U.S. Forest Facts on Forestland


David Jrg Engel / EyeEm/Getty Images

The Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program of the U.S. Forest Service collects forest facts needed to assess America's forests. FIA coordinates the only continuous national forest census. This particular collection of forest data started in 1950 and is used to project how forests are likely to appear in 10 to 50 years. This forest data also provides a fascinating view of our forests from a historical perspective.

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U.S. Forest Area Stablized

forest area chart

Since 1900, forest area in the U.S. has remained statistically within 745 million acres +/-5% with the lowest point in 1920 of 735 million acres. The U.S. forest area in 2000 was about 749 million acres.

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Forest Area By U.S. Region

Regional forest trends in the 48 States, 1760-2000. USFS/FIA

Original forests in what is now the U.S. totaled about 1.05 billion acres (including what is now the State of AK and HI). Clearing of forest land in the East between 1850 and 1900 averaged 13 square miles every day for 50 years; the most prolific period of a forest clearing in U.S. history. This coincides with one of the most prolific periods of U.S. immigration. Currently, forests cover about 749 million acres of the U.S. or about 33 percent of all land.

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U.S. Forest Ownership Acres Stable

Area of productive unreserved forest by major owner group, 1953-2002. USFS/FIA

The acreage of all private and public forests have remained the same over the last half-century. The area of productive unreserved forest and (timberland) has remained stable for the last 50 years. The reserved (timberlands where cutting is not allowed) are actually increasing.

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Forest Trees in U.S Getting Larger

Numbers of live trees by diameter, 1977 and 2002. USFS/FIA

As forests mature the average number of small trees tends to decline due to natural competition and the number of large trees increases. This pattern is evident in the U.S. over the past 25 years, although it may vary by region and historic conditions such as harvesting and catastrophic events such as a fire. There are currently nearly 300 billion trees at least 1-inch in diameter in the U.S.

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Forest Trees in U.S Growing in Volume

Growing stock growth, removals, and mortality, 1953-2002. USFS/FIA

Tree volumes since 1950 have increased and, most importantly, not dropped. The U.S. now grows more wood, in the form of living trees, than in the last 60 years. The total volume of net growth has slowed in recent years but still ahead of tree volume being cut. Removals have also stabilized but imports are on the rise. While total tree death, called mortality, is up, the rate of mortality as a percent of the live volume is stable.

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Private U.S. Tree Owners Supply the World

Growing stock harvest by major owner, region and year. USFS/FIA

As public policy has shifted, tree cutting (removals) has moved dramatically from public land in the west to private land in the east in the last 15 years. This commercial forest, America's tree farm, is the major supplier of wood in the United States. Most of these tree farms are located in the east and continue to increase both growth and resulting product.

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Your Citation
Nix, Steve. "U.S. Forest Facts on Forestland." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/us-forest-facts-on-forestland-1343034. Nix, Steve. (2020, August 27). U.S. Forest Facts on Forestland. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/us-forest-facts-on-forestland-1343034 Nix, Steve. "U.S. Forest Facts on Forestland." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/us-forest-facts-on-forestland-1343034 (accessed March 22, 2023).