What do the 2014 midterm elections mean for forests?

by Loose Leaf Team

By Anne Regan, Policy Intern

The 2014 midterm elections were known for a lot of things, among them:

  • the worst voter turnout in 72 years, with just 36.3 percent of eligible voters participating, according to the New York Times;
  • the Democrats facing a record-low of only 36 percent of Americans saying they have a favorable opinion of the party;
  • and Tom Brokaw answering his phone on live television.

However, there is concern with the 114th Congress’ impact on the U.S. energy and environment agenda. The Obama administration has moved ahead with its Climate Action Plan, a strategy to use regulations to address global warming without action from Congress. The White House climate deal with China shows that he is still clearly in the game. But with a Republican-controlled House and Senate, and losing key urban forestry supporters like Senators Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), what does this say about current and future environmental legislation — specifically ones that American Forests supports?

In terms of EPA carbon regulations, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), newly re-elected and on the verge of becoming Senate Majority Leader, has repeatedly said he would use riders to challenge the EPA, using this high-pressure tactic to challenge Obama through must-pass spending bills that only require a simple majority to pass.

In addition, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a climate change skeptic, is likely to lead the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and use this position to try to weaken and scrutinize the EPA and its climate change and environmental protection agenda.

As daunting as this may seem, we realize that congressional committees and subcommittees play a major role in dictating environmental legislation that could overcome these opposing players with different environmental agendas. American Forests will continue to work with these newly elected Congressional members and others on the Hill to create a more diverse group of urban and wildland forest supporters.

For instance, Rep. Rob Bishop’s (R-Utah) victory over Democratic businesswoman Donna McAleer likely guarantees he’ll succeed retiring Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) as chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, therefore acquiring greater access to push sweeping legislation that affects energy development, wildlands, recreation, conservation and rural counties. Rep. Bishop is known amongst green groups as a good listener, paying attention to their ideas for designating new protected wilderness areas and extending key conservation programs.

American Forests sees the results from this election as an opportunity to work with members such as Rep. Bishop in discussing the issues relating to forest conservation and preservation to make sure these concerns are heard. We look forward to building new relationships with a more diverse group of urban and wildland forest champions — no matter which political party may control the House and Senate.


Forest Digest — Week of November 10

by Loose Leaf Team

There’s an international flavor kicking off this week’s Forest Digest. Check it out!

  • “US and China reach historic climate change deal, vow to cut emissions”CNN
    U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced both countries will curb their greenhouse gas emissions over the next two decades. Under this agreement, the U.S. would cut its 2005 level of carbon emissions by 26-28 percent before the year 2025. China would peak its carbon emissions by 2030 and will also aim to get 20 percent of its energy from zero-carbon emission sources by the same year. The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions said the joint announcement is “an extremely hopeful sign” and will help get other countries on board.
  • “Obama, Putin plant trees at APEC summit”The Washington Post
    Heads of state from the 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member economies, including the U.S., Russia and China, attended a tree planting ceremony on Tuesday in Beijing. The symbolic presentation demonstrates each countries’ willingness to take the next step to work together on global environmental issues.
  • “Peru’s forests store more CO2 than US emits in a year, research shows “The Guardian
    New research shows Peru, the most accurately carbon-mapped country in the world, stores nearly seven billion metric tons of carbon stocks, which is more than U.S. carbon emissions in 2013, calculated at 5.38 billion tons. Most of Peru’s carbon storage occurs in its Amazon rainforest, the second-largest area of Amazon rainforest after Brazil.
  • “Protecting native forests more valuable than logging”Phys.org
    New research has found mountain ash forests provide more value to the community and the global climate when protected and not logged. Known as ecosystem services, the results from research scientists at the Australian National University, show that protecting forests by ending logging could double the amount of carbon stored in trees. Scientific evidence also shows that natural disasters such as bushfires do not have as great an impact on carbon storage as harvesting the forest. These results are being presented at the World Parks Congress in Sydney this week.
  • “Tree diseases can help forests: What’s bad for a seedling can be good for biodiversity”Phys.org
    University of Utah biologists found that pathogens that kill tree seedlings actually can make forests more diverse. Because seedlings of disease-sensitive tree species cannot survive in the wetter forests and drought-sensitive tree species cannot survive in the drier forests, different tree species inhabit the wetter and drier forests even though they are only 30 miles apart. In other words, tree pathogens contribute to the staggering diversity of trees in tropical forests.
  • “Seeing the forest for the trees: H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest”The Daily Barometer
    Deep within the Willamette National Forest, researchers are changing the way forest ecology is understood and how forests are managed. The H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest is one of 80 experimental forests in the U.S., but one of only six Long-Term Ecology Research (LTER) sites in the nation. LTER sites are funded by the National Science Foundation. Sherri Johnson, a courtesy assistant research professor at Oregon State University and an ecologist for the U.S. Forest Service, states that the forest is special because you do not have to worry about logging and the effects of human activity.

