Forests provide clean water and habitat for wildlife. They protect and enrich soil, filter the air, and provide settings for recreation and renewal. Following severe exploitation of the forests of Western North Carolina a century ago, we now find ourselves in a substantially renewed forest ecosystem. Over the next century, it is our collective responsibility to ensure that our forests continue to be restored and are managed and protected for current and future generations.
Several issues threaten Western North Carolina’s forest ecosystems. These include, but are not limited to: loss of native species and natural communities; spread of invasive species; fire, insects, and disease; water pollution; erosion; and loss of contiguous forestland. As our dependence on and demands for natural ecosystems increase, we need to ensure that our forests are healthy and viable.
In Western North Carolina, the USDA Forest Service’s Southern Research Station is evaluating the sustainability of the area’s forests. The Western North Carolina Report Card on Forest Sustainability is the product of a collaborative partnership between the USDA Forest Service and the University of North Carolina at Asheville’s NEMAC. This report card provides a current picture of economic, ecological, biological, and social information relevant to the region. By evaluating how forests are impacted by natural and human-caused change, the report card can have a positive impact on decision-making processes and policies.