The U.S. is expected to lose 16 million to 34 million of acres of forest by 2060 to urban growth and development, the U.S. Forest Service predicts.
The expanding population, increased urbanization, and changing land-use patterns will cut into privately-owned forests and that will mean a loss of clean water, wildlife habitat, forest products and recreation. The Forest Service 10-year assessment found urban and developed land areas in the U.S. will increase 41 percent by 2060.
At the same time climate change could reduce water availability, making the US potentially more vulnerable to water shortages, especially in the Southwest and Great Plains. Forest fire acres-burned will double.
The largest forest decline is expected in the South, in part because most of the forests in the West are in federal hands. The federal government owns 63.8% of all the land in Idaho and manages nearly three-quarters of the Idaho forest.
The State of Idaho and other public agencies own 10% or 2.2 million acres; forest products companies own 5% or 1.1 million acres; and the remaining 10%, 2.2 million acres, is owned by ranchers, farmers, tribes and other private landowners.
The 20 million acres of national forest represents nearly 40% of Idaho's land mass, more than any other state.
Other trends in the report include:
• Timber prices are expected to remain relatively flat;
• Rangeland area is expected to continue its slow decline but rangeland productivity is expected to remain stable;
• Biodiversity will continue to erode because projected loss of forestland will impact the variety of forest species;
• Recreation use is expected to continue to rise.