AMAZING CREATURES

A wide diversity of remarkable animals calls longleaf pine flatwoods and sandhills habitats home. Here, discover species special to naturalist Dirk Stevenson. He has spent much of his life in the Coastal Plain of the southeastern United States wading swamps and exploring pine landscapes in his field studies of imperiled and declining amphibians, reptiles and insects.

Here, Dirk authors accounts of the deep-digging gopher tortoise, a denizen of longleaf sandhills and a keystone species; and the gopher frog and the eastern indigo snake, which have developed intimate associations within the burrows of the tortoise. Discover the secretive frosted flatwoods salamander, an amphibian of mesic longleaf pine savannas, and take a closer look at the odd Say’s spiketail dragonfly. The nymphs of this predatory insect live in mucky springs while the adults hunt for wasps and bees in longleaf pine – turkey oak sandhills. And last is the industrious and comical southeastern pocket gopher, whose numerous mounds can be seen from space.

Source: AMAZING CREATURES – NRCS, 2019-11-05

The Trees and the Forest of New Towers

By Stephen Wallis
As engineered wood evolves as a construction material, the sky is becoming the limit for timber office and institutional buildings.

Michael Green has seen the future of the building industry, and that future is wood. Lots of wood. The Vancouver-based architect is among the most ardent proponents of what is known as mass timber, prefabricated structural wood components that can be used to construct buildings — even large-scale buildings — faster, with less waste and eventually with less money.

Most crucially, Mr. Green and others say, building with mass timber can ameliorate climate change because it produces less in greenhouse gas emissions than construction with concrete and steel. And wood has the benefit of storing the carbon dioxide trees absorb during their growth, keeping it out of the atmosphere indefinitely.

“Roughly 11 percent of the global carbon footprint is related to what buildings are made out of,” said Mr. Green, whose mass-timber projects include the T3 office building in Minneapolis (the name stands for timber, technology and transportation) and a pair of buildings for Oregon State University’s College of Forestry, including a research and development facility for the school’s TallWood Design Institute.

Over the next 40 years, he added, it is estimated that nearly 2.5 trillion square feet of new construction will be needed to support growth in the world’s increasingly dense urban areas, according to the 2017 Global Status Report issued by the United Nations Environment Program. “If we continue to build the way we are,” Mr. Green said, “we are absolutely not going to meet any kind of climate objective, and we’re going to change our children’s future forever in a pretty bad way.”

While cutting down trees to make buildings may not sound environmentally sensitive, mass timber supporters argue that wood could be harvested from sustainably managed forests.

Increasing numbers of architects, developers, governments, educational institutions and corporations are embracing wood. In Biel, Switzerland, Swatch Group just completed three buildings said to be among the largest timber construction projects in the world. Designed by Shigeru Ban, an architect admired for his innovative use of wood, the complex includes a serpentine company headquarters wrapped in a spectacular latticed timber facade.

Source: The Trees and the Forest of New Towers – New York Times, 2019-11-20

Research looks into 400 years of Pennsylvania’s forests, which have been ‘completely transformed’

By Marcus Schneck
Researchers at Penn State and other universities investigate historic influences on modern forests.

While forests of the northeastern U.S., from Pennsylvania north to Maine, may hold mostly the same tree species as they did 400 years ago, significant differences emerge under closer inspection.

“If you only looked at a tree species list, you’d have the impression that Northeast forests haven’t changed,” explained Jonathan Thompson, research associate at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. “But once you start mapping the trees, and counting them up, a different picture emerges. In some ways the forest is completely transformed.”

While forests of the northeastern U.S., from Pennsylvania north to Maine, may hold mostly the same tree species as they did 400 years ago, significant differences emerge under closer inspection.

“If you only looked at a tree species list, you’d have the impression that Northeast forests haven’t changed,” explained Jonathan Thompson, research associate at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. “But once you start mapping the trees, and counting them up, a different picture emerges. In some ways the forest is completely transformed.”

The researchers found that farming was the most significant factor in today’s composition of the forest. If more than half of a town was farmed, the local forests likely have changed considerably from their colonial-era selves.

But, even as the composition of the forests changes, the forest as a landscape type is resilient across the region and, short of significant human development, will return to that state, explained David Foster, director of the Harvard Forest.

Source: Research looks into 400 years of Pennsylvania’s forests, which have been ‘completely transformed’ – pennlive.com, 2019-11-21

Pennsylvanians hold the fate of the state’s woodlands in their hands

By Marylouise Sholly
Pennsylvanians hold the health of the state’s woodlands in their hands, literally.

Allyson Muth believes in educating people about the Commonwealth’s precious resource. Of the 60 percent of Pennsylvania woods that remain forested, 70% of them are privately owned.

