Why We Work Internationally

Hundreds of migrating birds resting in a wetland landscape with cloud filled blue sky in the background. The U.S. Forest Service works internationally for what we can contribute—and for what we can gain. The agency seeks to foster sustainable natural resource management, biodiversity conservation, and disaster preparedness & response throughout the world. Through international engagement, the U.S. Forest Service supports American forestry interests while exposing the agency’s workforce to new ideas and experiences. We always work collaboratively with partners who include host-country governments, international environmental organizations, other U.S. government agencies, private sector firms and local organizations.

Our goals are to: 

  • Combat illegal logging: the U.S. Forest Service works with a variety of partners to combat illegal logging, thus leveling the playing field in international trade for legitimate timber producers. This is crucial, as worldwide trade of forest products is estimated to exceed $1 trillion per year, approximately 15 percent of it from illegally harvested wood. The artificially low price of the illegally harvested timber leads to an imbalance in world markets. Ultimately, illegal harvest of forest products harms the U.S. economy by making our forest product companies less competitive, and also negatively impacts U.S. jobs.  Internationally, illegal logging leads to environmental degradation, disrupted trade and market access, and unsustainable economic development.  
  • Represent U.S. interests internationally: Social, environmental and economic problems cannot be solved in isolation or by one nation or sector. We work with counterparts overseas and with multilateral institutions to ensure that the U.S. forestry community’s interests are reflected in policy decisions. Our team provides technical and policy input on a regular basis to the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and the U.S. Department of Commerce on a range of issues.  These include domestic and international conservation, forest landscape restoration, forest product trade, and forest health. 
  • Conserve threatened migratory species: Many national organizations, including environmental groups, private citizen groups, and governmental and non-governmental agencies, together invest millions of dollars domestically to protect habitat for migratory species including birds, bats, butterflies, dragonflies, and fish. These species often spend the winter in Latin America and the Caribbean, where they may not be protected, thus reducing the effectiveness of the large U.S. domestic conservation investment. The current situation is dire: some 61% of the North American migratory species are declining. We work extensively in their winter ranges to develop capacity to better manage the winter homes for these birds—a small investment with a huge impact. Additionally, when species’ populations decline, U.S. forests are closed off from being managed, stifling the forest products industries that need access.  The agency works to protect and restore habitat, develop conservation education, and improve protected area management.  
  • Protect the forests from invasive species: Invasive species degrade forests and grasslands, inflicting multibillion dollar losses to the global economy. The outlook is alarming: there are at least 20 destructive forest pests expected to enter the U.S. in the coming decade, introduced accidentally through trade. Additionally, the threat of invasive species is often manipulated by countries, which cite the pests as phytosanitary barriers to U.S. exports.  The agency works to identify and use biocontrol agents for invasive forest pests—more effective and economical than traditional methods. We partner agency scientists and land managers with counterparts in the countries from which the invasive species originate. Without this type of international collaboration, we cannot effectively control pests already in the U.S. or prevent further introductions globally. 
  • Support resource management abroad: For the world’s 1.6 billion people who depend on forests, natural resource management is critical for their lives and livelihoods. Throughout the world, destructive land use policies are threatening the most marginalized populations. Since local communities have clear incentives to sustainably manage the land for forest products and ecosystem services, community participation in forest management is often necessary to prevent harmful land practices. Community co-management also improves local economic opportunities, food security, water conservation and carbon sequestration. We work with governments and civil society around the world to support forest management that benefits the communities and their surrounding environment. In over 90 countries, the agency implements technical cooperation programs on forest restoration, community forestry, watershed management, protected areas, and many other important topics.