Forest Digest — Week of April 13, 2015

by American Forests

Now that spring has sprung, go outside and enjoy the nice weather! But be sure to read the latest Forest Digest first!

  • Alaska yellow cedar closer to Endangered Species Act protectionLos Angeles Times
    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last week that the Alaska yellow cedar may soon be listed in the Endangered Species Act as climate change worsens and threatens the tree’s native range. Already more than 600,000 acres of cedar forests have died, and more will if CO2 emissions are not curbed.
If listed, the yellow cedar will become the first tree species in Alaska to be protected under the ESA. Photo credit: U.S Forest Service

If listed, the yellow cedar will become the first tree species in Alaska to be protected under the ESA. Photo credit: U.S Forest Service

  • 144ft beech in Sussex named Britain’s tallest native treethe guardian
    A 200-year-old beech tree in the National Trust’s Devil’s Dyke Estate in West Sussex claimed the title of tallest native tree from more than 200,000 other contenders. And while it is not the tallest tree in Britain — that title belongs to a non-native Douglas-fir that stands at 200 feet — it can proudly stand over all other native trees in Britain.
  • Jury: $160,000 for trees killed by herbicideArgus Leader
    Herbicides are used to kill weeds, but that is not the only thing they kill. Trees, ponderosa pines in this case, can also be damaged by the chemicals, and after a small co-op company killed more than 200 pines on Richard Krier’s property, he took them to court and won a settlement.

Water Week helps illustrate how trees clean water

by American Forests

Deanne Buckman, Policy Intern

This week is Water Week here in U.S. Water and wastewater professionals from communities across the country will come together to consider and advocate for national policies that advance clean and safe waters for a healthier environment. They will share perspectives, collaborate on solutions, meet with members of Congress and other federal regulators and celebrate past and present achievements. Water Week 2015 will inform and inspire local, state, and national leaders and highlight the importance of the water sector as a means of environmental protection, economic development and job creation.

So why is American Forests a collaborating organization with Water Week? Well, it’s easy to turn on the faucet or guzzle a glass of water without really thinking about where our water comes from, but in fact, clean water comes from forests! America’s forests are actually responsible for providing more than half of the fresh water in this country. Trees catch rainfall, which is filtered by tree roots, other vegetation and the soil before the water reaches the ground. This groundwater then seeps down into aquifers that are tapped by cities for daily use.

As the population continues to grow, more of our nation’s land is taken up by impervious cover, such as pavement, which limits the space available for trees and thereby reduces the groundwater supply in aquifers. These surfaces also increase the amount of stormwater runoff, or rainfall that lands on the impervious surfaces instead of treetops. This water misses out on being filtered by the trees and cannot be absorbed into the ground, and instead flows into streams and lakes carrying with it pollutants such as grease, trash, pesticides and more!

As part of our Urban Forests Case Studies that researched innovative strategies cities have developed to deal with today’s challenges, American Forests looked at Philadelphia, a city with one of the oldest operating sewer systems in the country. Part of the city utilizes a combined sewer system, which carries both sewage and stormwater in one pipe. When rainfall is heavy and stormwater runoff increases, the system reaches capacity and causes a mixture of sewage and stormwater to spill directly into streams and rivers without being filtered. Fortunately, the city has recognized that this system is no longer sustainable and that there is a way in which stormwater can be better managed. The city government has made a commitment to invest in green stormwater infrastructure and reduce reliance on the existing sewer infrastructure.

Together with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, the Environmental Protection Agency and other groups, the Philadelphia Water Department has developed a plan to turn this commitment into a reality. “Green City, Clean Waters” is a 25-year infrastructure management program aimed at protecting watersheds by managing stormwater runoff. The plan relies on implementing green stormwater infrastructure, a system that takes advantage of the water-plant relationship that naturally occurs in forests. Through the green infrastructure, which will include sidewalk planters, green roofs and a large-scale street tree program, more water will be absorbed into the ground instead of becoming runoff.

Philadelphia’s mayor has promised to make the city the greenest in the nation, and the citizens and government agencies have realized that reducing stormwater runoff through the use of urban trees is an important step to reaching this goal.

GR 25: “Digging it” in 2008

by Megan Higgs

While 2008 was marked as a year of uncertainty in our nation’s capital thanks in large part to the Great Recession, one thing was certain — the environment can’t always wait, and there was plenty of restoration work to be done!

