Forest Digest — Week of February 2, 2015

by Loose Leaf Team

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.


Celebrating Banrock Station’s commitment to wetlands

by Loose Leaf Team

By Sydney Mucha, Communications Intern

Today is World Wetland Day, and though our friends at Banrock Station, an eco-wine company from Down Under, celebrated the occasion over 12 hours ago, we feel we should kick off our commemoration — and continue theirs — with a highlight of the work they’re doing to support wetlands.

Since 1996, Banrock Station has placed the health of wetlands and other ecosystems in the forefront of their mission. Part of the proceeds from every wine purchase are donated to conservation organizations around the world, including American Forests.

In Sweden, Banrock is partnering with the Swedish Wetlands Association to restore and develop several wetlands on former farming land. The goal of this project, located an hour outside of Stockholm, Sweden’s capital, is to demonstrate the importance of wetlands to the local community and assist in the protection of the black-headed gull, a species that uses the area’s wetlands as breeding nurseries and migration rest-stops.

Banrock’s second project hits a lot closer to home and focuses on the continued restoration of a 600-acre wetland on the winery’s property. Since 2012, the company has led restoration activities that allow staff to remove invasive species such as European carp from the wetland and plant native vegetation, including red river gum, a water-loving species native to Australia. The restored ecosystem will give visitors and outdoor enthusiasts alike a chance to experience the area’s wonderful wildlife populations.

Wetland restoration projects, such as the ones mentioned above, are of great importance to the overall health of the planet and its inhabitants, including humans. Wetlands assist in purifying water supplies by filtering out heavy metals, excess nutrients and pollution through the assistance of various types of trees and plants. They also act as agents against climate change by storing up to 30 percent of all land-based carbon1, and protect coastlines by providing a buffer from storm surges, hurricanes and tsunamis.

American Forests applauds Banrock Station’s commitment to the environment, near and far!


Forest Digest — Week of January 26, 2015

by Loose Leaf Team

Get ready to end this month in style! See what’s making tree headlines with the latest Forest Digest!

  • “Melbourne’s trees bombarded with emailed love letters”The Guardian
    If only trees could talk! Well, in Melbourne, Australia, they can email! As part of a community awareness initiative, the city assigned each of its 70,000 trees with an identification number, which allows citizens to email it. The city found that instead of simply reporting damage to a particular tree, people were sending arbor love letters.
Monarchs resting in a pine tree, before they continue their journey down to Mexico.

Thanks to Global ReLeaf’s work in Mexico, these monarchs are able to rest in a pine tree, before they continue their journey. Photo Credit: faria!/flickr

  • “Monarch butterfly population makes a modest rebound”San Francisco Chronicle
    Monarch butterflies sure know how to travel! They migrate from Canada to Mexico every winter to nest pine and fir trees. Last year, the monarch population experienced record lows and only covered 1.65 acres of forests—the smallest area in over 20 years. However, despite scientists’ findings that the monarch population rebounded by 69 percent in 2014, these orange- and black beauties are still in danger because of illegal logging in Mexico and climate change.
  • “Carbon accumulation by Southeastern forests may slow”Phys.org
    In a recent study by U.S. Forest Service’s Southern Research Station, scientists John Coulston, David Wear and Jim Vose found that fire, disease, cutting and land-use changes all slow the rate of carbon accumulation in forests in the southeastern U.S. While many trees displayed small rate changes when faced with natural disturbances, land-use changes were found to play a more significant role.
  • “What is carbon insetting?”Mother Nature Network
    You’ve heard of carbon offsetting, but what about carbon insetting? The newest carbon reduction, this business method is taking aim at reducing a business’ own supply chain by investing in sustainable activities within the company’s scope.

Forest Digest — Week of January 19, 2015

by Loose Leaf Team

Kick off the weekend right! Dive into the latest Forest Digest, and catch up on all your tree related news.

  • “Things Are Not Looking Good for California’s Big Trees”Think Progress
    Forest surveys from the 1920s and ‘30s show that California’s stands of large trees have changed dramatically. Drought, disease and land-use changes have led to a 50 percent decline in the 46,000-square-mile surveyed area.
  • “High-tech eyes on the forest seek to help curb climate change”FORESTS news
    A team of scientists the Center for International Forestry Research, the University of Wangeningen and the University of Göttingen are testing new gear in Kalimantan, Indonesia that will help monitor forests and carbon intake in area prone to deforestation. The new state of the art gear includes remote sensing, unmanned aerial vehicles and spectrometry readers.
A Wind Tree in Paris' Place de la Concorde is being used to power street lamps.

