Browse the below list for shareable key messages on important forestry topics.
- Wildland Fire Management
- Forest & Woodlands Management
- Products & Environmental Services
- Clean & Reliable Water
- Urban & Community Forestry
- Wildfires in the South are inevitable – It’s not a question of if, but when.
- The health and sustainability of the South’s forests are dependent on effective wildland fire management.
- State forestry agencies are responsible for protecting 94% of the South’s total land area from wildfires.
- The South experiences more wildfires per year than any region in the United States.
- State forestry agencies and partners coordinate across boundaries to support resilient forests and communities – while protecting life, property and natural resources from the threat of wildfire.
- Wildland Fire – General term describing any non-structure fire that occurs in vegetation such as trees, grasses and shrubs.
- Wildfire – An uncontrolled/unwanted non-structure fire that burns forests and natural areas. Wildfires can often pose threats to the health and safety of communities and wildland firefighters, while destroying valuable natural resources, buildings and infrastructure.
- Prescribed Fire – The controlled application of fire by a team of fire experts under specified weather conditions to help restore health and resiliency to fire-dependent ecosystems and landscapes. Prescribed fire is a safe way to restore a natural process, ensure ecosystem health and resiliency, and reduce wildfire risk.
- Managed Fire – Managed fire is a term used to describe a scenario under which conditions are favorable to allow a wildfire to burn naturally, under close monitoring and only in remote areas where people, property or other values are not at risk. When applied wisely, managed fire can improve wildland firefighter safety while producing ecological benefits (e.g., creation of wildlife habitat, hazardous fuels reduction).
- Forest Fire – Outdated term for wildfire (see wildfire definition)
- Prescribed fire is a safe way to restore a natural process, ensure ecosystem health and resilience, and reduce wildfire risk.
- Prescribed fire is a carefully planned operation. It has specific objectives, specific parameters and a meticulously carried-out plan conducted and monitored by trained personnel.
- Prescribed fire is one of the most efficient and low-cost ways to reduce wildfire risk in the South.
- Although there have been regional variations across the United States, fire has been used as a forest and land management tool throughout history.
- A Prescribed fire is an ancient art. Thousands of years ago, long before European settlers arrived in North America, Indigenous people used fire regularly to manage southern pine ecosystems from Texas east to Florida. Carrying on the tradition of good fire is key to maintaining its benefits into the future.
- Few, if any, other treatments have been developed that can compete with prescribed fire for its effectiveness and affordability.
- Visit GoodFires.org to learn more about how we use prescribed fire in the South to support forest health and community safety.
Prescribed Fire & Community Safety
- Wildfires that burn through areas where fuels have already been reduced by prescribed fire cause less damage and are much easier, and safer for wildland firefighters, to control.
- Prescribed fire helps protect firefighters by making future wildfires less severe and safer to respond to.
Smoke and human health
- There are several ways to monitor and lessen the impact of smoke from prescribed burns.
- Prescribed burn practitioners take steps to mitigate smoke impacts to communities before, during and after a prescribed burn has been conducted.
- Most southern states have either voluntary or mandatory smoke management guidelines to avoid smoke impacts to roads and smoke-sensitive areas like hospitals, schools and more.
- Although smoke from prescribed fire may produce an unwelcome haze from time to time, prescribed fire reduces the potential for highly dangerous smoke impacts from otherwise uncontrolled wildfires.
- To monitor air quality impacts from wildfire or prescribed fire smoke, visit AirNow.gov.
- Setting up a clean air room at home can help reduce exposure to smoke while indoors. This may be most helpful for those with heightened health risks such as people with heart disease or lung disease, older adults, children and pregnant people. Learn more at the AirNow.gov Be Smoke Ready webpage.
Community risk mitigation
- Prescribed fire is a complex management tool and should be used only with the utmost care under controlled conditions.
- Prescribed fire is a carefully planned and controlled operation. It has specific objectives, specific parameters and a meticulously carried-out plan conducted and monitored by trained personnel. Prescribed fire adheres to a strict burn plan that includes: a statement of the burn’s objectives—what results are intended by burning, requirements for weather conditions before and during the burn, considerations for smoke dispersal, contingency plans in case the fire escapes, and safety requirements
- With contingency plans in place, wildland firefighters are prepared to quickly address potential complications. For instance, if a prescribed fire burns exits the planned area, state forestry agencies will work alongside local fire departments and partners to contain the fire as quickly as possible, maximize community safety and mitigate additional impacts to people, infrastructure and natural resources.
