Keeping Forest as Forest


  • Forests of the southern United States provide a wide variety of benefits—collectively known as “ecosystem services”—to people, communities, and businesses. For example, they provide timber, help purify water, control soil erosion, help regulate climate by sequestering carbon, and offer outdoor recreation, hunting, and fishing opportunities.

  • Over the coming decades, several direct drivers of change are expected to negatively affect the quantity and quality of southern forests and thus their ability to provide ecosystem services. These direct drivers include suburban encroachment, unsustainable forest management practices, climate change, surface mining, pest and pathogen outbreaks, invasive species, and wildfire.

  • A number of incentives, markets, and practices — collectively called “measures” — could help address these drivers of change and promote southern forest conservation and sustainable management. These measures fall into five major categories: land use instruments, fiscal incentives, liability limitations, market incentives, and education/capacity building. With such measures in place, these forests could continue to supply needed ecosystem services and the native biodiversity that underpins these benefits.

  • The South has experience with many of these measures. A few have been around for awhile, such as parks and protected areas, while many are relatively new, such as payments for watershed protection. However, adoption of even some of the most traditional measures is still relatively low in the South. Why is this the case? What can be done to increase adoption of these measures? Are there other innovative ideas that hold promise for more widespread application?

  • This issue brief sets the stage for these questions and introduces subsequent installments of the Southern Forests for the Future Incentives Series, which will answer these and related questions. This brief is designed for conservation and land use professionals, decision makers, and concerned citizens.