A Year Round Fire Season?

Burning PineThere was a time when fire season for Western states meant only certain months out of the year. Not so long ago the U.S. Forest Service considered it primarily a summer problem with a few regions breaking the trend in early spring and late fall.

But climate change, according to most wildland fire experts, has turned fire season into a year-round issue.

What used to slow down fire season was winter—a long and cold time of year with lots of snow that killed off many invasive or destructive pests and filled rivers and reservoirs with ample water to supply the needs of millions living in the West.

California Spotted Owl Conservation Strategy

California Spotted OwlThe Forest Service is leading an effort to prepare a Conservation Strategy for the California spotted owl (CSO). The strategy will help conserve and sustain the CSO population in the Sierra Nevada/Cascade region.

This strategy will be useful not only to the Forest Service, but also to other land management agencies and researchers.

Our goal is to complete the strategy in fall 2016.

Despite second quarter jump, West coast log and lumber exports down from 2014 totals

usfs-logoPORTLAND, Ore. August 14, 2015. Log exports from Washington, Oregon, northern California, and Alaska totaled 329 million board feet in volume in the second quarter of 2015, an increase of more than 21 percent compared to the first quarter of 2015, the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station reported today. During this same period, west coast lumber exports increased by 16 percent to 189 million board feet.

The total value of these exports also increased compared to the first quarter of 2015—by 20 percent for log exports, to a total of $240 million, and by more than 12 percent for lumber exports, to a total of $139 million.

Despite these recent increases, west coast exports of logs and lumber in the first half of 2015 are lower than they were during the first half of 2014.

Drought Conditions at Lowest Point since Autumn 2010

usfs logoNationally, we are seeing extreme to exceptional (D3 to D4) drought conditions fall to their lowest point in more than 6 years.  Nowhere is that change more dramatic than in California.  The current (February 21, 2017) Drought Monitor for California notes the disappearance of D3/D4 from California.  At the California drought’s peak from August-October 2014, that percentage was nearly 82 percent.  As recently as early-December 2016, coverage of D3/D4 in California stood at 43 percent.

Federal Agencies Offer Vision to Ensure Future Generations Can Enjoy Wildernes

BLM-logoWashington, D.C. - The Federal land management agencies that make up the National Wilderness Preservation System signed an agreement that will guide interagency collaboration and vision to ensure the continued preservation of nearly 110 million acres of the most primitive of public lands.

The 2020 Vision: Interagency stewardship priorities for America’s National Wilderness Preservation System will guide the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Geological Survey, all under the U.S. Department of Interior; and the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Forest Fires in Sierra Nevada Driven by Past Land Use

Firefighter with drip torch setting a prescribed burn

Changes in human uses of the land have had a large impact on fire activity in California’s Sierra Nevada since 1600, according to new research

Forest fire activity in California's Sierra Nevada since 1600 has been influenced more by how humans used the land than by climate, according to new research led by University of Arizona and Penn State scientists.

For the years 1600 to 2015, the team found four periods, each lasting at least 55 years, where the frequency and extent of forest fires clearly differed from the time period before or after.

However, the shifts from one fire regime to another did not correspond to changes in temperature or moisture or other climate patterns until temperatures started rising in the 1980s.

Forest Service and Partners Gear Up for Significant 2016 Wildfire Season

usfs logoCurrent Outlook Underscores Need to Reform Wildfire Funding

WASHINGTON, May 17, 2016 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell met today with Forest Service Regional Foresters to discuss preparations for anticipated significant wildland fire potential in 2016. The briefing comes as the 2016 fire season has begun with five times more acres already burned than this time last year, following 2015's record-setting fire season.

"The 2016 wildfire season is off to a worrisome start. Southern California, the Great Basin in Nevada, portions of the southwest, and even Florida and Hawaii are particularly vulnerable this year. In California, more than 40 million trees have died, becoming dry fuel for wildfire," said Vilsack. "Congress must take action now to ensure that we, and, ultimately the firefighters we ask so much of, have the resources to do the restoration and wildfire prevention work necessary to keep our forests healthy."

