Farm Loop, AK, United States
Farm Loop, AK, United States

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News Article | January 12, 2016

While the groups have won strong restrictions on logging of the Tongass National Forest, the nation's largest, they have been denied in their efforts to win federal protection for the wolf. This week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service denied them again: The agency determined that the wolf, known as the Alexander Archipelago wolf, should not be listed as an endangered or threatened species. While the government agreed with conservationists that the wolf is declining in parts of its range and that loss of its habitat from logging is playing a role in that decline, it said the overall population of the wolf appears to be healthy. "Although the Alexander Archipelago wolf faces several stressors throughout its range related to wolf harvest, timber harvest, road development, and climate-related events in southeast Alaska and coastal British Columbia, the best available information indicates that populations of the wolf in most of its range are likely stable," the Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday. Named for a collection of remote islands, the wolf actually ranges across much of heavily forested mainland southeast Alaska and the coast of British Columbia in Canada. Conservationists pressing for its protection have focused on wolves in the archipelago, which includes on Prince of Wales Island, an expanse of nearly 2,600 square miles with about 6,000 people. Part of Prince of Wales is being logged under one of the largest timber sales in the Tongass in two decades, and estimates say the island could now have as few as 50 wolves, down from about 300 two decades ago. Logging can also reduce habitat for deer, a critical food source for the wolves. Conservationists built part of their argument on scientific evidence showing that wolves on the islands - an area the government calls "GMU 2," for Game Management Unit 2 - are genetically distinct from those roaming the mainland. The government agreed there are differences but said they were not strong enough to warrant listing the island wolves as a distinct species. The best available genetic data "do not indicate that the GMU 2 population harbors significant adaptive variation, which is supported further by the fact that the GMU 2 population is not persisting in an unusual or unique ecological setting," the government concluded. Bruce Dale, the director of the division of wildlife within the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, which argued against a listing, said the state was committed to protecting the wolf through improved forest management and hunting practices and other means. Despite the declines, he said wolves and deer on the islands remain abundant relative to other parts of the range. "That doesn't mean they weren't more abundant before," he said. The decision was a victory for the region's remaining timber industry. Only one large sawmill remains on Prince of Wales Island. The Fish and Wildlife Service said it expects wolves on the island to decline further in the next 30 years from "the cumulative effect of stressors." "However, wolves here constitute only 4 percent of the range of the Alexander Archipelago wolf and 6 percent of its current estimated total population. Therefore, negative population impacts on these islands will likely not affect the rangewide population in a significant way," the agency said. Explore further: Summit to weigh endangered red wolf's plight as numbers drop

Root H.T.,U.S. Department of Agriculture | Geiser L.H.,U.S. Department of Agriculture | Fenn M.E.,U.S. Department of Agriculture | Jovan S.,U.S. Department of Agriculture | And 6 more authors.
Forest Ecology and Management | Year: 2013

Anthropogenic nitrogen (N) deposition has had substantial impacts on forests of North America. Managers seek to monitor deposition to identify areas of concern and establish critical loads, which define the amount of deposition that can be tolerated by ecosystems without causing substantial harm. We present a new monitoring approach that estimates throughfall inorganic N deposition from N concentration in lichens collected on site. Across 84 study sites in western North America with measured throughfall, a single regression model effectively estimated N deposition from lichen N concentration with an R2 of 0.58 and could be improved with the addition of climate covariates including precipitation seasonality and temperature in the wettest quarter to an R2 of 0.74. By restricting the model to the more intensively sampled region including Oregon, Washington, and California, the R2 increased to 0.77. Because lichens are readily available, analysis is cost-effective, and accuracy is unaffected by mountainous terrain, this method allows development of deposition estimates at sites across broad spatial and topographic scales. Our approach can allow land managers to identify areas at risk of N critical load exceedance, which can be used for planning and management of air pollution impacts. © 2013.

