Southern Forests for the Future

WRI’s Southern Forests for the Future project seeks to raise awareness of the threats facing the forests of the southern United States and lay the foundation for increasing the acreage that is conserved or managed in a sustainable manner.

Through Southern Forests for the Future, WRI seeks to tackle the challenges facing southern U.S. forests by:

  • Increasing awareness about the threats facing southern forests and the value they provide. Many people fail to grasp the extent of southern forest degradation because continuous but dispersed change often goes unnoticed. To address this, WRI has created time-series maps that reveal trends and changes in southern forests and has developed a new web portal that allows schoolchildren, universities, citizens, interest groups, and others to access these maps and other information. In addition, WRI has assessed the benefits of southern forest, key causes of forest loss, and implications for human and environmental well-being. WRI has published the results of this research.
  • Identifying and developing a portfolio of options that align economic incentives with keeping forest as forest. A key factor underlying forest loss is that economic incentives are not aligned with keeping forest as forest. Recognizing this, WRI will conduct research in 2010 to identify a portfolio of incentives (e.g., payments for ecosystem services) that could encourage private landowners to retain their forests and manage them sustainably to provide a range of ecosystem services. WRI will convene a regional workshop in 2010 to discuss and refine a draft portfolio of incentives with academics, economists, non-governmental organizations, family and industrial forest owners, and others. After incorporating feedback, WRI will publish a research report that describes each incentive option.
  • Pilot testing options and rolling out those demonstrating most promise. In 2011, WRI will pilot test several of the incentives from the portfolio of options in order to iron out design “kinks” and demonstrate their feasibility so they can be replicated elsewhere in the region. During the pilot tests, WRI will collaborate with southern landowners and other partner organizations. The project’s long-term goal is to help catalyze sustainable stewardship of an additional 20 percent of southern U.S. forests by 2020.