In the early days—or, rather, centuries—of the American experiment, the vast Eastern forests were logged almost to oblivion. But with the opening of the frontier to the West, trees from the Northeast to the Gulf Coast rebounded, and by 1997 the forests had regained almost 70% of their pre-colonization bulk. Now, though, with creeping suburbanization and a few unhelpful critters at work, vigilance is necessary.
In the decade after 1997, the Eastern forest lost 1.4 million acres, the Washington Post reports. Development played a role, as did the deer population, which left uncontrolled eats young shoots and stunts forest recovery—but reintroducing mountain lions and wolves doesn't have much support. One thing all parties involved can agree on is the seriousness of the issue. Says a conservationist: “We're at a once-in-forever moment.” (Read more deforestation stories.)