Forest Service Chief Predicts "Above Normal" Wildland Fire Potential in Much of the West

North Central U.S. Also Faces an Active Fire Year

burning-pine

WASHINGTON, May 5, 2015 – U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell presented the Forest Service forecast on the upcoming 2015 fire season in testimony today before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Forest Service researchers expect 2015 to continue the trend of above average fire activity.

"Above normal wildland fire potential exists across the north central United States and above normal wildland fire potential will threaten many parts of the West this summer," said Chief Tidwell. "We anticipate another active fire year, underscoring the need to reform our wildfire funding."

Forest Service releases updated strategic plan documents

usfs logoThe Forest Service Intermountain Region has released two strategic planning documents; USDA Forest Service Strategic Plan: FY 2015–2020 and USDA Forest Service Intermountain Region Strategic Framework - FY 2017-2020
 
The Forest Service is the Nation’s foremost Federal forestry organization, providing leadership in the management, protection, use, research, and stewardship of natural and cultural resources on our country’s vast forests and grasslands. Our organization functions within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), propelled by a dedicated workforce of permanent and temporary seasonal employees that exceeds 40,000 employees during the peak summer work season. The Forest Service was established in 1905 to sustainably manage our national forests and promote conservation across the land. We in the Forest Service are committed to retaining forests and grasslands for present and future generations.

Forest Service Report: Rising Firefighting Costs Raises Alarms

usfs-logoWASHINGTON, Aug. 5, 2015 — For the first time in its 110-year history, the Forest Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is spending more than 50 percent of its budget to suppress the nation's wildfires. A new report released today by the Forest Service estimates that within a decade, the agency will spend more than two-thirds of its budget to battle ever-increasing fires, while mission-critical programs that can help prevent fires in the first place such as forest restoration and watershed and landscape management will continue to suffer. Meanwhile, the report notes, these catastrophic blazes are projected to burn twice as many acres by 2050.

Forest Service research grasslands, shrublands 2015 Annual Report issued

usfs logoAttached is the 2015 Annual Report for one of the USDA Forest Service (FS) research programs that places an emphasis on western native plants.  

This issue takes a look at a few of the 2015 research and application studies conducted by scientists and their partners with the Forest Service’s Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems Science Program (GSD). Significant results of recent research and science delivery by program scientists are highlighted. We feature program research that lines up with the strategic research priorities of the USDA Forest Service, as well as those of our stakeholders. In particular, we spotlight accomplishments in research and technology that address:

Forest Service Survey Finds Record 66 Million Dead Trees in Southern Sierra Nevada

VALLEJO, CALIF., JUNE 22, 2016 AT 2:30 PM EDT -The U.S. Forest Service today announced that it has identified an additional 26 million trees dead in California since October 2015. These trees are located in six counties across 760,000 acres in the southern Sierra Nevada region of the state, and are in addition to the 40 million trees that died statewide from 2010 to October 2015, bringing the total to at least 66 million dead trees. Four consecutive years of severe drought in California, a dramatic rise in bark beetle infestation and warmer temperatures are leading to historic levels of tree die-off.

Forest Service Urged to Permanently Withdraw Controversial Groundwater Directive

House Natural Resources CommitteeWASHINGTON, DC – House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (UT-01) sent a letter today to U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, urging the agency to withdraw its Proposed Directive on Groundwater Resource Management.  The letter was also signed by Committee Vice-Chairman Cynthia Lummis (WY-At large), Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans Chairman John Fleming (LA-4) and Vice-Chair Paul Gosar (AZ-4), and Subcommittee on Federal Lands Chairman Tom McClintock (CA-4) and Vice-Chair Doug LaMalfa (CA-1).  The letter echoes similar concerns voiced by the Western Governors Association and others about how the proposal could usurp state management of groundwater.

Free Master Class Offered for FireWorks Educational Trunk

usfs logoFort Collins, Colo., Apr. 28 2017 - The USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station's Fire, Fuel, and Smoke science program is offering its annual free "master class" on teaching with the FireWorks educational trunk on Thursday and Friday, June 15-16. The class will be held at the Missoula Fire Lab located at 5775 West Broadway Street, one mile northwest of the Missoula International Airport. To register for the free class, send an email with your name, email address, and phone number to Eva Masin at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or if you have any questions you can call her at 406-319-4820.