A Wind Tree in Paris’ Place de la Concorde is being used to power street lamps. Photo credit: New Wind.

  • “A Carbon Offset Market for Trees”The New York Times
    In this column, scientists from Columbia University and the City University of New York state that avoided emissions from intact tropical forests could become a game changer in the carbon offset market. The Rainforest Standard is now undergoing testing in South America to protect a 1.6-million-acre forest.

GR25: Longleaf pine in 2014

by connie

Happy New Year! In 2014, amidst numerous despondent stories of Ebola, MH370 and more, American Forests worked to instill resiliency for a species that has long undergone devastation of its own: the longleaf pine.

Longleaf pine forests now span only three percent of their historic range, which extended from eastern Texas to southern Virginia.

Longleaf pine forests now span only three percent of their historic range, which extended from eastern Texas to southern Virginia. Photo credit: ChrisM.

If you live in the southern U.S. or follow American Forests, you know the story all too well. The longleaf pine, once covering an expansive 90 million acres, currently covers less than three percent of its historic range. An indigenous, endangered species that extends from eastern Texas to southeast Virginia, the longleaf pine was once thought to be an incredibly abundant resource and, as such, was widely harvested to produce timber for ships.

As longleaf pine can grow for up to 150 years to reach their full potential height — can we have a round of applause for those that just escaped “puberty” after germinating during the Civil War? — many of the depleted longleaf pine forests were regrown with faster-growing loblolly pine and other species that could provide quicker economic and supposedly ecological benefits. However, one tree does not always equal another in every ecosystem — longleaf pine trees are well-known for being extraordinary carbon sinks. Combined with their knack for withstanding extreme drought, pests, pollution and wildfire, the species plays an incredibly important role in mitigating the effects of climate change on the region.

There are more than a few animals that specifically call longleaf pine forests home, including the gopher tortoise — the only native tortoise found east of the Mississippi river — which forages for food and digs burrows that are eventually used as shelter for more 350 other species. Other endangered species include the red cockaded woodpecker, flatwoods salamander, and indigo snakes. In fact, nearly two-thirds of threatened or endangered wildlife species in the southeastern U.S. rely on or are associated with longleaf pine forests.

What to do?

For starters, since 1992, American Forests Global ReLeaf has planted more than 4.5 million longleaf pines. In 2014, American Forests continued the legacy of restoring this vital species in our Paulding Wildlife Management Area project in Georgia. In an area that is enjoyed extensively for outdoor recreation by those escaping city life in the Atlanta metro area, American Forests and local partner Longleaf Alliance planted 25,000 endangered Longleaf pine to restore these forests to their original natural splendor. In addition to enhanced recreation, these trees provided integral habitat for the dozens of at-risk and rare species that call longleaf forests home.

The success of this project and the innumerable benefits that longleaf ecosystems provide carried on into American Forests’ work in 2015, as we are continuing our longleaf restoration efforts by planting 103,000 total trees in our Tyndall Air Force Base and Box R Wildlife Management projects in Florida.


On our way to 50 million trees!

by Christopher Horn

This year, we will partner with local organizations to plant more than 1.7 million trees in 35 projects in 19 U.S. states and seven countries around the world.

Since its inception 25 years ago, American Forests’ Global ReLeaf program has completed more than 1,000 projects, planting nearly 50 million trees in all 50 U.S. states and 45 countries around the world. These projects are completed in cooperation with local nonprofits, businesses and government agencies, and help reforest areas damaged by wildfire, disease, deforestation, natural disasters and more.

Some of the 2015 projects include:

Greenbrier River in West Virginia. Photo Credit: Phil Virgo

Greenbrier River in West Virginia. Photo Credit: Phil Virgo

  • Along West Virginia’s Greenbrier River in Monongahela National Forest, American Forests is planting more than 3,000 red spruce and other species to improve the health of the riparian ecosystem. A long history of logging and farming has reduced shade and elevated water temperature to near lethal limits for brook trout. The project will restore cool stream temperatures and provide much-needed cover for the trout, hellbender salamanders and other sensitive aquatic species.
  • In Oregon’s Deschutes National Forest, American Forests is planting more than 350,000 ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir to restore an ecosystem affected by the 2012 Pole Creek Fire, which burned more than 10,000 acres, leaving little or no surviving forest cover. This project will control erosion, maintain wildlife habitat and restore a highly utilized recreational area. The project will also work with Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council (COIC), an alternative high school program that provides opportunities for youth to learn and work in the outdoors while restoring and caring for our forests.
  • American Forests will plant 106,000 ponderosa pines in Arizona’s Kaibab National Forest to help restore an area that was damaged by wildfire and is widely used for wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation. The rehabilitation project will help establish forest cover, provide wildlife habitat and, over time, protect soils and watersheds. The planting area is important for the northern goshawk, a species whose habitat in the American Southwest is shrinking, as well as numerous bird species, game species such as mule deer and a variety of small mammals.
  • In the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge in Vermont, American Forests is planting 500 red maple, green ash and sugar maple to improve the health of a riparian ecosystem. Because of past tree removal, annual floods have been causing erosion and downstream sedimentation. Improved overall water quality will benefit aquatic life, including five species of mussels listed as threatened and endangered. The planting will also enhance habitat along the Missisquoi River corridor for migratory bird species such as the warbling vireo, Baltimore oriole, yellowthroat, yellow warbler and swamp sparrow.
  • For American Forests’ first project in Madagascar, we are planting 9,000 trees in the Beanka Forest to connect fragmented wildlife habitat and provide economic opportunities to the local community, reducing reliance on the natural forest. More than 97 percent of Madagascar’s dry deciduous forests have been destroyed because of slash-and-burn agricultural practices, logging and charcoal production, with little chance to regenerate on their own. Of the approximately 250,000 species on the island, between 70 and 80 percent are estimated to be endemic — found nowhere else in the world. These include unique mammals such as the tenrec, fossa and the island’s unofficial mascots — the lemurs.

Global ReLeaf’s Silver Anniversary

To commemorate the program’s 25th birthday, American Forests will publish bi-weekly posts over the course of 2015 on the organization’s blog, Loose Leaf, highlighting one or more projects from each year of the program since it began in 1990.


Forest Digest — Week of January 5, 2015

by Loose Leaf Team

We’re kicking off the New Year right with our first Forest Digest of 2015! Here’s what’s been going on in the world of forests:

  • “Tropical Forests Gulp CO2, Slowing Climate Change
    Discovery News

    2014 was the hottest year on record, but a new study shows that tropical rainforests are absorbing far more greenhouse gases than scientists estimated. The findings, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, estimate that tropical forests annually absorb 1.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide out of a total global absorption of 2.5 billion metric tons.
  • “Indonesian indigenous groups look to tourists to protect forests”Reuters
    An Indonesian NGO is working with six indigenous communities to encourage foreign tourism in ancestral forests, an attempt to not only slow the advance of logging operations and palm oil plantations, but also ease poverty, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and diversify from traditional forest-based incomes such as weaving.

25 years of Global ReLeaf

by Jami Westerhold

While the world watched the space shuttle Discovery place the Hubble Space Telescope in orbit 25 years ago, American Forests was also launching a stellar program: Global ReLeaf.

Though we had dipped our toe in the water of forest reforestation before 1990, this was the first year we committed to supporting multiple large-scale, on-the-ground projects. Since its inaugural year, American Forests’ Global ReLeaf program has blossomed into what is now our keystone program, planting in all 50 states and 44 counties.

In 2009, Global ReLeaf was in Mississippi as part of the plan to restore canopy lost during Hurricane Katrina.

In 2009, Global ReLeaf was in Mississippi as part of the plan to restore canopy lost during Hurricane Katrina.

To commemorate Global ReLeaf’s 25th anniversary, we will post bi-weekly on Loose Leaf over the course of 2015 to highlight at least one project from each year of the program’s history. These posts will let us — and, more importantly, you — (re)discover how American Forests has worked with local partners to reforest areas, from near your backyard to the other side of the world. From our first project restoring jack pine forests for endangered Kirtland’s warblers to our restoration activities in areas damaged by Hurricane Katrina, American Forests has planted nearly 50 million trees.

Though the projects differ each year, there are common themes among American Forests’ comprehensive work to protect and restore the most damaged ecosystems. Whether damaged by fire, development, or other causes, none of these lands are expected to naturally regenerate at the pace needed, if ever. American Forests always ensures native species are used and all elements are considered. Though our lives are dependent on forests — more than half of drinking water in the U.S. originates in forests! — their importance is much broader, providing habitat for wildlife and reducing the rate of climate change.

In addition to our 25 years of Global ReLeaf, we will be announcing our 2015 projects, so keep a look out. Sneak peak: American Forests will be planting in a country — our 45th! — we’ve never planted in before: Madagascar.

Stay tuned as we continue our journey revisiting what American Forests has accomplished through the history of our Global ReLeaf program.