Healthy forests are absolutely critical for providing breathable air, drinkable water and the biodiversity and protection from climate change. The variety of ecosystems found in Southern forests provides the basis for the entire web of life that supports us. This is particularly true of forest wetlands — and Southern forest wetlands are the most biodiverse on earth.
There are many different kinds of Southern forests — from Cumberland Plateau hardwoods, to coastal wetlands to the cypress swamps of the deep south — and each nurtures specific animal and plant species that are important to maintaining a balanced and healthy environment. They are places of breathtaking natural beauty, as well as economic engines for communities throughout the region.
Man has used natural forests for centuries to supply wood products, medicines, and food in the form of wild game, fish and plants. We’ve also enjoyed the recreational benefits of camping, hiking, paddling and more. And, our forests continue to serve as our best defense against climate change. As long as the biodiversity of the forest is respectfully maintained, the forest can provide long-term economic benefits for the surrounding communities.
Paper production currently is the single largest threat to Southern forests. When forests are destroyed or converted to monoculture (pine plantations) for large-scale, short-term paper production, all of the forest benefits disappear, and both the forest and the surrounding communities are greatly harmed. The same is true when forests are harvested to burn for bioenergy, another serious threat. As a result of activities like these, many areas of the South are now home to endangered forests.