A very brief historical summary of American forests

US Forestry trend data PowerPoint

In the above graphic, one can see the change in our total forest land calculated for the U.S., including AK and HI.  The black section of the bar chart has been calculated based on estimates of forest clearing proportional to known population growth.  The green portion of the bar chart is based on Census Bureau land-clearing statistics.  The red  is estimated and the blue is based on Forest Service’s FIA Field Reports.

The graphic comes from a Forest Service PowerPoint reviewing the trends from 1760 to 2000.  The sharpest decline is attributed to the settlers clearing the forests along the East Coast.  This makes sense.  Not only did the settlers clear land for agricultural purposes, they also did so with other justifications, such as certain psychological factors.  The forest was traditionally a scary place, the lair of outlaws in the Old World, the haunt of native tribes in the New World and dangerous beasts in both worlds.

On the heels of this phenomenon was the Industrial Revolution.  This created a greater commercial demand for wood fuel.  In response to that wanton taxing of the land, America reacted by creating public wilderness land and bestowed the responsibility for researching, inventorying and monitoring American forest lands on federal agencies.

At this point, there is a substantial area of forest that is privately owned for the purposes of industry–its stock is renewed based on demand.  Most of this is in the southern part of the country where wood-related industries are supported.  For this reason, outside of this region, trees tend to be older and have larger diameters.

For more from the Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis program, follow this link: http://www.fia.fs.fed.us/

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