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    0 0

    Excerpts:

    Globally, forests can absorb up to 30 percent of the carbon released by burning fossil fuels.

    But when they are clearcut for lumber and to clear farmland, or allowed to burn uncontrollably, they also release huge amounts of carbon, said Steve Running, professor of ecology at the University of Montana and a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's latest report on global warming.

    "So forests could be a significant part of the solution or could make the problem worse," said Running, who did not take part in either study. "I think this is going to be a very interesting challenge for forest ecosystem management over the next few decades, to see if we can develop a plan of walking the tightrope like this," he said.

    Robert Doudrick, Forest Service staff director for research and development, said the two studies offered valuable information to be considered as the Forest Service tries to keep its options open in the face of an uncertain future over climate and energy.

    "Whether or not carbon is our primary responsibility has yet to be decided," he said. "Whether biomass supply and an energy future for our country will be more important than wildlife habitat are issues that are yet to be decided. We are required on every piece of property to make that sort of decision.

    … Co-author Beverly Law, professor of global change forest science at OSU, said they designed the study because of the growing demand for information about whether forests should be managed as carbon offsets for burning fossil fuels. Currently U.S. forests absorb an estimated 16 percent of the nation's carbon emissions.
     


    0 0

    Excerpt:

    WITH its plate full on issues of health care, climate change and war funding, Congress can be excused for putting wilderness protection on the back burner.

    But there's a growing movement among local clergy, city councils and environmental groups to seek added congressional protection to portions of the Angeles National Forest, its rivers, habitat and wild animal species.

    Judging by the recent forest fires, including the Morris Fire, which burned 2,168 acres, and the Station Fire, which burned 161,000 acres, now may be the best time to work to preserve select wilderness areas that are often in great peril.

    Some of our local city councils agree and we credit them for their forward thinking. Pasadena, Claremont, Glendora, La Ca ada Flintridge, La Verne and San Dimas have endorsed additional wild land and wild rivers protection for select areas of the San Gabriel Mountains. The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments also supports the concept.

    Why does the forest need special wilderness protection?


    0 0

    Tuesday, October 21, 2008

    The Wilderness Society's Wildland Fire Program works to change our nation’s approach to fire management to focus on protecting communities, restoring ecosystems, and sustaining fire’s role in fire-dependent landscapes, where safe to do so. Our vision is of a landscape composed of fire-safe communities existing within a larger, healthy forest ecosystem.

    This paper addresses critical components of federal fire management. It is distilled from materials developed by The Wilderness Society’s Wildland Fire Program and substantiated by scientific reports, budget analyses, landscape studies, policy papers and other materials. It focuses on the Forest Service’s State Fire Assistance (SFA) program, which provides financial assistance to states and communities for fire management activities including training, planning, hazardous fuels treatment and purchase of equipment.

    Attachment Size
    PositionPaper-StateFireAssistance.pdf 60.28 KB

    0 0

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011

    Audio from California wildlife radio story

    Attachment Size
    SoCal-fire-radio-story.mp3 1.65 MB

    0 0

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011

    This press conference was held on July 20, 2011.


    0 0

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011

    Chaparral covers most of our four Southern California national forests, creating important habitat and watershed. But what is chaparral? And why does it burn so frequently here? What can communities do to prevent damage and risk from wildfire?

    Click on the PDF below to view the fact sheet.

    Attachment Size
    Socal-Fire-Factsheet.pdf 1.59 MB

    0 0

    Southern California is known for its mild Mediterranean climate where shorts and flip-flops are popular during the hot and sunny summer, sometimes right on through a balmy winter.

    Not nearly as famous, but just as characteristic of the Southland, are its chaparral wild lands. Chaparral is a native plant community of many species, including  chamise, red shank, ceanothus, manzanita, scrub oak and other shrubby plants.

    Chaparral provides essential habitat for many animals and plants. And it acts as Nature’s retaining walls – holding back the soil during heavy rains.

