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Sustainable Forest Management and Wildlife

Sustainable Forest Management, also called Active Forest Management, creates a mosaic of interconnected, high-quality forest conditions for native plant and animal species, including those that are common, at-risk, threatened, and endangered.

Thousands of species rely on private working forests for a wide variety of forest conditions, including young stands, open canopy pine stands, mature forest, and riparian areas protected using state approved water quality Best Management Practices, BMPs, or state regulations. Sustainable Forest Management creates and maintains a full range of biodiversity benefits while keeping forests healthy and productive.

NAFO members invest substantially in wildlife conservation and management. Forest owners manage for biodiversity and work to enhance wildlife habitat to support forest-dependent species.

40.2 million

NAFO members manage 40.2 million acres of sustainably certified forestlands

10.8 million

10.8 million acres of NAFO forests are participating in conservation programs or projects

686 projects

NAFO members are engaged in 686 conservation projects

Private working forests are widespread, representing up to 80% of the forestlands in some areas. NAFO forests provide connectivity among forested areas to allow for species to naturally move through their entire range during each stage of their lifecycle. Decades of experience have proven that conservation efforts are most effective when stakeholders work together across ownership boundaries and jurisdictions to understand and sustain fish and wildlife.

The National Alliance of Forest Owners

Leading the Way

The U.S. is a global leader in modern forestry. Across the country, NAFO members join other private working forest owners in practicing some of the highest standards for sustainable forest management in the world. NAFO members’ commitment to sustainable forestry is deeply rooted in a culture of long-term stewardship, continuous learning, and scientific rigor. This is reflected in the requirement of third-party certification of sustainable practices as a condition of membership for NAFO member companies. As a result of the sustainable forestry practices NAFO members and other private working forest owners employ, today the U.S. enjoys some of the most abundant and productive forest resources in the world.
The National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO) is a national advocacy organization advancing federal policies that ensure private working forests provide clean air, clean water, wildlife habitat, and jobs through sustainable practices and strong markets. NAFO members own and manage more than 44 million acres of private working forests across the U.S. NAFO’s membership also includes state and national associations representing tens of millions of additional acres.

Private forest owners embrace a culture of stewardship for their forests and the wildlife that depend on them.

As the risks to forests continue to grow from climate change, development, disturbance, and other factors, it is more important than ever to keep forested areas healthy and resilient to sustain the wildlife conservation values they provide. Private working forest owners are committed to maintaining investments in their forests that support the lifecycle needs of wildlife.

Young Forest

Open fields and grasslands, low, thick brush, and young forests are home to species needing conservation attention such as the Kirkland’s warbler, the New England Cottontail rabbit, or the American Woodcock. Other wildlife species depending on young forest for at least part of their habitat needs include wild turkey, grouse, American elk, white-tailed deer, eastern cottontail rabbit, black bear, and native pollinators including honey bees and butterflies. Young forest is often a critical need, especially where intermixed with older forest types.

Open Canopy

Open canopy forests are those where the dominant trees are more widely spaced, and the trees have not grown together into a continuous canopy. Because sunlight gets through to the forest floor, plants that require sunlight to grow thrive here, benefiting at-risk species including the gopher tortoise, Louisiana pine snake, southern hog-nosed snake, and gopher frog. Numerous at risk plant species that need disturbance and sunlight are also found in open canopy forests.

Riparian & Aquatic

Most forest landowners of today implement state Best Management Practices (BMPs) during harvests that are designed to protect water quality by leaving a buffer along watercourses called a Streamside Management Zone (SMZ). SMZs not only protect water quality; they also keep in place buffers of forested landscape along rivers and streams, providing wildlife travel and habitat diversity corridors that benefit the entire ecosystem. The shade from the trees controls water temperature, which is important for all kinds of fish, reptiles, insects and other riparian and aquatic animals. Most importantly, the vegetated buffer filters sediment after rains or snows, keeping the water clean and providing essential habitat for mollusks and fish species that require clean water to reproduce.

NAFO Resources

Discover the benefits of sustainable forest management with NAFO’s In-Your-State tool! Get state-level metrics on wildlife, carbon, water and more – and easily share one-page infographics.

A man in an orange shirt and hat looks out over a forested landscape, while carrying a large bag of seedlings to plant.

Did you know that private working forests are one of the most environmentally valuable natural resources in the U.S. but one of the least understood? To learn more about the positive impacts of sustainable forest management on carbon, water, and wildlife, check out this comprehensive report from the National Alliance of Forest Owners.