthesis of the science-based knowledge relative to the production, ecology, economics, social and cultural importance, and policy and regulations of nontimber forest products with implications of a changing climate. SRS scientist James Chamberlain lead a team of 60 experts from across the country to bring together the knowledge about nontimber resources and products. This report highlights the importance of these products to our society and our diverse cultures, as well as the knowledge necessary to advance conservation and management of these important natural resources for the products that U.S. citizens need and enjoy.

Listen to a brief audio clip by author James Chamberlain describing this publication.  •  Text Transcript

Principal Investigator
James L. Chamberlain, Research Forest Products Technologist
RWU
4801 - Forest Inventory and Analysis
Strategic Program Area
Resource Management and Use
Inventory and Monitoring
Publication
Assessment of nontimber forest products in the United States under changing conditions
CompassLive Stories
Foraging in the Future
The Forest’s Bounty
Research Partners
Washington Office
Northern Research Station
Pacific Northwest Research Station
Pacific Southwest Research Station
USDA Agricultural Research Service
US Fish and Wildlife Service
Institute of Pacific Island Forestry
US Forest Service Region 10
International Institute of Tropical Forestry
Bureau of Land Management
National Park Service
External Partners
Auburn University
Washington State University
Alabama A&M University
California State University
North Carolina State University
Yale University
Warren Wilson College
Cornell University
University of Hawaii
University of Maine
Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Commission
Missouri Valley College
University of Missouri
Ursinus College
Pennsylvania State University
University of Kansas
Virginia Tech
North Carolina Arboretum
Portland State University
Radford University
National Council for Air and Stream Improvement
Dartmouth College
Northern Arizona University
Eastern Kentucky University
University of Nevada
Northwest Forest Workers Center
Highlands Biological Station