Prescribed Fire & Healthy Forests
- Prescribed fire returns nutrients back into the soil, allowing for new regrowth and lush vegetation, and maintaining a healthy habitat for wildlife.
- Prescribed fire facilitates new growth of native vegetation and maintains the many plant and animal species whose habitats depend on periodic fire.
- By reducing an excess of thick shrubs and overgrown vegetation, water may filter through a forest more efficiently to fill streams with clean and abundant water.
- Prescribed fire enhances the scenic qualities of forests, maintaining open spaces for attractive vistas with flowering annuals and biennials.
- Prescribed fire can create open areas, trails and road access that can provide recreation and enhance natural beauty.
- A recent study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration suggests that the risk of very large wildfires in the South will increase by 300% by the middle of the century (2041-2070).
- This is backed up by scientists as the Forest Service’s Southern Research Station who say, “the southeastern United States is projected to experience increasing wildfire activity due to climate change.”
- Wildfires are typically suppressed by constructing firebreaks, or fire lines, by removing flammable material down to bare mineral soil to halt the spread of fire. In the South, a tractor-plow unit, consisting of a modified bulldozer equipped with a plow and blade, is often used to create firebreaks.
- In more mountainous terrain, large firefighting units may not be able to operate safely. In these cases, trained crews will use hand tools (axes, shovels, fire rakes) to manually construct firebreaks. Drip torches are often used to widen firebreaks by burning fuels between ahead of the oncoming wildfire.
- Aircraft are used to help locate new wildfires, monitor wildfire status and provide an “eye in the sky” to improve wildland firefighter safety. Forestry pilots relay important information to wildland firefighters about fire behavior, fuels, obstacles and structures threatened. When special situations arise, aerial tankers and helicopters are available from other sources to assist by dropping water or suppressant on fires.
- Staff working on wildfire incidents are trained to work within a scalable incident command structure called the Incident Command System (ICS).
- The incident Command System (ICS) is a well-organized team approach that enables responders to quickly establish (and transfer) chain-of-command and manage personnel, resources and communications, no matter the size or scale of the incident.
- State forestry agencies deploy personnel, crews, equipment and aircraft to wildfires, emergencies and major disasters.
- State forestry agencies approach deployment through a formalized partnership with federal land management agencies. This agreement allows for efficient sharing and exchange of resources and funds to support wildfire management and response across the country.
- State forestry agencies will allow out-of-state deployments only after determining that doing so will not add undue risk to their home state.
- State forestry agencies collaborate with city, rural and volunteer fire departments to combat wildfires in the Southeast.
- Municipal, rural and volunteer fire departments play a crucial role in wildfire response, often serving as the first line of defense in protecting communities, forests and natural resources.
- State forestry agencies across the Southeast actively engage and collaborate with local fire departments to effectively address the challenges posed by wildfires.
- State forestry agencies provide training, resources and support to local fire departments, equipping them with the necessary skills and tools to combat wildfires safely and efficiently.
- Through joint training exercises and coordinated response plans, state forestry agencies and local fire departments enhance their preparedness and interoperability, ensuring a seamless response during wildfire incidents.
- Regional forest fire protection compacts enable participating state forestry agencies to send wildland firefighting resources and personnel quickly and efficiently across state lines to suppress wildfires.
- While State Foresters continue to monitor conditions to ensure their states have adequate staffing and resources to respond to wildfires and emergencies within their home states, compact agreements provide a ready system for sharing overhead resources and state-to-state reimbursement for wildfire support.
- The South relies on the strength of longstanding state and federal partnerships to support the protection of life, property and natural resources across the region.
- Simply put, the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) describes areas where homes near nature are more at-risk to wildfire.
- The Southern Region is home to three of the top four states in the nation with the most Wildland Urban Interface.
- Since 1990, Wildland Urban Interface has grown by more than 24.7 million acres in the South. This means more people than ever are living with heightened wildfire risk.