In 2008, American Forests partnered with Timberland to plant 331 urban trees at the Boston Nature Center in Massachusetts. Located in the city’s Mattapan neighborhood on the former Boston State Hospital site, the Nature Center is a much-needed reprieve from city life. As such, this project worked to restore former over-development in one of the city’s treasured green spaces. The Center is crucial in fostering environmental education and appreciation by offering affordable, sliding-scale admission into this local sanctuary so that all of the city’s residents, regardless of income, may enjoy time in nature. In addition, the Center offers two miles of trails, and is home to more than 40 species of butterflies and 150 species of birds — proving that even if you live in a city, you don’t have to go far to view some wild critters!

As we all know, there are numerous other benefits to urban tree-planting projects such as reducing stormwater runoff, purifying the air and water, reducing noise pollution and the urban heat island effect, storing carbon dioxide, and minimizing energy use as they cool nearby homes. All of these benefits can equate to millions of dollars for cities each year — and was there ever a year in recent U.S. history in need of money being saved more than in 2008?

The project itself also fostered environmental stewardship on multiple levels, as American Forests and Timberland engaged more than 200 volunteers for this vital effort. Among the attendees was one very special guest — former Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, the longest-serving mayor of the city.

But our urban volunteer work didn’t stop there in 2008. Want to learn more? Read about our second part to the Dig It project in Los Angeles.

The acorn experiment

by American Forests

By Lea Sloan, Vice President of Communications

When was the last time you really looked at an acorn? For me, before last fall, it had been a very long time. And when I did, I noticed that acorns really are tiny time capsules for what could become the biggest trees in a yard or park — and outlive me by several hundred years.

Every day on the way to work I walk by dozens of oak trees in D.C., from a myriad of varieties that I try to identify accurately. My job at American Forests is to inspire people to protect and restore forests, and to appreciate why forests are essential to our planet. So, somehow lightning struck and it occurred to me, why not try to grow some acorns into trees?

How? I Googled it.

I started collecting them from the ground under particularly big, healthy trees, looking for a variety of species. I found red oak, willow oak, bur oak — and what was either a scarlet or northern pin oak, judging from its leaves. I stuffed the acorns into my pockets.

I took notes on trees from which I collected the acorns, although now I wish they were more detailed (note to self: be a better scientist). Reading up on guidance from multiple sources, and getting advice and encouragement from friends and strangers including at the Eastern Native Tree Society, I launched into phase two. I floated my candidates in a bowl of water. The sinkers are the keepers. The floaters are no-go’s.

I divided the sinker acorns into separate baggies with labels, and added a little dampened sphagnum moss and vermiculite, and put them down for a long winter’s nap in the vegetable drawer in my refrigerator at home.

Phase three

Thinking early February was the time shift gears into spring, it seemed to be the right time to plant them. Two of the red oak acorns had already sprouted little white roots. I put half of them in little four inch square pots in a potting soil mix. The others I planted in my raised-bed garden at home with a chicken wire screen over the top to thwart squirrel thievery.

My timing was off. In two weeks, the red oaks that had sprouted roots had broken out the top of the acorns too and were three inches tall. Within days, a third had sprouted and the first two were six inches tall. Oak trees have tap roots that grow monstrously fast.

VP of Communications Lea Sloan grew oak seedlings from acorns she found near her D.C. home.

VP of Communications Lea Sloan grew oak seedlings from acorns she found near her D.C. home.

I needed bigger pots

I should note that the whole potting operation was taking place in my office. My big window gets tons of indirect light in February. In March, the setting sun comes up over the rooftops and is more direct — and the trees were ready for it. Two of the willow oaks had sprouted, and two of the scarlet or northern pins, as well.

The first five had to go into even bigger pots or go outside, but the winter refused to end this year in Washington — and the whole northeast, you may have noticed. And it was still too cold to acclimate them outside. They had to chill in their pots for a couple of weeks, in which they didn’t grow very much, which may have done incalculable damage to the tap root. This pained me, but so did the prospect of a big bill for bigger pots and costlier shipping. So I made them wait, and felt very badly about it. These trees are my babies.

So this last weekend, I finally brought them home. It was still too cold to leave them out all week, but over this weekend they got daytimes out, night times in. And last night, when it wasn’t going to go below 50 degrees, the first five had their first night out in the big world (on my screened porch) since their life on their real mothers, or at her feet as fallen acorns.

Next weekend I will plant them in the garden until they get up to adoptable age, in the fall I think, when I plan to take applications from neighbors and friends who seriously promise to water them a couple times a week through the warm and hot months of their first two years. That will get them off to a good, strong start in life. And shade our neighborhood for decades — or centuries to come.

Forest Digest — Week of April 6, 2015

by American Forests

Don’t let the rain get you down. Use the latest Forest Digest to perk right back up!