    But the short stature of these shrubs, combined with the waxes, fats and oils in their leaves creates a highly flammable vegetation.  Add some hot southern California weather, steep mountain ranges and strong dry Santa Ana winds and sometimes large wildfires break out.

    However, before you accuse Mother Nature of cruel intentions, here’s the good news about our unique chaparral landscape. Yes Southern California chaparral is fire-prone but it is also a fire-adapted landscape where fire is part of its natural life cycle.

    Chaparral fires have been common for millions of years, and the cycle of fire includes periodic burning. The fires help reduce heavy growth and allow diverse animal and plant species to thrive. The blazes drive a continual cycle of removal and rebirth in chaparral.

    In more modern times human-caused fires are igniting more frequently, while construction of wood-framed homes close to wildlands have increased the risk to life and property. Another fire factor: when chaparral burns too frequently, invasive and non-native grasses take over. These grasses are highly flammable and are often near communities, roads and highways.

    In Southern California, the four national forests – Angeles, San Bernardino, Cleveland and Los Padres – are dominated by chaparral (about 89 percent). But because federal wilderness areas have no roads and just quiet, non-motorized recreation like hunting, hiking, camping and horseback riding, fire rarely starts in these areas.

    Still, Southern California with its prolonged periods of drought, must develop long-term fire solutions, much the way residents plan for earthquakes (a fact of life here). We can adapt to the chaparral landscape.

    The Wilderness Society’s California office advocates for state and local agencies to adopt plans to help the state adapt to the chaparral landscape. We recommend reducing wildfire hazards by:

    • Relying on science-based zoning for new home developments.
    • Creating a defensible space between homes and wild lands.
    • Using fire-wise building construction and retrofitting such as replacing wood shingle roofs with tile or metal and boxing in the eaves.
    • Developing coordinated Fire Management Plans with local, state and federal fire agencies.

    Communities and individuals can do much to protect their homes. There are a number of fire safe councils and public agencies helping people clear brush near buildings and creating fire buffers along roads and between wild lands and inhabited areas.

    Fire is inevitable in Southern California. The challenge is learning to live with it.


    0 0

    Across America’s western regions, our vast green forests are changing colors, but not the traditional fall colors we celebrate this time of year. Millions of acres of pine forests in the central and northern Rockies are turning red, victimized by beetles that used to die off during cold winter months.

    Similarly, vast expanses of forests and rangelands in the Southwest and parts of Texas are blackened in alarming amounts by an increasing number of wildfires.

    Climate scientists, ecologists, forest service officials and outdoor enthusiasts alike are troubled by images of these red and black mountain forests. On the one hand, they know that fire and beetles have always been part of the ecology of a healthy forest. On the other, they are troubled by the frequency and intensity of beetle-kill and fires in the last decade, and the predictions by scientists that these extremes can be expected to worsen in the coming decades.  As described so well in a recent article in the New York Times (“With Deaths of Forests, a Loss of Key Climate Protectors”), we can now see the signs of global warming right before our very eyes, as rising average temperatures and deepening drought reduce the margin of adaptability of natural systems to cope with natural stresses driven to unnatural extremes.

    As our forests degrade, we are losing a vital defense against climate change. Trees absorb about a quarter of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions – equal to nearly all the carbon dioxide spewing from the world’s cars and trucks. When millions of acres of trees die, they not only lose much of their ability to absorb emissions, they can become net carbon sources – emitting more than they absorb. Keeping forests healthy is a fundamental defense against the consequences of man-made climate change.

    But there are limits to what we can accomplish with wiser management.  The root cause of the new hyper-stresses on our forests is not in the forests themselves, but in an energy policy that literally subsidizes the sources of massive destruction.  Current policy subsidizes the consumption of electricity from coal plants, gasoline from oil refineries, and natural gas production from pipelines. The carbon from these polluting sources is dumped into the atmosphere without cost to the polluter, but at great cost to the rest of us and to the forests which protect us.  The beetles take the rap while the polluters take the money and run.