Strengthening enforcement to protect our forests

by Loose Leaf Contributor

By Faith Campbell, Emeritus environmental advocate and tree-pest expert

As my earlier blogs have demonstrated, highly damaging, tree-killing insects are introduced to North America in crates, pallets and other forms of wood packaging material (WPM).

Diseased and dead ash trees — victims of the emerald ash borer — can wreak havoc on communities. Photo credit: Major Hefje, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Diseased and dead ash trees — victims of the emerald ash borer — can wreak havoc on communities. Photo credit: Major Hefje, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Since it was first detected in 1996, U.S. and Canadian authorities have spent more than $500 million trying to eliminate the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB). These efforts have eradicated ALB from Chicago, portions of the New York City metropolitan area, and Toronto. However, authorities are still dealing with large outbreaks in Massachusetts and Ohio; with an expanded outbreak on Long Island; and with a new introduction near Toronto.

The emerald ash borer has escaped containment efforts and spread to more than 170,000 square miles in 23 states and two Canadian provinces. More than 200 million trees have been killed. Managing dead ash trees is costing cities and homeowners billions of dollars1. Unique plant communities — especially the black ash-dominated wetlands of the upper Midwest and southern Canada, and the pumpkin ash-dominated wetlands of the Atlantic coast — are at risk of severe disruption.

The redbay ambrosia beetle and its associated fungus that causes laurel wilt disease have also spread beyond control. The U.S. Forest Service expects that redbay trees will have lost 90 percent of their basal area by 2030 — just 25 years after detection of the disease.

The palamedes swallowtail butterfly feeds on many plants and trees, including ash and redbay. Photo credit: J F Butler, University Florida.

The palamedes swallowtail butterfly feeds on many plants and trees, including ash and redbay. Photo credit: J F Butler, University Florida.

Both ash and redbay are vitally important food sources for numerous insect species, including the palamedes swallowtail butterfly (Papilio palamedes).

We know that tree-killing pests, including the ALB, continue to be found in WPM entering the country despite adoption of international standards.

In the third blog of the series I said we need to do more and suggested steps importing businesses can take to minimize the likelihood that insect larvae will be hiding in their packaging.

Government authorities also need to do more – they should enforce regulations more aggressively. Currently, only one in 100 shipments detected to be in violation is actually subjected to a financial penalty. I doubt that this rate is sufficient to motivate importers to ensure that their shipments are clean. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) needs to work with the Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Customs and Border Protection to increase the likelihood that shipments that violate the regulations are penalized.

This concludes my posts on wood packaging material and its role in transporting invasive insects and diseases. Please stay tuned to Loose Leaf for my next series: Tree pests and plant imports.


1Aukema, J.E., B. Leung, K. Kovacs, C. Chivers, K. O. Britton, J. Englin, S.J. Frankel, R. G. Haight, T. P. Holmes, A. Liebhold, D.G. McCullough, B. Von Holle.. 2011. Economic Impacts of Non-Native Forest Insects in the Continental United States PLoS One September 2011 (Volume 6 Issue 9); and Kovacs, K., R. Mercader, R. Haight, N. Siegert, D. McCullough, and A. M. Liebhold. 2011. The influence of satellite populations of emerald ash borer on projected economic costs in U.S. communities, 2010-2020. Journal of Environmental Management 92: 2170-2181.



