Former Director, Forest Health Protection (Retired), U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Southern Region, Atlanta, GA 30367
The forest landscape of the United States has changed over time, as has public concern for the trees, water, and wildlife. Early in the history of the United States, forests were viewed as an encumbrance and an inexhaustible resource, used to meet the needs of a growing nation. Around 1900, it became clear that old approaches were not sustainable and forest pathology saw its beginning. Annual lumber production increased from 5.4 billion to 44.5 billion board feet. Forest pathologists were called upon to help manage forests for a variety of products, with a focus on decays of wood and wood products. Projection of timber famine stirred public concern, and a number of laws were enacted to deal with the issue. Pathologists were called upon to deal with many of the issues associated with intensive management, and new pests such as chestnut blight and white pine blister rust demanded attention. Then pathologists were called upon to help manage for multiple benefits, and the issues became more complex. Pests such as mistletoes, root diseases, rusts, nursery pests, and urban pests presented new challenges. Concepts such as landscape level assessments, ecosystem management, and multiple-use led to the management of forests to provide for a complex variety of needs. Management objectives vary across the landscape, and pathologists find themselves working with managers who want to maximize fiber production, those that manage areas set aside for special purposes, and all combinations in between. Issues such as acceptable levels of pests, nonnative invasive species, landowner values, visual and watershed quality, and best management practices must be considered in an ever-changing landscape.