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 cclavet@tnc.org.

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.

Forest Digest — Week of May 4, 2015

by American Forests

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 American Forests

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.

GR 25: Re-Greening after Katrina in 2007

by Megan Higgs

2007 was a true example of revival and resiliency for American Forests and one of its most critical programs to date: Katrina ReLeaf, which enveloped a number of projects targeting reforestation in response to one of America’s most devastating natural disasters.

Indeed, this year marks the 10th anniversary of one of America’s five deadliest hurricanes and by far the costliest natural disaster in American history.

For many, it is tough to imagine that nearly 10 years have passed since Katrina descended upon the shores of the Gulf Coast, encompassing a range from Texas to central Florida. Most notably, Katrina caused a surge of destruction and deaths in the city of New Orleans, when rampant flooding developed as a result of levee system failure. In total, 80 percent of New Orleans was under water at some point, $108 billion in property damages piled up, and 1,833 people tragically lost their lives — the vast majority of them from the city formerly known for its upbeat mantra of “Laissez le bon temps rouler” (French for “Let the good times roll”).

In response to this unprecedented natural disaster, American Forests launched the Katrina ReLeaf program in 2007 to restore some of the 50,000+ trees lost in New Orleans alone. Through a series of projects peppered throughout 2007 and into 2010, American Forests worked with the citizens of New Orleans and across the Gulf Shores to rebuild and regreen the areas of most critical need and to reduce further coastal erosion that can result from rapid deforestation of landscapes in coastal areas. In 2007, these projects included reforesting the hard-hit Jefferson Parish region with 3,300 trees, replacing trees along Elysian Avenue, planting 173 trees in the highly-utilized recreational and cultural oasis of New Orleans City Park, and more.

Our work didn’t stop in 2007 or in New Orleans alone, of course. American Forests continued planting in 2008, as witnessed by our Habitat Trees for Dothan, Ala., project of reforesting and rebuilding with Habitat for Humanity. In fact, we have continued to replant after Katrina through 2011, when we partnered with Alcoa Foundation to replant in 62 schoolyards affected by the hurricane.

American Forests is no newbie to natural disaster response, and we have adamantly continued our work of reforesting after wildfires, ice storms, tornadoes and, of course, hurricanes. Visit our 2015 projects to read about some of our most recent disaster-response projects.

Celebrating 25 years of Cooperative Forestry

by American Forests

Deanne Buckman, Policy Intern

There’s an old saying that it takes a village to raise a child. On April 29, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT); Robert Bonnie, Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; and Tom Tidwell, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service gathered at a reception sponsored by American Forests, the Sustainable Urban Forest Coalition and many other forest advocacy groups to celebrate 25 years of cooperative forestry programs. Standing amongst all of those involved, I realized that it takes a village to raise a forest as well. As an intern, it was inspiring to see that people who may have slightly different missions can come together for a larger common goal.

While the Forest Service is dedicated to managing our nation’s public lands, two-thirds of the nation’s forest are non-federal. The agency looks to private and state landholders to aid in sustaining the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands. Through the Forest Stewardship Program, the Forest Legacy Program, and the Urban and Community Forestry Program, the Forest Service has engaged and partnered with state forestry agencies and private landowners to manage the forests of our nation. Yesterday’s reception was evidence that these programs have been working.

Congress revisits our nation’s agricultural programs and policies every five years through what is known as the Farm Bill. For the first time, the Farm Bill of 1990 (the 1990 Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act), included a Forestry Title. All three of the programs celebrated at last night’s reception were established by this forestry title and were designed to address issues surrounding private forests. The anniversary of these programs is especially important to American Forests because we were instrumental in the creation of the programs and have been supporting them ever since.

Both the Senate and the House included Forestry Titles in their drafts of the 1990 bill and throughout the process congressional staff members consulted with representatives from American Forests, which formed a working group of representatives from forestry and conservation organizations to develop initial ideas. These meetings produced what would eventually be key provisions of the Forest Stewardship Act and the Forest Legacy Program that were included in the Senate’s proposal. When controversy arose over the Senate’s proposals, American Forests drafted letters to Congress to show members that there was broad support within the conservation community for the proposals.

The Forest Legacy Program is a voluntary program that aims to protect privately owned forest lands through conservation easements. These legally binding agreements transfer certain property rights from one party to another without actually transferring the ownership of the land. This way, private landowners can receive funding and aid to care their forest land without having to give ownership of their land to the federal government. To participate in the program, private forest landowners must develop a resource management plan. The program is the principal way for the Forest Service to combat loss of forest land, by conversion to non-forest uses, and is funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry program is a vehicle for long-term investment in activities that restore and maintain healthy forests and develop stewardship between ecosystems and communities. The program works to show communities the benefit of installing and maintaining trees and forests in urban areas. Participating state governments must develop a five-year plan for fostering urban and community forestry, appoint a program coordinator and establish an advisory council.

It was an honor to spend an evening celebrating with the village of people who support forestry, and here’s to 25 more years of cooperation!