- Just like landowners are responsible for managing their lands, homeowners have a responsibility to manage their property and homes in a way that is fire-resistant and compatible with the fire-dependent ecosystems in which we reside.
- State forestry agencies work with community leaders to plan and implement community wildfire preparedness plans (CWPP) and programs to help withstand wildfire.
- The South has more than 245 million acres of forestland with some of the most diverse and productive ecosystems in the world.
- Approximately 86% of the South’s forestland is privately-owned, making it the nation’s stronghold for private forestland ownership.
- Healthy southern forests protect and support clean air and water, wildlife habitat, natural beauty, community health and more.
- It is imperative to provide private landowners, who own 86% of all forest land in the South, with adequate support and resources to keep their forests and woodlands intact.
- Southern state forestry agencies give technical guidance to landowners on how to manage their forests and woodlands, based on what’s important to them.
- Some landowners, especially if they are new to land ownership, need help identifying and accomplishing their land management goals. Many state agencies offer this service at little to no cost.
- Helping landowners make and document sustainable management decisions is one of the key functions of state forestry agencies.
- Private landowners can visit [STATE]’s Learn Plan Act website at [URL] for educational materials, tips and resources for helping keep their forests healthy and abundant.
- Approximately 86% of the South’s forestland is privately-owned, making it the nation’s stronghold for private forestland ownership.
- The top five objectives identified by landowners in the Southeast include: beauty or scenery, wildlife habitat, privacy, nature protection and water protection. Other priority objectives include family legacy, land investment, hunting, recreation and timber products. (National Woodland Owners Survey)
- Active management is a tool landowners can use to achieve their personal objectives for their forest, while sustaining forest resources for future generations.
- By maintaining healthy forests, landowners are also protecting air, water, habitat, natural beauty, community health and more – all while safeguarding the long-term economic viability of their lands.
- The absence of certification does not automatically indicate a lack of sustainable management. In fact, southern working forests have a well-earned reputation for sustainability across the globe, regardless of sustainability certification status.
- While forest certification programs provide an easy way for retailers and customers to verify sustainability of a product, the certification process for the landowner, who grows and harvests the timber, may not be quite as simple.
- Certification programs can be cumbersome and expensive, especially in the South where much of private forest ownership is made up of small, family landowners with limited resources and budgets.
- State forestry agencies are working closely with each of our certification partners to improve program accessibility for smaller landowners, and document and showcase all the good management practices found in the Southern Region.
- Working forests are timberlands, mostly privately owned in the United States, which are actively managed for multiple uses – among them recreation, wildlife enhancement, soil and water conservation, research, aesthetics and forest products.
- Working forests support the production of renewable products like lumber, paper products, bio-energy and thousands of consumer goods and other everyday items.
- Working forest owners manage for the long-game – replanting and growing back the same amount that was harvested (or more) every year, in perpetuity.
- Working forests regenerate an average of 43% more wood than they harvest.
- Forests help maintain the carbon balance in the earth’s atmosphere. Increasing carbon storage, decreasing the use of fossil fuels and strengthening forest resilience is key to mitigating the negative effects of a changing climate.
- Trees naturally sequester carbon by absorbing it into their mass and roots during photosynthesis, preventing the greenhouse gas from entering and warming the atmosphere.
- While larger, older trees may have more carbon stored, young trees sequester more additional carbon, which is what is most important in addressing climate change.
- Among all forest types, private working forests are responsible for 75% of all carbon sequestered by forests in the United States annually, and actively absorb 17% of all CO2 emissions in the country.
- The spread of forest pests, diseases and invasive species persistently threatens the health and survival of southern forests. Monitoring and suppression are important tools for preventing and managing these pests.
- Forest insects account for 20% of the total negative growth impact on forest trees, while diseases account for 45%.
- Among the significant non-native insects and diseases established in the South are the hemlock woolly adelgid, spongy moth, emerald ash borer, laurel wilt disease and Asian longhorned beetle.
- State forestry agencies work directly with private landowners to educate them about ongoing and evolving forest health threats, while helping them develop plans to manage for and prevent outbreaks.
- By engaging with landowners, we are better equipped to find and stop threats before they spread.
- The southern region is a choice resource for buyers, suppliers and investors seeking an affordable supply of sustainable wood products with a variety of species, year-long harvesting and over 1,600 mills.