“That is a tremendous number,” said Muth, director of Penn State University’s Center for Private Forests. “Our goal is to engage and educate people about their woodland.”

A key part of that education is learning how to be good stewards of the land. To ensure the continuing health of Pennsylvania’s forests, the Center focuses on outreach and education to agencies, landowners and the public.

A forest is defined as at least 1 acre of land that’s not maintained as lawn, with the primary vegetation being trees.

Privately owned forested land is owned by 738,000 landowners, according to the last survey, taken in 2010, Muth said. Interestingly, more than 60 percent of those landowners own less than 10 acres.

About one-fourth of the Commonwealth’s forests are owned by the state, including state parks and forests, state game lands and the Ft. Indiantown Gap Pennsylvania National Guard training facility.

Less than 5% is federally owned, including the Allegheny National Forest.

A recent survey conducted by the Center that asked folks what they liked about having their own forest brought some surprising answers, Muth said.

Using firewood or cutting timber was way down on the survey.

“We asked the owners what was important to them,” Muth said. ” The top two answers were ‘solitude’ and ‘enjoyment.’ We also had comments like, ‘it’s my little piece of paradise,’ and ‘it’s something I own that I can care for.’ ”

Source: Pennsylvanians hold the fate of the state’s woodlands in their hands – The Murcury, 2019-11-20

Is Florida the Answer to California’s Fire Problem?

By James Steinbauer
The secret to fewer fires may be having more people in the state who can start them.

Scientists and land managers almost universally agree that prescribed fire is the single best tool available to help mitigate wildfire risk. Landowners in the American Southeast use more prescribed fire than in any other part of the country. But across much of the American West—which has captured an outsize proportion of the public imagination around wildfire—scientists say land management agencies aren’t using fire nearly enough.

In 2017, federal and state forest managers, ranchers, and private property owners in Florida, which many fire scientists consider the prescribed fire capital of the country, burned more than 2 million acres, according to data compiled by the nonprofit Climate Central. That same year, California—which is twice the size of Florida and has six times more acres in public land—burned less than 50,000 acres. Oregon burned 48,000, Idaho 33,000, Montana 24,000, and Nevada 5,000.


Like in Florida, Native American cultures throughout the United States used fire to manage the land. But in the West, much of the land taken from Indigenous groups was redrawn as public “forest preserves.” In the absence of Native American land management, many of the places where they had previously used fire to clear the landscape became dense and overgrown. In 1910, a series of wildfires burned more than 3 million acres of forest in Montana, Idaho, and Washington. Known collectively as the Big Blowup, the blazes spooked the nascent US Forest Service into adopting a policy that demanded all fires be put out by 10 A.M. the day after they were reported. Because much of this land was publicly owned, federal land management agencies could efficiently enforce this policy of suppression.

In southeastern states, such as Florida, where most forestland is privately owned, people simply never stopped burning it. Even the US Forest Service in the Southeast dabbled with prescribed fire—the first-ever lit on federal land was in Osceola National Forest in 1943.

Source: Is Florida the Answer to California’s Fire Problem? – Sierra, 2019-11-16

Professor conducts research using trees in Mexico

By Krissy Waite
For the past nine years, Paula Turkon, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences at Ithaca College, has been working on creating a timeline that can be used to date environmental and cultural changes in Northwestern Mexico using trees.

“The work that we’re doing is still preliminary,” Turkon said. “We’re building what we call a master sequence, and that can then be used to interpret things, but the construction of it is slow work because we don’t have anything to compare it to.”

Turkon’s research, “Chronology, Climate, and Culture in Prehispanic Mesoamerica: Contribution of Tree-Ring Studies,” aims to understand climate events — like droughts and heavy rainfall periods — and cultural changes in Northwestern Mexico using dendrochronology, or the study of tree rings. She said she became interested in this region when she was invited by her graduate school adviser to work there. Once there, she said, she wondered how people lived and produced food in such a dry environment.

The research is funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation. Turkon also works through Cornell University’s Tree-Ring Laboratory. She also works closely with colleagues at the National Institute of Forestry, Agricultural and Livestock Research and the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico.

Turkon said her original research focused on understanding the degree to which people in this region were dependent on agriculture, which correlates with the amount of rainfall in the desert. She said she had trouble answering questions related to how agricultural and cultural changes happened because the data she had to reference were food remains, which are hard to put a date on. She said she also wondered if the variability of rainfall in the arid area was a factor in the past. She said she thought she could answer both questions using dendrochronology.

