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North Carolina’s forests are changing. In recent decades, the pace of development in rural, forested areas has increased significantly, with the trend expected to continue to rise over the long term. The USDA Forest Service estimates that over the next two decades the density of residential housing will increase on nearly a third of private lands neighboring National Forests in North Carolina. As land is converted from forest to developed uses, forest habitats are broken into ever-smaller fragments. This fragmentation of forested areas has consequences both for forests and for the people who live near them. For some wildlife, fragmented forests are less desirable habitat, impacting population numbers and resilience. Fragmentation also creates more access for invasive species. Fragmented forests are less effective at regulating the movement of storm water, protecting water quality, and preventing erosion. The fragmentation of forests with new housing development also increases the exposure of homeowners to wildfire risks, increases the risk of wildfire ignitions, and makes fighting fires more difficult.
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