President Joe Biden is joining other world leaders in highlighting the importance of preserving forests as a force against global warming. He spoke about the issue at the climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland on Tuesday.
By Bradley W. Parks
Timber and environmental groups have reached an agreement that sets Oregon on a course to overhaul management of 10 million acres of private forestlands in the state.
The deal, announced Saturday by Gov. Kate Brown’s office, concludes more than a year of negotiations between often at-odds sides to develop a plan to boost protections for vulnerable fish and wildlife while shielding the timber industry’s ability to log.
Friday was the deadline for both sides to either reach consensus, abandon the process or move the deadline. Negotiators worked through the day Friday and wrapped up business shortly after 1 a.m. Saturday. Brown and her staff helped push the negotiations to completion.
“Today’s historic agreement is a perfect example of the Oregon Way –– coming together at the table to find common ground, to the mutual benefit of us all,” Brown said in a press release. “Together, this agreement will help to ensure that Oregon continues to have healthy forests, fish, and wildlife, as well as economic growth for our forest industry and rural communities, for generations to come. I would like to thank everyone involved for their role in making this agreement a reality today.”
Jim James with the Oregon Small Woodlands Association similarly praised the compromise. “We were able to put down the contentious situations that we’ve had in the past and we had a continuous agreement to move forward,” James said. “I think that’s an extreme positive for the state of Oregon.”
In 2020, the sides each planned a series of competing ballot measures that could have turned into a costly political fight. Environmental groups sought, among other priorities, strict limits on spraying of aerial pesticides and improved protection for forest waters. Meanwhile, the timber industry sought compensation for private landowners when state regulations limited their ability to log.
Brown instead pushed for the two sides to negotiate, and their agreement to do so was hailed as historic even then, though it was just a beginning.
Representatives from the timber industry and environmental groups were charged with setting terms to pursue a statewide habitat conservation plan to safeguard fish, wildlife and water quality. A habitat conservation plan, or HCP, is a tool that allows practices like logging or irrigation to continue while minimizing damage to wildlife habitat.
Saturday’s deal sets in motion what could be a lengthy, possibly yearslong process to craft, approve and adopt an HCP into law and begin implementation.
MINSK, 15 September (BelTA) – Over the past five years the forest reserves in Belarus increased by 95,000 hectares, First Deputy Forestry Minister Valentin Shatravko told reporters at a press conference on 15 September, BelTA has learned.
“The Belarusian model of public forest management is gaining wider recognition at the international level, and there are grounds for this. Due to the efforts of domestic foresters, the quality of the forest reserves has improved. The area of forest reserves has been constantly growing over the past 30 years to reach 9.6 million hectares, the total forested area is 8.3 million hectares. The latter has grown by 95,000 hectares literally within five years,” the first deputy minister said.
Valentin Shatravko also pointed to the increase in the proportion of land area covered by forests. “The total reserves of plantings are also on the rise. Today they make up 1.838 billion cubic meters. The stock of mature and over-mature trees is also growing; it already amounts to over 400 million cubic meters. The average yield of wood per hectare keeps growing, too. Not it stands at 223 cubic meters per hectare. The intensity of forest use is consistently increasing throughout the country, which, among other things, has to do with an increase in the area under mature forests. At the same time, forestry industry complies with all environmental regulations. The efficiency of forest management is increased without jeopardizing the environment and biological diversity,” the first deputy minister emphasized.
“Within three years, all areas that were under forests are being reforested. Earlier, we were concerned by the drying out of pine forests, which peaked in 2018 and was aggravated by the drying up of spruce forests. But these days, the amount of forest restoration and recovery activities shrank by more than 10 times over 2018. This suggests that the situation has stabilized and is under control. Yet, forests are constantly monitored in order to prevent similar situations in the future,” Valentin Shatravko added.
By Char Miller
As western wildfires burn through millions of forested acres, they are igniting debates about our response that are almost as heated as the flames themselves.
The leaders of the U.S. Forest Service have known that fire begets discord since 1905, when Gifford Pinchot became the federal agency’s first chief. Randy Moore, who was sworn in as the 20th chief on July 26, is no stranger to the conflict, after his decade-long service as the agency’s regional forester for California. Since 2017, that fire-prone state — and its many national forests — have endured its eight largest fires ever.
Despite his extensive experience, Moore probably did not expect to be burned even before assuming his new post. But he was, courtesy of a lightning-struck, smoldering pine rooted in a granite-rough ridge in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in early July.
When the fire was spotted, Forest Service personnel determined there was no immediate danger of fire spread. They would monitor it. But for the health of the forest, where fire is regenerative, and for reasons of resource management and firefighter safety, this was the kind of fire they wouldn’t move immediately to put it out.
