Urban and rural forests cover one-fourth of North America, sustaining biological diversity and providing clean air and water to hundreds of millions of people. Forest products and related industries employ more than 1.6 million people and contribute $231.5 billion to our nation’s economy. Forests also provide enjoyment to millions of hikers, campers, hunters, anglers, and other recreational users, in the process contributing tens of billions of dollars more economic activity. Perhaps most importantly, our forests – urban, suburban, rural, and wild – are part of the core foundation of our national heritage, providing beauty and shade to our homes, and are integral to the American spirit. The well-being of our forests is inextricably bound to the well-being of our citizens.
In spite of their vast importance, our forests are needlessly being lost to non-native forest insects and diseases introduced as a byproduct of international trade and travel. These invaders represent one of the greatest threats to our forests and shade trees. Without countering these threats, the American landscape will change drastically and, probably, irreversibly.
We envision a future when such threats sharply decline. Then, healthy forests will sustain and enrich biological diversity; provide not just clean air and clean water but also contribute to a stable climate; and supply other ecosystem services in abundance. Our forests will provide new and substantial economic, recreational, and inspirational opportunity for all Americans. The public will recognize that non-native insects and diseases pose a threat to US forests that must be addressed – and they will create a strong demand to do so. Stronger national policies will result, along with supportive actions by businesses, states, individuals, and many others.
We join together as non-profit organizations, for-profit corporations, government agencies, landowners, and academic scholars to improve our nation’s efforts to address this critical threat to our forests. Our Dialogue will create real and lasting change, by seeking out those areas where we have unique leverage, credibility, and opportunities. We will organize our efforts around programs to prevent non-native insects and diseases from arriving, surviving and thriving on the continent. We see the Continental Dialogue as an important way to move toward our larger vision. We look forward to a time when its formation will be seen as a pivotal moment in the history of conserving American forests.