Forest Service Chief Abigail Kimbell today announced the release of the Forest Service’s Open Space Conservation Strategy.
“Our vision for the 21st century is an interconnected network of open space across the landscape—one that supports healthy ecosystems, renewable resources, and a high quality of life for Americans,” said Chief Kimbell. “We plan to achieve this through collaboration and partnerships—by working with willing landowners, conservation groups and state and local governments to promote voluntary land conservation.”
The Open Space Conservation Strategy is the product of extensive public comment and collaboration, with over 22,000 comments received – nearly all supportive. The public also expressed strong support for open space conservation during USDA’s Farm Bill listening sessions.
The Strategy charts a path forward for the Forest Service to conserve forests, grasslands, farms, ranches, and urban greenspaces that provide vital ecosystem services and benefits for society. Open space benefits American citizens by providing clean air, abundant water, outdoor recreation, connected fish and wildlife habitat, scenic beauty, improved human health, renewable resource products, and quality of life.
USDA’s Farm Bill proposals would strengthen and enhance the agency’s ability to achieve the goals of the Strategy. The USDA proposals would provide increased financial and technical assistance to willing landowners to conserve open space, advance ecosystem service private markets to compensate private landowners, enable states to work across boundaries to identify priority forest landscapes for conservation, and help communities protect working forests.
The loss of open space threatens the sustainability of the Nation’s forests and grasslands. We lose approximately 6,000 acres of open space each day across the United States —a rate of four acres per minute. Land development is outpacing population growth, especially in rural areas where the trend is low density, dispersed growth. The new Forest Service report “National Forests on the Edge” projects that over 21 million acres of rural private lands near national forests and 44 million acres of private forest land will undergo increases in housing density by 2030.
Growth and development in wildlands increases the risk of wildfire for people and property, affects the Forest Service’s ability to manage the public lands for healthy forests and public enjoyment, and reduces the capacity of privately owned land to provide water, recreation, habitat, and other public benefits.
The Strategy can be found at http://www.fs.fed.us/openspace. The site also shares research findings, success stories, and resources for open space conservation.