    Understanding the real causes does not mean ignoring the effects. Even if all greenhouse gas emissions ceased immediately, the gases already in the atmosphere would continue threatening our environment.  We are learning more every day about what works to keep forests resilient, and work is begging to be done to restore stream buffers, remove invasive species, reforest after intense fire, and decommission unused logging roads so they don’t become highways for erosion.

    But there are limits to what can be done in the face of change at the scale and pace of global warming.   We don’t have the resources to match the gathering storm, and often the public demand to “do something” sometimes leads policymakers and land managers to overreact by stripping the land of unsightly beetle damage or aggressively suppressing fire in the back country– actions which interfere with nature’s extraordinary ability to heal itself.

    Worse still is the reluctance to speak plainly about the only long-term solution.  The consensus of scientists is that a true catastrophe looms.  It can be blocked, at least partially, if we stop dumping carbon pollution into the air and using clean renewable sources of energy instead.  If we do not, Mother Nature will send us ever stronger, unmistakable, undeniable signals of her own.  They will come in the form of more severe fires in Rick Perry’s Texas, more severe drought in Herman Cain’s Georgia, more severe flooding in Mitt Romney’s New England, and more severe heat waves in Barack Obama’s Chicago.

    Our green landscapes have shown a remarkable ability to regenerate again and again, but their capacity to survive repeated cycles from green to red, to black, and back to green is not infinite.  The future survival of these landscapes is now critically dependent on our willingness to speak out and demand policies that reduce the carbon pollution that is forcing unnatural cycles of burn and blight.

    Are you interested in The Wilderness Society’s work on climate policy?  Check out these links:


    0 0

    For the vast Sierra Nevada, it’s more important than ever to see the forest for the trees.

    And in one area of the Sierra National Forest that bigger picture includes preserving forest health, safeguarding communities from wildfire, improving wildlife habitat and creating local jobs.

    All of those goals are part of a unique forest restoration project underway in the Dinkey area of the Sierra National Forest - a popular recreation destination just east of Fresno. It is hoped that the lessons learned here can serve as a blueprint to improve the health of other forests.

    The science-based program, known as the Dinkey Collaborative Restoration Project, is focused on 154,000 acres of forests, meadows, lakes, rivers and chaparral.

    The Wilderness Society is one of the project’s many diverse partners, which also includes a lumber mill, a utility company, a regional air pollution agency, California Native American tribes, local fire safe councils, the U.S. Forest Service, nonprofit organizations and several universities.

    By working together, these partners are focused on the Dinkey’s dense stands of trees that threaten the health of the forest and its residents – both animal and human.

    In a healthier forest ecosystem, a variety of trees co-exist in a landscape where periodic fire helps to naturally thin out the density. Instead, many areas of the Dinkey are currently packed with too many small trees that are elbowing out other species.

    “Our goal is to retain and promote large tree and denning/nesting structures needed by the Pacific fisher and the California spotted owl and provide sufficient natural regeneration of shade-intolerant tree species for the creation of future fire-adapted forests” explains Stan Van Velsor, a California Wilderness Society forest expert who has been working on the Dinkey collaborative for two years.

    When fire whips through these crowded stands of smaller trees, the fire grows more intense, with flames traveling upwards through the trees - even destroying species like Ponderosa pines which can typically survive smaller fires. The fire then becomes a devastating ‘crown fire’ where flames spread rapidly across the crowns of trees and threatens communities and rare species like the Pacific fisher, a shy, furry mammal that is becoming rare in old growth forests of the Sierra Nevada.

    So far, the Dinkey project has hired local crews to help thin trees on nearly 5,000 acres, much of this near communities with high forest fire danger.  This year, several other projects are in the works:  reintroducing fire on approximately 2,000 acres through prescribed burning, thinning another 2,500 acres of forest and undertaking several watershed improvement projects like erosion control.

    Re-introducing low and moderate intensity fire, Van Velsor explains, is also an important part of the Dinkey project and eventually controlled burns will be used on approximately 46,000 acres.

