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National Forests on the Edge

National Forests on the Edge

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This report, "National Forests on the Edge: Development Pressures on America's National Forests and Grasslands," was recently published by the U.S. Forest Service and it takes a comprehensive approach to describing the impact of development encroachment on public lands. The report documents this phenomenon through a number of case studies. Full narrative is given to the description of various impacts and why it is important to maintain the integrity of public lands.
This report, "National Forests on the Edge: Development Pressures on America's National Forests and Grasslands," was recently published by the U.S. Forest Service and it takes a comprehensive approach to describing the impact of development encroachment on public lands. The report documents this phenomenon through a number of case studies. Full narrative is given to the description of various impacts and why it is important to maintain the integrity of public lands.

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Published by: National Association of County Planners on Sep 17, 2009
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U.S. Department of AgricultureForest ServicePacific Northwest Research StationGeneral Technical ReportPNW-GTR-728August 2007
Susan M. Stein, Ralph J. Alig, Eric M. White,Sara J. Comas, Mary Carr, Mike Eley, Kelly Elverum, Mike O’Donnell, David M.Theobald, Ken Cordell, Jonathan Haber, and Theodore W. Beauvais
Stein, Susan M.; Alig, Ralph J.; White, Eric M.; Comas,Sara J.; Carr, Mary; Eley, Mike; Elverum, Kelly;O’Donnell, Mike; Theobald, David M.; Cordell, Ken;Haber, Jonathan; Beauvais, Theodore W. 2007.
 Nationalforests on the edge: development pressures on America’snational forests and grasslands. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-728. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture,Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 26 p.Many of America’s national forests and grasslands—collectivelycalled the National Forest System—face increased risks andalterations from escalating housing development on private rurallands along their boundaries. National forests and grasslands provide critical social, ecological, and economic benefits to theAmerican public. This study projects future housing densityincreases on private rural lands at three distances— 
,3, and 10miles—from the external boundaries of all national forests andgrasslands across the conterminous United States. Some 21.7million acres of rural private lands (about 8 percent of all private lands) located within 10 miles of the National ForestSystem boundaries are projected to undergo increases in hous-ing density by 2030. Nine national forests are projected toexperience increased housing density on at least 25 percent of adjacent private lands at one or more of the distances consid-ered. Thirteen national forests and grasslands are each projectedto have more than a half-million acres of adjacent private rurallands experience increased housing density. Such developmentand accompanying landscape fragmentation pose substantialchallenges for the management and conservation of the ecosys-tem services and amenity resources of National Forest Systemlands, including access by the public. Research such as this canhelp planners, managers, and communities consider the impactsof local land use decisions.Keywords: Land use change, national forest, housing density,road density, ecosystem services, amenity resources, amenitymigration, housing development, planning.
Susan M. Stein
is a private forest-land studies coordinator,
Sara J. Comas
isanatural resource specialist, and
TheodoreW. Beauvais
is an assistant director, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Cooperative Forestry Staff,Mailstop 1123, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington,DC 20250-1123.
Ralph J. Alig
is a research forester and teamleader, and
Eric M. White
is a research economist, U.S.Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific NorthwestResearch Station, Forestry Sciences Laboratory, 3200 SWJefferson Way, Corvallis, OR 97331.
Mary Carr
is a technical publications editor, U.S. Department of Agriculture, ForestService, Publishing Arts, 1835 Black Lake Boulevard, SW,Olympia, WA98512.
Mike Eley
is a geographic informationsystem (GIS) coordinator, American Farmland Trust, 1200 18
Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036.
David M. Theobald
is aresearch scientist, Colorado State University,Natural ResourceEcology Laboratory,Fort Collins, CO 80523-1499.
Mike O’Donnell
are GIS analysts, ElverumMapping Services, 1627 Cedarwood Drive, Fort Collins, CO80526.
Ken Cordell
is a pioneering research scientist, U.S.Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern ResearchStation, Forestry Sciences Laboratory, 320 Green Street, Athens,GA30602-2044.
Jonathan Haber
is a regional conservation planner,U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Region, 200 E Broadway, P.O. Box 7669, Missoula,MT59807.
Photo credits:
All photos U.S. Forest Service unless otherwisenoted. Top cover photo by Larry Korhnak.
merica’s National Forest System is composed of 155national forests and 20 national grasslands managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service.Many of these forests and grasslands are facing increased risksand impacts from escalating housing development on privaterural lands along their boundaries. Encompassing about 192 mil-lion acres across 44 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands,national forests and grasslands account for 8.5 percent of thetotal U.S. land area and 20 percent of its forest land (USDAForest Service 2004a) (fig. 1). Nearly a quarter of the U.S. pop-ulation lives in a county that contains National Forest Systemland (Johnson and Stewart 2007). National Forest System lands provide critical social, economic,and ecological benefits to the Nation, including aesthetic andspiritual values, recreation opportunities, fresh drinking water,clean air, timber and other forest products, minerals, oil andgas, livestock grazing, and abundant habitats for fish andwildlife species (see page 4 for examples). These ecosystemservices and amenity resources can be altered when new housesare built on private lands within or near forest and grassland boundaries.The population of the United States is projected to increase byat least 135 million people to approximately 420 million people by 2050 (U.S. Census Bureau 2004), resulting in substantial projected expansion in U.S. developed area (Alig and Plantinga2004, Alig et al. 2004, Cordell and Overdevest 2001, Macieand Hermansen 2003, Nowak and Walton 2005). Counties withnational forests and grasslands already are experiencing someof the highest population growth rates in the Nation as peoplemove near public lands (Garber-Yonts 2004, Johnson andStewart 2007, USDAForest Service 2006a). Even
national forest boundaries, the number of housing units on privately held lands increased from 500,000 to 1.5 million between 1950 and 2000 (Radeloff et al. 2005a).
Figure 1—
Who manages America’s forests?
National Forest Systemlands are managed by the U.S.Forest Service and account for about20 percent of America’s forested land.Some 148 million acres of National Forest System lands are forest;about 44 million acres arenonforest.Other forested lands in the country are managed by pri-vate landowners (57 percent) or by other public agencies or localgovernments (23 percent).Source:Smith and Darr (2004).
Nationwide,some 17 percent of all lands located within the boundaries of national forests or grasslands are “inholdings”held by private or other non-Forest-Service landowners (USDA Forest Service 2005b).Inholdings may bemanaged by other federal agencies;state,county,local,or tribal governments;private individuals;or corporate entities.Inholdings are particularly prevalentin the East,where national forests were established much later than those inthe West,often to protect damaged watersheds and restore abandoned farm-lands (Shands and Healy 1977);nearly half (46 percent) of the lands locatedwithin Eastern national forest boundaries are inholdings (USDA Forest Service2006a).Western national forests generally have a more consolidated owner-ship pattern providing larger blocks of public land with fewer inholdings.
Although most National Forest Systemlands are in the West,national forestsalong the Appalachian Mountain chainand scattered across other Eastern and Midwestern States are withina day’s drive for millions of Americans (USDA Forest Service 2005b).Private lands in the vicinity of national forests and grasslands arebecoming developed at an increasing rate across the country.
A third of all federally listed threatened or endangered species currently occur on National Forest System lands or are potentially affected bynational forest and grassland management (Bosch 2006).Photos courtesy of U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service.

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