  • How do you plant 1 billion trees a year? With drones, of coursetreehugger
    BioCarbon Engineering, a UK company, has come up with a tech-savvy way of combating deforestation. The company uses drones to first map potential restoration sites, and then to plant pregerminated seeds enclosed in a nutrient-rich gel in the designated areas for high establishment rates.
  • Head of London-listed company linked to illegal clearing of Peru rainforestthe guardian
    United Cacao, a company committed to providing ‘ethically-produced’ chocolate, is now under fire after the Environmental Investigation Agency released a report claiming they had illegally deforested more than 17,300 acres of the Peruvian rainforest. The company denies the claims, but satellite images provided by the Carnegie Institute for Science say otherwise.
: Red Oaks have invaded the Mark Twain National Forest and while the Forest Service wants to restore the forest back to the natural landscape, others wish to have the current forest preserved. Photo credit: Bhanu Tadinada/ Flickr

Red Oaks have invaded the Mark Twain National Forest and while the Forest Service wants to restore the forest back to the natural landscape, others wish to have the current forest preserved. Photo credit: Bhanu Tadinada/ Flickr

  • Residents Fight Mark Twain National Forest Restoration PlanNPR
    Butler Hollow in the Mark Twain National Forest has been altered in the past century by human activities, which has allowed many invasive species to take over. As a result, the Forest Service plans to use fire, herbicides and logging to restore one-third of the 1.5 million-acre forest, yet some nearby residents believe the plan is an excuse to log the forest for profit.
  • Losing the forest in Papua New GuineaThe Washington Post
    Like most developing nations, Papua New Guinea is relying on natural resource exploitation to enter the world market. As a result, thousands of Merbau trees have been logged — both legally and illegally — causing harm to the island’s biodiversity.
  • Forest Fires Threaten New Fallout From ChernobylThe New York Times
    The Chernobyl accident covered more than 77,000 square miles of Europe and Eurasia with radiation that leached into the soils and wildlife. Now as climate change causes an increasing risk of fire, this radiation is posed to be released yet again causing disastrous affects.

Five years later, new report outlines successes and
challenges of CFLR program

by American Forests

Deanne Buckman, Policy Intern

I think it is safe to say that, to some degree, all Americans utilize the invaluable resource that is the forest. Forests impact many aspects of life including filtering the water we drink, absorbing carbon emissions that would otherwise contribute to global warming, and providing space for a variety of other recreational and economic activities. However, the more we take from the forest, the more we must give back.

CFLR Project Map

The Forest Service has released a five-year report detailing the successes and challenges from its CFLR program, which is operating projects at 23 sites across the country.

Luckily in 2009, Congress established the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) program to foster relationships between the different groups that utilize the forest’s resources so those stakeholders can come together to restore forest ecosystems. Specifically, the program aims to create jobs, produce reliable wood supply, ensure forest health and reduce risk of devastating wildfires. Since the program’s creation, 23 projects have been selected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Now that half of the program’s life has passed, the Forest Service released a five-year report that outlines the program’s accomplishments and the challenges that it faces.

According the report, the program is on track to meet stated goals where it has not already done so. Since 2010 when the first 10 projects began, the program has restored more than 67,000 acres of forest vegetation, treated over 1.45 million acres to reduce the risk of invasive species, and improved more than 1.33 million acres of wildlife habitat.

In the report the Forest Service laid out five indicators of the individual projects’ success:

  • Economic Impacts
    • Collectively, the program has created or maintained approximately 4,360 jobs each year and produced more than $661 million in local income.
  • Fire Risk and Costs
    • In the past five years, the projects have treated more than 1.45 million acres of hazardous fuels. These treatments are intended to reduce the size, likelihood and severity of wildfires.
  • Ecological Condition
    • Forest conditions have been maintained through mechanical thinning and prescribed burning.
  • Collaboration
    • Partnerships have continued to grow and form between Federal and State agencies, nongovernmental organizations, forest-related companies, and private citizens who work together to manage wildlife habitat and forest health. For example, collaboratives have worked together to manage invasive species such as the emerald ash borer and have also come together to improve the areas surrounding watersheds, from which the water benefits a total of approximately 124 million people.
  • Leveraged Funds
    • Since 2010, CFLR projects have received more than $76.1 million in partner match and leveraged more than $145 million to help achieve project goals.

As a member of the CFLR Steering Committee, American Forests looks forward to seeing what the next five years has in store for the projects under the program.

For more information on the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration program, read a past article in American Forests Magazine, or visit the Forest Service’s website.

