Forest Digest — Week of February 23, 2015

by American Forests

Cheers to surviving another week! Here is your reward: the latest Forest Digest.

  • Report: Wildfire Reconstruction of West’s Riskiest Homes is $237BInsurance Journal
    Wildfires are known to damage property and can be extremely dangerous during periods of drought, which much of the West has been experiencing over the past few years. A new report shows that 192,242 homes are at a high risk for wildfire damage this year!
It is important to know how much your home is at risk for wildfire damage in order to protect your property. Photo Credit: Dan Tentler/Flickr

It is important to know how much your home is at risk for wildfire damage in order to protect your property. Photo Credit: Dan Tentler/Flickr

  • Felling of tropical trees has soared, satellite shows, not slowed as UN study
    According to a new study by University of Maryland researchers, the rate of deforestation has actually increased instead of decreased in recent years. Their research was aided by satellite images, which were previously unavailable for past studies and show that the rate of deforestation has increased to 62 percent — or the size of West Virginia — each year.
  • Why the Sahara is intricately tied to the Amazonmmn
    Researchers have recently found that more than 22,000 tons of phosphorous get blown across the Atlantic Ocean from the Sahara Desert to the Amazon. Though this is a relatively small amount — only .08 percent of the total dust brought into the Amazon — it is still enough to help enrich the soil and enable trees to grow tall and healthy.
  • Olivia Newton-John launches ‘One Tree Per Child’ campaignmmn
    Later this year in Bristol, U.K., the “One Tree Per Child” program will help kids under the age of 10 get their hands dirty by planting trees in the city. This will double the amount of trees in Bristol and will hopefully be launched worldwide in the coming years.
  • With wishing tree, SOL couple brings the community togetherThe Tribune
    In San Luis Obispo, Calif., a couple is making a big difference in the community by letting people from all walks of life and from around the world hang their wishes in a large, old oak tree. The owners, Kathy and Jim apRoberts, love the way the tree has bridged a connection to their neighbors and are currently looking for more wishes to add.
  • The tree that…charges your phone?CNBC
    Sologic, an Isreali solar company, recently invented a solar tree that produces seven kilowatts of daily power. This is more than enough energy to charge your phone and other devices and, maybe even better, the eTree is capable of providing WiFi.

  • Hey all D.C. readers! We wanted to inform you of a special event in our area happening this weekend. The Embassy of Finland’s “Trees are Poems” exhibition, which highlights trees as essential to human existence and symbols of life, closes this weekend. The exhibit is open to the public on Saturday and Sunday form 11am-4pm.

Urban forestry’s next frontier

by Ian Leahy

Urban forestry.

The term itself seems contradictory. I used to gird myself when telling people what I do for a living. The inevitable bafflement would usually be followed by a pleasantly patronizing, “It’s nice you’re doing something you enjoy.”

I would never argue, though, because I really do enjoy this work. I enjoy its depth of impact that we are only beginning to understand, from improving air and water quality to influencing crime, obesity, psychology and energy, urban forestry encompasses a wide range of disciplines. Before becoming American Forests’ director of urban forest programs, I worked in the District of Columbia’s unique city-state structure. Any given day could have me collaborating on a multi-state analysis before being awoken at three in the morning to move a tree out of a major thoroughfare before rush hour.

Helping bridge the gap between cities and nature, American Forests has helped plant trees in urban environments for decades, just like this project in Detroit, Ian's hometown.

Helping bridge the gap between cities and nature, American Forests has helped plant trees in urban environments for decades, just like this project in Detroit, Ian’s hometown.

Pro tip: Learn how to hide your saw before getting on the subway.

But that’s urban forestry in a nutshell, isn’t it? It’s knowing to look down rather than up to see whether a tree is sick long before its leaves show it or it tragically crashes into a home. It’s finding those opportunities to remove excess concrete and plant a tree — or ten. It is any vegetation that grows where large quantities of people live; the possibilities are endless.

Working in this field is like being in a fantasy world hidden in plain view. The first thing I notice when visiting any metro area is nature surging against all odds through the concrete and steel we have thrown upon it. Connecting people to nature where most don’t think nature exists — and making it all function like a wildland forest — is what keeps me motivated every day.

