GR25: Replanting after the Hayman Fire

by Megan Higgs

As many in the western U.S. begin to brace themselves for the upcoming fire season, we are reminded of a gargantuan wildfire that recently had its 13-year anniversary.

The Hayman wildfire burns in the distance.

American Forests’ 10-year reforestation effort in the area damaged by the 2002 Hayman Fire has included planting 24,000 ponderosa pines in 2004, helping to restore some of Colorado’s most crucial habitat. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service.

On June 8, 2002, the human-caused Hayman Fire broke out 95 miles southwest of Denver. Allegedly ignited from a small, burning letter, and aided by a longstanding drought, the fire grew to unprecedented proportions, eventually engulfing four counties. In the wake of the devastation, approximately 133 homes were destroyed, more than 5,000 people were evacuated, and six lives. Incinerating more than 138,000 acres, the fire became the largest in Colorado history, inspiring the quote from then-governor Bill Owens, “it looks like all of Colorado is burning today.” The fire was contained on July 2, 2002, nearly a month after it began; it was finally controlled on July 18 of that year.

Beyond the devastating loss of life and the $42 million economic toll, the fire burned vast stands of aspen, spruce, Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine. This resulted in the destruction of an enormous amount of wildlife habitat, including the loss of winter roosting sites for approximately 20 to 40 local bald eagles. The fire consumed all but a few hundred of the 8,000 acres surrounding the Cheesman Reservoir, a primary watershed in the Denver area. In fact, nearly all of the trees burned in that area were killed as a direct result of the fire, and many stands were damaged beyond possible regeneration. As those who read this blog know, the loss of canopy cover directly affects many elements of water — including water quality, quantity, and storage capacity for the reservoir.

To begin addressing these negative impacts, American Forests partnered with several local organizations in 2004 to begin reforesting the area around the Cheesman Reservoir. In total, 24,000 ponderosa pines were planted around the reservoir, spearheading an initiative to maintain the integrity of Denver’s water supply. Noting that Rome wasn’t built in a day, we have continued reforesting after this catastrophic disaster for many years, including our projects in 2006, 2007 and 2009-2011.


Forest Digest — Week of June 1, 2015

by Loose Leaf Team

It’s June’s first Forest Digest and we’ve got quite the line-up!

  • How Europe’s climate policies led to more U.S. trees being cut downThe Washington Post
    In a new analysis released June 2, researchers are casting doubt on a key argument used to justify the cutting of Southern forests to make fuel for European power plants. Scientists found that Europe’s use wood pellets could increase carbon pollution in the future and put at risk some of the most productive wildlife habitats in the eastern United States.
  • America’s Forests Are Facing a Wildfire CrisisNational Journal
    Wildfires caused widespread damage and destruction, including loss of human life, across the western U.S. last summer, and because of extreme drought conditions and funding shortages, this year’s wildfire season could be worse.
  • Unlikely ‘champion’ in battle for Indonesia’s forestsBBC News
    One of the world’s largest pulp and paper producers announced it had stopped clearing forests as part of its operations. The decision presents Indonesian forests, their protectors and the communities that rely on them a big win in the long-running battle to fight deforestation in the country.
American Forests has coordinated restoration projects in Brazil's Atlantic Forest, which is plagued by habitat fragmentation mainly caused by deforestation. Photo credit: Barbara Eckstein.

American Forests has coordinated restoration projects in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, which is plagued by habitat fragmentation mainly caused by deforestation. Photo credit: Barbara Eckstein.

  • Seven New Mini-Frogs Found—Among Smallest KnownNational Geographic
    Deep in Brazil’s Atlantic rain forest, a team of scientists recently discovered seven new species of tiny frogs belonging to a genus frogs known for miniscule size and bright colors.
  • Researchers Seek Sneak Peek into the Future of ForestsNC State News
    At the largest and most robust warming experiment conducted in a forest ecosystem, scientists from research institutions around the world are taking samples they hope will offer a glimpse into the future of global forests.
  • Connecticut’s Forests Bring Billions To State EconomyHartford Courant
    A new study estimates Connecticut’s trees are worth more than $3.3 billion a year to the state’s economy, creating an estimated 12,800 jobs involving everything from paper manufacturing to Christmas tree farms and maple syrup.
  • 7 ways to spot a healthy forestTreehugger
    Check out these signs of a healthy forest and look for them on your next hike, trail walk or stroll in your local park!