A week later, gusting winds fanned sparks outward, and what came to be known as the Tamarack fire has been burning ever since. Although the 68,000-acre blaze now is more than 80% contained, there has been no containing the resulting fight that erupted over the initial handling of the fire.
Angry California and Nevada politicians attacked the Forest Service’s decision not to extinguish the smoking tree. On July 20, Rep. Tom McClintock demanded that the outgoing chief retract the “current U.S. Forest Service direction that allows wildfires to burn and instruct all Regional Foresters that all wildfires should be suppressed as soon as possible.”
Moore responded with a memo Aug. 2. He conceded that in a “fire year different from any before” the Forest Service should stop managing fires for “resource benefit” — that is, to improve ecosystem health — and instead suppress them. “We are in a ‘triage mode,’” he wrote, and the agency’s focus now “must be on fires that threaten communities and infrastructure.” This was, he concluded, the most “prudent course of action now in a situation that is dynamic and fluid.”
Moore’s “prudent course … now” language, however, isn’t prudent enough for some. The National Wildfire Institute, a suppression-friendly bloc of retired Forest Service officials, said the initial Tamarack decision bore the “hallmarks of criminal negligence.” “It’s time,” they wrote in a letter to Moore, “to declare that all fires will be promptly and aggressively extinguished, period.”
But other Forest Service veterans disagree, urging the new chief to reverse his Aug. 2 directive.
By Laura Lundquist
Federal and state leaders laud not only the ability of Montanans to hash out tough issues but also the way collaboration has gotten several timber projects into production.
That was evident from the speeches of Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney and Jim Hubbard, U.S. Department of Agriculture undersecretary, who kicked off the Montana Forest Collaboration Network’s annual two-day workshop in Missoula.
The two men praised the efforts of Montana’s collaborative groups, represented by the 120 participants in the audience, that have put many hours into finding agreement on which forest tracts have “the right acres in the right places” to sustain commercial timber projects.
“In an age where political polarization often threatens the progress of important policy, you all quietly keep coming back to the table, year after year,” Cooney said. “You find sensible paths forward by engaging diverse local perspectives, treating one another like neighbors in advancing plans that ultimately can achieve durable returns for our forests and our communities.”
Cooney said that kind of cooperation was one reason Gov. Steve Bullock was able to make Montana the first state to sign a stewardship agreement with the U.S. Forest Service, allowing the state to negotiate with federal, tribal and private partners to thin trees or use prescribed burns regardless of who manages the area. Thus, foresters can focus on any region that might be important for reducing wildfire risk near communities. Yet, only seven other states have signed shared stewardship agreements.
Hubbard said being able to work across multiple jurisdictions is necessary to do work at a large enough scale to be effective at slowing a potential wildfire. But when it comes to wildfire, thinning projects go only so far.
“There’s no way in the world we’re going to protect all the communities that are at risk of fire in the West. There’s no way in the world we’re going to treat all the acres that need treatment. So which ones are we going to go for? That’s the shared priority, to decide what we want to do together,” Hubbard said. “Also, the community has to be engaged, because if the community isn’t paying attention, all that land treatment is not necessarily going to reduce their risk very much.”
Bullock was also among the first to sign a Good Neighbor agreement. The 2014 Farm Bill created the Good Neighbor Authority to allow states to log timber on federal land adjacent to state or private land undergoing thinning operations. The 2018 Farm Bill broadened that authority.
By Michael Gorman
Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin is promising “significant” changes to the province’s forestry sector as the government embraces more sustainable management. But critics say the government’s plan lacks important detail.
Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin is promising a more sustainable forestry sector in Nova Scotia and less clear cutting as the province implements recommendations from the Lahey review of forestry practices, although how big that reduction will be remains to be seen.
The government’s long-awaited response to the report was released Monday and received positive reactions from critics and industry, though some said the province’s plan was short on detail.
“Forestry is a long-standing economic driver in Nova Scotia and it’s important we get it right,” Rankin said in a news release.
“We accept Prof. Lahey’s findings and will immediately begin work to put in place the tools to achieve ecological forestry in Nova Scotia. This will result in significant changes to the way forests will be managed, including less clear cutting on Crown land.”
Bill Lahey, the president of University of King’s College, presented his final report in August.
The predominant theme of the report was reducing clear cutting to 20 to 25 per cent of all harvesting on Crown land from 65 per cent.
The report recommended using a “triad model” that would see some areas used for intensive commercial forestry, some protected from all commercial activity, and some designated for less intensive forestry with little to no clear cutting.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.