Wonder about Forests

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We've got information and additional resources, indexed by
lesson, which will help you make the most out of your
Finding My Forest experience.

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When you hear the word “forest,” what comes to mind? The glowing trees of Avatar, Hansel and Gretel and some bread crumbs, or perhaps a particular place or a special tree that you love to visit?

FOREST: A dense growth of trees, together with other plants, covering a large area of land. Also an ecosystem, consisting of a community of plants and animals interacting with one another and with the physical environment.

Forests mean many things to our world. They provide a home for plants and animals, some which are exceedingly rare. They provide clean air and water—the Amazonian rainforests provide as much as 20% of the world’s oxygen. They serve as resources for products from life-saving medicines to maple syrup. And they provide a place for people to connect with nature, and get lasting benefits to their health and well-being. For a great student-friendly overview of forests, check out EcoKids’ Forests: Seeing the Forests and the Trees.

Forests are everywhere. As you read this, you are in a forest right now! Hard to believe? You are in what’s called an urban forest.

URBAN FOREST: An ecosystem in a settled area (urban, suburban, or rural) that encompasses all green space in that area, including street trees, parks, landscaped boulevards, public gardens, and greenways.

Eighty percent of the United States population resides in urban areas, so urban forests may sometimes be the only forests that people experience! Urban forests enrich our lives by providing us with clean air and water, storm water control, energy conservation, reduction of pollution and noise, and an increase in outdoor opportunities and economic development, not to mention tranquility and beauty. Look out your nearest window—what is your urban forest doing for you?

Learn more about urban forestry:

  • itreetools.org: A software suite that helps individuals and communities manage and assess the benefits of their trees and forests.

  • Treelink.org/nucfac: The National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council supports education, projects, and groups related to urban and community forestry.

  • Caseytrees.org: A nonprofit that focuses on protecting, restoring, and enhancing the urban forest in Washington, D.C.

  • VIDEO: New York City’s Urban Forest: from the NY Department of Environmental Conservation.

It is so easy to get outside and into a forest. Walk out your door and explore your urban forest, or go a little farther and explore the millions of acres of public and private forests in the United States. Did you know that the United States Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service manages 193 million acres of public land? These forests and grasslands belong to all of us.

More about the USDA Forest Service

The Forest Service not only protects and manages national forests and grasslands, but also completes cutting-edge research on forestry, land management, and the use of forest resources. In addition, they help communities and individuals protect and manage non-Federal forests and grasslands, employ approximately 30,000 people in “green” careers, and work internationally to support the protection and management of the world’s forest resources. Explore the USDA Forest Service website and their extensive conservation education resources.

What makes a National Forest different from a National Park?

National parks emphasize strict preservation of pristine areas. They focus on protecting natural and historic features plus light-on-the-land recreation. The ultimate goal is to preserve resources "unimpaired for future generations." Park rangers work for the National Park Service (NPS) under the Department of the Interior.

National forests emphasize resource conservation and sustainability. They are managed to provide Americans with a wide variety of services and commodities, including lumber, cattle grazing, mineral products, and recreation with and without vehicles. The national forests are managed by forest rangers with the USDA Forest Service.

For more information, visit http://www.nps.gov/archive/seki/nps_usfs.htm.

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"I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech-tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among
the pines."

— Henry David Thoreau
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