Archive for the ‘U.S. Forest Service’ Category

Air Attack Against Wildfires: Understanding U.S. Forest Service Requirements for Large Aircraft

May 16, 2014 Comments off

Air Attack Against Wildfires: Understanding U.S. Forest Service Requirements for Large Aircraft
Source: RAND Corporation

An aging fleet of contracted fixed-wing airtankers and two fatal crashes in 2002 led the U.S. Forest Service to investigate how to recapitalize its fleet of airtankers. The Forest Service asked RAND for assistance in determining the composition of a fleet of airtankers, scoopers, and helicopters that would minimize the total social costs of wildfires, including the cost of large fires and aircraft costs. The research team developed two separate but complementary models to estimate the optimal social cost-minimizing portfolio of initial attack aircraft — that is, aircraft that support on-the-ground firefighters in containing a potentially costly fire while it is still small. The National Model allocates aircraft at the national level, incorporating data on ten years of historical wildfires, and the Local Resources Model provides a more nuanced view of the effect of locally available firefighting resources, relying on resource allocation data from the Forest Service’s Fire Program Analysis system. Both models favor a fleet mix dominated by water-carrying scoopers, with a niche role for retardant-carrying airtankers. Although scoopers require proximity to an accessible body of water, they have two advantages: shorter cycle times to drop water and lower cost. Two uncertainties could affect the overall optimal fleet size, however: future improvements in the dispatch of aircraft to fires and the value attributed to fighting already-large fires with aircraft.

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CRS — Forest Service Appropriations, FY2010-FY2014: In Brief

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Forest Service Appropriations, FY2010-FY2014: In Brief (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The Forest Service (FS) is responsible for managing 193 million acres of the National Forest System, as well as conducting forestry research and providing assistance to state, local, private, and international forest owners. Funding to complete such work is provided through both discretionary and mandatory appropriations (see Figure 1).

Although it is an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the FS receives its discretionary appropriations through Title III of regular Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bills. The FS has received additional discretionary monies through supplemental appropriations bills. In addition, continuing appropriations resolutions have been used to maintain funding for the agency when regular appropriations bills have not been enacted before the start of the fiscal year, and in some cases, to provide full-year funding.

The FS also receives annual mandatory appropriations under existing authorizing statutes. Laws authorizing mandatory appropriations allow the FS to spend money without further action by Congress. The budget authority for several of these mandatory spending accounts is dependent on revenue generated by activities on the national forests. Typically, these laws are permanent—such as the Timber Salvage Sale Fund—but sometimes the authorizations have a sunset date.

This report presents and analyzes the discretionary and mandatory appropriations for the Forest Service—including the President’s discretionary budget requests—over the last five years, from FY2010 to FY2014.

Gathering “wild” food in the city: rethinking the role of foraging in urban ecosystem planning and management

February 12, 2014 Comments off

Gathering “wild” food in the city: rethinking the role of foraging in urban ecosystem planning and management
Source: U.S. Forest Service

Recent “green” planning initiatives envision food production, including urban agriculture and livestock production, as desirable elements of sustainable cities. We use an integrated urban political ecology and human-plant geographies framework to explore how foraging for “wild” foods in cities, a subversive practice that challenges prevailing views about the roles of humans in urban green spaces, has potential to also support sustainability goals. Drawing on research from Baltimore, New York City, Philadelphia, and Seattle, we show that foraging is a vibrant and ongoing practice among diverse urban residents in the USA. At the same time, as reflected in regulations, planning practices, and attitudes of conservation practitioners, it is conceptualised as out of place in urban landscapes and an activity to be discouraged. We discuss how paying attention to urban foraging spaces and practices can strengthen green space planning and summarise opportunities for and challenges associated with including foragers and their concerns.

Integrating vegetation and green infrastructure into sustainable transportation planning

January 30, 2014 Comments off

Integrating vegetation and green infrastructure into sustainable transportation planning (PDF)
Source: U.S. Forest Service

Although development patterns that limit urban sprawl and vehicle miles traveled can have a major impact on reducing GHG emissions, these plans, as well as similar proposals in other localities, concen- trate development along major trans it corridors. The result is to increase the local population’s exposure to emissions generated from the high-volume freeways.