Grants to Wood Energy and Wood Products Markets

usfs logoU.S. Forest Service Awards Grants to Expand and Accelerate Wood Energy and Wood Products Markets in 19 States

MAY 24, 2017 AT 3:15 PM EDT - U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell today announced over $8.3 million to substantially expand and accelerate wood products and wood energy markets. Federal funds will leverage almost $37 million in matching funds from 36 business, university, nonprofit, and tribal partners in 19 states for a total investment of over $45 million. The public-private partnerships leveraged with these grants will lead to the removal of hazardous fuels from forests while spurring the economic development of rural communities.

Greens Demand Scenic Rivers be Protected

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - The U.S. Forest Service is six years overdue on creating boundaries and management plans for two wild and scenic rivers in Northern California and the threatened wildlife that live there, fishermen and environmentalists claim in court.

The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations and North Coast Rivers Alliance sued the Forest Service, the Department of Agriculture and Mendocino National Forest Supervisor Ann Carlson in Federal Court on Thursday.

They claim the Forest Service violated the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act by failing to create boundaries and management plans for the Black Butte River and its tributary, Cold Creek, by the 2009 deadline imposed by Congress.

Congress adopted the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1968, requiring that lands and waters in the Wild and Scenic Rivers System be managed to preserve their free-flowing condition, water quality and environments "for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations."

Moss is useful bioindicator of cadmium air pollution, new study finds

usfs logoApril 6, 2016. Moss growing on urban trees is a useful bio-indicator of cadmium air pollution in Portland, Oregon, a U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station-led study has found. The work - the first to use moss to generate a rigorous and detailed map of air pollution in a U.S. city - is published online in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

"What's unique about this study is that we used moss to track down previously unknown pollution sources in a complex urban environment with many possible sources," said Sarah Jovan, a research lichenologist at the station based in Portland and one of the study's co-leads.

Moss have been used as bioindicators - living organisms that can help monitor environmental health - by the Forest Service and other agencies for decades. Because moss lack roots, they absorb all of their water and nutrients from the atmosphere, inadvertently taking up and storing whatever compounds happen to be in the air.

National EADM Findings and Leverage Points Report Now Available

nff-eadm

This spring, the National Forest Foundation supported the Forest Service in convening and facilitating ten Regional EADM Partner Roundtables across the country, and produced a report from each of them to document input shared by partners. The NFF also pulled cross-cutting themes from the regional reports and summarized them into National Findings and Leverage Points.

In the national summary report, partner input was organized into nine themes and describe perceptions of the identified problems and leverage points for each. The report details many important leverage points that are worthy of attention, however here is a summary of the key takeaway messages:

New Aerial Survey Identifies More Than 100 Million Dead Trees in California

usfs logoVALLEJO, Calif., Nov. 18, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that the U.S. Forest Service has identified an additional 36 million dead trees across California since its last aerial survey in May 2016. This brings the total number of dead trees since 2010 to over 102 million on 7.7 million acres of California's drought stricken forests. In 2016 alone, 62 million trees have died, representing more than a 100 percent increase in dead trees across the state from 2015. Millions of additional trees are weakened and expected to die in the coming months and years.

New handbook guides development of biomass utilization businesses

usfs logoBiomass utilization can fund restoration, create jobs in rural communities

PORTLAND, Ore. April 19, 2017. In the Western United States, a small-diameter log and biomass utilization business can help fund active management and restoration efforts and provide rural communities with much-needed jobs. So what should businesses, forest managers, community groups, and others interested in turning the byproducts of forest management into a profitable enterprise consider?

new online handbook published by the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station offers guidance. The publication, Community Biomass Handbook Volume 4: Enterprise Development for Integrated Wood Manufacturing, takes a collaborative approach to enterprise development and recognizes the important role of partnerships and land managers in developing sustainable wood products businesses. The guidance is particularly relevant to communities and businesses near public lands.

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