Strategic Planning Document -
Environment and Natural Resources

Research Successes

Forest Research Meets Society's Demand
for Multiple Uses

Research has enabled us to manage both public and private forests for multiple uses, while maintaining environmental quality. Forests provide, either directly or indirectly, many of the goods and services that are essential for society's well-being, including such diverse products as clean water, food, medicines, fiber, minerals, and recreation. The United States now has the same extent of forest cover that it did 100 years ago. Research has led to the development of guidelines for managing naturally regenerated forests for multiple-use objectives, as well as methods to intensively manage forest plantations for fiber production, while maintaining environmental quality both on- and off-site. Harvested forest products from both plantations and natural stands represent 4% of our import and export trade volume and 2.5% of our gross national product. Currently, the average annual growth of tree volume across all land ownerships exceeds harvest by more than 25%. This has been accomplished in spite of the fact that during the past 25 years our nation's population has grown by more than 22%, while our demand for wood fiber has increased by 55%. In addition, timely research programs on forest health threats, such as the southern pine beetle and catastrophic fires, have led to the development and implementation of effective operational guidelines that greatly constrain the extent of environmental and economics loss.

As environmental concerns have expanded, so too has research to increase understanding of how forested ecosystems function and their complex relationship to the plants and animals that reside in them. This has led to major advances in how forests are managed. For example, logging systems have been developed that minimize soil compaction and erosion, thereby sustaining long-term soil productivity and avoiding damage to streams and aquatic life. While some endangered species legally require the development of scientifically credible protection plans, we have learned how to modify management practices to maintain viable populations of many species of plants and animals before their survival becomes compromised and how to restore some populations that were at one time threatened.

Fisheries and Stream Quality

Federal water quality research has identified both point-source pollution and pesticides and fertilizers from diffuse sources, such as agriculture and households, as significant threats to fisheries and water quality. The cumulative effects of various land uses have, at times, degraded freshwater streams. In some instances this has led to the decline or elimination of fish populations, recreation values, and drinking water quality.

Research on modified agricultural tillage practices and how to best maintain or restore riparian buffer zones has reduced soil erosion and stream contamination, which has enabled us to maintain fish spawning areas. Research has also provided an understanding of the important role of small side streams, water temperature, and woody debris in providing critical fish- rearing habitats. The result has been increased fish populations and improved water quality in several regions of the country.