Transit-oriented development and similar policies increase the population’s access to services and transportation options and lead to regional reduc- tions in vehicle miles traveled and air pollution. Nonetheless, these practices often bring people closer to the sources of air pollutant emissions, such as traffic activity. As a result, ways to reduce the exposure of people residing and working near high-volume roadways are needed.

A workshop in Sacramento, California, on June 5–6, 2012, gathered a multidisciplinary group of researchers and policy makers to discuss roadside vegetation as an option for mitigating the health impacts of air quality near roads. The following is a summary of the workshop discussions, including an overview of the role that roadside vegetation may play in reducing population exposures to air pollutants emitted by traffic. Roadside vegetation also is examined as a sustainable mitigation option in the context of other potential benefits and disbenefits.

Biogeography of plant invasions

October 30, 2013 Comments off

Biogeography of plant invasions
Source: U.S. Forest Service

The fact that most of our worst animal and weed pests come from other continents is no coincidence. Biological invasions are fundamentally a biogeographic phenomenon. That is to say, there is something rather significant about taking an organism from a specific evolutionary history and ecological context and casting it into an entirely new environment that can profoundly change ecological interactions. This fact has been largely ignored over much of the history of research on exotic species invasions; most of this research is done in the invaded range, and some in the native range, but very little involves comparative work in both ranges. No doubt, some of this oversight is due to the grand challenges associated with studying species at global scales. Nonetheless, this constraint has greatly hindered understandings in invasion biology and applications of weed management. How can we manage a species if we do not know why it is invasive?

CRS — Administrative Appeals in the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service

October 28, 2013 Comments off

Administrative Appeals in the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Merit Systems Protection Board Watch)

Congress has expressed an interest in the appeals processes of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Forest Service because of those processes’ complexity, and because of allegations that the appeals processes have restricted the ability of the agencies to manage the resources under their care. In 2011, Congress changed the project review process from one that provided for automatic stays and multiple levels of review to a pre-decisional objection process (P.L. 112-74, §428). In amending the 1992 Forest Service Decisionmaking and Appeals Reform Act process, Congress aimed to expedite agency review. The changes took effect in March 2013.

Administrative appeals are challenges to agency actions that agencies attempt to resolve themselves. Agencies set up hearing processes and regulations to meet the requirements guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution—that no person will be deprived of property without the due process of the law. This report describes the appeals processes of the BLM of the Department of the Interior (DOI), and the Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture. These appeals are not all formal adjudicatory proceedings under the Administrative Procedure Act (although some have similar procedures), but are defined primarily by agency regulation.

BLM has many different types of administrative appeals. The type of appeal depends, in large part, on the type of action taken by BLM. Decisions regarding land use plans have one type of review that differs slightly for challenges by governors. Decisions regarding minerals, oil and gas, forests, and grazing have different appeals processes, sometimes even having different processes within those categories. Many, but not all, BLM decisions have a final agency review by an appeals board under the Department of the Interior. Sometimes the final review is completed by an Administrative Law Judge.

The Forest Service also has multiple types of reviews, although it does not have an appeals board or Administrative Law Judges. For the most part, Forest Service administrative appeals are based on the type of decision being challenged. Forest plans have one process. Projects implementing those plans have a pre-decisional appeal known as an objection. Decisions regarding use and occupancy of forests have yet another appeals process, which differs depending on the level of employee who made the decision being challenged. Congress also has exempted many projects deemed emergency situations from administrative review.

The state of amphibians in the United States

August 30, 2013 Comments off

The state of amphibians in the United States
Source: U.S. Forest Service

More than 25 years ago, scientists began to identify unexplained declines in amphibian populations around the world. Much has been learned since then, but amphibian declines have not abated and the interactions among the various threats to amphibians are not clear. Amphibian decline is a problem of local, national, and international scope that can affect ecosystem function, biodiversity, and commerce. This fact sheet provides a snapshot of the state of the amphibians and introduces examples to illustrate the range of issues in the United States.