Views of Loose Leaf’s guest bloggers are their own and not necessarily the position of American Forests.


Forest Digest — Week of November 3

by Loose Leaf Team

Check out this week’s Forest Digest:

  • “What puts forests more at risk — climate change or attempts to counter it?”NewsWorks.org
    The U.N. report on climate change urges investors to drop fossil fuel stocks in favor of renewables while also giving advice to policy makers including the restoration of forests, which play the vital role of absorbing carbon and limiting greenhouse gases. Nancy Baker, who has a graduate degree in forestry, is taking steps to heal what she sees as a sickness in her woods and prepare them for a warmer climate. She pulls out and poisons invasive species and tries to treat her sick trees — an expensive and time consuming process. This is known as assisted migration. Is this a risky remedy?
White Mountains National Forest

White Mountains National Forest. Credit: weesam2010/Flickr

  • “Free entry this weekend to White Mountain National Forest”WMUR-Manchester
    It’s free to enter the 880,000-acre White Mountain National Forest this weekend, in honor of Veterans Day. The day use fees are waived from Saturday through Tuesday. “This is our way of saying thanks to the brave men and women — past and present — who put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe at home,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “We encourage veterans, their families and all visitors to take time out over the holiday weekend to enjoy the benefits that nature provides at forests and grasslands throughout the country.”
  • “Weekly ‘mood walks’ are an antidote to anxiety and depression”TheStar.com
    The York Region and South Simcoe branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) organize weekly mood walks, which harness nature’s healing powers to help those with mental illness. Growing evidence of how green space benefits mental health inspired the CMHA’s Ontario chapter to launch Mood Walks in partnership with Hike Ontario and Conservation Ontario, funded by a $150,000 provincial grant.
  • “One tree can feed a family of four in Jamaica for life”Alberni Valley Times
    Edwin Knight has been involved in the TREESTHATFEED project on behalf of the Rotary Clubs of Port Alberni and the Rotary Club of Port Alberni-Arrowsmith. The Ministry of Education is spearheading a tree-planting initiative in schools that is aimed at providing nutritional and economic benefits to students and institutions. This project is a good example of sustainable development in that planting trees has environmental benefits and the benefit of increasing food supply for the Jamaican population while promoting national food security.

The ghost trees

by Susan Laszewski

Ghosts! They seem to be everywhere this time of year. Not just in the haunted houses and twilit graveyards you would expect, but in the stores, the neighbor’s yard and even at the door asking for candy!

Well, ghosts can be found in forests too. Deep in the coldest, highest elevations of the northern Rocky Mountains, where the merciless alpine winds cause trees to grow twisted and gnarled in what are called “krummholz forests,” live the ghost trees — “skeletons” of whitebark pine. Sometimes, an entire stand of ghost trees sits eerily on the mountainside.

Ghost trees — “skeletons” of whitebark pine

Ghost trees — “skeletons” of whitebark pine. Credit: Francis/Flickr

And unlike the tots that might show up at your door in a white sheet this evening, with these ghosts, there may actually be something to fear.

That’s because what happened to these trees is a spooky prospect for these forests. The whitebark pine forests have been haunted in recent decades by a number of ominous forces. One is the mountain pine beetle. This pest is a native insect, but in recent years, its population has grown out of control. Warmer winters have allowed these beetles to live longer and climb into upper elevations and many trees have been lost. In fact, more than 41.7 million acres in more than 10 states are already dead and dying from this disease. Can you feel the chill running down your spine yet?

Another threat haunting these trees is white pine blister rust, an invasive disease. If you see a tree with green branches below and all the needles on the top red, it may be a sign of the disease. This “topkill” occurs as the blister rust attacks the tree one section at a time. Eventually, the whole tree will turn red and die.

But, there are many strategies to combat these frights and you don’t have to wear garlic around your neck or throw salt over your shoulder. American Forests is working with our partners on a strategy to save the whitebark pine. Our methods include protecting healthy whitebarks with pheromone patches to trick mountain pine beetles into avoiding the tree; collecting cones of blister rust-resistant trees to nurture into a more resilient future generation of whitebark pine; and conducting research to identify where to plant seedlings to give them the best chance of survival.

