Sustainable Communities and Economies

Photo: Grace Mirzeler, CWSF

Working forests produce social benefits and give landowners and managers the ability to protect, conserve and enhance forest values.

The western United States, with its wide-open expanses and rich natural beauty, is a highly desirable place to live and work. Yet the influx of population has significant impacts on our forests and natural resources, underscoring the need for responsible forest management. 

The West’s population has grown significantly over the past 60 years, with human development encroaching on forestlands and leading to forest fragmentation and parcelization. This, in turn, leads to much higher management and wildfire protection costs in the expanding wildland-urban interface.

Maintaining healthy forests provides jobs and other economic, social and recreational benefits for communities. Active and sustainable management of western forests not only positively affects forest ecosystems, but also people, communities and economies in the surrounding areas.  

In the face of the rapidly expanding wildland-urban interface and continued population growth and development, forest management is becoming increasingly difficult. Other issues that affect sustainable forest management include: 

  • Legal authority
  • Regulation
  • Limited financial resources
  • Domestic and international markets
  • Physical infrastructure
  • Land use change
  • Social license to actively manage forests

Opportunities for actions that span boundaries and support active forest management, vibrant urban and community forests, and a diverse forest products industry are significant, and there are many successes to build from.