Percent of Land Covered by Forests in US, 1912 and 2012

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, July 23, 1912:  Did the ironing this morning. I’ve decided at last to get through with a book I brought home from school last spring. I studied at it some this evening. By studying twenty-five pages a day I’ll be though it by the time school starts.

Source: Commercial Geography (1910)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

What could the book have been about? It doesn’t sound like light reading, but rather something serious . . .  more like a textbook.

I found a hundred-year- old geography book, and was surprised to discover that even back then people were really worried about the environment and the deforestation of the US.

In fact, millions of acres of the uplands in the United States, now denuded of timber would best serve the uses of man if permanently reforested. Already the proportion of forested area in the United States has fallen almost as low as in Germany (Fig. 9).

Commercial Geography (1910) by Edward Van Dyke Robinson

This made we wonder if more or less of the land in the US is forested today than it was a hundred years ago.

According to the US Forest Service about 33% of the land in the US was covered by trees in both 1912 and 2012.

13 Responses

  1. Sounds like something I would have done. Take a book home to study over the Summer.

    I wondered how much of an effect the Statehood of Alaska had on the percentage. I thought maybe it would have a higher percentage. It actually has little effect. Alaska is 35% covered.

  2. Interesting, I wouldn’t have guessed it stayed the same. Can you imagine studying in the summer these days? Too many distractions for kids. They’d have to actually put down their iphones..HA.

  3. Interesting…I never thought our concerns would be the same as 100 years ago.

  4. I just finished a book, Founding Gardeners, wherein it ended talking about a speech given by former President James Madison, in May 1818 – lamenting the rapid deforestation of the timber in the country! Some have used this speech to say he was the first USA real environmentalist!! Small world! ;-)

    • Wow, it’s amazing how long people have been concerned about the environment. Thank goodness they replanted some of the trees over the years.

  5. I bet you would see a big difference if you could find a pie chart for 1812. But, that is just a guess.

  6. Interesting stuff — I would not have expected the same percentage of forested land 100 years ago. And I wonder what she was reading!

  7. I was surprised to learn that Connecticut is one of the most forested of the US states. The problem here in CT is that it’s all cut up into smaller and smaller patches… estates… etc. Which has a considerable impact on the wildlife and life in general.

    • Wow, I wouldn’t have guessed it either. I would have guessed that it would be one of the states in the far north (Maine or Minnesota). I agree that it’s difficult for wildlife when it’s all in very small parcels of forested land.

  8. Can’t imagine Helena reading the trashy love stories of her day, but perhaps a book of poetry — I was quite enamoured with Edgar Allen Poe — mush more fun than some text that one has to study..

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