News Release

Forest Service Research Shows Housing Development To Continue To Increase On America's Private Forests

At least 15 key forested watersheds nationwide are most at risk of development

June 21, 2005 -

A U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service study shows housing density increasing in our nation’s private forests over the next 25 years, which will impact natural resources across the country.

“Every day, America loses more than 4,000 acres of open space to development or more than 3 acres per minute and the rate of conversion is getting faster all the time,” said Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth. “This study provides valuable information for local, state and federal agencies to consider as they make decisions about the future of our communities and our forests.”

The study, Forests on the Edge: Housing Development on America’s Private Forests, was conducted by scientists in the agency’s research stations and the private sector. It suggests that by 2030 housing density will increase substantially on more than 44 million acres or 11 percent of private forest land, an area greater in size than New England.

The Forest Service found that nearly 700,000 acres of forest were converted each year from 1982 to 1997, but this leapt to one million acres annually during the last five years of this period and is projected to continue at a strong rate.

The agency estimates that private forests in the Southeast, where three-quarters of all U.S. private forests are located, will experience the most extensive changes. Forestland development pressures will also be high in parts of the Northeast, the Pacific Northwest and California.

The Forests on the Edge study provides national maps of forested watersheds projected to be developed and a list of the top 15 watersheds, including watersheds in Maine, North and South Carolina, Mississippi, New York, Georgia, Virginia and eight other eastern states.

Helping to mitigate potential impacts from development pressures, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) works in partnership with USDA Forest Service, other government agencies and private landowners in conserving their soil, water, and other natural resources, providing technical assistance based on sound science. NRCS provides financial assistance for many conservation activities. Participation in these programs is voluntary. For additional information on NRCS programs go to

Private forests comprise nearly 60 percent (430 million acres) of America’s total forestland and provide nearly 30 percent of all fresh water and 92 percent of all U.S. timber harvested in 2001. The Forest Service, the nation’s leader on forestry, provides assistance to private forest owners through a number of programs, most of which are delivered in partnership with State forestry agencies and other organizations.

The study and maps can be found at: