Forests in the United States are dying, whether at the hands of loggers, ranchers, or real estate developers, or, as in the cases of Colorado
, and California
, from disease and drought.
Loss of habitat poses a major environmental threat to countless species, but loss of the nation’s forest has another impact as well.
It further isolates us from an environment that provides us with both recreation and a source of renewal and reflection.
And with the Trump administration already implementing policies top open up yet more of the nation’s forests and other public lands to commercial exploitation, things can only get worse.
New study reveals extent of a one-decade loss
Scientists looked a forest losses over the last decade of the 20th Century, and their findings are very worrisome, especially in light of what the next four years may bring.
From the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Americans are spending their lives farther from forests than they did at the end of the 20th century and, contrary to popular wisdom, the change is more pronounced in rural areas than in urban settings.
A study published today [open access] in the journal PLOS ONE says that between 1990 and 2000, the average distance from any point in the United States to the nearest forest increased by 14 percent – or about a third of a mile. And while the distance isn’t insurmountable for humans in search of a nature fix, it can present challenges for wildlife and have broad effects on ecosystems.
Dr. Giorgos Mountrakis, an associate professor in the ESF Department of Environmental Resources, and co-author of the study, called the results “eye opening.”
“Our study analyzed geographic distribution of forest losses across the continental U.S. While we focused on forests, the implications of our results go beyond forestry,” Mountrakis said.
The study overturned conventional wisdom about forest loss, the researcher noted. The amount of forest attrition – the complete removal of forest patches – is considerably higher in rural areas and in public lands. “The public perceives the urbanized and private lands as more vulnerable,” said Mountrakis, “but that’s not what our study showed. Rural areas are at a higher risk of losing these forested patches.