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Forest Land Area from 1630 to 2002

A United States Forest Acreage Trendline

Forest Land Area Acreage - 1630 to 2002 - USFS/FIA

Forest Land Area Acreage - 1630 to 2002

European Settlements Impact Forest Area
Growth of the very earliest European settlers in North America initiated large land clearing efforts which had a great impact on forest acreage - especially in the new colonies. Lumber was one of the first exports from the New World and these new English colonies produced great quantities of quality wood for England, mainly ship building.

Until the mid-1800's most of the wood cut was used for fencing and for firewood. Lumber was only made from the best trees that were easiest to cut. Still, there were nearly one billion acres of forests in what was to be the United States in 1630 and stayed that way until the end of the 18th century.

The 1850 Timber Depletion
The 1850's faced a major boom in cutting trees for lumber but still used as much wood for energy and fences as ever. This depletion of the forest continued until 1900 at which time the United States had fewer forests than ever before and less than we have today. The resource had been reduced to just over 700 million forested acres with poor stocking levels on many, if not most, of the Eastern forest.

Fledgling government forestry agencies were developed during that time and sounded the alarm. The newly formed Forest Service surveyed the Nation and announced a timber deficit. States became concerned and formed their own agencies to protect remaining forest lands. Nearly two-thirds of the net loss of forests to other uses occurred between 1850 and 1900. By 1920, the clearing of forests for agriculture had largely subsided.

Our Present Forest
About 30 percent of the 2.3 billion acres of land area (745 million acres) in the U.S. is forest today as compared to about one-half in 1630 (1.0 billion acres). Some 300 million acres of forest land have been converted to other uses since 1630, predominantly because of agricultural uses in the East.

The forest resources of the U.S. have continued improving in general condition and quality, as measured by increased average size and volume of trees. This trend has been evident since the 1960s and before. The total forestland acreage has remained stable since 1900.

More on the Forest Resource:
A Brief History of United States Forestry
Tree Planting in the United States


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