Yesterday, one of my Facebook friends posted an article defending trophy hunting of elephants in Africa. This led to a discussion about hunting reservations in the US, and ultimately to my friend asking rhetorically,

Why do you think cows and chickens won't ever be endangered?

To which someone responded,

Same reason why there are more trees in America now than when the first colonists landed. We grow them. For paper.

Is there any truth to this statement? I looked online and couldn't find any reliable evidence supporting or denying this claim.

  • 1
    Kind of a strange argument against conservation, if that was the intent. Forests are more than the trees that make them. A tree farm is not a forest.
    – user11643
    Nov 22, 2017 at 19:41
  • 2
    Rather than comparing with the hard-to-know number from when the colonist first landed, compared to 100 years ago it's true. Nov 22, 2017 at 23:43
  • 1
    @Fizz "during colonial times" ≠ "when the colonists first landed". Colonial times would have lasted until the U.S. Declaration of Independence.
    – gerrit
    Nov 23, 2017 at 0:09
  • 1
    Not a 'notable claim', but a decent question anyway.
    – Evargalo
    Nov 23, 2017 at 17:23
  • It's notable enough - especially see link for "Myths and Facts about U.S. Forests"
    – user5341
    Nov 26, 2017 at 14:37

1 Answer 1


Not sure about the number of individual trees, but the amount of land covered by forest has declined, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in this publication:

In 1997, 302 million hectares— or 33 percent of the total land area of the United States— was in forest land. Today's forest land area amounts to about 70 percent of the area that was forested in 1630. Since 1630, about 120 million hectares of forest land have been converted to other uses—mainly agricultural.

American Forests notes that the base amount of forest at the time of colonization is subject to interpretation, since the arrival of Europeans in North American circa 1492 brought diseases that killed up to 90 percent of the existing Native American population, which resulted in reforestation of abandoned settlements and farmland.

  • 2
    So ... "forest land area" also does not include tree farms? Such as orange groves, and the aforementioned trees used for paper?
    – GEdgar
    Nov 22, 2017 at 18:43
  • @GEdgar: in the US terminology "forest" includes what's internationally called "other wooded land", see the first page after the cover in the first publication. However it also includes "reserved forest area", which may not have any trees on it presently. Nov 22, 2017 at 23:54
  • The FAO terms that that US brochure relates to are defined at fao.org/docrep/006/ad665e/ad665e03.htm Nov 23, 2017 at 0:04
  • I understood the question to refer to America, not only US. The claim is still very dubious: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – Evargalo
    Nov 23, 2017 at 17:29

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