Monday, September 30, 2013

Americans Are an Eastern Forest People

From Nature Wars: The Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comeback Turned Backyards into Battlegrounds by Jim Sterba:

Where do most people in the United States live? The answer is... counterintuitive: They live in the woods. We are essentially forest dwellers.

....[I]f you draw a line around the largest forested region in the contiguous United States — the one that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Plains — you will have drawn a line around nearly two-thirds of America’s forests (excluding Alaska’s) and two-thirds of the U.S. population...

If you got in an airplane and flew from Albany to Boston during the day... you could look down and see almost nothing but trees from one downtown to the other. Fly the same route at night, and you see lots of lights — lights of people living in a huge forest.

In the eastern United States over two and a half centuries, European settlers cleared away more than 250 million acres of forest. By the 1950s, depending on the region, nearly half to more than two-thirds of the landscape was reforested, and in the last half century, states in the Northeast and Midwest have added more than 11 million acres of forest. 

In the most heavily populated region of the United States, the urban corridor that runs from Norfolk, Virginia, to Portland, Maine, with eight of the ten most densely populated states, forest cover varied from a low of 30.6 percent in Delaware to a high of 63.2 percent in Massachusetts. The corridor runs straight through Connecticut, the fourth most densely populated state, and one that is more than 60 percent forested. Three out of four residents live in or near land under enough trees to be called forestland if they weren’t there.

John C. Gordon, the former dean of the Yale School of Forestry in New Haven, made a similar observation in speeches. “If you looked down at Connecticut from on high in the summer, what you’d see was mostly unbroken forest,” he said. “If you did the same thing in late fall after the leaves have fallen from those trees, what you’d see was stockbrokers."

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