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Forest cover map of the Unites States

Forest cover map of the US


It has been estimated that before European settlement, forests in the U.S. covered nearly 1 billion acres (4,000,000 km2). The arrival of Europeans, however, caused a decline in native populations, and since the natives were largely agricultural, this caused reforestation of agricultural lands. Since the mid-1600s, about 300 million acres (1,200,000 km2) of forest have been cleared, primarily for agriculture during the 19th century. Today about one-third of the nation is forested. While total forest area has been relatively stable for the last 100 years (currently about 747 million acres (3,020,000 km2)), there have been significant regional shifts in the area and composition of the nation's forests. Reversion of marginal farmland in the east, large-scale planting in the South, and fire suppression have contributed to increases in a forest area. Urbanization, conversion to agriculture, reservoir construction, and natural disasters have been major factors contributing to the loss of forests. As of 2005, the United States ranked seventh in the rate of loss of its old growth forests.

Eastern forests cover about 384 million acres (1,550,000 km2) and are predominantly broadleaf (74%), with the exception of extensive coniferous forests and plantations in the southern coastal region. These are largely in private ownership (83%). By contrast, about 363 million acres (1,470,000 km2) of western forests are predominantly coniferous (78%) and in public ownership (57%). Nearly ten million private individuals own about 422 million acres (1,710,000 km2) of forest and another wooded land. Most public forest land is held by four Federal agencies (United States Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Fish, and Wildlife Service) as well as numerous state, county, and municipal government organizations.

Forest Ownership in the U.S.
Forest Ownership in the U.S.

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