The forests preserved within national parks from Maine to Virginia are critical to the region’s culture and ecology, supporting a greater proportion of older woods and greater plant and animal diversity than the surrounding landscape.

Protecting these forests requires managing these forests, because threats such as insect pests, invasive plants, overabundant deer, encroaching land development, and rapid climate change can alter forests and their ability to support wildlife and cultural practices.

Collectively, these threats and stressors can result in increased operational costs for parks to ensure visitor safety and preserve park infrastructure and have the potential to change the character of a park’s specific resource that visitors have come to enjoy.

Together with the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast Temperate, Eastern Rivers and Mountains, and National Capital Region Inventory and Monitoring Networks of the National Park Service, we assessed the current status of forests in eastern U.S. parks, using 12 years of data on tree canopy and understory growth from more than 1,400 forest plots established in some 40 national parks and historic sites.

Each park was assigned to one of four forest regeneration categories: secure, insecure, probable failure or imminent failure. Failure was “imminent” or “probable” in most park forests in the study, with browsing by overabundant white-tailed deer and crowding by invasive plants identified as the major threats. Study results were published in Ecological Applications.

Map of parks showing study areas for forest regeneration

Individual Park Briefs

Acadia National Park (ACAD)
Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site (ALPO)
Antietam National Battlefield (ANTI)
Appomattox Court House National Historical Park (APCO)
Bluestone National Scenic River (BLUE)
Booker T. Washington National Monument (BOWA)
Catoctin Mountain Park (CATO)
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park (CHOH)
Colonial National Historical Park (COLO)
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (DEWA)
Fort Necessity National Battlefield (FONE)
Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park (FRSP)
Friendship Hill National Historic Site (FRHI)
Gauley River National Recreation Area (GARI)
George Washington Birthplace National Monument (GEWA)
George Washington Memorial Parkway (GWMP)
Gettysburg National Military Park (GETT)
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (HAFE)
Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site (HOFU)
Johnstown Flood National Memorial (JOFL)
Manassas National Battlefield Park (MANA)
Minute Man National Historical Park (MIMA)
Monocacy National Battlefield (MONO)
Morristown National Historical Park (MORR)
National Capital Parks East (NACE)
New River Gorge National Park and Preserve (NERI)
Petersburg National Battlefield (PETE)
Prince William Forest Park (PRWI)
Richmond National Battlefield Park (RICH)
Rock Creek Park (ROCR)
Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites (ROVA)
Sagamore Hill National Historic Site (SAHI)
Saratoga National Historical Park (SARA)
Thomas Stone National Historic Site (THST)
Valley Forge National Historical Park (VAFO)
Weir Farm National Historical Park (WEFA)
Wolf Trap Park for the Performing Arts (WOTR)