Policy Update: Fire Suppression Funding Legislation

by Loose Leaf Team

American Forests, as part of the Partner Caucus on Fire Suppression Funding Solutions, urges Congress to find a lasting solution for wildfire suppression funding.

Currently, wildfire suppression is funded at the 10-year average. When suppression costs exceed the budget, the USDA Forest Service (USFS) and the Department of the Interior (DOI) are forced to borrow from other accounts to pay for fire suppression. Eight out of the past 10 years, fire suppression costs have exceeded the budgeted amount and prevented the implementation of critical programs, including those that would help reduce fire risk and costs, such as hazardous fuels removal.

The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2015 was introduced in January with bipartisan support in both the House (H.R. 167) and the Senate (S. 235). If passed, this bill would treat the most catastrophic wildfires like natural disasters. These wildfires represent about one percent of fires but account for 30 percent of suppression costs. Therefore, 70 percent of wildfire suppression costs would continue to be funded through the normal appropriations process, while these most extreme fires will be funded like other natural disasters through the Disaster Relief Fund.

Senators McCain (R-AZ), Barrasso (R-WY), and Flake (R-AZ) have introduced an alternative wildfire suppression funding solution, FLAME Act Amendments of 2015 (S. 508). This bill requires USFS and DOI to budget 100 percent of wildfire suppression costs using the most accurate forecast model available, prohibits fire-borrowing, and establishes a process for accessing disaster funding for the most catastrophic wildfires.

American Forests urges Representatives to support H.R. 167 and encourages Senators to look for compromise between S. 235 and S. 508. American Forests will be joining members of the Partner Caucus on Fire Suppression Funding Solutions for a Hill Day to discuss wildfire funding solutions with House of Representatives staff members on June 17.

To get involved with the Partner Caucus on Fire Suppression Funding Solutions, contact Cecilia Clavet, Senior Policy Advisor on Fire and Forest Restoration for The Nature Conservancy at cclavet@tnc.org.


Forest Digest — Week of May 25, 2015

by Loose Leaf Team

We took a Memorial Day weekend break, but back at it again with May’s last Forest Digest.

Deforestation in countries such as Madagascar was a topic at a recent carbon markets conference. This year featured American Forests' first Global ReLeaf in the country.

Deforestation in countries such as Madagascar was a topic at a recent carbon markets conference. This year featured American Forests’ first Global ReLeaf in the country.

  • Key Steps to Saving Latin America’s ForestsHuffington Post Green
    Renat Heuberger, CEO of south pole group, outlines a plan that could keep Latin American countries and their citizens economically viable while protecting their valuable forest resources.
  • Finance to protect forests must meet local needs: expertsReuters
    Experts told a carbon markets conference in Barcelona that putting the right economic incentives in place to stop people cutting down forests – which nearly 20 percent of the world’s population depends on for a living – was key to keeping them standing.

GR25: Reforesting a unique bog in 2005

by Megan Higgs

As the weather begins heating up and formerly dry, cool air gives way to hot temps and humidity — as we in D.C. know all too well! — the current climate encourages a discussion and reminder about arguably one of the most important local ecosystems to many countries worldwide: wetlands.

Fostering a myriad of benefits too innumerable to count (though we’ll certainly try!), wetlands provide much-needed erosion control and act as natural filters, cleaning and purifying our water supply. They impede stormwater and runoff flow, reducing catastrophic flooding events, and can increase our groundwater supply. They also provided crucial habitat for fish and terrestrial species alike — in fact, up to 43 percent of threatened or endangered plant and animal species within the U.S. rely on these dwindling habitats for survival. In addition, from an anthropologic perspective, wetlands provide a canvas for multiple recreational activities, including canoeing, hiking, and more, and through species diversity and flooding mitigation, wetlands are an unequivocal economic commodity for the U.S.

