News Article | February 2, 2016
Throughout the years, it is well known that during times of drought, forests and vegetation can bounce back easily. This may not be always the case since they may take longer to recuperate, a new report suggests. The U.S. Forest Service released a report on the effects of drought on forests and rangelands in the country. The report provided a national assessment on the possible impact of drought brought about by global warming and the El Niño phenomenon on rangelands, forests and even vegetation. "Our forests and rangelands are national treasures, and because they are threatened, we are threatened," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "This report confirms what we are seeing, that every region of the country is impacted by the direct and indirect effects of drought conditions and volatile weather patterns," he added. The United States has experienced some effects of drought. In various states like California, the warm and wet winter caused flooding and retreating of coastlines. Due to this weather inconsistency, scientists fear that the drought in some states may become worse and in some areas, they might experience extreme variations in precipitation. The drought experienced across the globe is projected to increase risk of large-scale insect outbreaks and wildfires that may pose threat to humans as well. The warmer temperature accompanied by drought may lead to the death of vegetation including trees, crops and shrubs. This may impact the availability of food supply to many nations other than the United States. Tom Vilsack further reported that about 60 million Americans depend much on drinking water that comes from about 193 million acres of national forest and grasslands. Aside from that, these lands support an estimated 200,000 jobs and contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year. "Indirect effects of drought on forests can be widespread and devastating," the report titled, Effects of Drought on Forests and Rangelands in the United States: A Comprehensive Science Synthesis, said [PDF]. The report, which was edited by Forest Service scientists and Duke University, delivers an important tool in the dissemination of information to the public as well as provide an insight on possible strategies to be implemented. About 77 scientists from various institutions collaborated and exerted efforts to study ways to curb the effects of drought on forests. "Due to the uncertainty of future predictions of drought occurrence, we do not explicitly predict the impacts of future climate change on forest and rangeland ecosystems; however, observations from recent extended droughts in many regions of the United States may provide a realistic set of inferences that can be projected into the future," the report added.
There are approximately 2 million reasons to love trees ... but we'll start with these. It’s no secret that I go nuts for the trees. I talk to them, I pet them … the Lorax is my spirit animal! So it’s no surprise that Arbor Day, generally observed on the last Friday of April, holds a special place in my heart. What could be better than a day dedicated to observing the importance of trees and better yet, to planting new ones? It’s funny because I often think about how vital it is to be good stewards to trees – but when I muse upon how critical they are for us, I think that maybe I have it all wrong. What if it’s the trees who have been acting as good stewards to us all along? Arbor Day in the United States was officially designated in Nebraska in 1872 – pioneers moving to the treeless plains realized they needed trees for things like fruit, windbreaks, fuel, building materials and shade. Essentially, food and shelter and the necessities for survival. So who’s taking care of whom here? We need trees, but do trees need us? They need us not to cut them down indiscriminately, for sure, but really they seem to be doing most of the work in this relationship. And so with that in mind, here are just some of the many many reasons why it’s imperative to respect and celebrate the trees; the fact is, humans need trees much more than trees need humans! Consider the following: 1. Trees work hard to right our wrongs According to the U.S. Forest Service, the trees around the world removed about one-third of fossil fuel emissions annually between 1990 to 2007. 2. They help keep our houses clean A study from Lancaster University found that trees by the road reduced the presence of airborne particulate matter (pollution from cars) inside nearby homes by 50 percent. 3. They ease the workday Office workers who can gaze upon trees from their windows report less stress and more satisfaction, according to a study from Chungbuk University, South Korea. 4. Trees feed us, they give us pie! Trees provide food for people and wildlife beyond what we likely imagine. A single apple tree alone can produce up to 15-20 bushels of fruit per year. Apples, pie, important! 5. They provide shelter and support Three hundred million people across the globe live in forests and 1.6 billion depend on them for their livelihoods, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Forests also provide habitat for a mind-boggling array of plants and creatures, many of which we don't even know about. 6. They show us how to age gracefully Rick Goldwaser/flickr/CC BY 2.0Seriously, talk about respecting your elders. The world’s oldest tree is an ancient bristlecone pine named Methuselah that lives at 10,000 feet above sea level in the Inyo National Forest, California. Methuselah is as old as Stonehenge and older than the Egyptian pyramids. 7. Trees keep cities cool Trees lower urban temperatures by up to 10°F by shading and releasing water vapor into the air through their stress-soothing leaves. 8. They are giant humidifiers (kind of) In a single day, one large tree can lift up to 100 gallons of water out of the ground and discharge it into the air. 9. They keep buildings comfortable Of course shade trees produce shade; a lot. Strategically placed trees can cut down air conditioning needs by 30 percent and can save up to 50 percent in energy required for heating. 