Foresters struggle to tell tree tales

By Rob Chaney
If a tree issue blows up in the forest, does anyone hear it?

Considering that eight of every 10 Americans live in big cities, that’s a problem for the Society of American Foresters. On Friday, the organization of forest professionals, loggers, mill workers, academics and government land managers gathered to puzzle how to better get their stories told.

Because while millions of Americans may never see a Ponderosa pine burn in a wildfire, they will breathe the smoke and may cancel their vacation plans and might pay more taxes for disaster relief. Meanwhile, the assembled society members at the University of Montana struggled with their own mixed messages, long-standing mistrust of opponents and unfamiliarity with a fast-changing media landscape.

“If we can’t get our collective act together, how can we expect the public to come around to broader agreement on forest issues?” asked Dave Atkins, a retired forester who now runs the online Treesource.org media outlet and serves on the National Association of Forest Professionals communication committee. He cited a recent NAFP survey that found 45 percent of U.S. and Canadian residents think that trees are harvested in national parks and protected areas (not true), and 64 percent believe deforestation is a major threat in North America (forests here are shrinking, but not at the rate of tropical forests in the Amazon or Indonesia).

“We have to take responsibility for the fact that people don’t understand what the forest condition really is,” Atkins said. “Seventy-one percent of the respondents had not heard about a forestry sector story in the past year. In places like Montana, we see this stuff all the time. But 83 percent of Americans live in urban areas.”

Source: Foresters struggle to tell tree tales – Missoulian, 2017-04-14

Trump hiring freeze leaves Forest Service workers wondering about firefighting jobs

By Rob Chaney
Federal workers scrambled on Tuesday to interpret how President Donald Trump’s hiring freeze of civilian employees might affect seasonal firefighters and other part-time employees.Trump’s order, issued Monday, stated “no vacant positions existing at noon on January 22, 2017, may be filled and no new positions may be created, except in limited circumstances.”

“The head of any executive department or agency may exempt from the hiring freeze any positions that it deems necessary to meet national security or public safety responsibilities,” the order continued. “In addition, the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) may grant exemptions from this freeze where those exemptions are otherwise necessary.”

National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) Council President Melissa Baumann said the order left her in the dark about U.S. Forest Service staffing, especially with hiring fairs for permanent firefighting professionals starting next week.

Source: Trump hiring freeze leaves Forest Service workers wondering about firefighting jobs | Local | missoulian.com, 2017-01-24

American Loggers Council Outlines Priorities for New President, Congress

By Daniel Drucktor
The American Loggers Council (ALC) today outlined key priorities for the 115th United States Congress and the Trump Administration’s first two years. As the national organization representing America’s professional timber harvesters, ALC believes the new Congress and President should take advantage of an historic opportunity to protect and create family-wage jobs.

“Voters sent a clear message that it’s time to put Americans back to work, and strengthening the forest products industry is one way to accomplish that goal in communities across the country,” said Daniel Dructor, ALC Executive Vice President. “Professional timber harvesters provide the raw materials that supports manufacturing jobs in many sectors, from lumber to renewable energy. Many logging companies are small, family-owned businesses. To keep American loggers working in the woods, President Trump and Congress should pursue reforms in federal regulations and land management, as well as labor, transportation and energy policies.”

Source: American Loggers Council Outlines Priorities for New President, Congress – PRWeb, 2017-01-20

Which tropical forest conservation strategies are proving most effective?

A collection of studies published by the journal PLOS ONE earlier this month evaluates the effectiveness of numerous tropical forest conservation policies and programs in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

By Mike Gaworecki
A multitude of conservation strategies are currently deployed across the tropics in order to curb deforestation, preserve biodiversity, and mitigate global warming. But conservationists and researchers often point to a need for more and better evaluations of the effectiveness of this diversity of conservation initiatives in order to determine what actually works and what doesn’t.

A collection of studies published by the journal PLOS ONE earlier this month seeks to fill this knowledge gap by evaluating the effectiveness of numerous tropical forest conservation policies and programs in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, including certification schemes, community-based forest management, forest law enforcement, payments for ecosystem services, and protected areas.

An overview study led by Jan Börner of Germany’s University of Bonn and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) focuses on annual forest cover change as a measure of the conservation effects estimated by the 14 studies in the collection. The latest assessment by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization found that Earth’s overall natural forest cover continues to shrink, though at a slower annual rate than in the past. “Reduced deforestation rates may be the result of slower economic growth, decreasing demand for cleared land in urbanizing economies, or a sign that conservation policies are succeeding,” Börner and his co-authors write in the overview study.

Source: Which tropical forest conservation strategies are proving most effective? – Mongabay

New interactive website presents data on federal aid to local governments in the American West

BY ALEX SHASHKEVICH
To this day the U.S. government owns almost half of the land in the American West.

That level of control has been debated ever since the government began acquiring the areas in the 19th century, with some Westerners resenting the vastness of the federal authority, which amounts to 47 percent of land in 11 states. Some states, like Nevada, where the government owns 84.5 percent of the land, see more control than others.

But few know about the existence and history of revenue-sharing programs, with some dating to 1906, through which the federal government has been compensating states and counties for lost tax revenue on the lands it controls.

Now, thanks to historian Joseph “Jay” Taylor’s research and a team at Stanford’s Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA), the history and geography of those programs are presented in Follow the Money: A Spatial History of In-Lieu Programs for Western Federal Lands, an interactive website that maps federal payments made to counties and states in the American West over the past 100 years.

Source: New interactive Stanford website presents unexamined data on federal programs that aid local governments in the American West | Stanford News

SAF Advocacy & Outreach

The Society of American Foresters Government Affairs and External Relations Team works with policymakers, partner organizations, and key coalitions to provide a unified voice for sustainable forest management and forestry and natural resources professionals. Documents related to the team’s work are posted on SAF’s website for both members and the general public.

Recently, SAF submitted a letter to Senate Committees and Energy Bill Conferees on wildfire funding and forest management. Over 50 percent of the US Forest Service budget goes toward putting out fires, literally. Solving the wildfire funding issue will be a long and arduous process. Since the overall budget has remained flat, rising costs mean all Forest Service programs suffer, including research and development and on-the-ground work to improve forest health, productivity, and resilience. The letter urges Senate committee members and energy bill conferees to work toward a solution to this situation.

Source: Advocacy & Outreach