    The Dinkey project, Van Velsor says, restores forest health and will help campers, boaters and fishermen to continue to enjoy this area. Local forest crews employ community residents. And rare species like the Pacific fisher will have better luck finding the black oak where they make their homes.

    If forests grow unchecked with no small fires or thinning, smaller species like white fir and incense cedar will crowd out black oak and other tree species. “A multi-species forest is more resilient, more fire tolerant and healthier in the long term,” Van Velsor says.


    0 0

    Capitol Building

    Library of Congress

    All parts of the country have felt the effects of sequestration. Sequestration was a tool supposedly so egregious that Congress would never let it happen.

     

    Yet, here we are, with people and the government unable to stop furloughs, job losses, and lower revenue to keep the government functioning. Our public lands have certainly not been spared from this indiscriminate budget ax.

    Over the last few months we have seen countless stories about how the sequester is harming the public’s ability to enjoy our public lands, including some of the most iconic national parks, wildlife refuges, and forests in the country. In Yellowstone National Park, funding shortfalls kept roads leading into the park unplowed and snow-covered, leaving many visitors helpless and unable to enter the park. Local businesses were able to pass a hat and pay for the plowing this year, but there are many more examples of sequestration hurting our public lands that have gone unanswered:

    • Santee National Wildlife Refuge in South Carolina is now seeing dramatically reduced hours for its visitor center - closing it completely Saturday, Sunday and Monday every week. Closures like these are happening at Wildlife Refuges across the country.
    • John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Pennsylvania will be cancelling its annual Cradle of Birding Festival which brings in significant tourist dollars to the local businesses and the community.
    • Rocky Mountain National Park will see the closure of 150 campsites and will have limited capacity to respond to backcountry emergencies due to staff cuts.
    • The nation’s most visited National Park Service unit, the Blue Ridge Parkway, will see reduced hours at its visitor’s center, less educational opportunities, and a reduced amount of law enforcement officers.

    These examples are just the beginning as we head towards peak season and Americans plan to visit their public lands in record numbers across the country.  In total, according to congressional staff, the National Park Service will leave 900 permanent jobs unfilled this year and will be hiring 1000 fewer seasonal workers. Access for our public lands will be cut at all 401 national parks, 155 national forests, 561 national wildlife refuges, and more than 258 public land units. All Americans own these public lands and their ability to enjoy them this summer will be severely hampered.

    Even more startling is that sequestration will severely impair our nation’s ability to fight wildfires this year. The United States Forest Service will have to fight fires this season with 500 fewer firefighters and 50 fewer fire engines. As Ernest Mitchell Jr., the US Fire Administrator said, “When fires burn uncontrolled in our nation’s wildlands, it means a loss of homes, businesses . . . and all too often lives.” We are likely to see another historic fire season, similar to last year, and now have significantly less money to fight it.

    With all of these issues bubbling up as a result of sequestration, one would think our Congressmen would be hard at work to fix it all. But no. Instead, members of Congress are unfortunately focused only on the narrowest and most parochial issues that are of immediate concern to locally powerful and loud constituencies.  An example – under the sequester, payments to states of royalty revenues from oil and gas wells on federal lands were cut, because that’s how the (stupid) law that Congress passed  works. So the reaction of both Republicans and Democrats in the states affected is to introduce bills that narrowly focus on making sure that western states get their share of money from federal oil and gas drilling revenues – but NOT working to make sure that communities facing a huge fire threat in drought-stricken parts of the country have adequate federal resources to address that life and property threatening problem, or that Americans have access to their national parks, forests and wildlife refuges for their summer vacations.

    Now it’s no doubt important that states get the mineral revenues that have been sequestered.  But instead of focusing on such narrow issues, it is time for Congress to step up to the plate, get rid of the sequester altogether,  and restore all these critical funds necessary for Americans to benefit from and enjoy the public lands we all own.