- The U.S. South, nicknamed the world’s wood basket, accounts for over half of all timber production in the United States.
- Working forests support the southern economy and are responsible for the production of renewable products like lumber, paper products, bioenergy and thousands of other everyday items.
- Thriving forest markets ensure landowners have the capability and freedom to keep the South’s forests intact, healthy and productive.
- While timber and its many by-products are the primary resource generated by well-managed, sustainable working forests, each southern state has its own unique mix of wood resources, services, manufacturing innovations and investment opportunities.
- Environmental and financial innovations have created new revenue streams for forest owners, adding more incentive to keep forests intact.
- Forestry and the forest products industry contribute more than $251 billion (about $770 per person in the U.S.) to the South’s economy.
- Southern forests produce over $100 billion (about $310 per person in the U.S.) in forest products and markets around the world.
- U.S. southern forests, forestry and the forest products industry provide for:
– More than 18% of the world’s pulpwood for paper and paper-related products
– 7% of the world’s industrial roundwood
– More than 2.7% of the region’s economic output
– 1.1 million jobs
– More than $53 billion in income
- Forests provide ecosystem services like air and water filtration, oxygen production and carbon sequestration, while providing open natural spaces for countless outdoor recreation opportunities.
- Pulpwood for paper, lumber, poles and veneer logs are valuable timber commodities to the southern economy. These are the forest products most people think of and value since they are used by people every day.
- Hardwood forest products from the southeastern United States contribute significantly to the region’s economy and offer a wide range of applications, from construction and furniture to flooring and cabinetry.
- Trees also provide non-timber products including pine straw, firewood, food, medicines and more.
- Replacing fossil fuels with clean, renewable fuels to produce energy from forest biomass can offset CO2 buildup, boost the economy and improve forest health.
- By purchasing carbon credits, businesses and other entities can offset their carbon dioxide emissions with the activities of others, such as planting trees or conserving forests. This purchase may allow forest owners to gain financially from their contribution to the forest carbon sink, while keeping their forests intact and productive.
- Promoting the use of forest products as a substitute for carbon-intensive alternatives like concrete and steel not only helps increase carbon storage but also supports forest retention.
- Utility companies can work in partnership with private forest landowners to support and finance forest conservation toward the protection of healthy watersheds that provide drinking water.
- We advocate for the development of new and emerging forest markets, such as mass timber construction, biomass, carbon credits and products sustainably sourced from southern tree species.
- Because of the importance of wood-using industries and all forest values in the South, resource sustainability must be continually assessed in a timely and accurate manner.
- Through annual inventories, the regional Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Research work unit measures and assesses changes to the forest ecosystem.
- Private and public forests help keep drinking water safe, reliable and affordable.
- Healthy forests are critical to the future of our drinking water.
- Healthy forests effectively filter water, recharge aquifers, prevent erosion, and provide more than half of the available water supply for 14 million people.
- Even if drinking water sources aren’t located within a forested environment, chances are high that those source watersheds derive much of their water quality from forested uplands and headwaters.
- Even if you don’t live right by a forest, a forest still cleans your water.
- In the Southeast, more than 44% of the total water supply, or about 98 trillion gallons, comes through state and private forests before it makes its way into waterbodies.
- Healthy, sustainably-managed forests are linked to safe and reliable drinking water, less need for water treatment (reducing treatment cost), and less energy and chemicals used in drinking water treatment processes due to reduction in turbidity and contaminants
- Even though trees cycle water in part through evapotranspiration, their ability to help the soil retain long-term moisture allows forests to sustain better streamflow.
- Forests soften the impact from rainfall and protect soil from erosion.
- Tree roots help rainfall soak into the soil and reduce surface runoff, helping to replenish groundwater.
- Microbes in the soil break down nutrients and contaminants in runoff water, allowing tree roots to absorb these chemicals before entering waterways.
- Forests provide habitat and food sources for a variety of organisms including at-risk aquatic species.
- Through a successful voluntary Best Management Practices (BMP) program, southern states collaborate with land managers and other key partners to protect water quality.
- The South’s collaborative, non-regulatory approach to BMP implementation has produced healthy working forests that support landowners’ economic goals while enhancing environmental health and water quality.