Dendrochronology is a technique in which the annual growth rings in trees, commonly known as tree rings, are studied to date events and environmental changes. Turkon said rainfall is the biggest factor that generally affects tree growth in the areas in Mexico where she takes samples. This means that a bigger, thicker tree ring could indicate a good rainfall year and a thinner tree ring could indicate a bad rainfall year. In Northern Mexico, it rains between 9.2 and 26.2 inches per year. Other factors, like the tree’s species, can also affect tree ring growth. Turkon said this technique has not been applied in this region of Mexico before.

Source: Professor conducts research using trees in Mexico – The Ithacan, 2019-11-06

A forestry legacy connects generations

A 50-year forestry anniversary complements CSU’s 115-year forestry legacy we celebrate this sesquicentennial year.

by Karina Puikkonen
There’s something you need to know about forests.

They change.

Year after year, saplings reach toward sunlit sky with protection from the mature canopy trees above. When they are strong enough to stand and large enough to shield, they become part of the canopy too and begin adding to the collective strength of the forest. The cycle renews.

Forests persist and adapt. It’s a beautiful natural cycle and a fitting metaphor for the people who have built Colorado State University’s forestry legacy. Forestry students, alumni, faculty, and staff, honor 20th century roots while being stewards of progress.

Fall 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Society of American Foresters (SAF) Alpha Chapter. The Alpha title designates a milestone for both the university and a professional society that advances the sustainable management of forest resources. CSU Alpha was the first SAF student chapter in the nation.

The Alpha seed rooted in the good ground of CSU’s enduring forestry program. Luminaries of this legacy stand among student saplings rising to join them as pillars in this specialized field. While following the well-trodden path their forbearers laid, students in the Alpha chapter also recognize they must blaze their own way in a rapidly changing climate.

Source: A forestry legacy connects generations – Warner College of Natural Resources, 2019-11-06

Manufacturing lumber for your new deck

Looking to build a new deck? You’ll probably want to use high quality 5/4 decking, likely made of southern yellow pine. Much of it comes from the Gulf coastal lowlands of Florida where slash pine (Pinus elliotii) grows in abundance. Whether from natural stands or plantations, slash pine grows straight and clear, making it ideal for this product.

On October 15, 2019, members of the Florida Society of American Foresters toured the Conifex Timber, Inc. sawmill in Cross City to see for themselves. Conifex, a British Columbia firm, purchased the Suwannee Lumber Company mill in 2018 and owns two other U.S. mills in Arkansas. Raw material and markets align to make decking the primary product for the Cross City mill although one-inch and dimensional lumber are also produced.

Here’s a basic outline of the process:

  • Timber dealers deliver loads of sawtimber to the mill’s yard where they are weighed, off-loaded, and stored.
  • Logs at sawmill yard
    Sawlogs ready for processing
  • When ready for processing, logs are debarked, analyzed for grade, and cut to optimal length.
  • Control panel for logs being cut to length
    Control panel for logs being cut to length
  • The log sections, or bolts, are sorted based primarily on diameter before being sawn.
  • Bolts of various lengths ready to be sawn into lumber
    Small diameter bolts of various lengths ready to be sawn into lumber
  • Each bolt is scanned and the saws are set to produce the highest value combination of boards possible.
  • Cants to be sawn into boards
    Cants to be sawn into boards
  • The rough lumber is sorted into bundles according to length, width, and thickness, then stacked for drying.
  • Bundles of rough lumber sorted by size
    Bundles of rough lumber sorted by size
  • Stacks of green lumber are sent through continuous-feed, sawdust-fired kilns to reduce the moisture content.
  • Lumber stacked for drying
    Lumber stacked for drying
  • The dried boards are planed and then bundled for shipping
  • A finished bundle of 5/4 decking ready for shipment
    A finished bundle of 5/4 decking ready for shipment

The optimization algorithms are adjusted roughly weekly based on changes in lumber prices. While maximizing the value of the mill’s output in real time is crucial, the specific needs of long-term customers must also be considered. The mill’s lumber finds its way into the products of many secondary manufacturers including mobile home builders and wood treatment facilities. Nothing goes to waste. Sawdust produces energy, bark becomes mulch, and shavings provide bedding for horses.

The operation provides a lot to think about as you’re lounging on that new deck.

The Forest Service Is About to Set a Giant Forest Fire—On Purpose


By Maddie Stone
A man-made blaze on a remote Utah mountainside could provide valuable insights into the behavior of the powerful wildfires growing more and more common out West.

Sometime later this month or in early November, if the weather cooperates, the U.S. Forest Service will fly a pair of fire-spitting helicopters over a remote mountain in southern Utah and set the forest ablaze.