News Article | March 29, 2016

"WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a case brought by the state of Alaska over the so-called Forest Service “roadless rule,” ending a major long-running court battle over the state’s attempts to be exempt from the logging regulation. The state had asked the Supreme Court to consider reversing a lower-court decision that tossed Alaska’s “exemption” from a regulation barring road-building in protected forest areas. While the high court’s decision is a major setback for the state, a similar effort to overturn the rule is still brewing in another federal court. The roadless rule originally went into effect in 2001, at the end of the Clinton administration. It barred the Forest Service from building roads and cutting timber on 58.5 million acres nationwide. In Southeast Alaska, it set aside 9.3 million acres of the 17 million-acre Tongass National Forest and nearly all of the 5.4 million-acre Chugach National Forest. The state challenged the rule in court and settled with the Forest Service in 2003, when the George W. Bush administration agreed to craft an exemption for the Tongass National Forest. "

News Article | February 8, 2017

U.S. food security, forest health, and the ability of farmers to respond to climate change are all at risk if President’s Trump’s pick to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture brings climate change skepticism to the agency, agricultural researchers and environmental law experts say. That concern takes root not only in Trump’s own statements scoffing at climate policy, but also in the words and actions of his nominee for agriculture secretary — former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, who in 2007 resorted to prayer as a strategy to deal with a severe drought Georgia was enduring. “Snowstorms, hurricanes, and tornadoes have been around since the beginning of time, but now they want us to accept that all of it is the result of climate change,” Perdue, whose Senate confirmation hearing has not yet been scheduled, wrote in a 2014 National Review column. “It’s become a running joke among the public, and liberals have lost all credibility when it comes to climate science because their arguments have become so ridiculous and so obviously disconnected from reality.” In fact, the science of human-caused climate change is far from a running joke. Established climate science shows that greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels are quickly warming the planet, leading to melting polar ice caps, rising seas, and more frequent extreme weather. Sixteen of the world’s 17 hottest years on record have all occurred since 2000 — a level of global warming leading to more frequent, more intense, and more deadly heatwaves and extreme drought. Though climate models are less certain about the role of global warming in hurricanes and tornadoes, they suggest that hurricane intensity will increase as the atmosphere warms. Major hurricanes are already becoming more common in the Atlantic, and landfalling typhoons have become more intense in the Pacific, threatening millions of lives in coastal cities. Responding to climate change is a key mission of the USDA, which is America’s chief supporter of agriculture research, forestry, and rural development. The agency funds millions of dollars of research at land grant universities across the country such as Cornell, Clemson, and Texas A&M to help farmers learn the risks they face from a world that has been largely warmed by pollution from carbon emissions. The agriculture industry is responsible for about 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change. If confirmed, the decisions Perdue will make will influence whether farms shrink their carbon footprint and how farms and forests are managed to respond to climate-related disasters. The USDA’s climate programs extend far beyond farms. As America’s largest forest manager, Perdue will determine the direction of the science conducted by the U.S. Forest Service and whether some of America’s most carbon-dense and diverse forests are clear-cut for timber harvesting or managed to sustain and blunt the impacts of climate change. “Just about every activity that the USDA regulates is likely to impact climate policy,” said Mark Squillace, a natural resources law professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder. “Forests and soils store vast amounts of carbon. When forests are logged or when they burn, much of that stored carbon is released into the atmosphere. Crop farming also contributes to climate change by releasing large quantities of nitrous oxides, much of it from fertilizers, and animal farming contributes vast amounts of methane, especially from ruminant animals.” If the USDA dismisses the threat of climate change, “then there is reason for grave concern,” said Michael P. Hoffman, executive director of the Cornell University Institute for Climate Smart Solutions, which focuses on sustainable agriculture. “Those who grow our food in the U.S. are facing more extreme weather, more flooding and drought, more high temperature stress — in general, more risk due to more variability, more uncertainty,” Hoffmann said. “It will be a travesty if USDA cuts back on its support of climate change research and education.” Allison Chatrchyan, a sustainable agriculture researcher at Cornell University, said the losses both farmers and the university’s research could sustain if the USDA cuts back on climate funding could be significant. At particular risk are the USDA’s 10 regional climate hubs, she said. The Obama administration established the hubs in 2014 to coordinate with land grant universities to help private farmers, ranchers, and forest managers adapt to climate change. Through the universities, the hubs help farmers understand how global warming will alter weather patterns and affect their crops and