Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sale of private forests further endangers species

The key for protecting woodland plants and creatures may be stemming the sale of private forests, says a U.S. Forest Service report. "Increased housing density near and on private forests is threatening habitat for plants and animals already at risk of decline or extinction, according to the 24-page report by the agency's State and Private Forestry arm," Phil Taylor of Environment & Energy News reports. More than half of all U.S. forest land, 423 million acres, is privately owned. The report notes landowners often earn more by selling forest land to developers than preserving open space. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo: endangered green pitcher plant)

"Over half of America's forests are privately owned and are under pressure from housing development, pests, diseases and fire," Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said last week. "Future development is likely to result in a decrease of private forest habitat for many at-risk species." Tidwell noted the report, Threats to At-Risk Species in America's Private Forests, is designed to aid local and state agencies and conservationists in planning future developments and identifying at-risk species. The report is an update on a 2008 report that was "forecasting declines of at-risk species as a result of housing density increases through 2030," Taylor writes.

The report "includes case studies of at-risk wildlife species including the Chesapeake Bay's Delmarva fox squirrel, the key deer in southern Florida and the California tiger salamander," Taylor writes. Protecting private forests is of particular concern in the eastern U.S., where a higher percentage of forests are held by families and companies. "Since 87 percent of forest land in the U.S. South is privately held, the future of Southern forests -- and their species -- rests in the hands of private landowners," Craig Hanson, director of the People and Ecosystems Program at the World Resources Institute, told Taylor. (Read more, subscription required)

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