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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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America's Northern Plains

An Overview and Assessment of Natural Resources

Forest Lands and Windbreaks

Forest land makes up 15% of the Northern Plains region; however, only about 3% is privately owned. Private forest land decreased 1.6% between 1982 and 1992 (NRI, 1995). Colorado landscapes accounted for 76% of the forest land losses.

Timberland-- forest land capable of producing crops of industrial wood-- on all ownerships in the region declined by 9% from 1952 to 1987 (Powell et al., 1992). Much of the loss is due to clearing for agriculture and to flooding low areas for dam construction. Private timberland is about 36% of the total timberland in the region and closer to 70% outside the Rocky Mountain portion of the region (Powell et al., 1992).

Since the reduction in timber harvests on public lands in the West, pressure to harvest the ponderosa pine on nonindustrial private forest land in eastern Montana and adjoining states has increased. Typically, limited forestry technical assistance is available in these areas, and this constrains resource management considerations during and after harvest.

About 70% of the nation's windbreaks grow on private lands in the Northern Plains region (1987 NRI). However, advancing age and numerous environmental stresses are increasing the need to rejuvenate this resource.

Windbreaks protect approximately 255,000 farmsteads, thus reducing energy consumption in buildings and improving the health and vigor of livestock. Approximately 86,000 miles of field windbreaks protect about 4 million acres of agricultural land, resulting in less wind erosion and improved crop quantity and quality. They are a substantial resource, but field windbreaks protect only about 3% of the region's cropland (Brandle et al., 1992). Windbreaks protect about 42% of the region's farmsteads (Brandle et al., 1992).

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