- The southeastern states typically apply a non-regulatory approach to BMP implementation with loggers, foresters and landowners.
- The application of forestry BMPs successfully minimizes water quality impacts from forestry operations when implemented as recommended by state forestry agencies.
- Forestry BMPs have undergone many scientific research studies to determine their effectiveness in minimizing impacts to water chemistry, physical properties, aquatic communities and overall stream health.
- State forestry agencies in the South work collaboratively with key groups and stakeholders to educate, incentivize and reduce barriers to BMP application. This often includes efforts like logger training and certification programs, preharvest planning advice, property tax incentives, equipment loan programs and helping develop forest management plans.
- Southern state forestry agencies conduct BMP implementation surveys to measure implementation, and how and where BMPs are being used. For these surveys, state technical experts visit forestry sites to observe and report their findings.
- According to the latest data, the southern region’s average overall BMP implementation rate is 93.6% which represents continued growth in compliance rates (up from 92% in 2012, and 87% in 2008).
- Trees play a crucial role in the green infrastructure of America’s cities and towns.
- Trees contribute to community health, economic vitality and social well-being. From urban neighborhoods to rural subdivisions, trees play a vital role in our communities.
- Trees brighten city streets and delight nature-starved urbanites. Forested neighborhoods have less crime, less pollution, reduced energy costs and higher quality of life.
- The southern states offer a network of urban and community forestry (U&CF) coordinators who monitor, measure and assess changes to urban forests while providing support, consultation and educational opportunities for local communities.
- The shade from trees can lessen the burden on home air conditioning units, reducing household energy consumption by 10-15%.
- The presence of trees in communities and urban areas can increase property values. Studies have shown that the presence of trees can increase the selling price of homes by as much as 15%.
- Urban and community forests make a substantial economic contribution to the southern regional economy. In 2019, Urban & Community Forestry in the 13 southern states:
– Directly contributed $21.1 billion to the region’s industry output and $11.6 billion in value-added.
– Supported 225,283 full-time and part-time jobs.
– Had a total contribution of $43.3 billion in industry output to the regional economy.
– Employed more than 349,453 people with a payroll of about $15.4 billion
- By reducing the need for heating and cooling systems, trees also indirectly help reduce emissions.
- Community trees remove air pollution by lowering air temperature, releasing water into the atmosphere, retaining particulates and absorbing CO2.
- Community trees help sustain community health, boost immune systems and improve children’s school performance. Visit HealthyTreesHealthyLives.org to learn more.
- In urban heat islands, adding tree cover could lower surface and air temperatures by 20–45°F.
- Studies have shown that a 10% increase in tree canopy is associated with an approximately 12% decrease in crime.
- Community tree canopies can help prevent flooding by reducing erosion from falling rain and provide surface area for rainwater to land and evaporate. Tree roots also take up water and help create conditions in the soil that promote infiltration.
- When events like thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes and ice storms damage community trees, public safety can be put at risk. Prepared communities can better, more quickly, respond to hazards from downed and structurally weakened trees.
- State forestry agencies have numerous resources available to assist communities in creating preparedness plans for unexpected damage to their urban forests. Communities can reach out to their state Urban Forestry Coordinator for assistance.
- The Community Forestry Academy provides a variety of unique online courses to help communities improve storm readiness, response and recovery for urban and community trees. Learn more at CommunityForestry.Academy.
- Urban Forest Strike Teams come to the aid of a region whose urban forest has been impacted by a natural disaster such as a hurricane, tornado, flood, ice storm or wildfire.
- The Urban Forest Strike Team program was created to provide systematic mobilization, deployment, organization and management of state forestry agency personnel and arboricultural resources.
- The Urban Forest Strike Team’s mission is to provide additional professional capacity to municipalities impacted by natural disasters during the late stages of response, and during recovery.
- Urban Forest Strike Teams provide tree damage and risk assessments as well as Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) public assistance information to communities.
- Tree assessments help municipalities provide information for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) public assistance applications for debris removal.
- Once a disaster is declared and the initial incident response is complete, municipalities may request urban forest strike team assistance.
- To request an Urban Forest Strike Team, contact your state Urban Forestry Coordinator.