Forest Digest — Week of June 8, 2015

by American Forests

It’s been a big week for forests both at home and abroad. Stay up-to-date with the latest Forest Digest!

  • Forests Win Big In Bonn Climate BreakthroughThe Huffington Post
    In an unexpected display of international cooperation, representatives at the UN climates talks in Bonn agreed on a drafted proposal of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), which will help to protect the world’s forests in an effort to combat climate change.
A spotted owl perched on a tree

The spotted owl has been the symbol for the decline of the forests of the northwest for decades. Despite concerted efforts to aid the species, the overall population has continued its decline according to the latest report. Photo credit: US Forest Service.

  • Bill would streamline review of thinning projects in national forestsRapid City Journal
    This year has seen a push from House Republicans for legislation that would make it easier to harvest timber and clear brush in projects called for by the U.S. Forest Service. Advocates state that these projects help to protect National Forests from disease and wildfire, although opponents worry about inadequate consideration for environmental effects.

Meet our new VP of conservation programs

by Christopher Horn

Jeff Lerner recently came to American Forests as our new vice president of conservation programs. We’re excited for the diverse experience he’s bringing to the position and the organization — and we think you should be excited too! From his favorite in-the-field story to why he works in conservation, read more about Jeff.

Jeff Lerner

  • Q: Why did you choose to go into conservation?

I was always interested in zoos growing up and I studied biology in college. But it was my experience working in the Greater Yellowstone Area shortly after college that pointed me toward a conservation path. I was there just a few years after the famous fires of 1988 and got to see so many burned trees, but also the regeneration that was starting to take place. Exploring the Greater Yellowstone area helped me see the importance of large landscape conservation and the need to protect or restore functional ecosystems. It brought me into contact with agencies and natural resources policy and how we plan our communities. I try to return to Yellowstone periodically as a reminder of why I do what I do and how ecosystems change over time.

  • Q: What aspects of American Forests’ work are you most excited to be a part of?

I’m very excited to be working on all of our programs because they align with my previous work. I’ve been involved with wildlife and wildland conservation for many years and look forward to digging deeper into the conservation of at-risk forest ecosystems. I’ve also worked on integrating conservation with land-use planning in urbanizing areas. Given our demographic shift in the U.S. toward urban areas, it is important for us to be working on urban forest conservation across metropolitan landscapes. Policy is why I came to Washington, D.C. many years ago and I have been fortunate to work on many different policy issues and funding programs over the years that benefit wildlands. I’m looking forward to the integration of policy with our other programs. I think I’m going to enjoy the mix of the big-picture thinking at landscape scales as well as getting specific forest restoration projects done on the ground. Few organizations would give me the opportunity to be involved in all of these program areas.

  • Q: What do you think are the most significant challenges facing forests today?

In 2010 each state put together a State Forest Action Plan which assessed the status of forests and developed strategies to address threats. The synthesis of the information from those plans identified key issues for forests in America. Three that I would highlight are invasive pests & diseases, climate change and fragmentation. Invasive species can change the composition of our forests, affecting their ecological and economic value. As the climate changes, we see changes in temperature and precipitation that can affect how forests function. In some cases, these changes lead to drier conditions and therefore larger and more intense wildfires, particularly in the western U.S. where fire is an important part of how forests work. Forests in the U.S. are also being fragmented, not only physically, but also in terms of ownership, which makes it harder to conserve larger blocks of functional forest. Together these challenges may sound depressing or insurmountable, but the good news is that to address many of them we have tools and strategies that are demonstrating how we can protect, restore and sustainably manage forests for the long term. What we really need to do is increase the pace and magnitude of this work to do more in more places. I believe American Forests can play an important role, working collaboratively with the many agencies and other partners that have emerged since American Forests began its work in 1875.

  • Q: Do you have a favorite story from your years in the field?
A black bear.

Jeff’s fondest memory from the field involved a close encounter with a startled black bear in Gallatin National Forest. Photo credit: Jitze Couperus/Flickr.

My first field experience out west was studying bald eagles in the Gallatin National Forest. I was perched above a lake at an observation site from which I could see two eagle nests. One day a black bear was seen along the shoreline of the lake trying to make off with a fisherman’s catch. There was a commotion and the fishermen chased the bear off. Unfortunately the bear went running up the hillside right toward me. In a flash the fast-moving bear ran right past me. A foot or so to the left and I might have been bowled over because I was sitting in some tall grass, dressed in black and hard to see. So maybe I can say that I was charged by a bear, but I think he/she was more scared than me.

  • What is your favorite tree and why?

It’s a fair question, but I don’t have a favorite tree. Growing up, sugar maples were abundant where I lived in New England. Then I got to live in lodgepole pine forests in the Rockies, which will always be special for me. I worked in an area in California where we had a lot of magnificent Jeffrey pines and today I spend more time in Appalachian and Mid-Atlantic forests. I won’t say I love all tree species equally well, but I’ve spent so much time trying to work on conservation across the U.S. that I have come to appreciate the many different habitats and types of forest ecosystems we have in each state. To me the forest is more important than the tree by itself and I’m curious about how compositions of trees and other vegetation support a diversity of wildlife species. Even aesthetically I find myself more drawn to landscape paintings than pictures of individual trees. We are fortunate to have so many kinds of forests that we value for their ecological function or their beauty. I’m also a birdwatcher and some of my favorite sightings of birds have been in trees, like the time we glimpsed a rarely seen elf owl emerge from a hole in a tree along the Rio Grande, but that’s as far as I go.

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 American Forests

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 American Forests

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

Forest Digest — Week of May 25, 2015

by American Forests

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 American Forests

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.