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Forestry Group Marks Century Of Progress
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Good management and planning during the last century is paying off in the abundance and health of U.S. forests.
Marking the centennial anniversary of its founding, the Society of American Foresters recently compiled a list of forestry-related advances in the United States during the past 100 years. With about 700 professional members in Mississippi, the state organization works with the national group to make advancements in forestry.
Jim Walley of Ellisville, state chair of SAF, said use of satellites is one of the most exciting modern advancements.
"We have a new era of field data available to us, and it is more affordable than ever. Through the use of satellites we can easily locate remote areas in the forest, map and determine acreage, and track insect and disease development," Walley said.
"Advanced technology has helped us reduce waste by allowing us to use every part of the tree," Walley said. "In addition to lumber and paper coming from trees, the resins, cellulose, bark, scraps and even the sawdust are turned into products that range from medicines to camera film to rugs."
Through technology such as satellite imagery, foresters can monitor the health of the forest, target management activities, map fire outbreaks, and identify wildlife and fish habitat for protection.
Bob Daniels, forestry specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said the country has more trees today than it did in 1920 on about the same amount of forestland.
"The tremendous amount of reforestation is a strong indicator we are protecting forests as renewable resources," Daniels said. "Despite the increased population and urban growth, American foresters and landowners continue to prepare for the future by replanting and protecting trees for the next generations."
Daniels said municipal ordinances, civic involvement and the increase in urban forestry enhances the quality of life and saves energy costs and usage. City planners have worked hard to plant and maintain millions of trees across the country.
- Satellite imagery and other technology
- Affordable products and waste reduction
- Fire protection
- Urban forestry
- Return of wildlife
- Wilderness protection
- Professional education
"At the turn of the century, wildfires annually burned across 20 to 50 million acres of the country each year, with devastating loss of life and property," Daniels said. "Through education, prevention and control, that amount has been reduced 90 percent to about 2 to 5 million acres a year. Additionally, we've studied and better understand fire's contributions to forest health."
Species such as white-tailed deer, wild turkeys and wood ducks were almost extinct at the turn of the century.
"Wildlife conservation and improving habitats have helped those species and other populations flourish," Daniels said. "Now, foresters work with other professionals to improve habitats and ensure survival of other wildlife species."
Millions of people are drawn to U.S. forest land for recreational activities each year as they retreat from urban sprawl.
America's first wilderness areas were established by the U.S. Forest Service in the 1920s. There are now 95 million acres in the wilderness system, and 149 million more acres in parks, wildlife refuges and other set-aside land, by far more than any other country.
"Early decisions made about U.S. forests were based on what worked in Europe. Since then, U.S. forest researchers have sought ways to control insects and diseases, improve growth rates, enhance soil and water conditions and to understand other variables that make our forests among the most productive, sustainable and healthy in the world," Daniels said.
Progress in professional forestry education has been the underlying foundation that brings all the advancements and successes together.
"A century ago, there were no professional forestry schools in the United States. Now, the Society of American Foresters accredits 48 universities, including MSU, to offer specialized forestry educations," Daniels said.
Since 1900, the Society of American Foresters has provided access to information and networking opportunities to prepare members for the challenges and the changes that face natural resource professionals. SAF members include nearly 18,000 professionals who are dedicated to improving the health and productivity of forests.