losing a forest

What Happens When You Lose a Forest

As a wild homesteader, you’re often trying to mimic a natural forest in your designs by creating food forests, applying mulch, and more. But what happens when you lose a forest? The sudden removal of a forest provides a stark lesson in the importance of forests. Keep reading to learn what happened to my homestead when a 5-acre forest was removed.


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July 2019 marks the month that the 5-acre forest located across the road from my house was suddenly removed so the owners could develop the land. Unfortunately, they followed the model of development used far too often these days—strip the land bare and start from a blank canvas.

In the short run, this makes construction simple. But it’s the purest example of working against nature—not with it. It may seem easy at first, but this approach to land use leads to numerous problems down the road.

And the problems are not limited to the land that was cleared. As I sit by the window writing this post, I can see the impacts clearly. Instead of looking out over a lush and vibrant forest, I’m instead greeted by ecological devastation and the worn out structures the forest used to hide.

I can also see hints at other changes that become obvious as I step outside. This post covers these changes, offering a reminder of the often-overlooked benefits of forests by looking at what happens when the forest disappears. But before you scroll down, make sure to grab your free and easy-to-print worksheet all about why you should re-wild your homestead. Taken from the blog post, How to Work With Nature to Rewild your Homestead (And Why You Should Do It), this worksheet covers 5 ways you can bring more wildness to your wild homestead.

Losing a Forest Changes Your Local Micro-Climate

lose a forest impacts micro-climates

The micro-climate in my front food forest has been dramatically changed with the loss of the nearby forest. The sun would have been behind the trees in this picture before the forest was cut down. This has greatly warmed my food forest.

When I found out my neighbors were going to cut down their woods, I was sad that our local environment was going to lose a forest. I was sad about the changes on their side of the street. But now that the trees are gone, the impact on my side of the road immediately became clear. The first thing I noticed was the sudden change to the micro-climate, which has already altered my homestead dramatically.

Stepping out my door on a hot July day this year is a very different experience than a year ago. Today, the sun beats down in the late afternoon, baking my house and large stretches of my homestead.

A year ago, by 5:00pm in the summer, the forest would be casting its shadow over my homestead. Now it’s hours later before the sun finally sinks below the distant horizon.

I had relied on the late afternoon shade to help moderate the summer extremes on my homestead. This extra late afternoon sunlight is making our homestead much hotter.

But when you lose a forest, there are more changes than extra sunlight.

We’re also getting a lot more wind blowing over our homestead. The winds often blow from the west, and the forest was perfectly placed to block much of this wind. Now, the winds blow unhindered across the devastated land and then run roughshod over our homestead.

We don’t always think about the role of the breeze in drying out a landscape, but more wind equals more evaporation. Together, this means that our homestead is now much hotter and drier than it used to be.


When you lose a forest your local micro-climate changes. Here is how the loss of a forest impacted my homestead.

  • 3+ hours of late-afternoon summer sunlight
  • Increased temperatures
  • Increased winds

Loss of Wildlife Habitat – Potential for Pest Issues

lose a forest changes wildlife communities

This picture shows the dramatic change that happened with the lose of the forest. I'm already seeing changes in the number of birds and other wildlife have also been impacted.

The wildlife community is also impacted when you lose a forest—not just in the forest itself, but in the surrounding areas as well. Each morning, my son used to love watching all the birds coming to our bird feeder and hanging out in the food forest in front of our house.

But with the loss of the forest, we are seeing less birds. The more established forest was where many of the birds made their homes, and they would often dart back and forth between the natural forest and my young food forest. After losing the forest, these birds have become less common.

The forest was the home of owls, hawks, song birds, coyotes, and many other critters—including many beneficial insects. When you lose a forest, you lose these critters, many of which help keep pests under control.

This means that we may see more pests on our homestead. Our wildlife community has been thrown out of balance, and it will take time for it to stabilize.

Another potential impact is that the local deer population will shift their routes. Deer have been an ongoing issue on our homestead. (My next task after writing this post is to work on building a new section of deer fence…) I’ve learned their routes and have mostly blocked them from coming in.

But now I may face new deer issues as they shift their routes after losing the forest.

Impact to Your Quality of Life

Quality of life is impacted by the lose of a forest

This view from my front window used to look towards a healthy forest filled with wildlife. Now there are structures visible and wide open spaces. The current owners plan to build a house and 2 other large structures. This is a significant negative impact on our quality of life.

Losing a forest also impacts the quality of life of the people living around it. Some of our other neighbors have expressed sadness over the loss, and it has definitely impacted my family.

Our homestead just feels different. When I’m out working the land and I look back towards the house, it just feels wrong to see the clearing where the forest used to stand.

On hot summer evenings, we used to cool off in the food forest out front, enjoying the wildlife and the serenity of the space, with the more established greenery across the street. Now when we go out front, we’re greeted by a barren landscape piled with stripped logs as the summer sun pounds down.

Nature—and forests specifically—have repeatedly been shown to improve the quality of life of humans living near them.

We’re lucky—our wild homestead is a vibrant and abundant place in and of itself, and it’s growing more connected with the natural world every day. But not everyone has the option of having their own wild homestead. When we lose a forest, whole communities suffer.

Additional Resources

To learn more about the importance of nature to human wellbeing, check out these resources:

How this Changes the Design for my Wild Homestead

Changing my designs after losing a forest

With the loss of a forest I'm having to update my designs for my homestead. Part of this is adding additional trees in this mulched area between my fenced hedgerow and the road. Once established these new trees will help minimize some of the impacts--especially the impacts to the micro-climate. But it will take time.