10. Trees are social beings "They can count, learn and remember; nurse sick neighbors; warn each other of danger by sending electrical signals across a fungal network known as the 'Wood Wide Web' – and, for reasons unknown, keep the ancient stumps of long-felled companions alive for centuries by feeding them a sugar solution through their roots." That's not me being woo-woo, but a very poetic tree expert. Read more here: Trees are social beings 11. They devour carbon dioxide Biology 101 tells us that trees absorb carbon dioxide (CO2), removing and storing the carbon while releasing the oxygen back into the air – but the amount is remarkable. In a single year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the amount of CO2 equivalent to a car driven 26,000 miles. 12. Likewise, they give us breath Four people can get a day’s worth of oxygen from one large tree. 13. And water In the United States, watersheds protected by forests provide water to more than 180 million people. 14. Trees fight crime A study by the University of Vermont and U.S. Forest Service found that in Baltimore alone, a 10 percent increase in tree canopy corresponded to a 12 percent drop in crime. 15. They fight grime In outdoor spaces with trees, there is less graffiti, vandalism and littering in comparison to place without greenery, says a study from the University of Washington. 16. They give us something to look up to, literally © M. D. Vaden Landscaping and Tree/YouTubeThe tallest living tree is a towering 379.1-foot coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) in California's Redwood National Park in 2006. Called Hyperion (above), it miraculously survives on a hillside, rather than the more-typical alluvial flat, with 96 percent of the surrounding area having been logged of its original coast redwood growth. 17. They pay us back For each dollar spent on planting a tree in the city, they pay us back by up to five times in terms of cleaner air, lower energy costs, improved water quality and stormwater control and increased property values. 18. They're ersatz war heroes Sure, we’ve long had a national anthem and bird – and we’ll always have apple pie and baseball – but what about a national tree? We got one in 2004, and it’s the oak. Oak trees have long been prized for their attributes as well as their place in U.S. history, from Abraham Lincoln’s use of the Salt River Ford Oak as a marker in crossing a river near Homer, Illinois, to Andrew Jackson taking shelter under Louisiana’s Sunnybrook Oaks on his way to the Battle of New Orleans, notes the Arbor Day Foundation. "In the annals of military history, 'Old Ironsides,' the USS Constitution, took its nickname from the strength of its live oak hull, famous for repelling British cannonballs." See how well trees take care of us? 19. They are unassuming in their vastness There are more than 23,000 different kinds of trees in the world; altogether, there are three trillion trees on the planet. Yet they just humbly stand by, working hard and never making too much of a fuss. 20. Trees keep us young and rich And when all else fails, there's this: They may keep us young and rich! Research found that people who live on streets with high tree density are less likely to report a number of health complaints; and specifically, trees improve health perception in ways comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $10,000 or being seven years younger. You can never be too rich or too thin, and you can never live among too many trees. End of story. To find out more about showing the trees some love, visit Arbor Day Foundation – and if you join, they will send you 10 free trees. Which is officially the best membership perq ever. And for some superlatives, here's the Who's Who of trees: 10 of the world's most remarkable trees
"U.S. wildfires burned a record 10.1 million acres (4.09 million hectares) in 2015 and the Forest Service spent 52 percent of its budget fighting fires, the Agriculture Department said on Wednesday. The states of Alaska, California, Oregon and Washington were especially hard hit. The 2015 fires included more than 20 that topped 100,000 acres (40,500 hectares), the department said in a statement. The area burned last year broke the 2006 record of 9.9 million acres (4 million hectares). The 2015 fires destroyed more than 4,500 homes and other structures and killed 13 firefighters, it said."
The Anderson Creek Fire near Medicine Lodge, Kansas, is seen in this U.S. Army National Guard picture taken March 25, 2016. By midday Saturday, the Anderson Creek Fire was 36 percent contained across the two states, said Melanie Karns, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Forestry Services. Officials feared the fire, which broke out on Tuesday and had scorched 400,000 acres by Friday, would spread even further with high winds forecast for overnight Friday, but the weather cooperated and fire crews were able to get ahead of the blaze, Karns said. In addition, the Kansas Air National Guard flew four Black Hawk helicopters equipped with buckets over hot spots, dumping water on burning areas impossible to reach by foot, said Shawna Hartman, spokeswoman for Kansas Forest Service. The main front of the fire was in Barber County, Kansas, about 100 miles southwest of Wichita, near the Oklahoma border. "This is real rough country out here, and the Black Hawks are helping us get water into areas we had difficulty getting to," Hartman said. "There are deep canyons, drainages and gullies that are full of heavy fuels like prairie grasses and red cedar trees. They can hold the heat for a long time and let the fire jump from one place to another," Hartman said. Officials were working to tally damage from the wildfire, with rough estimates coming in at "thousands of bales of hay, hundreds of miles of fencing and numerous livestock," Karns said. They also were working to update the total acreage burned by the fire, Hartman said.
