USA map

The United States is the world's third- or fourth-largest nation by total area (land and water), ranking behind Russia and Canada and just above or below China (depending on how two territories disputed by China and India are counted) and how the total size of the United States is measured. The coastal plain of the Atlantic seaboard gives way further inland to deciduous forests and the rolling hills of the Piedmont. The Appalachian Mountains divide the eastern seaboard from the Great Lakes and the grasslands of the Midwest. The Mississippi–Missouri River, the world's fourth longest river system, runs mainly north–south through the heart of the country. The flat, fertile prairie of the Great Plains stretches to the west, interrupted by a highland region in the southeast. The U.S. ecology is megadiverse: about 17,000 species of vascular plants occur in the contiguous United States and Alaska, and over 1,800 species of flowering plants are found in Hawaii, few of which occur on the mainland. There are 58 national parks and hundreds of other federally managed parks, forests, and wilderness areas. Altogether, the government owns about 28% of the country's land area. Most of this is protected, though some is leased for oil and gas drilling, mining, logging, or cattle ranching; about .86% is used for military purposes. Environmental issues have been on the national agenda since 1970. Environmental controversies include debates on oil and nuclear energy, dealing with air and water pollution, the economic costs of protecting wildlife, logging and deforestation, and international responses to global warming. (Wikipedia)

Quick Facts

Land use

Total land area
914,742,000 hectares
Area of forest
33.9% of land area
Area of agriculture
44.3% of land area
Area of permanent cropland
0.3% of land area

People

Population
321.4 million
Population growth
0.8% annually
Rural population
18.0%

Economics and development

GDP per person
55836.80 USD
GDP from agriculture
1.3%

Climate change and biodiversity

CO2 emissions
16.40 metric tonnes per person
Threatened animal and plant species
1,506
Bonn Challenge Commitments
Goal year
2020
Date committed
Area committed
15,000,000 hectares
Potential economic benefit
4,710 million USD
Potential climate benefit
1.42 GtCO2 sequestered
Main forest types
Temperate broadleaf and mixed forests
Temperate coniferous forest
Highlighted benefits
Economic
Health

The United States Forest Service, in partnership with government agencies, states, tribes, non-governmental organizations, and private landowners, has commited to the Bonn Challenge the restoration of 15 million hectares by 2020 using an all-lands approach. Their effort aims to create more climate resilient ecosystems, restore watersheds, increase biodiversity, reduce hazardous fuels and produce forest products. This investment in large-scale restoration prioritizes watersheds, provides multiple benefits, supports local communities, and reports and monitors progress through an interdisciplinary collaborative approach.

Restoration has already been initiated on several million hectares of degraded forestlands in the United States. The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration program of the US Forest Service has initiated 23 collaborative restoration projects to date, with vast acres of both private and public forest land being restored.

Learn more about what the United States is doing to restore degraded lands.

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National Restoration Targets
UNFCCC NC5 and NC6
Climate Action Report: Sixth National Communication of the United States of America (2014)

Preserving the Role of Forests in Mitigating Climate Change: Mitigation across the forest sector will be addressed by identifying new approaches to protect and restore our forests, as well as other critical landscapes, including grasslands and wetlands, in the face of a changing climate (p.15)

Climate Action Report: Fifth National Communication of the United States of America (2010)

Enhancing Ecosystem Services on Forests, Grasslands, Parks, and Wildlife Reserves. To address the effects of climate change on federal lands administered by DOI and other agencies, DOI, in conjunction with USDA, EPA, other federal agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector, is conducting thorough ecoregional analyses. These analyses will help DOI conserve, enhance, restore, and adapt ecosystems, find opportunities for carbon sequestration, and provide opportunities for renewable energy development. As a result of extreme fire events, other natural disasters, and human activities, public lands present a substantial opportunity to optimize the potential benefits of a carbon sequestration program. Those benefits include long-term capture and storage of CO2, improved biodiversity and wildlife habitat condition and connectivity, improved water quality and quantity, reduced soil erosion, decreased invasive species, improved environmental esthetics, and enhanced recreational experiences (p.57).

Healthy Forest Initiative. Today, up to 81 million ha (200 million ac) of federal lands are currently at risk for catastrophic wildfires, in large part due to significant changes in forest structure and density during the last 60–70 years, prolonged drought, and other environmental changes. The need for innovative, large-scale management to restore the health and productivity of at-risk ecosystems prompted the development of the Healthy Forest Initiative, which now includes the National Fire Plan93 and the joint federal–state 0-Year Strategy Implementation Plan.94 One goal of these efforts is to increase biomass and wood fiber utilization as an integral component of restoring the nation’s forests, woodlands, and rangelands. Addressing hazardous fuels on federal lands is a key element of the National Fire Plan and related efforts, with almost 7.3 million hectares being treated by USDA since 2001 (p.58).