While the helicopters are pelting burning liquid fuel at the treetops, dozens of firefighters will be providing support on the ground, using drip torches and flamethrowers to create a towering wall of flame that will stretch from the forest floor to the sky. As the heat builds and the blaze roars across spruce- and fir-stippled canopies, a small army of scientists will launch weather balloons and drones, drive radar- and LIDAR-equipped trucks around the perimeter, fly specialized research planes overhead, and gather data on fire-hardened GoPro cameras to analyze the inferno from start to finish.

It will be among the fiercest controlled burns scientists have ever studied in the wild—“as close to a wildfire as you can expect,” says Roger Ottmar, the principal investigator for the Forest Service–led Fire and Smoke Model Evaluation Experiment (FASMEE). The goal? To collect data on every aspect of the fire at once, in order to improve the models scientists and land managers use to predict the impacts of fires. That will allow the agency to oversee more controlled burns on landscapes that need fire to thrive, and the data will also provide insight into the large, intense blazes that keep erupting across the West—the types of unruly fires that climate change and changing land-use patterns are making more common.

“The more experiments we can do, the better we can understand fire behavior in a changing climate,” says Craig Clements, the director of the Fire Weather Research Laboratory at San Jose State University and the science lead for FASMEE’s plume-dynamics and meteorology team. “This is the opportunity of a lifetime.”

The opportunity exists only because of the very specific ecological challenges facing Fishlake National Forest’s Monroe Mountain. The upcoming burn is part of a larger restoration project the Forest Service launched back in 2015 to revive the area’s ailing aspens, explains Linda Chappell, the regional fuels program manager. These trees, which provide food and shelter for a wide array of animals, including elk, rabbits, porcupines, beavers, and countless birds, have been declining across the West for decades due in part to overgrazing by deer and livestock. Drought and disease have hit hard, too. And aspens, a clonal species, need wildfires to cue their roots to put out new “suckers,” or sprouts. Around Monroe Mountain, the frequency of wildfires has dropped dramatically over the past century, allowing a mix of conifer species to slowly take over.

One of the most effective ways to bring aspens back is to ignite a “crown fire”: a really big, really hot fire that jumps from treetop to treetop and sends flames writhing upward into the sky. The work is being done piecemeal over the course of a decade in order to introduce as much variation as possible into the mountain ecosystem. “We want a crazy quilt of aspen ages and a crazy quilt of conifer ages,” Chappell says. Because these prescribed crown fires are so similar to wildfires in terms of their intensity, the restoration project served as the ideal natural laboratory for FASMEE to piggyback onto.

Source: The Forest Service Is About to Set a Giant Forest Fire—On Purpose – The Atlantic, 2019-10-24

Green Bonds Worth $150 Million Will Conserve Millions Of Acres Of At-Risk Forests

By Jeff Kart
The Conservation Fund has a goal of conserving 5 million acres of at-risk forests in the next 15 years. They’ve announced the closing of unique 10-year green bonds totaling $150 million. What does that mean? Pictures can tell part of the story.

The problem: Forests in America are being broken up and developed. In the last 30 years, 36 million acres have been lost. Another 37 million acres could be lost in coming decades if the situation is left unchecked, according to the fund, headquartered in Arlington, Virginia.

And besides turning carbon dioxide into oxygen, offsetting as much as a fifth of the nation’s carbon emissions, forests support more than 8.5 million jobs, according to Larry Selzer, CEO of the fund. Selzer says the bonds are the first step in scaling up to a goal of conserving 5 million acres in the next 15 years.

Proceeds from the bonds will go to scale up The Conservation Fund’s Working Forest Fund, which is dedicated to mitigating climate change, strengthening rural economies and protecting natural ecosystems.

This happens through the permanent conservation of at-risk working forests, according to the nonprofit. The term “working forest” refers to land that’s “sustainably managed to supply a steady, renewable supply of wood for industry and consumer purposes while also providing jobs and community benefits.”

John Gilbert, executive vice president and chief financial officer with The Conservation Fund, says the bonds should be fully utilized in the next six to nine months. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. was sole underwriter, Bloomberg notes.

“We are going to intervene and buy the most important, at-risk forests when they come up for sale with the bond proceeds,” Gilbert says. “This is how we stop the sellers from fragmenting the forests, and how we buy time for public agencies to put funding in place that permanently protects the forests in a balanced way for nature, recreation and local jobs.”

Anyone can buy one of the bonds, but like most corporate and municipal bonds, they are primarily sold to big investors and institutional accounts. “There was high interest among investors in these green bonds, and they were oversubscribed by 2.5 times the $150 million supply,” Gilbert added.

Source: Green Bonds Worth $150 Million Will Conserve Millions Of Acres Of At-Risk Forests – Forbes, 2019-10-16