With the forest land base eroded by the expansion of
population centers and other withdrawals, the only possible solution
is to intensify the growth of trees on remaining available acreage.
The greatest room for improvement lies with the nonindustrial private
forests of the eastern half of the United States and the National
Forests of the Rocky Mountains and Pacific states.
The nonindustrial private ownerships -- nearly all
of which are located in the South, East and Midwest -- comprise 297
million acres, or 59 percent of the nation's commercial forest land.
Despite the enormity of all the aggregate acreage, individual holdings
are typically small. There are some 4.5 million individual owners.
These people come from all walks of life. There are
wide variations in personal interests dictating what they choose to do
with their land. But one thing the great majority of them have in
common is lack of money or inclination for long-term forestry
Forest-based industries have initiated programs to
help give these millions of small owners the incentives and assistance
they need to practice forest management. But more money and
participation are needed. If sufficiently interested, small owners
may agree to the development of their lands -- but usually little
more. It is increasingly apparent that much of the responsibility
must ultimately be borne by Federal forestry programs.
Although forest products industry lands constitute
only 13 percent of the nation's commercial forests, these timber lands
supply the nation with a third of its annual harvest. To attain such
high levels on a sustained yield bases, the forest-based industries
have a full time job requiring millions of dollars in long-term
But the main reasons for Federal participation are
the enormous economic and environmental benefits to be gained by the
public at large. Some of the small owners might want to devote their
lands to commercial timber production, others to recreation, still
others to wildlife preserves. Yet, if even a bare majority could be
given the tools, know how and financing to practice scientific
forestry, all of these benefits -- and more -- would increase
tremendously, to be shared by all Americans. Congress plays a key
role, since it provides the money and incentives needed for
accelerated forest management on both public and private nonindustrial
It's unreasonable to assume that every forest acre
can provide multiple benefits. But if a majority can be developed to
potential and devoted to their most appropriate use, the forests of
the United States will collectively be able to meet the needs of the