Tag Archives: USDA

Seeing the Forests for the Trees

An Expanding Collaboration Between the USDA Forest Service and Esri

By John Steffenson

You may know the USDA Forest Service as the steward of 193 million acres of national forest land, but the agency is much more than that. Its Research and Development (R&D) branch is the largest forestry research organization in the world, charged since 1928 with a congressional mandate to make “a comprehensive survey of the present and prospective requirements for timber and other forest products of the United States.” The branch’s Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program drives the survey that meets that mandate.

Surveying the nation’s forests involves maintaining 355,000 permanent sample locations on private and public lands across nine time zones from Guam to the Caribbean and monitoring a grid of approximately 6.5 million photo points. While the traditional focus has been on rural forest land, the FIA program is expanding to include urban forest resources. They also survey private land owners and wood-processing facilities across the country to understand the flow of wood products from state to state and to international customers.

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USDA Adds People to Its Forest Inventory

At one time, researchers limited their forest ecosystems studies to biological and physical analysis. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service recognizes that humans are also part of the forest ecosystem. The condition of a forest greatly depends on how people think of it and the ways they want to use it.

Dr. Richard Guldin is the acting associate deputy chief for the USDA Forest Service’s research and development. In his keynote address at the Esri Forestry GIS Conference in May 2013, Guldin explained the role of GIS in tracking the health, productivity, and diversity of the nation’s forests. Continue reading

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