irrigation methods. “It is unlikely Cornell will get additional funding to work with the hub,” Chatrchyan said. “The hub has told us they will be looking to university partners to carry this work if the hubs are disbanded.” The USDA also provides scientists at land grant universities with small research grants. At Cornell, researchers are using $6 million in USDA grant money to study how climate change is affecting food security, corn crops, trees, and grasses in urban areas, the spread of invasive mussels in New York lakes, the spread of mosquitoes, and much more. Chatrchyan said that if the USDA shuts off that funding, it would be a huge setback for farmers and the research that supports them. “We have regions of the country and the world that are going to be less able to produce food because of more extreme drought and higher temps and more pests and disease pressure,” she said. “We have to be innovative. We have to be helping farmers. We can’t step back from that.” The USDA manages 193 million acres of national forest and grasslands, including the rainforests of Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. Those forests act as large “carbon sinks” because they store more carbon from the atmosphere in tree trunks, roots, and soil than any other type of forest in the country. Altogether, America’s national forests offset and store about 14 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions each year, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The agency also works with state and local agencies to help manage nearly 500 million acres of local and city forests across the country. “The U.S. Forest Service is heading in a direction both cognizant of problems posed by climate change in terms of wildfire and bark beetle infestation, and adaptation, resilience, and carbon sinks,” said Jack Tuholske, director of the Vermont Law School water and justice program. “The tone of the administration one week on the ground, they want to go back to the old days when public lands were viewed as commodity producers for private gain.” Tuholske is referring to statements made by some of Trump’s other cabinet nominees during their confirmation hearings in January. Interior Secretary nominee Ryan Zinke, whose Interior Department is in charge of more federal land than any other, spoke of forests and fossil fuels the agency manages as “assets” to be harvested or extracted. For decades, the U.S. Forest Service managed national forests mainly for commodity production in the form of timber harvesting, an approach that began to change in the Obama administration, which saw forests as important for their ecological value, Tuholske said. “The U.S. Forest Service is like a big ship slowly turning,” he said. “It took them 30 years to reach this new vision of the forest as something more than logs on a stump.” The stakes are high for USDA-managed forests because the way they are managed can help reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire, promote biological diversity, and store atmospheric carbon in temperate rainforests, such as those in western Washington state and the panhandle of Alaska. “Federal lands managed by the USDA are increasingly a cost center for the effects of climate change on the United States,” said said Jayni Hein, policy director for the Institute for Policy Integrity at the NYU School of Law. “With more severe droughts and a warming climate, an increasing share of the U.S. Forest Service budget is directed at fighting wildfires. The new administration must keep its eyes open and focused on this growing, costly threat.” Firefighting made up 16 percent of the U.S. Forest Service’s budget in 1995, but as climate change led to longer and more severe fire seasons, the share of the agency’s budget dedicated to fighting fires ballooned to 50 percent by 2015 — roughly $1.2 billion. Fire seasons now average 78 days longer each year than in 1970, according to the Forest Service. The wildfire threat will not be reduced by efforts in Congress or in the Trump administration to increase logging, said Dominick DellaSala, chief scientist at the Geos Institute, a climate change think tank. “As climate change results in more extreme fire weather in places, throwing more money at the problem won’t result in a fire-fix as climate increasingly becomes the top-down driver of fire behavior,” he said. DellaSala said it’s also important that the USDA manage and preserve forests — especially Alaska’s rain forests — as carbon sinks in order for the U.S. to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement. The pact calls for countries to cut climate pollution to prevent global warming from exceeding 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F), a level considered dangerous by the United Nations. The Obama administration angered conservationists last year when it approved a plan to log some old-growth rainforest in southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, which is America’s largest and one of its most pristine national forests. “Any additional logging that could come under a Trump administration or congressional efforts to give away large portions of the Tongass to the state of Alaska would make matters even worse,” DellaSala said. “I worry about how forest plans will be revised in this administration, which has signaled its intent to roll back the clock to unsustainable logging levels.” It’s unclear how far Perdue’s USDA could go to roll back forest protections because many of them are mandated by law and regulatory changes require a time-consuming process to implement. The law that governs how the USDA manages national forests mandates that forests be managed sustainably — not just for timber harvesting, Hein said. “This requires attention to both the impact of climate change on our national forests and the preservation of these forests as carbon sinks,” she said.

