Education Themes

Forest Service helps kids at national Fishing Day on National Mall, Washington DC, June 2009.

The American tradition of conservation stretches back to the 19th century. For more than a hundred years, the Forest Service, as an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has built on that tradition by caring for the land and serving people. Over time, the challenges we face have changed. Today, a number of great challengs cut across the conservation work we do. The Forest Service is acting on a national scale to meet these challenges. As educators, we invite you to join us.

Use these educator resources to learn more about these issues, and how you can integrate them in your classrooms and programs.

Climate Change

Since the 1980s, Forest Service researchers have contributed to a growing scientific consensus that the climate is changing on a global scale and that people can do something about it. Rising temperatures are leading to hotter summers, earlier snowmelt, declining snowpacks, more water shortages, and worsening wildfires and outbreaks of forest pests and diseases. Landscapes will change as plants and animals migrate in response. More background information and educator resources about climate change.

What is the Forest Service doing?

  • We are managing national forests and grasslands to make them more adaptable to the effects of climate change.
  • We are working with people to increase tree planting. Trees and forest absorb carbon from the atmosphere, offsetting carbon emissions.
  • We are exploring ways of using wood for energy--biofuels that can replace fossil fuels.
  • We are reducing the Forest Service's own carbon emissions through energy conservation, more energy-efficient vehicles and other means.

Abundant Water

America's water resources are increasingly oversubscribed. From California to Colorado--and increasingly in the East--water battles make headlines. Healthy fish and wildlife populations depend on healthy forest watersheds. Over 180 million people depend on forest lands for their drinking water. Climate change could depress water supplies, and the number of Americans depending on water from our public lands is expected to rise by some 270 million over the next century.  More background information and educator resources about water resources.

What is the Forest Service doing?

  • We are managing the National Forests and Grasslands to improve their ability to store precipitation and recharge streams and aquifers.
  • We are working together across watersheds to meet everyone's needs--to respect existing water rights and uses while still maitaining fisheries and recreational opportunities.
  • We are helping communities find ways to invest in their municipal watersheds, giving private landowners upstream incentives to keep their lands open and sustainably managed.

Kids in the Woods

The challenges associated with climate change and water will not be resolved in a few years. It will take generations. Unless the children of today and tomorrow understand why wildlands are so valuable, they will do little to protect them for future generations. Yet children today have fewer opportunities for the kind of activities in the woods and fields that past generations had -- and that taught them to treasure the outdoors. More background information and educator resources about connecting kids to nature.

What is the Forest Service doing?

  • The Forest Service reaches hundreds of thousands of kids each year through ongoing conservation education programs in classrooms and in the field.
  • The Forest Service has launched "More Kids in the Woods," a program sponsoring dozens of partnership projects all over the country to get kids outdoors, up close and personal with nature.

The Four Threats

Several years ago, the Forest Service identified four key threats to the health and sustainability of our nation's forests and grasslands.

Called the "Four Threats" these issues are:

1. Fire and Fuels -- Decades of fuel buildup in many forest types have led to fires that burn out of control with uncharacteristic intensity, unprecedented damage to ecosystems and communities, and high suppression costs. Go here for more information, and educator resources about fire and fuels.

2. Invasive Species -- Thousands of non-native invasive plants, invertebrates, vertebrates, and disease-causing pathogens are infesting millions of acres of lands and waters across the nation. These invaders cause massive disruptions in ecosystem function, reducing biodiversity, and degrade ecosystem health in our nation’s forests, prairies, mountains, wetlands, rivers, and oceans.

3. Loss of Open Space -- More than 34 million acres of open space were lost to development between 1982 and 2001, about 6,000 acres per day, 4 acres a minute. Of this loss, over 10 million acres are in forestland. Rapid development of forestland is expected to continue over the next couple of decades. Go here for more information and educator resources about open space.

4. Unmanaged Recreation -- Providing for the long-term sustainability of National Forest System (NFS) lands and resources is essential to maintaining the quality of the recreation experience in the national forests for all users. The phenomenal increase in the use of the national forests for all recreational activities raises the need to manage most forms of recreation, including the use of off-highway vehicles (OHVs).