Reducing the Frequency and Severity of Wildfires in the West. In the western United States, invasive annual grasses (e.g., cheatgrass) are increasing rapidly throughout the region. These fire-tolerant species increase fire frequency, eliminating native plants, wildlife and livestock forage, and habitat. USGS is providing science in support of decision making, including (1) mapping annual plant invasions (ground, aerial, satellite); (2) developing native plant restoration protocols; and (3) mapping historic fires to understand causes.23 BLM, which is responsible for managing much of the federal land affected by these issues, is developing adaptation plans to restore native plant communities, ensure the necessary presence of pollinators, reduce the frequency and severity of wildfire, and “pre-adapt” these lands for climate change—planting communities in anticipation of local changes due to a changing climate. Specifically, BLM and its partners are conducting a natural habitat restoration effort for millions of acres in
the Great Basin of Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, California, and Utah, and they are working with commercial seed producers to grow native seed for restoration (p.95).

United Nation Forum on Forests (UNFF) National Reports
Voluntary National Report to the 11th Session of the UNFF (2014)

While the U.S. does not have a single overarching national forest policy that covers all U.S. forests, the majority of which are privately owned, the U.S. Federal Government has national forest policies/strategies that contain such targets for federal forest land. The US pledged to restore 15 million hectares domestically by 2020 (p.7).

Restoration: Since 2011, 7,500,000 hectares (estimated number of hectares of US public and private forest lands restored or enhanced during 2011-2014). If including 2015, the number increases to 9,800,000 hectares. These numbers reflect a range of restoration activities, including hazardous fuel treatments invasive species and pest treatments, forest vegetation improvement and wildlife habitat improvement. This represents the work of the USDA Forest Service and its partners on National Forest System land, as well as Forest Service funded work on state and private forest land.  The numbers do not include work by other federal land management agencies or work on state, private or tribal lands completed with non-Forest Service funds (p.8).

In President Obama’s 2014 Climate Action Plan, public-private financing strategies play an important role. For example, restoring forests in the Lower Mississippi Delta with support from the Walton Family Foundation and the McKnight Foundation, and the Trust for Public Land will deliver outreach and technical assistance to private landowners interested in restoring carbon-rich bottomland forest to flood-prone agricultural lands in the Lower Mississippi Delta. This announcement puts the Trust on track to meet its target to achieve an additional 3,750 acres of Lower Mississippi private lands reforestation and permanently conserve 3,200 acres of bottomland forest over the next two years, leading to more than 2.1 million tons of CO2 sequestration and storage (p.10).

Climate Action Report: Fifth National Communication of the United States of America (2010)

Restoration and rehabilitation of degraded lands has been facilitated most recently by the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, and Stewardship Contracting, State and Private Forestry Landscape Scale Restoration, implementation of the Forest Service Watershed Condition Framework, the Joint Chiefs Landscape Restoration Partnership, and new authorities under the 2014 Farm Bill initiatives. Also, the US has been engaged with the GPFLR and pledged to restore 15 million hectares  of forest land in the US by 2020 (p.12).

Other (National Strategies and Plans, Rural Development Programs, Natura 2000 areas, projects, and goals)
Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program 5-Year Report (2015)

One of the programs that supports forest landscape restoration goals is the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program. This program is comprised of twenty-three multiple large landscape-scale projects that include restoration from fuelwood and fire treatments, hazardous fuels treatments to restore natural fire regimes and reduce the risk of uncharacteristic wildfires, revegetation, habitat improvements, and soil and water resource enhancement.

23 CFLR projects have accomplished a suite of restoration activities, including:

  • Ecosystem restoration – increasing resilience to fire: over 1.8 million acres of 4.5 millions acre lifetime goal (through FY2019) (p.8).
  • Ecosystem restoration – wildlife habitat: 1.6 million acres of 4.1 million acre lifetime goal (through FY2019) (p.9).
  • Watershed restoration: 223,500 acres of 1.1 million acre lifetime goal (through FY2019) (p.11).
  • Forest vegetation established: 97,600 acres of 174,000 acre lifetime goal (through FY2019) (p.6).
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FLR Assessments

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