Date: Nov. 5, 1997
Contacts: Molly Galvin, Media Relations Associate
Sean McLaughlin, Media Relations Assistant
(202) 334-2138; Internet <>

Publication Announcement

Nonfederal Forests Should Be Used and Managed in Ways
That Sustain Important National Resources

Of the 737 million acres of forests in the United States, more than two-thirds is owned by individuals, Native American tribes, corporations, and state and local governments. These nonfederal forests -- most of which are in the South Central, Southeast, North Central, and Northeast regions of the country -- meet many diverse and often competing national needs. In 1991, for example, 88 percent of the nation's timber harvest came from nonfederal forests. In addition to other marketplace benefits, this forest land also protects soil, maintains water quality, and provides habitats for many threatened and endangered species.

Given the economic and environmental interests served by state-owned and privately owned forests, the federal government should develop a comprehensive policy that encourages use and management of these forests in ways that will benefit future generations, says a new report by a committee of the National Research Council. The policy should support public and private programs that encourage landowners and forest users to direct resources toward sustaining forests. The committee identified several areas of priority, including the following:

Improve national strategic planning for nonfederal forest management and improve administration of existing federal programs. Federal planning mechanisms are failing to identify national interests in these forests, and failing to develop appropriate policy and program responses. In addition, numerous existing federal policies, including protecting endangered species and maintaining water quality, are administered by many federal agencies in an often fragmented manner. A strategic plan that identifies national interests in nonfederal forests and encompasses the goals of these agencies should be developed.

Strengthen federal programs that monitor the environmental conditions of forest ecosystems and the health of economies and communities that depend on them. Threats posed by pollution, insects, or diseases should be detected and managed as soon as possible. Because landowners often use controlled fires to spur new growth, more federal assistance should be provided for the development and application of fire and fuel management technologies.

Provide incentives for greater investment in nonfederal forests. The financial resources required to manage and protect forests adequately can be difficult to obtain. Protecting forests from wildfire, building access roads and trails, and keeping forests intact rather than converting them for other purposes may require significant outlays of funds from private landowners, with little possibility for short-term returns. The federal government should assist landowners by providing financial incentives and technical assistance. Moreover, federal funding should be maintained at a level that will assure that the national resources provided by nonfederal forests are sustained.

Design federal programs that recognize public and private rights and interests. Any federal initiative, such as those aimed at controlling soil erosion or preventing water pollution, will affect the actions of forest owners and place demands on how they manage and use their property. Federal regulatory programs should be designed to balance diverse public and private rights and responsibilities.

Gather data in a consistent and organized manner; enhance timely access to information for landowners, managers, and citizens. Public and private research involving nonfederal forests should be expanded and focused on key areas, such as wildlife resources, water quality, and long-term timber productivity. Also needed are better mechanisms for transferring information and research results to interested parties.

The study was funded by the U.S. Forest Service. A committee roster follows. Copies of Forested Landscapes in Perspective: Prospects and Opportunities for Sustainable Management of America's Nonfederal Forests will be available in January from the National Academy Press for $34.95 (estimated) plus shipping charges of $4.00 for the first copy and $.50 for each additional copy; tel. (202) 334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242. Reporters may obtain pre-publication copies from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).

Board on Agriculture

Committee on Prospects and Opportunities for
Sustainable Management of America's Nonfederal Forests

Paul V. Ellefson (chair)
Professor of Forest Resource Policy and Administration
Department of Forest Resources
University of Minnesota
St. Paul

James K. Agee
Professor of Forest Ecology
College of Forest Resources
University of Washington

Keith A. Argow
National Woodland Owners Association, and
American Resources Inc.
Vienna, Va.

Jeanne N. Clarke
Associate Professor of Political Science
Department of Political Science
University of Arizona

Preston D. Cole
City Forestry Services

Dominick A. DellaSala
Senior Wildlife Ecologist
World Wildlife Fund
Washington, D.C.

Henry Gholz
Professor of Ecology and Graduate Coordinator
School of Forest Resources and Conservation
University of Florida

J. Keith Gilless
Associate Professor of Forest Ecology
College of Natural Resources
University of California

Perry R. Hagenstein
Resource Issues Inc., and
Institute for Forest Analysis, Planning, and Policy
Wayland, Mass.

Neil D. Hamilton
Professor of Law and Director
Agricultural Law Center
Drake University Law School
Des Moines, Iowa

James E. Hubbard
State Forester
Colorado State Forest Service
Colorado State University
Fort Collins

Keith Ross
Vice President and Director of Land Protection
New England Forestry Foundation
Groton, Mass.

John T. Shannon
State Forester
Arkansas Forestry Commission
Little Rock

Ronald L. Trosper
Professor and Director of Native American Forestry Program
College of Ecosystem Science and Management
Northern Arizona University


Michael J. Phillips
Study Director

Charlotte Kirk Baer
Program Officer