Forests represent an important natural resource that can help developing countries improve their economic well-being. More than 1.6 billion people worldwide depend on forests for some part of their livelihood. Forests provide a wealth of important wood and non-timber forest products (such as edible nuts and fruits, medicinal plants, fibers and rubber) that people in the developed and developing world rely on. The value of wood and non-timber products provided by forests is immeasurable.

In addition, forests provide environmental services such as regulating water supplies and stemming soil erosion. These services have an enormous impact on worldwide agricultural productivity and human health. Forests play a crucial role as major stores of greenhouse gases, such as carbon. This important function contributes to reducing global warming. Forests also provide important habitat for wildlife. Experts estimate that 70 percent of all land-based plants and animals live in forests.

Unfortunately, forests are being destroyed at unprecedented rates due to unsustainable and illegal logging, agricultural expansion, population pressures, large-scale industrial and infrastructure projects, and national policies that subsidize forest conversion to other uses. Experts estimate that approximately 16 million hectares of natural forest were lost annually during the 1990s (this is almost the size of Washington State, each year). This destruction poses a serious threat to the well being of communities dependent on forests and to global environmental health.

In response to these threats, the U.S. Agency for International Development supports efforts to improve the management of forests as a means to promote sustainable social and economic development. The Agency achieves this by providing assistance to foreign governments at the national, state, and local levels, as well as non-governmental organizations and local communities. Through this assistance, the agency supports on-the-ground efforts to reduce illegal logging, improve the management of protected forest areas, promote agroforestry, empower communities to responsibly manage local forest areas, and promote the adoption of reduced impact logging techniques.

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