Submitted by: Phil Riebel 03/20/2018
Make a point of enjoying your local forest!
The United Nations General Assembly declared March 21st as International Day of Forests to celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests. The theme for each International Day of Forests is chosen by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, which promotes the sustainable management of forests. The theme for 2018 is Forests and Sustainable Cities.
Over half the world’s population, an estimated 4 billion people now live in cities. By 2050, that number is expected to rise to 6 billion people. Recognizing the immense value of trees in and around our cities is critical to the way we will develop our urban areas. Trees help to cool our cities in summer and keep them warmer in winter. They are excellent filters and remove harmful pollutants from the air. Forests in and around urban areas filter and regulate water and help to provide high quality freshwater supplies. They also provide habitats, food and protection for animals and birds and maintain and increase biodiversity.
And these forested areas also provide beautiful settings to spend a few hours and encourage active and healthy lifestyles. Forests are increasingly recognized as beneficial to our mental health and a walk in the woods is recommended to reduce stress. Going for a walk in your favorite forest, is healthy, relaxing, and can bring some rewarding sightings in terms of birds and wildlife.
Sustainable management of forests throughout the world is valuable for all the same reasons, as well as storing vast amounts of carbon to mitigate the effects of climate change. In the U.S., forests and wood products captured and stored roughly 10% of all carbon dioxide equivalents emitted by the U.S. in 2016. Growing trees also release oxygen into the atmosphere, thereby supporting life on our planet.
As a result of sustainable forest management, U.S. forest area has increased from 754 to 766 million acres between 2005 and 2015 and the net volume of growing stock increased by over 10% during the same period. [i] Canada’s forest area of 857 million acres has been quite stable over the past 25 years. Each year forests in the U.S. and Canada grow significantly more wood than is harvested. [ii]
More than half the forest land in the U.S is owned and managed by about 11 million private forest owners. In 2017, private forest lands provided over 90% of the domestically produced wood and paper products. The income landowners receive for trees grown on their land encourages them to maintain, sustainably manage and renew this valuable resource. Without that income, some landowners may be encouraged to sell their land to accommodate urban sprawl. [iii]
For more great facts about how paper supports sustainable forest management - see our Fact Sheet
[i] FAO, 2015
[ii] Natural Resources Canada, 2017
[iii] USDA, 2017