Forest Digest — Week of March 30, 2015

by American Forests

Kick off the Holiday Weekend in style with the latest Forest Digest!

  • Deforestation is messing with our weather and our food-
    Deforestation is often used to make way for agricultural fields, and while this is known to have an impact on global food production, researchers have found new evidence that this effect is not a positive one. Land use changes can alter the albedo — the reflection of the sun’s rays back into the atmosphere — and evapotranspiration — the movement of water through the soil, plant and back to the atmosphere — driving temperature changes that could cause crops to fail.
  • East Asian human activities affect air quality in remote tropical
    Atmospheric pollutants are often transported around the world by wind, and this is spoiling the air quality in the Borneo rainforest in Southeast Asia. Industrial pollutants are coming in with cold air masses from the north and depositing them in the forest and the stratosphere, which could cause harm to the ozone layer.
  • Global forest loss reversed, despite large-scale deforestation in the tropicstreehugger
    New satellite data from the University of New South Wales indicates that vegetation around the globe is increasing despite massive deforestation rates in tropical rainforests. Many countries are benefiting from increased rainfall while others are seeing forest regrowth on abandoned farmland or even implementing massive reforestation projects, such as China.
  • ADM Announces Plan to Fight DeforestationThe New York Times
    In September 2014, many companies such as Cargill, Kellogg and Nestlé signed agreements to end tropical deforestation due to their supply chains by 2030. Now another big company, ADM, announced a plan to work with the Forest Trust to help reduce the impact of their supply chains on deforestation. Many environmental organizations see this as a step in the right direction and hope that more companies will feel the pressure to also curb deforestation rates.
Aspen and pine trees in the western U.S. are in danger as the climate warms, wildfires burn and beetles infestations spring up.

Aspen and pine trees in the western U.S. are in danger as the climate warms, wildfires burn and beetles infestations spring up.

  • Climate Change Threatens to Kill Off More Aspen Forests by 2050s, Scientists SayThe New York Times
    Drought and heat in the western U.S. are responsible to the death of millions of aspens in recent years and according to scientists at Princeton University tree loss is going to become more frequent by 2050 thanks to climate change. Between climate change and mountain pine beetles, many are worried forests could become sparse in the West in the very near future.
  • 48 hours that changed the future of rainforestsgrist
    The palm oil industry has caused farmers to clear cut an area the size of Taiwan from the rainforest in recent years, but in 48 hours, two companies — Forest Heroes and The Forest Trust — convinced Wilmar, the biggest palm oil corporation, to stop all deforestation activity within their supply chain. It was more than anyone could have hoped for and put pressure on other palm oil companies to do the same!
  • Tree Cover Loss Spikes in Russia and Canada, Remains High Globally- Global Forest Watch
    New satellite images were released from the University of Maryland yesterday that show a combined 34 percent increase of forest loss in Russian and Canada during 2013, and a 5.2 percent increase globally. While this loss stems from natural and anthropogenic sources, many scientists are worried that this spike could become a trend.

GR25: Reforesting America’s Last Frontier

by connie

Welcome back, time travelers!

In honor of the ever-anticipated spring season before us, we’re heading on a journey to a place that reminds us that, in reality, it could always be colder — like Chiniak, Alaska, for example!

While the United States was reeling economically from The Great Recession in 2009, forestry work and environmental needs continued to assume the forefront of American Forests’ mind. We continued our reforestation work by venturing to Kodiak Island with our third installation of the Cape Chiniak Reforestation initiative. Located on more than 2,600 acres that had been deforested for timber during the 90s, this project worked to restore hundreds of previously harvested acres with native Sitka spruce seedlings. Named for the town Sitka, Alaska, the Sitka spruce is the largest spruce species in the world, and the fifth-largest conifer globally — a fact that would certainly be appealing for those of you who are wrapped up in American Forests’ Big Tree Madness bracket!.

Sitka spruce have a few other talents as well. They can grow to live more than 700 years, and their high strength-to-weight ratio and knot-free rings make them an excellent conductor of sound. As a result, the Sitka spruce was widely harvested for use in harp, piano, violin and guitar manufacturing.

Originally, it was anticipated that regeneration of Sitka spruce would occur through natural seeding, as occurs in most other Sitka spruce forests in Alaska. Unfortunately, several biological events occurred that resulted in nearly no (zero) natural regeneration from occurring.