    0 0

    Jul 8, 2009

    Excerpts:

    Globally, forests can absorb up to 30 percent of the carbon released by burning fossil fuels.

    But when they are clearcut for lumber and to clear farmland, or allowed to burn uncontrollably, they also release huge amounts of carbon, said Steve Running, professor of ecology at the University of Montana and a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's latest report on global warming.

    "So forests could be a significant part of the solution or could make the problem worse," said Running, who did not take part in either study. "I think this is going to be a very interesting challenge for forest ecosystem management over the next few decades, to see if we can develop a plan of walking the tightrope like this," he said.

    Robert Doudrick, Forest Service staff director for research and development, said the two studies offered valuable information to be considered as the Forest Service tries to keep its options open in the face of an uncertain future over climate and energy.

    "Whether or not carbon is our primary responsibility has yet to be decided," he said. "Whether biomass supply and an energy future for our country will be more important than wildlife habitat are issues that are yet to be decided. We are required on every piece of property to make that sort of decision.

    … Co-author Beverly Law, professor of global change forest science at OSU, said they designed the study because of the growing demand for information about whether forests should be managed as carbon offsets for burning fossil fuels. Currently U.S. forests absorb an estimated 16 percent of the nation's carbon emissions.
     


    0 0

    Dec 21, 2009

    Excerpt:

    WITH its plate full on issues of health care, climate change and war funding, Congress can be excused for putting wilderness protection on the back burner.

    But there's a growing movement among local clergy, city councils and environmental groups to seek added congressional protection to portions of the Angeles National Forest, its rivers, habitat and wild animal species.

    Judging by the recent forest fires, including the Morris Fire, which burned 2,168 acres, and the Station Fire, which burned 161,000 acres, now may be the best time to work to preserve select wilderness areas that are often in great peril.

    Some of our local city councils agree and we credit them for their forward thinking. Pasadena, Claremont, Glendora, La Ca ada Flintridge, La Verne and San Dimas have endorsed additional wild land and wild rivers protection for select areas of the San Gabriel Mountains. The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments also supports the concept.

    Why does the forest need special wilderness protection?


    0 0

    The Wilderness Society's Wildland Fire Program works to change our nation’s approach to fire management to focus on protecting communities, restoring ecosystems, and sustaining fire’s role in fire-dependent landscapes, where safe to do so. Our vision is of a landscape composed of fire-safe communities existing within a larger, healthy forest ecosystem.

    This paper addresses critical components of federal fire management. It is distilled from materials developed by The Wilderness Society’s Wildland Fire Program and substantiated by scientific reports, budget analyses, landscape studies, policy papers and other materials. It focuses on the Forest Service’s State Fire Assistance (SFA) program, which provides financial assistance to states and communities for fire management activities including training, planning, hazardous fuels treatment and purchase of equipment.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2008
    Attachment Size
    PDF iconPositionPaper-StateFireAssistance.pdf 60.28 KB

    0 0

    Audio from California wildlife radio story

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011
    Attachment Size
    Audio iconSoCal-fire-radio-story.mp3 1.65 MB

    0 0

    This press conference was held on July 20, 2011.

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011

    0 0

    Chaparral covers most of our four Southern California national forests, creating important habitat and watershed. But what is chaparral? And why does it burn so frequently here? What can communities do to prevent damage and risk from wildfire?

    Click on the PDF below to view the fact sheet.

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011
    Attachment Size
    PDF iconSocal-Fire-Factsheet.pdf 1.59 MB

    0 0

    Southern California is known for its mild Mediterranean climate where shorts and flip-flops are popular during the hot and sunny summer, sometimes right on through a balmy winter.

    Not nearly as famous, but just as characteristic of the Southland, are its chaparral wild lands. Chaparral is a native plant community of many species, including  chamise, red shank, ceanothus, manzanita, scrub oak and other shrubby plants.

    Chaparral provides essential habitat for many animals and plants. And it acts as Nature’s retaining walls – holding back the soil during heavy rains.