After emerging as a voice of reason amid the surging industrialism of the 19th century, American Forests followed people into cities, where we helped define the standards of arboriculture in the early 20th century. As early as the 1970s, we were organizing urban forestry conferences for this fledgling field. By the 1990s, we spearheaded a federal urban forestry program and pioneered GIS analyses of cities’ tree canopies that has helped attract many millions of dollars to help manage them. Today, amid our continuing work in cities nationwide, we are again pioneering new territory by finding or developing the next generation of innovations and best practices.

Written jointly with my colleague Bryant, our urban forestry posts will highlight such breakthroughs. We may look at a successful tree protection law one time and a nighttime tree planting dance party the next. We may explore how artists turn green spaces into meaningful and inspiring places. If you have ideas you think should be highlighted, feel free to let me know.

Forest Digest — Week of February 16, 2015

by American Forests

Hope everyone is surviving the brutal cold today! Why not read the hot-off-the-presses Forest Digest while you warm up? (Or at least try to!)

  • Colombia seeks ‘environmental corridor’ across Andes,
    The president of Colombia recently proposed an “environmental corridor” linking the Andes Mountains, Amazon rainforest and Atlantic Ocean. In an attempt to protect the region’s biodiversity, President Juan Manuel Santos is calling on leaders in Brazil and Venezuela to create the corridor, which encompasses 333.5 million acres.
  • Highland Park tallies thousands of trees lost to emerald ash borerChicago Tribune
    Chicago, along with many other areas in the U.S., has been infested with emerald ash borer since 2002, and not much progress has been made in its eradication. The only sure way to stop the outbreak is to cut down the trees that have been infected, and Chicago is planning on implementing this strategy with more than 1,000 trees. While this will greatly affect the forest cover in the city, officials intend to replant with a variety of species to incorporate biodiversity.
This new creation may be rainforests saving grace, if it can fully replace palm oil. Photo Credit: K. Marinko

This new creation may be rainforests saving grace, if it can fully replace palm oil. Photo Credit: K. Marinko

  • Palm oil may have met its match, which would be a boon for the planetTreehugger
    Palm oil may become a thing of the past thanks to scientists at the University of Bath in the U.K., who have created an oily yeast that matches the composition of palm oil. This could mean big strides in fighting deforestation in areas such as Malaysia and Indonesia, which house 87 percent of the palm oil industry.
  • Brazil Amazon: Drone to scan for ancient AmazoniaBBC News
    Past forest use may now be used to help shape future sustainable forestry techniques thanks to specially equipped drones that will be used to measure geoglyphs in Brazil to see how past inhabitants of the Amazon used the forest.
  • Privatization of UK woodlands is happening by the back doorThe Guardian
    The Forestry Commission in the U.K. is being harshly criticized after it released plans to lease many publicly owned woodlands to Forest Holidays, a company that aims to put up luxury cabins in the wooded areas. These new cabins are slated to be built on prime wildlife habitat and could threaten many endangered species as well as damage the whole forest ecosystem.
  • Obama Launches ‘Every Kid in a Park’ initiative-The Washington PostThe Washington Post
    National Parks could see an influx of fourth graders and their families thanks to Obama’s “Every Kid in a Park” initiative, which will allow these families free park admission for a full year. This could have great implications when it comes to getting kids more excited about nature and the benefits that it offers.

GR25: Forests for Fifty in 2012

by connie

As American Forests celebrates being 140 years young this year — don’t we look great for our age? — we continue onto the next leg of our Global ReLeaf journey. And in terms of American Forests’ history, it was certainly a doozy!

In partnership with Subaru’s Share the Love event, American Forests undertook a monumental task in 2012 that had been unprecedented in our entire history — planting in all 50 states in just one year! While American Forests has long planted in all 50 states and 45 countries in the past 25 years, planting in all 50 states in a mere 12 months was, indeed, a challenge and expedition in its own right. Additionally, each of these projects was incredibly unique and fulfilled differing community needs. Strap on your best planting gloves, because we’re going to take a look at some highlights of 2012 projects that could have occurred near your own backyard!

