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Tree and forest effects on air quality and human health in the United States

July 29, 2014 Comments off

Tree and forest effects on air quality and human health in the United States
Source: U.S. Forest Service

Trees remove air pollution by the interception of particulate matter on plant surfaces and the absorption of gaseous pollutants through the leaf stomata. However, the magnitude and value of the effects of trees and forests on air quality and human health across the United States remains unknown. Computer simulations with local environmental data reveal that trees and forests in the conterminous United States removed 17.4 million tonnes (t) of air pollution in 2010 (range: 9.0-23.2 million t), with human health effects valued at 6.8 billion U.S. dollars (range: $1.5-13.0 billion). This pollution removal equated to an average air quality improvement of less than one percent. Most of the pollution removal occurred in rural areas, while most of the health impacts and values were within urban areas. Health impacts included the avoidance of more than 850 incidences of human mortality and 670,000 incidences of acute respiratory symptoms.

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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.

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.

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