The Cranesville Swamp Preserve, along the border of Maryland and West Virginia, where we have worked with The Nature Conservancy to restore the interesting wetland ecosystem mostly with red spruce seedlings.

The Cranesville Swamp Preserve, along the border of Maryland and West Virginia, where we have worked with The Nature Conservancy to restore the interesting wetland ecosystem mostly with red spruce seedlings. Photo credit: The Nature Conservancy.

In recognition of these and other benefits, American Forests has participated in multiple wetland-focused projects throughout the years. In 2005, we continued this notion with the third installment of our Cranesville Swamp Conifer Restoration, where we helped restore red spruce to the Cranesville Swamp Preserve, one of the few remaining boreal bogs in the southern United States. With a unique micro-climate as it is situated in a natural bowl, or “frost pocket,” the Cranesville Swamp displays conditions often more consistent with northern ecosystems. As such, it provides a distinctive abyss for species such as the showshoe hare, black bear, porcupine, multiple birds, and the rare southern water shrew and bog copper.

However, this initiative certainly was not the first nor last time we ventured into working within swamps and other wetlands. In 2002, we planted nearly 140,000 seedlings to reforest the Great Dismal Swamp Wildlife Refuge, an area that provides a safe haven for black bears, bobcats, otters, mink and more. In addition, we planted more than 9,000 trees in our Canaan Valley Seepage Swamp and Upland Forest project in 2007, restoring a formerly overdeveloped wetland area recognized by the Department of Interior as a National Natural Landmark.


Striking the right chord

by Loose Leaf Contributor

Nick Colesanti, Vice President, Supply Chain, Martin Guitar

Old-growth forests provide protection for watersheds, habitats for wildlife and wonderful recreational areas. But they also provide wood for musical instruments. For years, the finest woods for the world’s best instruments have come from these forests.

Martin Guitar is concerned about sustainability because as human populations and wood usage increase, natural forests will decrease. For us, and for lovers of our instruments, that also means the availability of species traditionally used for musical instrument production will decrease.

While we still use old-growth trees nearing the end of their life cycles, when they are harvested according to accepted environmental practices, we recognize the need to find diverse sources — from farmed trees and salvaged wood to newer, alternative materials.

Martin’s ecological policies were formalized in 1990, embracing the judicious management and responsible use of natural materials and the introduction of alternative wood species. We’re committed to the directives of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) treaty and the U.S. Lacey Act. And we are most proud that Martin was Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-recertified by the Rainforest Alliance in 2007. We’ve also initiated our own Sustainable Wood Guitar Series program.

We recently invited an array of organizations to Martin Guitar’s 5th Bi-Annual Wood Summit on May 7 to focus on the sustainability of music wood tree species worldwide.

Designed in collaboration with Grammy Award winning Wilco front man, Jeff Tweedy. The 00-DB Jeff Tweedy is Martin's first Custom Artist model that is FSC® Certified, an important distinction for both Tweedy and Martin.

Designed in collaboration with Grammy Award winning Wilco front man, Jeff Tweedy. The 00-DB Jeff Tweedy is Martin’s first Custom Artist model that is FSC® Certified, an important distinction for both Tweedy and Martin. Photo credit: Martin Guitar.

The conversation included the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, FSC, the World Resources Institute and Forest Legality Alliance, among others. The discussion covered numerous topics, including the benefits of alternative wood products and developments in Madagascar and Alaska where recent inventories of timber stocks were completed and new land concessions were conveyed respectively.

Beyond the availability and harvesting of wood, intelligent stewardship of forests to the benefit of local communities is also key. Central American Timber (CAT), for instance, highlighted a direct investment project in a local Guatemalan community. Martin and CAT built a low-energy kiln for AFISAP (La Asociación Forestal Integral San Andrés Petén) to help AFISAP keep more of the value chain in the local community by both increasing the value of the wood they currently use and using wood that was previously discarded. If they can derive more value from the trees they are already harvesting, they may not need to harvest as many old-growth trees in the long run.