In the northeast, many of our planting projects focused on wildlife habitat or urban forests. In Maine, we replanted dozens of white pines for recreational enhancement at The Maine Wildlife Park, while in Vermont, we planted 36 trees in downtown Montpelier to enhance the city’s canopy. In New Jersey, we planted 200 trees along the Musconetcong River to preserve vulnerable aquatic ecosystems.

Moving further south, we planted 2,500 trees in Charlotte, N.C., to reforest riparian areas and enhance the water quality for millions of people in the metropolitan area. Our work didn’t stop there, however — we planted endangered longleaf pine in Alabama and restored fragmented forests with hardwoods in Louisiana. In Kentucky, American Forests partnered with the American Chestnut Foundation to provide more than 7,500 seedlings to a bee yard, providing much-needed habitat for pollinators at the former mining site.

Further west also exhibited its own fair share of project diversity. Our first project in North Dakota since 1994 planted 3,000 trees in an area that had suffered from profound flooding. In Nebraska, we planted 66 trees in the Maxwell Arboretum to educate the public about the benefits of trees, while in Oregon, we planted a whopping 100,000 trees to restore native forests after the Shadow Lake Fire. In California, we planted hundreds of thousands of trees across several projects to restore critical habitat for the endangered California spotted owl and myriad other species at risk.

2012 was a huge year in American Forests history, and we are incredibly proud of the variety of work that we completed throughout the country in this monumental year. Til next time, tree huggers!

Forest Digest — Week of February 9, 2015

by American Forests

Get ready for some great stories in the latest Forest Digest!

  • Long-term changes in dead wood reveal new forest
    Dead wood has been accumulating in many forests, and while it does provide vital habitat for many different species of birds and mammals, it also poses a risk by providing fuel for forest fires. Many forests are now accumulating more, small- and intermediate-sized dead wood that is rather hazardous, a problem that can be solved by better forest management.
The spruce beetle could be the next big destroyer of forests out west, but thanks to programs through American Forests some landscapes will be reforested. Photo credit: Aaron/Flickr

The spruce beetle could be the next big destroyer of forests out west, but thanks to programs through American Forests some landscapes will be reforested. Photo credit: Aaron/Flickr

  • Forest officials change tactics as beetle epidemic wanesCasper Star Tribune
    Good news for pine trees in Colorado and Wyoming as mountain pine beetle outbreaks wane. The infestation has reached record lows since the boom of the attacks in the late 2000s. But other species in the region are not out of the water just yet, as spruce beetle outbreaks have popped up in 250,000 acres in Colorado and 60,000 acres in Wyoming.
  • High-Altitude Forests in the Himalayas Harder Hit by DourghtsScientific American
    Many expect conifer trees to retreat to the north as the climate warms, but scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute are finding a very different trend in the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau. The timberline species are instead moving to lower altitudes or just dying off as the climate warms and the precipitation patterns change forcing drought conditions in the area.
  • 6 companies doing the most to stop deforestationTreehugger
    Want to be an informed consumer? Well check out the Global Canopy Programme’s Forest 500, a list ranking companies and organizations that are trying to end global deforestation. The list was created by a UK think tank that took into consideration reporting and transparency, operations, commodity policies and forest policies of make the comprehensive list of forest do-gooders.
  • In China, a fight to save a forest tests toughened environmental lawsReuters
    New environmental laws went into effect at the start of the new year in China and two local environmental groups, Friends of Nature and Fujian Green Home, are taking advantage of it by suing a small group of miners that destroyed a five-acre forest on Hulu Mountain in the southern Fujian forest. The environmental groups are hoping that this lawsuit will spark others to take action against the Chinese government and lead to the recovery of the country’s ecosystems.
  • To Save Coral Reefs, First Save the MangrovesNational Geographic
    Coral reefs have been in a dire situation for years because of climate change and ocean acidification. Yet, some reefs are managing to hold on by forming a very unique relationship with mangrove trees.