Ghost forest of whitebark pine “skeletons.”

Credit: Dr. Cathy L. Cripps

You can help by donating to the cause.

Read more about the ghost forests of the Greater Yellowstone Area in Dr. Cathy L. Cripps’ article, Underground Connection: Fungi and Pines in Peril.


Forest Digest — Week of October 27

by Loose Leaf Team

We have hefty Halloween version of Forest Digest this week. Enjoy!

  • “These Miniature Super-Forests Can Green Cities With Just A Tiny Amount Of Space”
    We covered this a few weeks, but here’s an in-depth look into the process! A startup in India has figured out how to soak up pollution and reduce floods for trees in cities. The founder, a young industrial engineer, Shubhendu Sharma, uses an intensive process of building nutrients three feet deep in the soil and carefully plotting out a mix of trees, so thick it’s impossible to walk inside. He uses the concept of a multi-layer forests, ensuring that no two tress, once they grow big, fight for the same space. This team, known as Afforestt, uses an algorithm that is able to achieve an efficiency of a 92% survival rate over the past three years.
  • “Agreement protects forests near San Pedro River”The Arizona Republic
    More than 600 acres of private land in one of the Southwest’s most biologically diverse areas will be protected for migratory birds and other wildlife through new agreements with state and federal agencies. The Forest Legacy Programs funded the approval of conservation easements stating that four properties along the lower San Pedro River in southern Arizona will remain undeveloped. The newly protected land is important for the yellow-billed cuckoo that was listed as a threatened species earlier this month as well as the bighorn sheep, javelinas, and bears.
  • “Tree Stories: Galveston’s most famous tree”The Galveston Daily News
    The Borden Oak survived The Great Storm of 1900 and the subsequent grade raising, plus all the hurricanes and droughts since that time. It is the only tree in town that has its own historical marker is protected by the Galveston Historical Foundation. It is featured in the book, “Famous Trees of Texas” (A&M, 1970). It reportedly survives due to the foresight of Thomas Borden, brother of Galveston’s Gail Borden of condensed milk fame.
  • “MIT shows how a tree can be a documentary”WBUR — Boston
    A ListenTree was created by Media Arts and Science graduate students Edwina Portocarrero and Gershon Dublon. It conducts sound vibration from a hidden, remote device. Passersby must press their ears to any part of the trunk or branches to hear the broadcast by way of bone conduction. The students chose trees due to their mythical status and enviro-friendly ubiquity. These trees ran on solar power and a silicone rubber-encased transducer screwed into the tree roots. This will be on exhibit in the entrance of MIT Museum through December 31st as well as presented in Mexico City for Day of the Dead Festivities and in Montreal for the all-documentary RIDM Film Festival.
  • “Lifted on giant inner tubes, an old tree moves in Michigan”NPR
    For almost 250 years, a 44-foot diameter bur oak has been growing on what is now the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor but is in the way of an expansion of the Ross Business School. This move will cost about $400,000, money that came from $100 million donated for the expansion by philanthropist Stephen Ross. There is controversy as to whether the costs for this one tree were worth it.
  • “City of Minneapolis removing all ash trees”KARE – Minneapolis-St. Paul
    The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is taking action to prevent the emerald ash borer from destroying its parks and boulevards. This is a part of the Minneapolis Ash Canopy Replacement Plan, which is an eight-year project that will cost more than a million dollars a year and is funded by a levy. This is done to prevent a sudden, large-scale loss of trees. It will remove a total of 40,000 ash trees, and every one of those trees will be replaced.
  • “Long Island Confronts Destructive Southern Pine Beetles “The New York Times
    Recent warmer winters have created favorable conditions for an unwelcome pest: the southern pine beetle. Though the beetles — and the destruction they cause — were found in New Jersey a decade ago, they have now found their way to Long Island, where communities have begun mounting a defense.

