New Report Identifies Nation’s Best and Biggest Forests

July 6, 2010

On the opening day of the U.S. Forest Service’s Centennial Congress, Greenpeace, in cooperation with the Big Sky Conservation Institute, has identified the nation’s last remaining intact forests and faulted the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for failing to protect them. America’s Keystone Forests: Mapping the Next 100 Years of Forest Protection names 11 "Keystone Forests," the biggest forest areas left in the United States that provide the best habitat for the most diverse species. Most of these forests are found on public land managed by the Forest Service or the BLM.

"While the Forest Service is patting itself on the back, the reality is there is little to celebrate when it comes to the state of our forests," said Pamela Wellner, Greenpeace senior campaigner and co-author of the report. "With only five percent of the nation's ancient forests left in the lower 48 states, keystone forests represent our last best hope for saving the country's natural heritage. Unfortunately, they are threatened by the very agencies that are responsible for them: the Forest Service and the BLM."

The following areas were identified as keystone forests: the Maine Woods, the Blue Ridge-Appalachia, the Florida Panhandle, the Upper Great Lakes, the Mogollon, the Sierra, the Klamath-Siskyiou, the Pacific Northwest Volcanic, the North Cascades, the Northwest Rockies and the Alaska Coastal Temperate Rainforest. Unique maps show the condition and ownership of the land within each forest.

"These maps draw together for the first time the latest scientific studies of forest fragmentation, road density, biological diversity and health of plant and animal communities," said Bill Haskins, GIS manager of the Big Sky Conservation Institute and creator of the forest maps. "They provide a penetrating look at the damage already done, and a prescription for saving and restoring what's left of our most diverse native forests."

In addition to profiling each keystone forest, the report details how the Forest Service and BLM have allowed, and even encouraged, rampant industrial exploitation of the nation's forests at taxpayer expense. Under the Bush administration, this mismanagement is escalating at an unprecedented rate. Most recently, the administration announced on December 22 that it was opening up all national forests to greater logging and mining.

America's Keystone Forests also provides a blueprint for saving the nation's remaining forests. In the short term, Greenpeace is calling for a moratorium on large-scale industrial logging and road-building in all forests administered by the Forest Service and BLM. In the long term, America's best forest lands, starting with the keystone forests, must be given greater protection, and the missions of the Forest Service and BLM must be refocused on restoration and conservation, not commercial exploitation.

Local spokespeople are available for comment for each keystone forest region. To read the report and view the maps, visit

Photos available at B-roll is also available.

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