Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Forests for Sale

Somehow I missed this story in my earlier postings... Tens of millions of acres of forests are being sold to private developers or being cut for timber.

A recent U.S. Forest Service study predicted that more than 44 million acres of private forest land, an area twice the size of Maine, will be sold over the next 25 years. The consulting firm U.S. Forest Capital estimates that half of all U.S. timberland has changed hands in the past decade. The Bush administration also wants to sell off forest land, by auctioning more than 300,000 acres of national forest to fund a rural school program.
In many cases, the private ownership is being driven to sell by changes in the lumber industry that make operations less profitable or by pressures for development.

Conservation groups are trying to stem the tide, but non-profit organizations can only buy so much land. The Conservation Fund, for example, will raise and spend $48 million to protect 16,000 acres. Actions like this are important, but a drop in the bucket compared to the millions of acres that may be up for sale.