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Value of Forests

Ecosystem Functions

The Upper Delaware River Watershed provides clean drinking water to over 15 million people. That water is filtered by the healthy forests that thrive here. To protect the water here, we need to assure that forestlands remain forestlands.

A watershed is an area of land that absorbs rain and snow and drains it through a network of streams into a river or other major water body. You likely live within the Delaware River Watershed, which drains about 13,000 square miles in four states—-New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. The River Basin extends to the Catskill Mountains in New York State and stretches more than 330 miles through the Delaware Estuary to the Atlantic Ocean. Thousands of miles of streams drain directly into the Delaware--one of which might run through your backyard or neighborhood.

The Upper Delaware River Region is also one of the healthiest and most biodiverse watersheds in the country, as many hunters, anglers, hikers, and wildlife enthusiasts will attest. It hosts 1,100 types of plants, 50 mammal species, 45 types of fish and 200 bird species.

It's also important to know that forests are a critical part of the water cycle on our planet. Forest soils absorb precipitation (rain and snowfall), which is then drawn by the trees through their root system to support their growth. Then, water travels through the leaves, where it is lost through a process called transpiration. Both transipration and evaporation make up the water that returns to the atmosphere as vapor, which begins the cycle again.

As rain falls in forestland, this slow filtration process helps to keep the water in adjacent lakes, rivers, and streams clean by preventing nutrient and chemical pollution from agricultural, industrial and residential sources from making its way to the water. Learn more about forested buffers in the Forest Management section.

Economic Value

Many people are interested in sustainably managing their forestland for income. Today, Pennsylvania ranks first in the nation for hardwood production. 75% of Pennsylvania’s forestlands are owned by private, non-industrial landowners—in the Delaware River Basin, 84% are privately owned. Similarly, New York is 63% forested, 76% of which is privately owned.

To plan for the future of your forest, it's often best to work with a consulting forester and develop a Forest Management Plan, which will help guide you in setting your goals and actions in your forestland. Timber harvesting and silviculture--or the art and science of controlling the establishment, growth, composition, health, and quality of forests and woodlands to meet the diverse needs and values of landowners and society on a sustainable basis--go hand-in-hand.

You may also identify additional goals, such as protecting specific wildlife habitat, or you may be interested in learning more about agroforestry, which integrates trees and shrubs into crop or animal farms for environmental, economic, and social benefits. Learn more about forest goals and working with a consulting forester in the Forest Management section.

In addition, the U.S. Green Building Council, the governing body for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building standard, has announced it will begin accepting wood from family forests certified by the American Tree Farm System. Learn more about ATFS certification.

As a whole, it  is estimated that 4,343,190 (6,786 sq mi) of forests in the Delaware Basin provide economic benefits from carbon storage ($3,591 million), air pollution removal ($1,155 million), building  energy savings ($243 million), and carbon sequestration ($126 million). 1

Recreation and Aesthetic Value

The forests of the Upper Delaware River region are beautiful places to spend time, whether hiking, biking, birdwatching, paddling through on the river, or simply for peaceful enjoyment.

Here are some resources to help you find some of the many outdoor recreational activities in our region:



Discover activities you can do to care for and enjoy your woods.

    The Importance of Forests

    Wondering why you should care so much about forests? Here's 21 reasons.

      Forest Products

      Do you know everything that's manufactured from forests? (Hint - it's a lot.) Check out the Almost Everything in the Whole Wide World Made From Trees List. Or, visit Shop Local Save Land to find forest product providers in our region.

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