The American Forest Foundation issued the following statement on the White House Conference on America’s Great Outdoors:
“We applaud the Obama Administration’s leadership in acknowledging the vital role America’s forests and working landscapes play in the economic and environmental health of communities all across the country. In particular, we commend U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Vilsack for his continued leadership to knit together farms, forests and ranches with landscape scale conservation efforts,” said Tom Martin, American Forest Foundation President and CEO.
In America, the “great outdoors” includes 262 million acres of woodlands owned by family forest owners. These families own more than one-third of the nation’s forests and woodlands — an essential component to conserving America’s Great Outdoors. By contrast federal forest lands comprise only 25 percent of our forests.
“Helping family forest owners stay on the land and manage forests sustainably is essential to a healthy outdoor strategy, economically viable communities, and a strong conservation ethic,” said Martin.
America’s family-owned forests filter more than half of the nation’s drinking water supply and provide habitat for most of our nation’s endangered species. America’s forests also support more than one million family wage jobs and generate billions in economic returns for our nation’s communities. Our forests sequester more than 12 percent of annual U.S. carbon emissions and already supply most of the nation’s energy that comes from renewable sources.
“We also commend the Administration for addressing the need to reconnect Americans with the natural world,” said Martin. “At a time when too many children suffer from “nature deficit” and increasing rates of obesity, forests provide recreational opportunities to get kids outdoors and learning about our environment. Through Project Learning Tree, our premier environmental education program, AFF is taking a leading role in getting kids away from “virtual reality” to the true virtues of nature. We will continue to seek additional federal resources to ensure that environmental education is part of every child’s education.”
Despite the multitude of benefits America’s family-owned forests provide, they are under constant threat from development, insects and disease exacerbated by climate change, and burdensome tax policies that often force families to sell their land. The American Forest Foundation will continue to work with the Obama Administration to develop innovative solutions and policy changes to keep America’s forests healthy and productive.