    But the short stature of these shrubs, combined with the waxes, fats and oils in their leaves creates a highly flammable vegetation.  Add some hot southern California weather, steep mountain ranges and strong dry Santa Ana winds and sometimes large wildfires break out.

    However, before you accuse Mother Nature of cruel intentions, here’s the good news about our unique chaparral landscape. Yes Southern California chaparral is fire-prone but it is also a fire-adapted landscape where fire is part of its natural life cycle.

    Chaparral fires have been common for millions of years, and the cycle of fire includes periodic burning. The fires help reduce heavy growth and allow diverse animal and plant species to thrive. The blazes drive a continual cycle of removal and rebirth in chaparral.

    In more modern times human-caused fires are igniting more frequently, while construction of wood-framed homes close to wildlands have increased the risk to life and property. Another fire factor: when chaparral burns too frequently, invasive and non-native grasses take over. These grasses are highly flammable and are often near communities, roads and highways.

    In Southern California, the four national forests – Angeles, San Bernardino, Cleveland and Los Padres – are dominated by chaparral (about 89 percent). But because federal wilderness areas have no roads and just quiet, non-motorized recreation like hunting, hiking, camping and horseback riding, fire rarely starts in these areas.

    Still, Southern California with its prolonged periods of drought, must develop long-term fire solutions, much the way residents plan for earthquakes (a fact of life here). We can adapt to the chaparral landscape.

    The Wilderness Society’s California office advocates for state and local agencies to adopt plans to help the state adapt to the chaparral landscape. We recommend reducing wildfire hazards by:

    • Relying on science-based zoning for new home developments.
    • Creating a defensible space between homes and wild lands.
    • Using fire-wise building construction and retrofitting such as replacing wood shingle roofs with tile or metal and boxing in the eaves.
    • Developing coordinated Fire Management Plans with local, state and federal fire agencies.

    Communities and individuals can do much to protect their homes. There are a number of fire safe councils and public agencies helping people clear brush near buildings and creating fire buffers along roads and between wild lands and inhabited areas.

    Fire is inevitable in Southern California. The challenge is learning to live with it.


    0 0

    Across America’s western regions, our vast green forests are changing colors, but not the traditional fall colors we celebrate this time of year. Millions of acres of pine forests in the central and northern Rockies are turning red, victimized by beetles that used to die off during cold winter months.

    Similarly, vast expanses of forests and rangelands in the Southwest and parts of Texas are blackened in alarming amounts by an increasing number of wildfires.

    Climate scientists, ecologists, forest service officials and outdoor enthusiasts alike are troubled by images of these red and black mountain forests. On the one hand, they know that fire and beetles have always been part of the ecology of a healthy forest. On the other, they are troubled by the frequency and intensity of beetle-kill and fires in the last decade, and the predictions by scientists that these extremes can be expected to worsen in the coming decades.  As described so well in a recent article in the New York Times (“With Deaths of Forests, a Loss of Key Climate Protectors”), we can now see the signs of global warming right before our very eyes, as rising average temperatures and deepening drought reduce the margin of adaptability of natural systems to cope with natural stresses driven to unnatural extremes.

    As our forests degrade, we are losing a vital defense against climate change. Trees absorb about a quarter of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions – equal to nearly all the carbon dioxide spewing from the world’s cars and trucks. When millions of acres of trees die, they not only lose much of their ability to absorb emissions, they can become net carbon sources – emitting more than they absorb. Keeping forests healthy is a fundamental defense against the consequences of man-made climate change.

    But there are limits to what we can accomplish with wiser management.  The root cause of the new hyper-stresses on our forests is not in the forests themselves, but in an energy policy that literally subsidizes the sources of massive destruction.  Current policy subsidizes the consumption of electricity from coal plants, gasoline from oil refineries, and natural gas production from pipelines. The carbon from these polluting sources is dumped into the atmosphere without cost to the polluter, but at great cost to the rest of us and to the forests which protect us.  The beetles take the rap while the polluters take the money and run.

