Wisconsin’s Forest Census

The Department of Agriculture’s Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program is the nation’s “Forest Census” and has been ongoing, in one form or another, since the 1930s. The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) manages this program with its state partners, allowing every state to get a snapshot of the condition of its forestland in a given year.

FIA data is frequently used to understand how forests across the state are changing over time. This analysis informs sound forest management and planning, allows Wisconsin’s forest products industry to evaluate timber availability and helps us better understand the forests that we use for many purposes.

Each year,  the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Forest Products Services program staff collect and analyze FIA data and other sources to highlight key findings in Wisconsin’s Forest Resources summary and related data tables and reports. Staff also provide customized forest inventory data and analysis as a service for a wide range of customers, including forest managers, businesses, non-profits, universities and the DNR staff that request specific data.

Wisconsin’s contracted FIA crew navigating to a permanent plot by canoe—an example of extreme measures to collect this critical data now into the future. Credit: Wisconsin DNR

In addition to FIA, the DNR also partners with the USFS on a statewide inventory of urban forests called Urban FIA. Urban FIA began in 2015 in Milwaukee and Madison and expanded to a statewide inventory in 2016. The DNR also completes an intensive continuous forest inventory of its state forests. This began in 2007 and just completed its third re-measurement, providing data on key trends on Wisconsin’s state forests.

The FIA program continues to evolve in Wisconsin. Throughout the U.S., FIA data and trends will continue to play a major role in helping forest managers, policy makers, businesses and researchers assess the needs of Wisconsin’s forests for many years to come.

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