National Forest Week honors our forests every autumn, which also helps regulate climate. This tradition dates back to the 1920s. This event raises awareness about forest conservation and all the benefits of wooded areas worldwide.
It also highlights forests' diverse roles. Forests provide oxygen, store carbon, improve biodiversity, and many more. And these reasons are enough to justify a weeklong observance for these lands full of trees.
From environmental educators to conservationists, organizations to individuals, this event reminds us of our collective responsibility to preserve our forests for future generations.
Featured in: September - Awareness Months, Days & Observances.
In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge established National Forest Week, previously Forest Protection Week, to emphasize the importance of America's forests.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Forestry Association launched a similar initiative in 1920, stressing the need for forest stewardship.
Then, in 1960, National Forest Week was renamed to signify a commitment to safeguarding forests and celebrating their recreational, commercial, and ecological value. The USDA rescheduled National Forest Week to the last week of September in 1967, coinciding with autumn.
National Forest Week has catalyzed significant conservation initiatives, such as forming the National Forest Foundation in 1975, which championed forest conservation and reforestation and rallied against deforestation.
Illegal logging and land clearing for agriculture are the main culprits behind deforestation. Sadly, this occurs in many regions worldwide, including the Amazon and the Siberian taiga.
About 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihood, while 70 million indigenous people coexist with them. In the US, around 223,000 people in gateway communities earn a living through the forests.
However, the situation is becoming increasingly dire. We must find a way to earn a living without causing irreversible harm to the forests.
Since 1990, the amount of forest land lost has reached 420 million hectares, equivalent to the entire European Union, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
But, the loss of forests goes beyond the absence of trees; 80% of all terrestrial species live in forests. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the lost forest land in 2019 alone was roughly 15.3 million hectares, larger than the entire country of England.
Related read: Deforestation facts.
Forests cover about one-third of the Earth's surface and maintain the balance of our planet's ecosystems and climate. They also serve as homes to various species2.
Forests absorb roughly 2.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually, which helps mitigate climate change1.
Regrettably, the World Bank reports that we have lost roughly 3.9 million square miles of forest since the beginning of the 20th century, equivalent to South America. Our relentless pursuit of resources and space turns our carbon storage facilities into carbon factories.
Fortunately, sustainable forest management is a possible solution. Selective logging, replanting, and supporting wood products with eco-certifications allow us to balance our demand for wood and the survival of the forests.
Numerous organizations and governments have implemented strategies to conserve these vital ecosystems. For instance, the United Nations' REDD+ program promotes forest conservation and management to combat climate change3.
Moreover, various initiatives and certifications promote responsible forest management and sustainability. One notable certification is the Forest Stewardship Council certification by the World Wildlife Fund, emphasizing responsible forest management practices.
Locally, the "Every Kid in a Park" initiative by the USDA Forest Service gives fourth-graders and their families a free one-year pass to national parks and forests. These national parks contain thousands of campgrounds and miles of wild and scenic rivers, all part of America's outdoor recreation heritage.
Local communities, such as Nepal's community forests, are conserving forest lands to support forest health while providing livelihoods to their residents.
Trees cannot speak for themselves. But Offering your time, donating, or providing support can give them a voice. Observing National Forest Week by committing to protecting the world’s forests should remain steadfast.
Finally, we should celebrate forests' strength and resilience for not just one week every year but every day.
Each year, National Forest Week celebrates the importance of forests and raises awareness about their conservation and sustainable management.
It is typically celebrated during the last week of September. The exact dates may vary.
It highlights the vital role that forests play in our lives, including providing clean air and water, habitat for wildlife, and recreational opportunities. It also encourages people to support the protection of forests for future generations.
Join local events and activities organized by government agencies, non-profit organizations, or community groups.
Reduce paper consumption, recycle, and choose sustainable wood products. Additionally, you can join or donate to organizations advocating forest conservation and sustainable forestry practices.
Bonan, G. B. (2008). Forests and climate change: Forcings, feedbacks, and the climate benefits of forests. Science, 320(5882), 1444-1449.
Pan, Y., Birdsey, R. A., Fang, J., Houghton, R., Kauppi, P. E., Kurz, W. A., ... & Hayes, D. (2011). A large and persistent carbon sink in the world’s forests. Science, 333(6045), 988-993.
Phelps, J., Webb, E. L., & Agrawal, A. (2010). Does REDD+ Threaten to Recentralize Forest Governance?. Science, 328(5976), 312-313.