Losing a forest is forcing me to change the design for my wild homestead. I now need to try to mitigate the impacts caused by the removal of the forest.

One design change will be planting additional trees on my side of the road to try to establish a new sun and wind screen as quickly as possible. Several types of trees could work, but I’m currently leaning towards quaking aspen because of its rapid growth, beautiful fall color, and rapid spread via suckers which will help ensure a dense screen.

I’ll also be planting some shrubs to provide quicker shade for some of my plants that are now getting a lot more sun than they would like.

There are other areas where I’ll also be planting additional trees to provide further screens for my homestead.

But nothing I can do can replace the benefits of the entire 5-acre forest. Those trees were at least 40 years old. A forest takes decades to grow and mature—the loss of a forest is a lasting loss that we can mitigate, but that can ultimately only be healed through time.

Hopefully, by continuing to plant trees, shrubs, and other plants, I can create habitat to bring back the wildlife, but my homestead is just under 3 acres. I can’t make up for the loss of 5-acres of forest—but I will make the most diverse and abundant wild homestead that I can.

Rewilding land is at the core of what wild homesteading is all about.

This post focused on what happens when you lose a forest, but there is so much that you can do to be part of the solution in your own backyard. Leave a comment to share what you're doing to rewild your own wild homestead.

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Daron is a restoration ecologist, a lifelong gardener, and the founder of Wild Homesteading. He manages the restoration program for a local non-profit, and he applies restoration and sustainable gardening techniques on his family’s own wild homestead. He loves sharing the joy of growing food with his two beautiful children. In addition, to running this site Daron manages the restoration program for a local non-profit and is a husband to an amazing wife who makes this site and the homestead possible and daddy to 2 perfect kids.

  • Jdavis says:

    Wow, that really bring your re-wilding content into focus. Thanks for the insightful thoughts.

    A few thoughts:

    trash trees as immediate shade

    There are some trash trees that grow very quickly for example mimosa comes to mind. If you interspersed aspens and mimosa, you could have some shade sooner, then cut them down once the aspens filled in.

    Additionally, it looks like a decent elevation change to that next hill which has now been stripped. Will it be subject to erosion during heavy rain events? Perhaps some gabions or a large hugel mound shaped to divert runoff around your property might be wise preventative measure. It could have the stacking function of preventing gentle but contaminated runoff from coming your way. Someone who would clear cut may use sprays you don’t want on your property.

    • Daron says:

      Hello and thank you for the comment! I will look at mimosa–thank you for the suggestion!

      There is actually a road there that my hedgerow is hiding. But there is a culvert that goes from the area that was cleared, under the road, under a decent amount of my homestead and then comes out in the middle. We already got some good flows through that and I’m thinking about doing some work to better control the water that goes through the culvert. Might build a pond and then a swale that takes the water upstream of the seasonal creek that flows through my property. This would keep more of the water on my property longer and also slow it down a bunch.

      Might get some willows, Douglas spirea, and/or cattails going as a way to help clean the water from the culvert before it enters the seasonal creek. This was all on my list for future projects but the loss of the forest is making me think I should get going on it sooner.

      Thanks again!

  • Bob says:

    It’s a shame they did that, but a risk when you have to build close to a property boundary. If they had cut down enough trees to make a driveway, then left a border about 2 or 3 trees deep along the road you wouldn’t have lost your shade and they wouldn’t have lost their privacy. After they have built their McMansion they will come in and plant a few decorative invasive trees to have the “nature” they chopped down. I’m sad for you, but encouraged that you are taking positive steps to regain as much as you can.

    • Daron says:

      It is frustrating… it forest was 5 acres in size and they could have left a fair number of trees in the back and the northern sides without any problems. I still would have been sad to see the forest get partially cleared but they could have easily left a couple acres and still build their structures. Luckily I already have a hedgerow growing with some pine trees in it that will soon be tall enough to provide some shade and I’m going to expand it with more fast growing trees to fill it in. But even with fast growing trees I’m likely looking at 5 to 10 years before I can get equivalent shade again…

  • Denise says:

    Really sad they took out all the trees. Not wise planning on their part. Similar situation where power company takes down old growth trees saying it’s for “fire prevention”. They leave behind the understory trees, dead branches, shrubs and it looks like a freeway up and around the power lines. Ridiculous. To add to the insult, they buck the logs into 2-3 ft sections and haul them away in a dump truck. These are beautiful large cedar and fir trees that could be used for building things. Land owner is not compensated for the loss of resources. Grrrrrrr.

    • Daron says:

      Yeah, it is frustrating how little understanding there seems to be out there on this issue (and many others I’m afraid…). People seem to like to go for the quick and easy in the short run but forget that choosing that route often leads to problems in the long run. Thank you for your comment and hopefully we can each do what we can on our own lands to make things better. Sorry to hear about the situation you had with the power company… really too bad…

  • Alex says:

    What a great loss indeed, hearing this made me sad. 🙁 Life goes on though.

    • Daron says:

      Yeah, it is sad but as you said life goes on. I’m adjusting my planting designs and overtime I can mitigate some of the damage though I can’t replace the forest that was lost. Thank you for your comment.

  • George Paresa says:

    Daron, I appreciated this insightful post. There were many things you pointed out that never came to my mind. Now I’ll be more observant of my neighborhood. Thank you

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