We are also exploring recycled materials, just as we did nearly four decades ago when we stopped using ivory in our guitars. Martin has been at the forefront in tone testing and the development of alternatives for acoustic guitar construction, having introduced new models that utilize domestic woods such as ash, maple, walnut, cherry and red birch, among others.

Sound is largely about the materials used — and it’s difficult to find materials that produce sounds as pure and clean as wood. It is a resource that we love. As such, it is a resource that we must cherish and protect. That is as important to our business as the instruments we make.


Forest Digest — Week of May 11, 2015

by Loose Leaf Team

The weekend is here, but before you settle in for some R&R, take a look at this Friday’s Forest Digest.

  • Harvard Forest report: Valuable Mass. ecosystems shrinkingWorcester Telegram
    Researchers at Harvard Forest, Harvard University’s laboratory for ecological research, found in a new study that development is causing forest ecosystems across Massachusetts to shrink. The scientists used satellite imagery to track changes in land cover, such as deforestation for agriculture or development, in the state from 2001 to 2011.
  • iForest: Apple gets into forest conservation in China and the USThe Guardian
    Electronics powerhouse Apple is using a different approach in its effort to increase the sustainable pulp and paper supply the company needs for packaging by working with conservation organizations in China and the U.S. to improve forest management and ensure the protection of these valuable resources.
  • Indonesia Comes Up Short in $1 Billion Bid to Save ForestsThe Wall Street Journal
    The Indonesian government agreed to renew a moratorium on new licenses to log primary forest land. However, since it was implement in 2011, the ban hasn’t successfully slowed back deforestation rates in the country.
  • Fear of Ruin as Disease Takes Hold of Italy’s Olive TreesThe New York Times
    On the heel of Italian Peninsula, many olive trees are succumbing to a bacterial outbreak that has the government and many farmers and olive oil manufacturers worried. Scientists estimate that roughly one million trees are currently infected and that number could rise sharply.

GR25: Putting the “Global” in Global ReLeaf

by Megan Higgs

Naturally, American Forests predominantly works to protect and restore urban and wildland forests within the United States. However, what happens when there is critical need across the entire globe or when migrating wildlife species continue to make their journey for thousands of miles, regardless of political borders?

American Forests’ Global ReLeaf was partially founded on this exact notion. There are a variety of factors that can contribute to an international country’s project selection — including a recent disaster, endangered, exotic wildlife, or perhaps a combination of the two. Indeed, this exact phenomenon can be seen in our 2006 Sumatran Orangutan Society Reforestation Project, where American Forests planted over 36,000 trees, including 20,000 mangroves, to reforest degraded terrestrial and coastal areas. While much of this degradation had developed from habitat loss, illegal logging and other anthropogenic influences, there was another force that created the necessity of immediate action: the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which was the focus of our last blog, many temporarily forgot about the devastating implications of 2004’s deadly earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which killed more 170,000 Indonesian citizens. Indeed, this disaster was known to be one of the top 10 deadliest disasters of all time.

The endangered Sumatran orangutan, a species whose habitat is being restored through a many Global ReLeaf projects over the years. Credit: TomD./Flickr

The endangered Sumatran orangutan, a species whose habitat is being restored through a many Global ReLeaf projects over the years. Credit: TomD./Flickr

To directly address some of the wreckage left behind and to rebuild with Indonesia, American Forests teamed up with Sumatran Orangutan Society to plant mangroves — known for their coastal resiliency and ability to protect local coastlines from wind damage — across several areas in northern Indonesia. In addition, over 16,000 native terrestrial trees were planted to address a very different, but ecologically critical issue: endangered Sumatran Orangutan habitat loss, which was only exacerbated further by the momentous disaster as hundreds of human refugees wandered deep into Sumatran rainforests to establish new farmland, crops, and homes in an attempt for economic revival.

Sumatran Orangutans that call these deep forests home are known for their exemplary intelligence, as they utilize a variety of sophisticated tools, are the masters of quick learning, and have even developed unique cultures within individual populations. As such, they have been aptly called the “humans of the forest.”

