Announcement That 2011 is the International Year of Forests

Daniel A. Reifsnyder
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Washington, DC
April 12, 2011

MR. REIFSNYDER: Hi. My name is Daniel Reifsnyder and I’m the Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Environment and Sustainable Development here at the U.S. Department of State.

2011 is the International Year of Forests. This year, the United States is joining other countries, communities, and individuals around the world to spotlight one of our most valuable resources. Forests cover more than 30 percent of the world’s total land area. They contain a great percentage of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. They are home to more than 300 million people and provide livelihoods for 1.5 billion more.

On April 22nd, we will celebrate Earth Day. In the 40 years since the first Earth Day celebration, we’ve come to understand better the critical role forests play in our daily lives. We understand that forests not only have an economic value, but they also have social and cultural values. Today there are many threats to the world’s forests. Unsustainable management practices, illegal logging, fire, disease, degradation, and deforestation continue to have significant and negative impacts. There has been progress. The pace at which the globe is losing forests is slowing. But there is much work left to do.

Deforestation continues at unsustainable rates, and each day our forests and the people who depend on them face new challenges. These challenges will require a new generation of creative and innovative approaches. Only by working together with our partners domestically and internationally, in both the public and private sectors, will we begin to see real and lasting solutions.

The United States is working both at home and abroad to help steward the world's forest resources. Here in the United States, federal and state governments work with local communities, NGOs, businesses, and private landowners to develop innovative solutions to protect, conserve, and manage our forest resources more sustainably. The U.S. Forest Service, for instance, has collaborated for decades with public and private stakeholders throughout the country on fire management, pest control, and habitat management. Roughly 57 percent of U.S. forests are privately owned.

Through its groundbreaking Forest Legacy Program, the U.S. Forest Service has partnered with landowners, states, and conservation groups to protect more than 2 million acres of private, working forests threatened by development. Similarly, Congress recently enacted legislation to further U.S. efforts to conduct trade in legally harvested forest products more responsibly.

Overseas, the United States devotes significant resources to forest conservation. We support forest-related biodiversity initiatives throughout the world. We participate in a number of international organizations that focus on forests. These include the United Nations Forum on Forests, the International Tropical Timber Organization, and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. We engage bilateral partners on international forest policy through strategic dialogues, environmental working groups, treaties, and free trade agreements. And we support training and capacity building programs that address illegal logging, deforestation, desertification, habitat conservation, and other key forest-related issues.

There is a saying that we do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. This year, in honor of the International Year of Forests and Earth Day, the United States is reaffirming its commitment to work toward a more sustainable future for people today and for future generations. I invite you to join in this effort to recognize, protect, and restore these invaluable resources.