Climatic change and assisted migration: Strategic options for forest and conservation nurseries

August 29, 2013 Comments off

Climatic change and assisted migration: Strategic options for forest and conservation nurseries
Source: U.S. Forest Service

In light of current studies (for example, Gray and Hamann 2012; Zhu and others 2012) that show climate will change faster than plants can adapt or migrate naturally, it begs the question, “What does this mean for forestry, specifically forest and conservation nurseries?” Growing trees that just survive may become more important than promoting fast growth rates for superior genetics (Hebda 2008). In a recent survey of state and commercial nurseries in the US, most state nurseries have not explored how changes in climate will impact their abilities to select, produce, and provide trees that are suitable to projected climatic conditions (Tepe and Meretsky 2011).

Improved analysis of long-term monitoring data demonstrates marked regional declines of bat populations in the eastern United States

August 22, 2013 Comments off

Improved analysis of long-term monitoring data demonstrates marked regional declines of bat populations in the eastern United States
Source: U.S. Forest Service

Bats are diverse and ecologically important, but are also subject to a suite of severe threats. Evidence for localized bat mortality from these threats is well-documented in some cases, but long-term changes in regional populations of bats remain poorly understood. Bat hibernation surveys provide an opportunity to improve understanding, but analysis is complicated by bats’ cryptic nature, non-conformity of count data to assumptions of traditional statistical methods, and observation heterogeneities such as variation in survey timing. We used generalized additive mixed models (GAMMs) to account for these complicating factors and to evaluate long-term, regional population trajectories of bats. We focused on four hibernating bat species — little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus), tri-colored bat (Perimyotis subflavus), Indiana myotis (M. sodalis), and northern myotis (M. septentrionalis) — in a four-state region of the eastern United States during 1999-2011.

The influence of trade associations and group certification programs on the hardwood certification movement

August 21, 2013 Comments off

The influence of trade associations and group certification programs on the hardwood certification movement
Source: U.S. Forest Service

Forest certification has gained momentum around the world over the past two decades. Although there are advantages to being certified, many forest landowners and forest products manufacturers consider forest certification of U.S. forest and forest products unnecessary. Many believe that U.S. forests are already sustainably managed, the current certification systems are not trustworthy, and certification programs, in their current state, are too costly. To promote the sustainability of U.S. forests and address issues that landowners and forest products manufacturers have with certification, governmental agencies, trade associations, and environmental agencies have become involved in the certification movement. These organizations assist landowners and manufacturers by creating group certification programs and providing information and tools necessary to obtain certification. In 2009, a study was conducted to determine how the involvement of governmental agencies, trade associations, and environmental agencies influenced the certification movement. Research was conducted through a mail-based survey to 1,239 primary hardwood manufacturers in the Appalachian Region and through case studies of the Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers Inc., (AHMI) Association, the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA), and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Results indicated that these entities were instrumental in increasing the awareness of certification and providing the tools their members need to become certified. Through the programs implemented by these entities, the supply of certified raw material and the number of certified forest products manufacturers has increased.

Housing trends and impact on wood manufacturing

August 13, 2013 Comments off

Housing trends and impact on wood manufacturing
Source: U.S. Forest Service

Demand from housing and other construction-related sectors continues to be an important issue for the secondary wood products industry. Conducted in early 2013, this fourth annual survey provides updated information on the status and actions of U.S. manufacturers affected by these industries. The study is a joint effort by Virginia Tech, the USDA Forest Service, and Wood Products.