TakePart to combat climate change

by American Forests

By Sydney Mucha, Communications Intern

Two weeks ago, the Senate voted on the issue of climate change, determining that “it is real and not a hoax.” Yet, the chamber still wouldn’t admit that climate change is human caused.

Soon after, President Obama announced his proposed FY2016 budget, and while gains were made in Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLR) with the addition of 10 new projects, budget cuts were seen elsewhere.

Forests are a great way to combat climate change and they provide generations of people with beautiful and serene landscapes.

Forests are a great way to combat climate change and they provide generations of people with beautiful and serene landscapes. Photo Credit: Chesapeake Bay Foundation/Flickr

While this is disappointing to many of us, there is still hope for the planet if we act now. That is why we’re urging our friends and supporters to sign our petition —a letter to President Obama to make forests play an important role in the country’s climate change plan. It is our hope that, with this petition and American Forests’ other policy priorities, we can impart on the president, his staff and members of  Congress the brevity of this issue.

As we all know, trees play an important role in the overall health of the planet, and even better, they can be a major advantage to combating climate change! Trees absorb carbon dioxide, a major factor in global warming, and then convert it into oxygen through photosynthesis. Using best forest management practices can allow forests to sequester carbon for decades and keep fighting against climate change.

Please take a moment to sign the petition and share with your friends and family on Facebook and Twitter. With your support, we can encourage the president and his administration to ensure that forests have a place in our country’s — and the world’s — climate change solutions.

The geographic impact of imported plants

by Loose Leaf Contributor

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

As I said in my previous post, the greatest pest risk is associated with imports of whole plants. The U.S. allows few imports of plants in soil; instead, plants must be imported a bare-root stock, which facilitates visual inspection. Still, bare-root plants can also transport a variety of pests and diseases.

Manuel Colunga analyzed plant imports that enter the country by ship.1 These represented almost two-thirds of the total value of all living plants intended for planting — not as cut flower arrangements — imported into the U.S., other than those from Mexico and Canada. The import data are collated for a limited number of categories, including roses; rhododendrons and azaleas; and trees and shrubs bearing fruits or nuts. The fruit and nut group (14.6 million are imported each year) is subject to stringent regulation because agricultural producers have long recognized the pest risk associated with such imports. However, imports of roses (11.6 million per year) and rhododendrons (2.6 million) are less tightly regulated.

A rhododendron leaf displaying symptoms of sudden oak death.

Imported rhododendrons can carry infectious diseases, such as sudden oak death, that wreak havoc on forests in the U.S. Photo credit:

The pest risk associated with these imports is highest in those regions that receive the largest numbers of imported plants. When considering rhododendrons, Michigan and Ohio together received 18 percent of the imports (471,000 plants); New York and New Jersey together received 14 percent (369,000 plants); Maryland and Virginia together received 10 percent of the imports (274,000 plants); and Oregon and California each received 9 percent (232,500 and 247,000 plants, respectively). In fact, sudden oak death was introduced to a California rhododendron nursery in the late 1980s.

Most of these plant imports transported by ship entered the U.S. in one of three cities: 37 percent through Los Angeles, 23 percent through New York City, and nearly 12 percent through Miami. Plants shipped to New York and Miami tend to come from source ecosystems similar to those in the receiving region, thus increasing the likelihood that a damaging pest will establish. While conditions around Los Angeles are less suitable for plants that host pests from the moist regions where the plants originated, many areas of the region are irrigated artificially, and thus might contain suitable hosts.

Of course, these imported plants don’t remain at the ports, but are sent to retail outlets for sale. Large retailers that probably sell imported rhododendrons, roses and other types of plants are found in California, Florida, New Jersey and Connecticut, as well as Washington, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.2 Dispersal of imported plants through these outlets and other economic links between the urban metropolitan areas and surrounding rural areas facilitate the establishment and spread of any pests associated with the imported pests.

