Forests of the United States account for 7 percent of the world's forested area. Moreover, the United States has about 13 percent of the world's temperate forests, and nearly half of the world's coastal temperate rain forest (World Resources Institute 1996). More than half of U.S. forests are privately owned, an amount that accounts for about 40 percent of the world's private forests. In comparison to the rest of the world, the United States has a higher proportion of its forests in a managed condition (one-half versus one-third worldwide). "Managed" implies some degree of control over forests. The majority of those forests are under nonfederal ownership (Brooks 1993). Another important factor globally is the 13 million hectares (10 percent of world plantations) of U.S. forests in plantations, the majority of which are in nonfederal-ownership categories.
Nonfederal forests are important in providing environmental services worldwide. Certainly, they are reservoirs of plant and animal genetic material that is of worldwide importance. Examples are the extensive temperate rainforests of the West Coast, rare plant communities in oak savannas of the Midwest, high concentrations of mixed broadleaf species in Southern Appalachia, and rare hardwood-forest ecosystems in the bottomlands of the Southeast. In addition, nonfederal forests provide critical habitat for birds migrating across international boarders; they absorb and buffer pollution discharges originating in various regions of the world; they serve as storage places (or possibly sources of) for carbon, which might otherwise affect global climate adversely; and they contribute to the favorable regulation of climatic changes (United Nations 1992a). Nonfederal forests support international tourism and recreation. Because half of the world's tourism involves nature, even a small portion attributed to nonfederal forests is still significant.
Nonfederal forests are important sources of timber products for export. U.S. forest exports reached $17.1 billion in 1992, and the U.S. was the world's second largest exporter of forest products (second only to Canada). The export level has increased by nearly 8 percent annually since 1950 (adjusted for inflation); the increase is largely due to devaluation of the U.S. dollar in 1985, export promotion efforts by government and industry, and elimination or curtailment of trade barriers. The trade deficit in forest products in the United States is modest. In terms of net trade in roundwood equivalents in 1989, the United States imported 55 million cubic meters more than it exported (Brooks 1993).
Management experience of nonfederal forests in the United States is useful to other countries as they make decisions about the use and management of their forests. Because of the diversity of the nation's nonfederal forests (spread over half a continent) and the many products and services they provide, combined with the important role of private ownership and the government's use of a variety of policies, nonfederal-forest management in the United States is a source of knowledge and experience for other nations.
Many global forestry issues are relevant to nonfederal forests. Actions taken on nonfederal forests affect forests outside the United States, and actions taken