U.S. Timber Production, Trade, Consumption and Price Statistics 1965-2011

August 13, 2013 Comments off

U.S. Timber Production, Trade, Consumption and Price Statistics 1965-2011
Source: U.S. Forest Service

This report presents annual data but is published every 2 years. The data present current and historical information on the production, trade, consumption, and prices of timber products in the United States. The report focuses on national statistics, but includes some data for individual states and regions and for Canada. The data were collected from industry trade associations and government agencies. They are intended for use by forest land managers, forest industries, trade associations, forestry schools, renewable resource organizations, individuals in the major timber producing and consuming countries of the world, and the general public. A major use of the data is tracking industry production and consumption trends over time. One of the major shifts that occurred in the wood-using industry over the past 5 years is that both production and consumption of roundwood per capita decreased. The consumption of products per capita has also undergone a gradual decrease over the past 5 years. Because of increased paper recycling and increased processing efficiency, the consumption per capita in roundwood equivalent has decreased since about 1987 from 83 ft3 to 72 ft3 per capita. But over the most recent time period, the decline in production per capita is due to the U.S. economic weakness that severely impacted wood markets. In the 1960s and 1970s, consumption averaged 65 ft3 per capita before increasing and peaking in 1986 to 83 ft3 per capita. Since 2005, consumption per capita has continued to steadily decrease and reached 41 ft3 in 2009 remaining unchanged in 2010. Per capita consumption in 2011 increased to 47 ft3 the first increase since 2005. Since 2005, paper consumption fell from 41 thousand tons to 34 thousand tons in 2011. Since 2005, newsprint declined from 5.4 million tons to 3.3 million tons and printing and writing paper fell from 24.5 million tons to 19.3 million tons. Another shift occurring over the past several years is increased emphasis on wood energy use, which has shown wide fluctuations over the last decade and into 2011.

Bulletin of hardwood market statistics: 2012

August 13, 2013 Comments off

Bulletin of hardwood market statistics: 2012
Source: U.S. Forest Service

Provides current and historical information on primary and secondary hardwood products, production, prices, international trade, and employment.

Social amplification of wildfire risk: The role of social interactions and information sources

July 17, 2013 Comments off

Social amplification of wildfire risk: The role of social interactions and information sources
Source: U.S. Forest Service

Wildfire is a persistent and growing threat across much of the western United States. Understanding how people living in fire-prone areas perceive this threat is essential to the design of effective riskmanagement policies. Drawing on the social amplification of risk framework, we develop a conceptual model of wildfire risk perceptions that incorporates the social processes that likely shape how individuals in fire-prone areas come to understand this risk, highlighting the role of information sources and social interactions.We classify information sources as expert or nonexpert, and group social interactions according to two dimensions: formal versus informal, and generic versus fire-specific. Using survey data from two Colorado counties, we empirically examine how information sources and social interactions relate to the perceived probability and perceived consequences of a wildfire. Our results suggest that social amplification processes play a role in shaping how individuals in this area perceive wildfire risk. A key finding is that both “vertical” (i.e., expert information sources and formal social interactions) and “horizontal” (i.e., nonexpert information and informal interactions) interactions are associated with perceived risk of experiencing a wildfire. We also find evidence of perceived “risk interdependency” – that is, homeowners’ perceptions of risk are higher when vegetation on neighboring properties is perceived to be dense. Incorporating social amplification processes into community-based wildfire education programs and evaluating these programs’ effectiveness constitutes an area for future inquiry.

Trends in developed forest camping

July 10, 2013 Comments off

Trends in developed forest camping
Source: U.S. Forest Service

Over the past 40 years, the number of forest campers has grown from 13 million in the 1960s to approximately 56 million in 2000 (table 4.6). Camping is now one of the more common ways that Americans spend time in the outdoors, with over one-fourth of the U.S. population participating in some form of camping.

A highly aggregated geographical distribution of forest pest invasions in the USA

July 10, 2013 Comments off

A highly aggregated geographical distribution of forest pest invasions in the USA
Source: U.S. Forest Service

Geographical variation in numbers of established non-native species provides clues to the underlying processes driving biological invasions. Specifically, this variation reflects landscape characteristics that drive non-native species arrival, establishment and spread. Here, we investigate spatial variation in damaging non-native forest insect and pathogen species to draw inferences about the dominant processes influencing their arrival, establishment and spread.

