The World Resources Institute (WRI) and Toyota today launched Southern Forests for the Future, a WRI project designed to raise awareness of the threats facing southern U.S. forests and increase the amount of forest conserved or managed in a sustainable manner.
“The forests of the southern United States are being whittled away acre by acre,” said Jonathan Lash, president of WRI. “We plan to raise awareness about trends in southern forests and develop innovative approaches for conserving this national treasure. WRI is grateful to Toyota for making this effort possible.”
Toyota is funding the project with a $1.49 million grant over three years. The project includes three components:
- Increase awareness about the threats facing southern forests and the value they provide;
- Identify and develop a portfolio of options that align economic incentives with forest stewardship; and
- Pilot test and implement these options.
“WRI has a long and successful history of transforming information and analysis into practical solutions for sustaining our natural ecosystems,” said Patricia Salas Pineda, group vice president of Toyota Motor North America. “Toyota is proud to support this initiative.”
The forests of the southern United States stretch from east Texas to Virginia and from Kentucky to Florida. Covering more than 200 million acres, they are among the most biologically diverse temperate forests in the world and provide a wide range of ecosystem services including timber, paper, watershed protection, carbon storage, and recreation. However, approximately one million acres are lost each year to urban development and unsustainable forest management practices.
Through this project, WRI will develop online time-series maps showing changes in southern U.S. forest cover over recent decades. In early 2010, WRI will launch a Web site called See My Forest, which will allow environmental organizations, governments, universities, and schoolchildren to scroll over these maps, zoom in on areas of interest, and view a range of supporting information about forest conditions and trends.
“Many people are failing to grasp the extent of southern forest degradation because continuous but dispersed forest loss often goes unnoticed,” said Craig Hanson, director of WRI’s People & Ecosystems Program. “This project will help address this.”
WRI also will identify, assess, and pilot-test a portfolio of incentives designed to encourage private landowners to retain their forests and manage them sustainably to provide a full range of ecosystem services. Some of the options include payments for watershed protection, recreational user fees, and voluntary land offset programs. During this phase of the project, WRI will be collaborating with several other organizations and institutions.
“A key factor underlying forest degradation is that economic incentives often don’t support sustainable forest stewardship,” added Hanson. “We need to implement new approaches to get economics and forest conservation aligned.”
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