Forestry policies, institutions and programmes

United States of America

The United States has a basically decentralized system of policy-making for forests. Each of the 50 states has its own policies and forestry institutions.

The United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service is the federal agency that manages public lands in national forests and grasslands. Starting with the Clinton administration, the Chief of the Forest Service is a presidential appointee. The Forest Service is also the largest forestry research organization in the world. Among other duties, it carries out regular inventories and assessments of conditions and trends of all United States forest lands. The Forest Service provides technical and financial assistance to the states and to private forest owners to improve management of the vast private forest estate. It helps assess insect and disease and wildfire problems and helps provide the funding to help address them, regardless of ownership.

The 50 states are individually responsible for guiding and regulating management of the privately held productive non-reserved forests. Each state has a state forester and forestry organization to provide direct technical and financial assistance to private forest owners, to protect forests from fire, insects and disease, and to implement state laws affecting the use and management of these lands. Many states also manage public forests. At the local level, hundreds of counties and many cities own and manage forest, park and municipal watershed areas.

In view of the decentralized forest regulation and extensive private forest ownership, the actions of state and local governments and non-governmental parties, such as small non-industrial forest owners, industry and local communities, are instrumental in the management of private forests. Citizens are part of the natural resource public decision-making process at the local, regional and national levels.

Numerous organized advocates and partners have a profound effect on the country¿s forestry and forest policy. The Nature Conservancy (TNC), a non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to preservation of the nation¿s biodiversity, has accumulated over 3.64 million hectares of wildlife habitat and manages over 1 500 reserves.

The American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA) represents 95 percent of the industrial forest land in the United States. Its Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), started in 1994, sets standards for reforestation and the protection of water quality, wildlife, visual quality, biological diversity and areas of special significance. SFI has evolved into an industry-promoted certification programme involving forest management standards and guidelines and their verification by independent, third-party auditors. AF&PA is a very active member of the FAO Advisory Committee on Paper and Wood Products.

In recent years, NGOs have become increasingly involved in private forest management issues. One example of this is the Forest Stewardship Council¿s (FSC) promotion of FSC certification of United States private and State-owned forests. Many environmental NGOs strongly support FSC certification and have brought pressure on major United States retailers of forest products to carry FSC labelled products.

The institutional infrastructure in the forest sector is well developed. An extensive educational, management and policy infrastructure exists to support scientific forest management. The country has more than 50 professional forestry schools; considerably more students graduate in forestry than are able to find employment in the sector. Government, universities and industry are all actively involved in research. New and innovative ways are constantly being developed to use wood products more efficiently.

International activities
The United States also has major interests at the international level. It provides substantial forest-related assistance to developing countries and countries with economies in transition through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and other federal agencies, as well as through contributions to international organizations and financial institutions, such as the World Bank, and various innovative debt reduction initiatives. Several of the largest multinational forest and paper companies are United States-owned, and many United States-based environmental organizations and academic institutions undertake forest field activities and projects abroad. The United States is active in a wide variety of intergovernmental agreements, organizations, initiatives and other fora that undertake forest related work and policy discussions.

The United States has recently taken a strong stand against illegal logging, co-sponsoring (together with the World Bank Institute and the United Kingdom) ministerial meetings in Indonesia and Cameroon each resulting in a ministerial declaration on this subject. FAO participated in both processes, and FAO is working actively on this topic and collaborating with the United States in this regard.

The United States launched the ¿Congo Basin Initiative on Forests¿ during the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD).

Last updated: September 2003

last updated:  Friday, February 19, 2010