    Understanding the real causes does not mean ignoring the effects. Even if all greenhouse gas emissions ceased immediately, the gases already in the atmosphere would continue threatening our environment.  We are learning more every day about what works to keep forests resilient, and work is begging to be done to restore stream buffers, remove invasive species, reforest after intense fire, and decommission unused logging roads so they don’t become highways for erosion.

    But there are limits to what can be done in the face of change at the scale and pace of global warming.   We don’t have the resources to match the gathering storm, and often the public demand to “do something” sometimes leads policymakers and land managers to overreact by stripping the land of unsightly beetle damage or aggressively suppressing fire in the back country– actions which interfere with nature’s extraordinary ability to heal itself.

    Worse still is the reluctance to speak plainly about the only long-term solution.  The consensus of scientists is that a true catastrophe looms.  It can be blocked, at least partially, if we stop dumping carbon pollution into the air and using clean renewable sources of energy instead.  If we do not, Mother Nature will send us ever stronger, unmistakable, undeniable signals of her own.  They will come in the form of more severe fires in Rick Perry’s Texas, more severe drought in Herman Cain’s Georgia, more severe flooding in Mitt Romney’s New England, and more severe heat waves in Barack Obama’s Chicago.

    Our green landscapes have shown a remarkable ability to regenerate again and again, but their capacity to survive repeated cycles from green to red, to black, and back to green is not infinite.  The future survival of these landscapes is now critically dependent on our willingness to speak out and demand policies that reduce the carbon pollution that is forcing unnatural cycles of burn and blight.

    Are you interested in The Wilderness Society’s work on climate policy?  Check out these links:


    0 0

    For the vast Sierra Nevada, it’s more important than ever to see the forest for the trees.

    And in one area of the Sierra National Forest that bigger picture includes preserving forest health, safeguarding communities from wildfire, improving wildlife habitat and creating local jobs.

    All of those goals are part of a unique forest restoration project underway in the Dinkey area of the Sierra National Forest - a popular recreation destination just east of Fresno. It is hoped that the lessons learned here can serve as a blueprint to improve the health of other forests.

    The science-based program, known as the Dinkey Collaborative Restoration Project, is focused on 154,000 acres of forests, meadows, lakes, rivers and chaparral.

    The Wilderness Society is one of the project’s many diverse partners, which also includes a lumber mill, a utility company, a regional air pollution agency, California Native American tribes, local fire safe councils, the U.S. Forest Service, nonprofit organizations and several universities.

    By working together, these partners are focused on the Dinkey’s dense stands of trees that threaten the health of the forest and its residents – both animal and human.

    In a healthier forest ecosystem, a variety of trees co-exist in a landscape where periodic fire helps to naturally thin out the density. Instead, many areas of the Dinkey are currently packed with too many small trees that are elbowing out other species.

    “Our goal is to retain and promote large tree and denning/nesting structures needed by the Pacific fisher and the California spotted owl and provide sufficient natural regeneration of shade-intolerant tree species for the creation of future fire-adapted forests” explains Stan Van Velsor, a California Wilderness Society forest expert who has been working on the Dinkey collaborative for two years.

    When fire whips through these crowded stands of smaller trees, the fire grows more intense, with flames traveling upwards through the trees - even destroying species like Ponderosa pines which can typically survive smaller fires. The fire then becomes a devastating ‘crown fire’ where flames spread rapidly across the crowns of trees and threatens communities and rare species like the Pacific fisher, a shy, furry mammal that is becoming rare in old growth forests of the Sierra Nevada.

    So far, the Dinkey project has hired local crews to help thin trees on nearly 5,000 acres, much of this near communities with high forest fire danger.  This year, several other projects are in the works:  reintroducing fire on approximately 2,000 acres through prescribed burning, thinning another 2,500 acres of forest and undertaking several watershed improvement projects like erosion control.