Decision making for wildfires: A guide for applying a risk management process at the incident level

July 2, 2013 Comments off

Decision making for wildfires: A guide for applying a risk management process at the incident level
Source: U.S. Forest Service

This publication focuses on the thought processes and considerations surrounding a risk management process for decision making on wildfires. The publication introduces a six element risk management cycle designed to encourage sound risk-informed decision making in accordance with Federal wildland fire policy, although the process is equally applicable to non-Federal fire managers and partners. The process describes the assessment and control of identified risks, the analysis of benefits and costs, and the risk decision at multiple scales. Decision makers can apply principles from this publication to specific decision documentation structures such as the Wildland Fire Decision Support System (WFDSS) or other wildland fire decision documentation systems.

A risk-based approach to wildland fire budgetary planning

July 2, 2013 Comments off

A risk-based approach to wildland fire budgetary planning
Source: U.S. Forest Service

The financial impact of wildfire management within the USDA Forest Service challenges the ability of the agency to meet societal demands and maintain forest health. The extent of this financial crisis has been attributed to historical and continuing fire management practices, changing climatic conditions, and increasing human development in fire-prone areas, as well as the lack of financial accountability of fire managers and misaligned incentive structures. In this article, we focus on incentives related to cost containment. We review the literature on the incentive structure facing wildfire managers and describe how the incentive structure does not sufficiently reward cost containment. We then cover a range of possible approaches to promote cost containment, culminating in a novel solution premised on the application of actuarial principles to wildfire budgetary planning that we believe most closely aligns with the Forest Service’s transition to risk-based management paradigms and that most comprehensively incentivizes containment across the spectrum of wildfire management activities. We illustrate through a proof of concept case study how risk-based performance measures would be calculated and compare our results with historic suppression expenditures. Preliminary results suggest that our simulation model performs well in a relative sense to identify high- and low-cost forests, and we detail modeling improvements to refine estimates. We then illustrate potential extension to an actuarial system, which would further incentivize appropriate risk management and cost containment across the fire management continuum. We address the strengths and weaknesses of the proposed approaches, including potential roadblocks to implementation, and conclude by summarizing our major findings and offer recommendations for future agency direction.

Implementation Guide for Aerial Application of Fire Retardant

July 2, 2013 Comments off

Implementation Guide for Aerial Application of Fire Retardant (PDF)
Source: U.S. Forest Service

On December 13, 2011, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell signed a record of decision establishing new direction for the use of fire retardant applied from aircraft to manage wildfires on National Forest system (NFS) lands. The new direction approves the use of aerially applied fire retardant and implements an adaptive management approach that protects resources and continues to improve the documentation of retardant effects through reporting, monitoring and application coordination. Aerial retardant drops are not allowed in mapped avoidance areas for certain threatened, endangered, proposed, candidate or sensitive (TEPCS) species or in waterways. This national direction is mandatory and would be implemented except in cases where human life or public safety is threatened and retardant use within avoidance areas could be reasonably expected to alleviate that threat. When an application occurs inside avoidance areas for any reason, it will be reported, assessed for impacts, monitored and remediated as necessary. The direction also provides greater protection for cultural resources including historic properties, traditional cultural resources, and sacred sites through closer coordination with states and Tribes. This direction and guidelines do not require helicopter or air tanker pilots to fly in a manner that endangers their aircraft or other aircraft or structures or that compromises the safety of ground personnel or the public.

US Forest Service Forecasts Trends and Challenges for Next 50 Years

January 8, 2013 Comments off

US Forest Service Forecasts Trends and Challenges for Next 50 Years
Source: U.S. Forest Service

A comprehensive U.S. Forest Service report released today examines the ways expanding populations, increased urbanization, and changing land-use patterns could profoundly impact natural resources, including water supplies, nationwide during the next 50 years.

Significantly, the study shows the potential for significant loss of privately-owned forests to development and fragmentation, which could substantially reduce benefits from forests that the public now enjoys including clean water, wildlife habitat, forest products and others.


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