News Article | January 6, 2016
The Bundy militia, the handful of anti-government types currently having a sleepover party in a wildlife refuge visitor's center, wants an end to the "tyranny" of the federal government's oversight of public lands. Their plan mainly seems to be shepherding in a new era of unregulated, unchecked natural resource extraction and exploitation. Their main target is the Bureau of Land Management, a federal agency that has found an unlikely spotlight since rancher Cliven Bundy refused to pay a BLM bill and called it a revolution. In a highly classy and certainly not racist move, they've adopted the #BLM hashtag. The BLM is an interesting target. For the Bundy clan, it happens to make for an especially good foe because it's a relatively unknown agency. Most of its lands are far away from major population centers and consist of deserts and grasslands—not exactly destinations. It's a bit like the US Forest Service but without the forests. The Bundys want us to think that the BLM is, like the National Park Service, tasked with preservation, an arbiter of wilderness (they hate wilderness). They would like us to think that the BLM's mission involves keeping good folk like the Bundys from blindly tearing shit up like true Americans. The truth is closer to the opposite of this. While providing recreation opporitunities and protecting open-space is part of its mission, the BLM is of any federal land agency the most concerned with facilitating exploitation: mining, drilling, grazing. The BLM lands surrounding my old home in southwest Colorado (by Cortez at the Utah border), for example, even have the additional status of being a "national monument"—sort of like a national park but without the same protections—and yet you'd have a hard time throwing a stone without it clanking against a pipeline or piece of machinery. (The target there is mostly carbon dioxide, which is indeed a thing drilled for.) Across the border in Utah, it just gets worse with the open-pit nightmare of the Lisbon Valley Mine. This occurs on BLM land: In California, BLM land hosts 595 different oil leases, responsible for 15,800,000 billions of production annually. About 500,000 barrels a day. The federal government, the landowner (you), gets about 12 percent in royalties from oil and gas sales, a rate that hasn't be updated since 1920. Here's an aerial shot of the Kern River Oil Field. It is certainly liberated. And the Bundys demand more. To see the fundamental disconnect between the militia's campaign and reality, we need to look briefly at the origins of the BLM. There was a time when the agency didn't exist and ranchers had their rangeland utopia. Prior to 1934, some 80 million acres of western lands were just there for the taking. This was the homesteading era, and, indeed, ranchers took and took and took. Care to guess how this went? After decades of steady rangeland deterioration, and increasing violence among cattle ranchers, it became clear that the historical system of, well, no system wasn't sustainable; not "unsustainable" in the environmentalist sense (or not directly), but in the sense of the continuation of ranching as a viable economic activity. In the words of BLM historian Marion Clawson, "a large part of the public lands had already suffered serious, accelerated erosion, largely (but not wholly) as a result of uncontrolled grazing." Soon there would be literally nothing to graze at all. Since cattlemen first began appearing in the West, attracted by the promise of free grazing land, access to that free land was governed mostly by custom. This didn't work out so well, as Wyoming historian Russel L. Tanner writes in "Leasing the Public Range: The Taylor Grazing Act and the BLM.": However, the feds still didn't really want anything to do with the whole mess, and, beginning in 1879, a series of proposals were made to offer up the land to either the states or private buyers for a nickel an acre or less—basically giving it away. But, since the land was then free, or at least unmanaged by a formal entity, these proposals had little appeal and so things continued to deteriorate across the West. A peculiar sort of stalemate emerged as ranchers continued to claim public lands via unauthorized and illegal fencing while resisting reciprocal efforts by the federal government to give all of the same land away for next to nothing. In Wyoming, private lands made up only about 16 percent of the entire state in 1919, despite these efforts. For ranchers, the ideal seemed to be something like private stakes on public land. All rewards and no responsibility. This is exactly what the ranchers won, and it's what they continue to enjoy. In the words of Encyclopedia of the Great Plains editor David J Wishart, the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 was enacted to, "stop injury to the public lands; provide for their orderly use, improvement, and development; and stabilize the livestock industry dependent on the public range." Part of the initial goal, according to a BLM history, was to increase rangeland productivity. More cows in less space. "The act as amended in 1936 established grazing districts on the vacant, unappropriated and unreserved lands of the public domain: fifty-nine districts encompassing 168 million acres of federal land and 97 million acres otherwise owned," Wishart continues. "The act, as amended in 1939, established grazing advisory boards, primarily composed of livestock owners." The Act created what was then known as the Grazing Service, which administered public lands in parcels and collected fees. These fees initially were meant to cover administrative costs, but, as time went on, and the Grazing Service became the BLM, grazing fees essentially came under the control of the ranching industry. Nowadays the BLM takes in around $12 million annually in revenue while spending some $80 million in a role that amounts to being a public caretaker of resources exploited by private entities (ranchers, miners, drillers). The difference is covered by American taxpayers as the BLM continues to spend more on maintaining rangelands than it takes in as income from those who profit from those lands. The map below is of the rangelands surrounding the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, where the Bundys are making their stand, which has so far mostly been ignored by the feds. The areas with green striping are grazing parcels. They belong to ranchers that are not the Bundys. The lease named "big bird" looks to be the closest to the Bundy's occupation. According to BLM records, it belongs to "Golden Rule Farms" of Christmas Valley, Oregon. Alkali, the next lease over, belongs to Charles, Marjorie, and Darwin Dunten. The rangeland to the west is, ironically enough, allocated to the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. When the militia says things like "freeing the land," what it really means is less freeing the land from the BLM than it is in freeing the land from other ranchers (the sort that do actual ranching) who own leases on BLM land.