Of course, our work on maintaining coastlines and boosting local habitats for wildlife that desperately needs it hasn’t ended there. We’ve teamed up with China Mangrove Protection Project for several years to provide a similar robust coastal barrier of mangroves in China. And, of course, we’ve continued working to save our incredibly intelligent Sumatran animal friends in Indonesia for several years since the 2004 disaster, including this year.


Forest Digest — Week of May 4, 2015

by Loose Leaf Team

The first week of May has been an eventful — and troublesome — one in the world of forests. Take a look in this edition of Forest Digest.

  • Drought kills 12 million trees in California’s national forestsThe Los Angeles Times
    Last month, researchers the U.S. Forest Service conducted an aerial survey of more than 8.2 million acres of forest in California and estimated that the drought has killed off at least 12.5 million trees in California’s national forests during the drought.
  • Forest Service chief predicts above normal U.S. wildfire seasonReuters
    U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell told a U.S. Senate panel on Tuesday that he expects and an above-normal wildfire season formuch of the western and northern U.S., mainly because of extreme drought conditions and temperatures that are higher than average.
Firefighters in California expect an above-average wildfire season this summer. Credit: John Newman

Firefighters in California expect an above-average wildfire season this summer. Credit: John Newman

  • New plan approved for Shoshone National ForestCasper Star Tribune
    Officials from Wyoming’s Shoshone National Forest, the country’s first national forest, have agreed to an updated forest plan, a process that began a decade ago. The plan doesn’t include new wilderness areas, but also prohibits motorized recreate in a large area of the forest, a compromise according to a staff member from a local conservation group.

Environmental education grows future leaders in sustainability

by Loose Leaf Team

Erin Sandlin, Policy Intern

Schools across the nation are “going green” by implementing carbon footprint reducing techniques such as incorporating solar power and instituting recycling and composting efforts. But do these actions really contribute to the greening of a school? What constitutes sustainable development?

Dr. Jean Kelso Sandlin, a professor at California Lutheran University and my mother, communicates in her paper, “Why ‘Greening’ the Campus has not Included the Classroom: The Challenges of Pedagogical Initiatives for Sustainability in Higher Education,” that educational institutions have an obligation to bring this sustainable development into the classroom, where it can play a role in producing the next generation of environmental stewards.

A campus sustainability tour at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

A campus sustainability tour at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

As a politics student at the Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, D.C., I am told we are the next generation of leaders and policymakers; however, like most universities, we do not have a requirement to learn about the environment that we use — and abuse — every day. Only until I declared a minor in sustainability was I exposed to sustainability education. The two classes that were the most influential were both architecture courses. I learned passive building strategies for energy conservation, such as planting trees to protect building facades from harsh winds or providing shade to reduce air conditioning costs.

CUA is one of 10 universities in the world to offer LEEDlab, a course where architecture students — and one adventurous politics student! — are taught to meet current market needs in their profession while employing multiple synergistic effects of sustainability within the university. This year, our class worked to LEED certify our university campus. As the university with the largest campus grounds in Washington, D.C., we are fortunate to have an incredible tree canopy. Throughout the duration of the course, we learned the benefits of our trees on campus, facilitated educational initiatives to promote greater awareness of the advantages of trees, and planned future tree plantings with organizations such as local urban forestry nonprofit, Casey Trees.

American Forests continues to provide and support educational programs to students about the importance of our nation’s city trees. With our help, schools and communities are involved in beneficial tree-planting programs and educational opportunities. Our Community ReLeaf program aims to bring attention to the value of urban forests in cities such as Detroit, Atlanta, and right here in Washington, D.C. We know that environmental and sustainable education will create a generation that considers the environment when making future decisions.

It is in our best interest to provide students with the resources to improve environmental literacy through hands-on education. It is not enough to “green” a school by implementing top-down policies that do not involve student participation. Incorporating environmental education in the classroom is a critical part of sustainable development, and with student integration comes the success of the student and the institution. Sustainability should not be reserved for specialized programs and majors; it should be integrated within an educational institution’s foundation, which begins in the classroom.

To help make outdoor education a priority, urge your Congressional representatives to support the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act, which aims to enhance the physical, emotional and mental health of children across the United States.