Senator Wyden’s Forest Bill

by Loose Leaf Team

By Anne Regan, Policy Intern

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has been pushing a bill aiming to increase logging on federal forests in western Oregon — and no one is particularly happy about it.

A post-election work session with Chairwoman Mary Landrieu (D- La.) and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will take place on Nov. 13 that will include Wyden’s latest version of the bill, “Oregon and California Land Act of 2014,” along with “numerous public land bills” that have had subcommittee hearings.

The earlier version of the Oregon and California Land Grant Act of 2013 (S. 1784), first introduced in December 2013, aimed to bolster revenue for struggling lumber counties in Oregon without causing harm to sensitive lands, protecting forests and endangered wildlife, while also focusing on revenue from federal harvests. However, it more than doubles logging in western Oregon’s O&C lands — lands set aside for timber production by the O&C Act of 1937 — sparking instant opposition from environmental groups, including Defenders of Wildlife, National Audubon Society, and Oregon Wild.

However, the new draft, that was introduced this past August, makes two main changes.

First, it adds 250,000 acres of public domain lands, managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, to the 2.1 million acres the earlier bill dealt with. These 2.1 million acres would be roughly split in two under this proposal, with half facing increased logging and the other half dedicated to conservation. The newly added public domain lands would face a similar split.

This will result in an increase of timber harvest of 300 million to 375 million board feet per year, roughly double the current amount.

The second change introduces a tax cut costing the federal government about $50 million a year on capital gains for certain timber companies. Wyden intends to move this through the Senate Finance Committee that he chairs.

Many national and Oregon-based environmental groups oppose any significant increase in logging on federal lands due to concerns of destruction of natural habitat for endangered species and the degradation of water quality. Groups such as Oregon Wild argue that this bill will deplete the “old growth reserve” envisioned in the Northwest Forest Plan, a timber compromise reached in the 1990s, despite the fact that Wyden’s bill would allow only trees younger than 120 years old to be cut.

Pro-timber advocates are incredulous to Wyden’s bill as well, because Wyden has not provided a firm estimate on the annual revenues that counties would receive under the bill. Timber companies want further increases to the areas where timber harvest could occur in Wyden’s bill as well as amendments that would make it harder for environmental groups to stall or stop timber sales by filing lawsuits.

Wyden acknowledges that pro-timber groups, such as the Association of O&C are seeking a higher volume, and he claims that they are making a demand that is politically impossible to meet. He also recognizes that this bill requires two initial large-scale environmental impact studies, which environmental groups could legally challenge. But once established, the studies remain valid for all timber sales statewide for a decade, thereby limiting environmentalists’ ability to litigate. He wants both sides to be limited.

“What I’ve always done is isolate the extremes,” Wyden told the Portland Tribune editorial board. “We’ve got industry people who want to take the cut back to fantasy levels, which is not constructive. We’ve got environmental people … who were picketing me over the timber payments law.”

American Forests recognizes the balance this bill is attempting to reach and the importance of stabilizing the local economies that are hurt from the dramatic decrease in federal government subsidies for public services within these counties. American Forests also acknowledges the consequences of over-logging and other unsustainable forestry practices. We support actions that call for independent analyses of his proposal, which include a plan that would ensure dependable and sustainable levels of logging that protect the forests of the Pacific Northwest, including the breath-taking Tillamook State Forest in Oregon and the vast Tahoe National Forest straddling the crest of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California.


We are the champions

by Loose Leaf Team
national champion Norway spruce

New national champion Norway spruce in Connecticut with Frank Kaputa, who confirmed its measurements.

Say hello to the new champions! In its latest edition of the American Forests Champion Trees national register, American Forests has crowned 72 new national champion and co-champion trees. After weeks of anticipation, you can browse your favorite species or check to see whether your favorite champs kept their crown.

Highlights of this fall’s update include:

  • Oregon has gained the most new national champions, adding nine national champions to its list.
  • It has been quite a season for Virginia. Six of its national champions were dethroned — more than any other state. However, Virginia also gained six new national champions this year, maintaining its total of 69 champs.
  • This year, a total of 20 champions were dethroned, including three co-champion flowering dogwoods, all dethroned by a new champion flowering dogwood in Georgia.

