America's Keystone Forests: A Map for Moving Forward

Feature story - January 3, 2005
The U.S. Forest Service will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2005, an event the agency will trumpet with much pomp and circumstance. But in the 100 years since the Forest Service was first charged with "sustaining the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands," our national forests have been ravaged by mismanagement and special private interests. We propose a blueprint for moving forward in our new report America’s Keystone Forests: Mapping the Next 100 Years of Forest Protection.

Our report cover, a spoof of the Beatles' “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band” album cover, features many of the people who have influenced our national forests, for better or worse.

Greenpeace, in cooperation with the Big Sky Conservation Institute, has created a map showing the "keystone forests" of the United States. Using the criteria of habitat fragmentation, the presence of rare species and ecosystem quality, we have identified the key forests in the country that provide the healthiest habitat for the greatest number of species. These are the regions that, if protected from the mismanagement of the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, can serve as the greatest storehouse of the nation's land-based biological diversity and as a stronghold of environmental services that benefit the greatest number of people.

On the centennial anniversary of the Forest Service, the United States is confronted with a situation very similar to that facing President Theodore Roosevelt when he helped create the agency. An unchecked private sector that is closely allied with powerful politicians is seeking short-term profits from our natural resources at the public's expense. These special interests have again gained unprecedented access to our forests due to the Bush administration's erosion of widely supported forest protection laws. Roosevelt, one of our greatest environmental presidents and a Republican and conservative, took action to protect the public good. So must we.

America's Keystone Forests offers both a way forward and a warning. With only 15 percent of our original old-growth forests remaining - and only 5 percent in the lower 48 states - it is vital for us to turn our attention to the future with an eye to conserving the precious national forests that remain.

Read the full report: America's Keystone Forests: Mapping the Next 100 Years of Forest Protection

Links to Report Sections

Additional Information

A Conservation History of the National Forests by the Unified Forest Defense Campaign