Sally Collins, with an overview of U.S. forests in early 21st century

Forests can’t be left alone to take care of themselves, says Sally Collins of the U.S. Forest Service.

Sally Collins: We lost about a third of it in the 19th century. You see it as you’re flying across the Midwest, because that’s where most of it was converted to agricultural land.

Sally Collins is associate chief of the U.S. Forest Service.

Sally Collins: But the rest of the forest has pretty much stayed the same, even when there’s been a lot of development and a lot of urban growth, and that’s because some of the agricultural land has gone back into forest.

Counting Alaska, there are about 750 million forested acres across the United States today.

Sally Collins: If you were to fly over the United States, you would really see a lot of forested land. And what’s really unique about the United States is that we have about two-thirds of the our original forested land base we had from the original settlement times.

Collins said we know a lot more now about how forests need to be managed.

Sally Collins: The era of thinking that forests are static, or you can just leave them alone and they’ll take care of themselves for a long period of time – it’s just gone.

Collins also spoke of “ecosystem services” from forests. For example, about a third of our drinking water here in the U.S. comes from forested land.

Our thanks today to the American Forest Foundation, leading the way in conservation and education.

Our thanks to:

Sally Collins

Associate Chief, U.S. Forest Service

Washington, D.C.

EarthSky