    Re-introducing low and moderate intensity fire, Van Velsor explains, is also an important part of the Dinkey project and eventually controlled burns will be used on approximately 46,000 acres.

    The Dinkey project, Van Velsor says, restores forest health and will help campers, boaters and fishermen to continue to enjoy this area. Local forest crews employ community residents. And rare species like the Pacific fisher will have better luck finding the black oak where they make their homes.

    If forests grow unchecked with no small fires or thinning, smaller species like white fir and incense cedar will crowd out black oak and other tree species. “A multi-species forest is more resilient, more fire tolerant and healthier in the long term,” Van Velsor says.


    0 0

    All parts of the country have felt the effects of sequestration. Sequestration was a tool supposedly so egregious that Congress would never let it happen.

     

    Yet, here we are, with people and the government unable to stop furloughs, job losses, and lower revenue to keep the government functioning. Our public lands have certainly not been spared from this indiscriminate budget ax.

    Over the last few months we have seen countless stories about how the sequester is harming the public’s ability to enjoy our public lands, including some of the most iconic national parks, wildlife refuges, and forests in the country. In Yellowstone National Park, funding shortfalls kept roads leading into the park unplowed and snow-covered, leaving many visitors helpless and unable to enter the park. Local businesses were able to pass a hat and pay for the plowing this year, but there are many more examples of sequestration hurting our public lands that have gone unanswered:

    • Santee National Wildlife Refuge in South Carolina is now seeing dramatically reduced hours for its visitor center - closing it completely Saturday, Sunday and Monday every week. Closures like these are happening at Wildlife Refuges across the country.
    • John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Pennsylvania will be cancelling its annual Cradle of Birding Festival which brings in significant tourist dollars to the local businesses and the community.
    • Rocky Mountain National Park will see the closure of 150 campsites and will have limited capacity to respond to backcountry emergencies due to staff cuts.
    • The nation’s most visited National Park Service unit, the Blue Ridge Parkway, will see reduced hours at its visitor’s center, less educational opportunities, and a reduced amount of law enforcement officers.

    These examples are just the beginning as we head towards peak season and Americans plan to visit their public lands in record numbers across the country.  In total, according to congressional staff, the National Park Service will leave 900 permanent jobs unfilled this year and will be hiring 1000 fewer seasonal workers. Access for our public lands will be cut at all 401 national parks, 155 national forests, 561 national wildlife refuges, and more than 258 public land units. All Americans own these public lands and their ability to enjoy them this summer will be severely hampered.

    Even more startling is that sequestration will severely impair our nation’s ability to fight wildfires this year. The United States Forest Service will have to fight fires this season with 500 fewer firefighters and 50 fewer fire engines. As Ernest Mitchell Jr., the US Fire Administrator said, “When fires burn uncontrolled in our nation’s wildlands, it means a loss of homes, businesses . . . and all too often lives.” We are likely to see another historic fire season, similar to last year, and now have significantly less money to fight it.

    With all of these issues bubbling up as a result of sequestration, one would think our Congressmen would be hard at work to fix it all. But no. Instead, members of Congress are unfortunately focused only on the narrowest and most parochial issues that are of immediate concern to locally powerful and loud constituencies.  An example – under the sequester, payments to states of royalty revenues from oil and gas wells on federal lands were cut, because that’s how the (stupid) law that Congress passed  works. So the reaction of both Republicans and Democrats in the states affected is to introduce bills that narrowly focus on making sure that western states get their share of money from federal oil and gas drilling revenues – but NOT working to make sure that communities facing a huge fire threat in drought-stricken parts of the country have adequate federal resources to address that life and property threatening problem, or that Americans have access to their national parks, forests and wildlife refuges for their summer vacations.

    Now it’s no doubt important that states get the mineral revenues that have been sequestered.  But instead of focusing on such narrow issues, it is time for Congress to step up to the plate, get rid of the sequester altogether,  and restore all these critical funds necessary for Americans to benefit from and enjoy the public lands we all own.

    Capitol Building

    Library of Congress