assessment of sustainability of our forests

Southern Forest Resource Assessment

led by the USDA Forest Service's Southern Region and Southern Research Station in collaboration with the USEPA, US Fish & Wildlife, TVA, and state forestry agencies of the Southern United States

Public Meetings

Preliminary Questions

Assessing the long term vitality of the South's forest resources is a complex undertaking. To focus our efforts, we drafted with the assistance of a group of experts a set of preliminary assessment questions organized around the five broad categories below. The Assessment team collected public input on these questions until October 15th, 1999. Summarized listings of these inputs were made available online in December. The public inputs were used to create a revised set of questions, available from the Proposed Questions page. We've left this older set of questions here to illustrate the assessment process and its response to public input.

  1. Landscapes/Terrestrial Ecosystems
  2. Social and Economic Factors
  3. Timber Markets and Forest Management
  4. Forest Extent, Conditions, and Health
  5. Watersheds, Aquatic/Riparian Ecosystems, and Forested Wetlands

link to top Landscapes/Terrestrial Ecosystems

Southern forests are habitat for numerous plant and animal species, and past forest treatments have resulted in today's wildlife and plant communities. Forest management practices, forest use for recreation and other purposes, conversion to non-forest land uses or to different forest species, and stresses of urbanization will all play important roles in shaping landscape and terrestrial ecosystems in the future. Relevant questions include:

1. What is the history, status, and likely future of terrestrial wildlife habitat types in the South?
2. What conditions will be needed to sustain plant and animal habitat associations in the South?
3. What are the likely effects of expanding human populations, urbanization and infrastructure development on habitats, animals, and plants?
4. How has forest management and access shaped terrestrial ecosystems in the South?

link to top Social/Economic Factors

Southern forests are vital to the economy of the region. Demand for forest products and recreational opportunities continue to grow, as the region's, nation's and world's population expands. Increased habitation of heretofore rural forested areas of the South affects landowner and citizen attitudes toward forests and their management. Laws, regulations and policies have evolved, reflecting the changing demographics of the region. All of these factors affect the manner in which forests are managed, and thus their long-term condition. Relevant questions include:

1. How have land uses changed in the South and how might changes in the future affect the forest land base?
2. What is the demographic profile and attitudes of Southern citizens toward forests and their management and how have they changed?
3. How do current policies, regulations, and laws (for example, Best Management Practices) affect forest resources and their management?
4. What motivates private forest landowners to manage their forest land and how are their management objectives formed?
5. What role do forests play in employment and local economies in the South?
6. What are the supplies of and demands for forest based recreation and other uses of forests in the South?

link to top Timber Markets and Forest Management

Historically, wood and fiber demand dictated the type and location of forest management treatments on the South's forest lands. While this relationship is likely to continue, demands for timber and the technology available to harvest and process it are changing. Concurrently, silvicultural applications are being refined as a result of research of their effectiveness and ecological consequences. The South's forests will in a large way reflect the interconnectedness of the above factors. Relevant questions include:

1. What are the demands for and supplies of wood products in the South?
2. What are the status and trends of forest management practices in the South?
3. How might new technologies influence timber harvesting and conditions of forests?
4. What are the management approaches of various forest ownership classes in the South?

link to top Forest Extent, Conditions, and Health

The South's forestland base has fluctuated over time in response to social and economic conditions, and will likely continue to do so. Land ownership patterns are also changing. Past treatments have resulted in a forest comprised of a patchwork of age classes and forest types. Exotic pests and diseases have and will continue to affect forest composition and vitality. All of these factors directly affect the entire spectrum of forest functions and values, and must be recognized if Southern forest resources are to be sustained. Relevant questions include:

1. What is the history, status, and likely future of Southern forests (area, ownership, and location)?
2. What is the history, status, and likely future of the structure of forests in the South (age, species composition, stand size, stand origin, fragmentation)?
3. What factors (insects, disease, fire exclusion, environmental stressors) have and could continue to influence the overall health of the South's forests?

link to top Watersheds, Aquatic/Riparian Ecosystems, and Forested Wetlands

Forests are the headwaters for the region's water supplies, and provide the highest quality habitat available for many freshwater fish, amphibians, and mussels. Much of the region's forest-based recreation occurs within close proximity to or directly involves forest streams. Forested wetlands likewise provide an abundance of unique ecological functions and values for society. Southern streams and wetlands carry a legacy of past forest treatments, and will continue to reflect the effects of their management. Relevant questions include:
1. What is the history, status, and likely future of water quality in Southern forested watersheds?
2. What is the history, status, and likely future of forested wetlands in the South?
3. How have forest management activities and other forest uses influenced water quality and aquatic habitat in forested watersheds?
4. What are the implementation rates and effectiveness of BMP's in the South?
5. What is the history, status, and likely future of aquatic habitats and species in the South?

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  modified: 3-JAN-2001
  webmaster: John M. Pye