USFS Predicts Extensive Development Around Forests

November 7, 2007

Here's some breaking news from the urban-wildland interface, where raging wildfires have consumed thousands of homes this year. National forests throughout the US are expected to be subject to substantial development pressure around their periphery in the next quarter century, according to a US Forest Service study announced Oct. 25, 2007.

The authors estimate that 21.7 million acres of private land within 10 miles of forest service boundaries will bear the burdens of increased housing density. In particular, they say that the 10-mile zone around nine national forests will experience increased density on 25% or more of the private land. From another angle, they say that each of 13 national forests and grasslands will have at least half a million acres of private land in the 10-mile swath developed with more housing.

The report includes a map of the relative development pressure around each forest or grassland (high, medium, or low); charts with details for the forests and grasslands under greatest pressure; and detailed maps for a handful of forests.

The increased development is expected to create numerous pressures on management of wildfire, wildlife, water, timber, grazing, recreation, and other resources and activities.

The 155 national forests and 20 grasslands account for about 9% of all US land. The 10-mile zone next to them constitutes about 8% of all private lands in the country, and the counties these adjacent lands are in often have some of the highest population growth rates in the country.