As a result, American Forests planted more than 55,000 native seedlings to enhance regeneration in this critical area. But our work in this area was far from over — in fact, we continued reforesting Cape Chiniak in 2010 with the project’s fourth installment. In total, more than 200,000 native Sitka spruce seedlings were planted in this massive, multi-year undertaking, providing habitat for rare, native wildlife species such as the Kodiak brown bear, Sitka black-tailed deer and Roosevelt elk.

Home sweet home: sugar pine restoration in Tahoe

by American Forests

By Sydney Mucha, Communications Intern

Tahoe National Forest is home to one of California’s most complex and diverse ecosystems. The forest encompasses snow-capped mountains, winding rivers and densely packed tree stands, enough to make anyone stand in awe of the area’s beauty. The forest is especially known for its massive stands of sugar pine, which is the largest species of pine in the world. The species dots the picturesque landscape in the high elevations of the park and can grow more than 200 feet tall and six feet in diameter!

Yet, this serene landscape and the glorious sugar pine has been tarnished by two fires: the 2013 American Fire and the 2014 Hirschdale Fire, which destroyed 27,400 and 84 acres (respectively?) and much of the forest ecosystem. And to make matters worse, the sugar pine and white pine species have been decimated by blister rust since the early-2000s!

Local school children are given a chance to go outside and help plant trees that will help restore the ecosystem that has been plagued by disease and wildfires. Photo Credit: Sugar Pine Foundation

Local school children are given a chance to go outside and help plant trees that will help restore the ecosystem that has been plagued by disease and wildfires. Photo Credit: Sugar Pine Foundation

The Sugar Pine Foundation saw these fires as a chance to restore the forest and the beloved sugar pine. To carry out their restoration efforts, the Foundation’s staff climb blister rust-resistant trees and use the cones that they collect to germinate seedlings for their plantings so the new trees will also be immune to the non-native invasive fungus.

“The wind started to blow all of a sudden, and the next thing I know I am hugging the tree to stay upright,” said Maria Mircheva of the Sugar Pine Foundation about this fall’s cone collection “It was one of the most terrifying and exciting experiences I have had.”

For Maria and other members of the Foundation, these collections, while dangerous, are the most fun and do the most good for future trees.

And now, thanks to a partnership between American Forests and the Sugar Pine Foundation, the cones collected from the fall are being germinated at this moment for a spring planting. The two groups plan to plant 7,000 sugar pine over 152 acres — encompassing the 91 acres destroyed by the fires and 61 acres on California’s Northstar Resort for added conservation efforts. More than 400 volunteers from various school groups and community organizations from the greater Tahoe area will help plant the trees.

Most importantly, these new seedlings will help bring diversity back to the forest, which already has large stands of Jeffery pines and white firs. Biodiverse forest ecosystems can tolerate environmental stressors such as disease and drought. Additionally, these trees will help protect the region’s watershed, provide habitat to a variety of wildlife, decrease future fire risk and restore the beauty and recreational benefits of the forest.

Forest Digest — Week of March 23, 2015

by American Forests

Nothing better than curling up with some reading on a rainy day. So why not read the latest Forest Digest today!

  • The Fate of Trees: How Climate Change May Alter Forests Rolling Stone
    According to Dr. Park Williams of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, southwest confers, such Douglas-fir, piñon pine and ponderosa pine, are in big trouble as the climate continues to warm. In his “forest-drought stress index,” the first of its kind, he predicts that the rise in temperatures will turn deadly for these species in 2050, which will have a dramatic effect on the amount of carbon sequestration.
The ponderosa pine could suffer great declines in the coming years as the climate warms at an extremely fast rate.

The ponderosa pine could suffer great declines in the coming years as the climate warms at an extremely fast rate.

  • Western forests decimated by pine beetles not more likely to
    Mountain pine beetles left nearly 25,000 square miles of forest in the American west devastated, but a recent study conducted by the University of Colorado-Boulder has found that these infested forests are not at a higher risk for forest fires, something that was originally thought.
  • Given new powers, Pakistanis take on illegal loggersReuters
    Villagers in 52 northern Pakistan cities have now been given the power to confront, detain and fine illegal loggers in their areas. While this new government initiative is aimed to curb the country’s deforestation rate — currently 27,000 hectares per year — but many believe that the fines are still too small.
  • Amazon Forest Becoming Less of a Climate Change Safety NetThe New York Times
    The Amazon is struggling to soak up carbon from the atmosphere, which could mean that our main agent in the fight against climate change is no longer as dependable as we have hoped. The question now: Will other forests follow the Amazon’s lead or will they be able to pick up the slack?

For all our D.C. readers, don’t forget that this weekend is the closing of the Environmental Film Festival. Get out there and see some great films about forests, coral reefs and environmental activism!