How much old growth forest remains in the US?

Written by Brant Olson

Topics: Learn

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Good question!

USGS reports that “Before European settlement, forests covered nearly one billion acres of what is now the United States.” Data tables from the UN Forest Resource Asessment 2005 show that only 257, 439,329 acres (104,182,000 ha) of “primary” forests remain in the US (defined as where there are no clearly visible indications of human activities and the ecological processes are not significantly disturbed). This would indicate that roughly %25.7 of the US original forest cover remains as “primary” forest. Authoritative? Sure, but forestry numbers from the UN are notoriously bad.

Global Forest watch reports that

Approximately 20% of North American forests have been permanently cleared for agriculture and other uses, primarily within the last two centuries (Bryant, et al. 1997). Currently, forest cover is stable (Matthews, et al. 2000); however, in most of the lower 48 states and southern Canada, remaining forests have experienced significant human disturbance and do not possess the same degree of ecological integrity as the original forest. As human populations grow, forest fragmentation and degradation continues. One result has been the loss of extensive areas of old-growth forest. According to one estimate, stands of century-old forest now account for only 7% of forest cover in the United States (USDA-FS 2000).

Meanwhile, the University of Michigan says

Since 1600, 90% of the virgin forests that once covered much of the lower 48 states have been cleared away. Most of the remaining old-growth forests in the lower 48 states and Alaska are on public lands. In the Pacific Northwest about 80% of this forestland is slated for logging.

Thinking bigger? My summary of research on “how many trees are cud down every year” (globally) was an earlier topic of the Understory.

5 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. GREG says:

    NICE!!! I’M GREG!!!

  2. crystal says:

    Do you know how much of the world’s forest and left and how much we began with?

  3. Shanti says:
    Click above if you are a fan of the rainforest so you can help save the rainforest!

  4. Manas says:

    I love rainforests.

  5. L. Augustine says:

    I’m surprised there is even 1% of old growth forest left in the U.S. The United States is a Corporate Interest Country where our government (both political parties this time) find it more important to destroy old growth woods to manufacture the softest toilet paper.

    Presently many States , such as Pennsylvania , will be losing most of thier woodlands as governors sell out to Big Energy for gas drilling– because they think it will help the horrible economy. What is destroyed will be lost forever.

    My grandchildren and great great grandchildren will have no idea what a National Park or forest looks like but they will be all too familiar with industry, Walmarts, and the aftermath of Environmental destruction.

Trackbacks For This Post

  1. Dice Maker’s Log – Day 23: Old Fashion Barn Raisin’ « Artisan Dice
  2. By the numbers: U.S. Old growth forests | New Under The Sun Blog

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