Happy Earth Day

On April 22, 1970, I, along with 20 million others that day, attended one of the first Earth Day celebrations (Read the history of Earth Day here, written by the founder, Senator Gaylord Nelson). The one I went to was held at Santa Monica City College (yes, Dustin Hoffman’s and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s alma mater). In those days, most of us in the environmental movement worried about air pollution causing another ice age through global cooling.

I was a nineteen-year-old student attending SMCC, and my main concern was the over-harvesting of trees leading to the permanent loss of forests, especially the deforestation of the Amazon’s rain forest. Deforestation was my reason for entering into the field of forestry.

I transferred after a couple years to Humboldt State University in Arcata, California. I majored in Forest Management. It turns out forests in the United States and other countries (primarily in the OECD) are doing just fine. The information is contained in public records such as:

Forest Resources of the United States, 2002: A Technical Document Supporting the USDA Forest Service 2005 Update of the RPA Assessment by W. Brad Smith, Patrick D. Miles, John S. Vissage, And Scott A. Pugh.

RPA Assessments report on the status and trends of the nation’s renewable resources on all forest and rangelands, as required by the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act (RPA) of 1974.

So what are the trends and status our nation’s renewable resources?

  • About 33 percent of our nation’s 2.3 billion acres of land area is forest today as compared to about one-half in 1630. Some 300 million acres of forest land have been converted to other uses since 1630, predominantly agricultural uses in the East.
  • Fifty-seven percent of all forest land is privately owned. Private forest land is dominant in the East. Public forest land is dominant in the West.

The graphic shows that for the last 130 years or so the forest area of the United States has remained nearly the same or grown. Only the Pacific Coast has diminished slightly.

Forest area of the United States, 1630-2002, “Forest Resources of the United States

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