The U.S. Forest Service manages the National Forest System, which is made up of 193 million acres spread across 175 national forests and grasslands across the country.
One-third of America’s threatened or endangered species either use these lands directly, or could be impacted by what happens there. One out of every five species being considered for Endangered Species Act  protections occurs on national forests and grasslands. These diverse lands support an incredible array of iconic animals such as grizzly bear , jaguar , sage-grouse , wolf , mountain lion , bighorn sheep , and wolverine , as well as many species of amphibians and freshwater fish.
Our public lands provide wildlife with safe havens from the rapid development that is so common on private lands, but even on our national forests, wildlife can face threats from logging, energy production, mining, unregulated motorized recreation, and invasive species, as well the risks associated with a changing climate. The loss of fish and wildlife populations on public lands ripples through the ecosystem, and the impacts can spread to the other benefits these lands provide, such as clean water and recreation.
What Defenders Is Doing to Help Protect National Forests
With the latest conservation science, effective policy advocacy in Washington, D.C., and on-the-ground action through our field offices, Defenders’ Forests for Wildlife Initiative is shaping new forest and wildlife conservation policy, thwarting attacks on our public forests and the imperiled species that depend on them, and engaging in innovative conservation projects in national forests. The new national forest planning regulations that Defenders helped develop offer a pivotal opportunity to transform the way the Forest Service conserves and recovers imperiled wildlife on its lands, helping them to better comply with the Endangered Species Act and respond to the threat of climate change.
Our team is helping to craft new policies that put wildlife and habitat conservation first in national forests in key regions where we work: California’s Sierra Nevada range, the northern Rocky Mountains, and Alaska’s Chugach range. We are also advocating that the same focus on wildlife and habitat conservation be part of every national forest policy developed in Washington, D.C. Just as importantly, we forcefully oppose every policy and legislative proposal that could degrade habitat or weaken conservation laws such as the Endangered Species Act on our national forests and other public forestlands.
To ensure our success, Defenders is:
- Working closely with the Forest Service, conservation scientists, and other partners to develop, implement and evaluate the effectiveness of national forest wildlife conservation policies, plans and projects.
- Leading efforts in Washington, D.C. to defeat anti-conservation legislation affecting imperiled wildlife and their habitat on national forests and other public forestlands.
- Developing strong coalitions and mobilizing the public to advocate the adoption of forest plans in California , Alaska  and Rockies , that apply the best information and practices to conserve, recover and restore at-risk wildlife and their habitat on national forest lands.