The states with the most national champions have not changed. Florida still leads the pack with 131 champions and Texas is runner up with 90, followed by Arizona (75), Virginia (69) and California (56).

You may notice another change as well: We’ve changed the register’s name. To better highlight the register’s featured contents — the largest individual trees representing hundreds of species — we agreed that including “champion” in the new title elevates the status of these special trees and commends those who put so much hard work into crowning a champion — from big tree hunters to state coordinators and all big tree enthusiasts in between. Thank you for making it possible.


Forest Digest — Week of October 20

by Loose Leaf Team

Check out this week’s Forest Digest:

  • “Climate Isn’t Changing Forests as Much as We Thought”Nature World News
    Changes in disturbance regimes have had a much bigger impact than climate change in the changing composition of eastern forests, according to research from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences. The study shows that eastern forests are still in a state of disequilibrium resulting from massive clear cutting and burning during the late-1800s and early-1990s, and aggressive forest fire suppression had also had a greater influence on shifts in dominant tree species than minor differences in temperature.
  • “If you plant different trees in the forest, is it still the same forest? “The Guardian
    The Nature Conservancy is working to help Minnesota’s North Woods by using a controversial technique to experiment the effect of climate change on trees. The organization wants to test “assisted migration,” a lightning-rod conservation practice that broadly means moving species from one region to another to either help that species or the target region adapt to changing conditions. It is a nuanced issue: If the trees moved from distant zones prove to adapt well, this kind of assisted migration could be adopted as a way to maintain the health of forests that might otherwise be decimated by climate change; however, critics argue that this type of intervention would change the essential character of the forest.
  • “Watching 3-D videos of trees helps people recover from stress, researchers say”University of Illinois
    A study led by researchers at the University of Illinois is believed to be the first study to describe dose-response curve derived from exposure to nature. The found that viewing 3-D videos of residential streets with varying amounts of tree canopy significantly improved participants’ physiological and psychological recovery from a stressful experience.
  • “Students tag trees for annual appreciation week”The Montana Kaimin
    In honor of National Forest Products Week, students from the University of Montana placed tags displaying the financial and environmental benefits that each tree brings to their campus. The students used a “tree benefit calculator” that uses algorithms based on tree species and climate range to determine values such as carbon storage, air quality, and energy savings. The trees on their campus are collectively worth over $2 million.

Forest Digest — Week of October 13

by Loose Leaf Team
Deforestation in Sierra Leone, summer 2013

Deforestation in Sierra Leone. Credit: jbdodane/Flickr

Check out this week’s Forest Digest:

  • “Did Deforestation Pave the Way for Ebola Outbreak?”Discovery News
    The three West African countries hit hardest by the recent Ebola epidemic — Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone — have each experienced massive deforestation, following a pattern since the 1990s in which outbreaks of the virus have closely tracked drastic changes in forest ecosystems. Researchers say the deforestation facilitates contact between humans and natural reservoirs of the virus.
  • “Researchers create global map of world’s forests circa 1990″Mongabay
    Researchers from the University of Maryland have created a global map of the world’s forests in the year 1990, enabling accurate comparisons between past and current deforestation rates. The research is based on 30-meter resolution NASA satellite data. It confirms that deforestation was particularly high in boreal regions and the tropics in the 1990s. Individual country data for 1990 will be available soon.
  • “Protecting biodiversity could be key to keeping forests standing in the long term”Phys.org
    New research from scientists at Fauna & Flora International published in Oryz — The International Journal of Conservation found evidence that suggests that failure to protect biodiversity — particularly large mammals — could negatively affect tropical forests in the long term. One of the biggest threats comes from hunting, which can reduce tree survival and decrease forest resilience to climate change, disease and fires.
  • “Better Logging Could Slow Global Warming”Scientific American
    Scientists say about half of the damage from logging operations can be avoided. According to a recent study published in the journal Global Change Biology, a quarter of the trees that are cut down by loggers end up abandoned in the forest because they are hollow and therefore have low commercial value. The Nature Conservancy is partnering with loggers in Indonesia to limit the destruction of tropical forests