Forest Health and Invasive Species
The health of our western forests is in decline. For example, since 1997, a host of native beetle species has chewed through more then 40 million acres of Western forests, according to aerial surveys by the U.S. Forest Service These acres are at risk because much of the western forested landscape now lacks the structural, species, and spatial diversity necessary to resist and slow bark beetle attack. This affects billions of dollars per year in clean water, air and recreation. A framework for cooperative forestry bark beetle strategies is explored in the WFLC report, A Western Bark Beetle Assessment.
Forest health issues are not confined to rural forests — tree health and stand vigor is challenged in many urban and community settings as well. In fact, some of the most destructive forest health problems historically have been invasive species and diseases that impact community forests and trees such as Dutch Elm Disease, Chestnut Blight, and more recently the Asian Longhorned Beetle, Thousand Canker Disease and the Emerald Ash Borer.
Western forests must continue to be managed to ensure ecological, economic, and social sustainability. Overly-dense forests are susceptible to both native and non-native insect and disease invasions, extreme weather events, and uncharacteristic wildfire. These forest health risks threaten not only the continued health of the forests but also that of adjacent communities, economies, watersheds, airsheds, wildlife habitats, and recreation areas in the West. Working across boundaries is essential to successfully addressing forest health issues.