1Data on import volumes of particular types of plants are from Colunga-Garcia M., R.A. Haack , R.D. Magarey, D.M. Borchert . (2013) Understanding trade pathways to target biosecurity surveillance. In: Kriticos DJ, Venette RC (Eds) Advancing risk assessment models to address climate change, economics and uncertainty. NeoBiota 18: 103–118. doi: 10.3897/neobiota.18.4019; or were provided by Manuel Colunga.
2Colunga-Garcia M, Haack RA, Magarey RD, Borchert DM (2013) Understanding trade pathways to target biosecurity surveillance. In: Kriticos DJ, Venette RC (Eds) Advancing risk assessment models to address climate change, economics and uncertainty. NeoBiota 18: 103–118. doi: 10.3897/neobiota.18.4019

Forest Digest — Week of February 2, 2015

by American Forests

After an eventful week of celebrating wetlands and forest creatures, start the weekend with the most recent tree news in Forest Digest.

  • Cheap drones could revolutionize forest monitoring, but turbulence aheadForest News
    Drones could be taking to the sky to assist in monitoring forests! In a new paper from the Universidad Nacional Autònoma de Mexico, Michael McCall suggests that using unmanned drones is a solution to monitoring fires, illegal logging, CO2 intake and the spread of diseases in forests.
Drones maybe the key to monitoring forest changes in the upcoming years according to scientists. Photo Credit: Michael MK Khor/Flickr

Drones maybe the key to monitoring forest changes in the upcoming years according to scientists. Photo Credit: Michael MK Khor/Flickr

  • Scientists Seeking to Save World Find Best Technology Is TreesBloomberg Business
    Though we’re not surprised, trees are the best technology to store carbon dioxide and mitigate climate change, according to a new study done by Oxford University. Researchers found that trees beat out other methods, such as liming the oceans and using sulphate aerosols, for the title and, by most estimates, will continue to hold it until 2050.
  • Family Forests: A Key Piece of Protecting Critical ForestlandHuffington Post Green
    Not everyone got to grow up surrounded by a family forest, but those that did understand their importance and the struggle to maintain those acres. Thanks to research by the American Forest Foundation, the U.S. Forest Service and the Family Forest Research Center, we can better understand the benefits of family forests and the threats they now face.
  • Farming Now Worse for Climate Than Clearing ForestsScientific American
    Is farming the new deforestation? According to new study by Princeton University, deforestation has decreased in the last decade, having a positive effects on climate change, but a new culprit has taken its place —agriculture. Yet, this problem doesn’t come up during climate talks because many countries do not want to or can’t limit their food production, despite other ways this can be done.

GR25: Whitebark pine in 2013

by Jami Westerhold

Welcome Back! As we continue our journey back to 1990, we are bringing you the perilous story of the whitebark pine.

As you will read, 2013 was only one of the many years American Forests worked protecting and restoring the whitebark pine, and if you follow us you may know this story and how our work on this critical species is far from over. That year, American Forests and our partners planted 6,300 trees in an area damaged by wildfire and a pest outbreak.

The whitebark pine is a magnificent white pine species that can live for more than 1,000 years and plays a critical role in its ecosystem. Its broad crowns and ability to grow in high elevations mean it is essential in regulating snow melt and soil erosion while providing a clean, consistent water supply for more than a dozen states. Whitebark has also been designated as both a keystone and a foundation species. Approximately 190 species of plants grow in whitebark pine communities, many of these plants unique to the ecosystem. In addition, whitebark’s large, nutritious seeds provide a high calorie content — more calories per pound than chocolate — for more than two dozen animal species.

Unfortunately, the whitebark pine is arguably one of the most vulnerable tree species in North America. This slow-growing pine is shade-intolerant and its seeds are not dispersed by wind, making it a poor competitor among forest competitors. In addition to the pine’s natural limitations, whitebark is also highly vulnerable to the non-native white pine blister rust and mountain pine beetle infestations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reviewed an application to list the whitebark pine on the Endangered Species list in 2011, stating that protection was warranted, but the species would be precluded from the list due to a lack of funding.

American Forests’ work through Global ReLeaf and our Endangered Western Forests program, have addressed these unique challenges. American Forests’ first whitebark pine Global ReLeaf project was in 1999 planting 5,000 trees in the Targhee National Forests. Since that year, American Forests has continued our commitment to this threatened ecosystem planting more than 245,000 whitebarks restoring more than 1,000 acres.

