Hooray! It's International Day of Forests

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Today marks the U.N.’s first International Day of Forests, recognizing the important role forests play in the health of ecosystems, economy and society.

The economic value of forests is far-reaching. Visitor spending alone on lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service contributed more than $13 billion to the economy in 2012, and the forest products industry employs some 900,000 people. National forests and grasslands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $27 billion per year.

Forests are also vitally connected to climate change. U.S. forests absorb 11 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, a significant cause of global warming.

“International Day of Forests will help raise awareness of the contributions of the world’s forests,” said USDA Under Secretary Harris Sherman. “Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing the world today and the environmental stressors from our changing climate do not stop at international borders.”

Close to home and through the North American Forestry Commission, the Forest Service and Canadian representatives are collaborating on treatments for forests affected by insects and disease, problems which may be accelerated by climate change.

Around the world, awareness of the role of deforestation and land degradation in the climate change equation is increasing. The U.S. Forest Service International Programs staff, with support from the State Department, works with other countries to promote low-emissions strategies and to promote sustainable use and conservation of natural resources without impeding economic growth and opportunities.

In one such program, the U.S. is helping promote sustainable forest management and good forest governance in Peru. Peru hosts more than 23,000 species of plants and animals, 6,000 of which are endemic. The U.S. Forest Service, through its Peru Forest Sector Initiative, has been working with the support of the U.S. Agency for International Development to strengthen institutions and information systems and promote transparency and public participation to assist Peru in implementing their new forest law and comply with international agreements.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $27 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.