When Europeans first set foot in North America, forests covered vast swaths of the continent, and seemed to early settlers to be inexhaustible. As the agricultural frontier expanded during the 1800s and 1900s, however, much of that original forest was lost, especially in the East. In its place is often a second-growth forest that serves a variety of purposes, including recreation, timber production, open space, and wildlife habitat. About two-thirds of the original forest area of the United States is forested today, providing essential habitat for a wide array of wild plant and animal species. Of the remaining forests, many are fragmented and have lost native species and natural communities.
Growing demand for timber and other wood products places increasing
pressure on these remaining forests. Concern for the future of our forestsas
wildlife habitat, as a source of important ecosystem services, and as an economic
resourcehas created momentum for the adoption of more sustainable forest
practices. And the emergence of environmentally-conscious consumers as a market
force has created powerful economic incentives for industry to implement improved
forest management practices.
Forest certification represents a market-based approach to improving environmental practices in the management, harvesting, and distribution of forest products. Multiple forest certification initiatives incorporate NatureServe standards and data into their certification procedures as a means to identify forests of special ecological value and strengthen biodiversity protection. The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), established by the forest products industry in 1994 and now overseen by the independent Sustainable Forestry Board, currently covers over 150 million acres of forestland in North America. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) was established in 1993 by a coalition of environmental groups, industry, and community groups. Over 22 million acres of forestland in the United States and 40 million acres in Canada are under FSC certification, as are another 100 million acres elsewhere around the world. In addition, The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) has certified over 100 million acres of Canadian forests.
What is NatureServe Doing?
As a leading source of data on rare and endangered species and sensitive ecosystems, NatureServe is committed to making our information broadly available to ensure that biodiversity is a major consideration in all aspects of forest management and planning. NatureServe is working with the leading certification processes, forest industry groups, paper producers and retail chains, and partner environmental groups. Current efforts are focused on improving the quality of data in forested landscapes and improving inventory tools and methods, such as the use of predictive distribution modeling for rare species. NatureServe is also exploring the use of Vista, its decision-support tool, in forest management and conservation planning applications on both public and private lands in the U.S. and Canada.
NatureServe is also working with the U.S. Forest Service to link nationwide forest data to vegetation classifications in an effort to make nationwide forest monitoring efforts more ecologically meaningful. In addition numerous members of the natural heritage Network have established working relationships with forest companies and public land managers to providr biodiversity data, training, and inventory services.
Additional NatureServe Resources
Sustainable Forestry Certification: NatureServe's press release announcing the Sustainable Forestry Initiative's adoption of NatureServe
data and standards in their forest certification process.
NatureServe's work to develop an internationally consistent vegetation classification
provides a fundamental tool for identifying forests of exceptional conservation
Explorer: Query our online searchable database for the imperiled and critically
imperiled species and ecological communities covered by the SFI certification
NatureServe Vista : NatureServe Vista delivers a decision support system (DSS) that integrates conservation information with land use patterns and policies, providing planners, resource managers, and communities with tools to help manage their natural resources.