Throughout the years, these projects have incorporated volunteers and communities to increase their commitment to the restoration of the whitebark pine. In addition, much work has been done to increase the survival of the planted seedlings. The whitebark has been through rigorous research and tests to ensure that the seedlings being planted have the highest possible resistance to white pine blister rust. We look forward to what the future holds as we continue working on this challenge.

Policy Update: President’s FY2016 Budget

by Rebecca Turner

The president’s FY2016 budget was released on Monday, February 2. It is reflective of the Administration’s priorities for increased conservation efforts, the President’s Climate Action Plan and smart budget solutions for dealing with wildfire suppression. This signal from the White House regarding an overall increase in conservation programs supports American Forests’ mission to restore threatened forests ecosystems and protect urban and wildland forests.

The following are some highlights of American Forests priorities:

  • The focus by all land management agencies on youth engagement is heartening as we seek to encourage and inspire the next generation of forest stewards.
  • The U.S. Forest Service proposed a $20 million increase to $60 million for the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLR), seeking to add 10 more projects to the existing 23.
  • American Forests is pleased that the Administration proposed full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million. $100 million is allocated to the Forest Legacy program, with $61 million of that coming from discretionary funds.
  • Bureau of Land Management Public Domain Forest Management gained an increase to $9.98 million. The President’s budget also includes an increase for the National Conservation Lands to $48.47 million. This investment will address high-priority needs in conservation areas, including providing basic support for recreation and visitor services.
  • In recognition of the National Parks Centennial in 2016, the budget proposes $3 billion to maintain, upgrade and restore the national parks. It includes $100 million to provide a more robust investment in the Centennial Challenge and provides at least $300 million to significantly address the deferred maintenance backlog.
  • A proposed increase to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Refuge System to $508.2 million focuses on operations and maintenance of refuges in rural and urban areas.
  • American Forests is pleased to see an increased support for green infrastructure throughout the EPA’s budget, including the Clean Water State Revolving Funds as well as support throughout the federal agencies for the Urban Waters Federal Partnership.
  • Despite American Forests’ success in getting urban forests highlighted as a priority in the Administration’s Climate Resiliency Agenda, we are concerned about the proposed 16 percent decrease to the Urban and Community Forest program. The justification behind this decrease is the expansion of the competitive Landscape Scale Restoration grant program, where urban projects can also be funded. However, Congress has not expanded this program in the past, and a proposal of only $24 million could result in lower funding for the program.
  • American Forests is also concerned with the 11 percent reduction in Forest Health Management on Cooperative Lands and another decrease in Forest and Rangeland Research. These efforts help identify the best restoration efforts as well as the threats that face our urban and wildland forests. Without adequate funding for these efforts, the nation’s forests will suffer.

American Forests hopes that Congressional members of the Appropriations Subcommittees for the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies will use this focus on land and water conservation to help shape and inform the budget process for the rest of the year.

The Senate Appropriations Committee announced the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee members on January 29. Subcommittee members include:

  • Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
  • Ranking Tom Udall (D-NM)
  • Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
  • Thad Cochran (R-MS)
  • Roy Blunt (R-MO)
  • John Hoeven (R-ND)
  • Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
  • Steve Daines (R-MT)
  • Bill Cassidy (R-LA)
  • Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
  • Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
  • Jack Reed (D-RI)
  • Jon Tester (D-MT)
  • Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

The House of Representatives Appropriations Interior Subcommittee members include:

  • Chair Ken Calvert (R-CA)
  • Ranking Betty McCollum (D-MN)
  • Mike Simpson (R-ID)
  • Tom Cole (R-OK)
  • David Joyce (R-OH)
  • Chris Stewart (R-UT)
  • Mark Amodei (R-NV)
  • Evan Jenkins (R-WV)
  • Chellie Pingree (D – ME)
  • Derek Kilmer (D-WA)
  • Steve Israel (D-NY)

To help ensure that conservation programs receive the levels of funding they need, American Forests will continue our advocacy and educational efforts on the Hill to garner congressional support for our forest conservation priorities.