Nicholls D.,Alaska Wood Utilization and Development Center | Barnes F.,Tongass National Forest | Acrea F.,Geospatial Service and Technology Center | Chen C.,Modoc National ForestEast Zone | And 2 more authors.
USDA Forest Service - General Technical Report PNW-GTR | Year: 2015

Federal agencies are mandated to measure, manage, and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The General Services Administration (GSA) Carbon Footprint Tool (CFT) is an online tool built to utilize measured GHG inventories to help Forest Service units streamline reporting and make informed decisions about operational efficiency. In fiscal year 2013, the Forest Service Sustainable Operations GHG Tracking Team completed GHG inventories of three Forest Service units to compare top-down (national) and bottom-up (local) inventory reporting approaches. In this report, the Track to Zero Team (formerly the GHG Tracking Team) and Sustainability Science Team summarize the top-down and bottom-up approaches to GHG inventories collected and data input into the GSA CFT for the three pilot units: the Northern Research Station Institute for Applied Ecosystem Studies, (Rhinelander, Wisconsin, location), the Stevensville Ranger District (Bitterroot National Forest, Stevensville, Montana), and the Tongass National Forest (Alaska). Because both top-down and bottom-up reporting methods and the scale of the three pilot units differ significantly enough to preclude quantitative analysis, this report will use qualitative analysis to compare (1) sources and methods of obtaining information, (2) ease of data access to GHG inventories, (3) level of accuracy of data within the inventories, (4) confidence in data accuracy, and (5) level of data aggregation. By conducting these pilots and comparing the top-down results from the national GHG inventory with the bottom-up or local results, we will identify methods to improve the accuracy of local GHG inventorying and tracking, strengthen the connection between local and national GHG inventories, and promote information sharing. © 2015, USDA Forest Service. All Rights Reserved.

Hanley T.A.,Pacific Northwest Research Station | McClellan M.H.,Pacific Northwest Research Station | Barnard J.C.,Pacific Northwest Research Station | Friberg M.A.,Tongass National Forest
USDA Forest Service - Research Paper PNW-RP | Year: 2013

This report documents the results from the first "5-year" round of understory responses to the Tongass-Wide Young-Growth Studies (TWYGS) treatments, especially in relation to their effects on food resources for black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis). Responses of understory vegetation to precommercial silviculture experiments after their first 4 to 8 years posttreatment were analyzed with the Forage Resource Evaluation System for Habitat (FRESH)-Deer model. The studies were conducted in western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla)-Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) young-growth forests in southeast Alaska. All four TWYGS experiments were studied: (I) planting of red alder (Alnus rubra) within 1- to 5-year-old stands; (II) precommercial thinning at narrow and wide spacings (549 and 331 trees per hectare, respectively) in 15- to 25-year-old stands; (III) precommercial thinning at medium spacing (420 trees per hectare) with and without pruning in 25- to 35-yearold stands; and (IV) precommercial thinning at wide spacing (203 trees per hectare) with and without slash treatment versus thinning by girdling in >35-year-old stands. All experiments also included untreated control stands of identical age. FRESHDeer was used to evaluate the implications for deer habitat in terms of forage resources (species-specific biomass, digestible protein, and digestible dry matter) relative to deer metabolic requirements in summer (at two levels of requirements- maintenance only vs. lactation) and in winter (at six levels of snow depth). Analyses for both summer and winter indicated that in all cases except for Experiment I (red alder planting in 1- to 5-year-old stands), habitat values of all treatments exceeded untreated controls (P < 0.05), and earlier treatments yielded greater benefits than did later treatments (i.e., treating at 15 to 25 years of age was more effective than at 25 to 35 years, and at >35 years was least effective). When compared to a wide range of old-growth stands from throughout the region, it was apparent that in summer and winter with low snow depths (≤20 cm) early treatments (15- to 25-year-old stands) yielded better food resources than did old-growth forest, while later treatments (25- to 35-, and 35+ year-old stands) yielded poorer habitat than old growth. These results, however, are from only the first 4 to 8 years posttreatment. The next study of TWYGS responses is scheduled to occur at 9 to 13 years posttreatment.

Carlson R.J.,University of Cambridge | Baichtal J.F.,Tongass National Forest
Geoarchaeology | Year: 2015

A predictive model for locating early Holocene archaeological sites in southern Southeast Alaska was developed based on shell-bearing raised marine deposits. Fieldwork included coring of select-raised marine strata, measuring their elevations, and radiocarbon dating the associated shell samples within the cores. A subset of the data was used to produce a relative sea-level curve spanning the Holocene. The relative sea-level curve suggests that sites favorable for habitation between 9200 and 7000 14C yr B.P. should be found 16-22 ± 1 m above present zero tide. The sea-level curve and new high-resolution digital elevation models allowed reconstruction of past shorelines at various elevations. Surveys to test the model found and recorded over 70 archaeological sites from present sea level up to 32 m above present zero tide. Eleven new sites were within the targeted elevation range and radiocarbon dated to 9280-6890 14C yr B.P. Initial investigations indicate these older sites are rich in microblade and pebble tool technology. The new early Holocene sites indicate more extensive early maritime settlement of Alaska than implied by previous studies and contribute to our understanding of the early movement of people into North America. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Esslinger T.L.,North Dakota State University | Dillman K.L.,Tongass National Forest
Bryologist | Year: 2010

Physconia grumosa, a species previously known from Asia, is reported from Alaska, the Rocky Mountains (Colorado, New Mexico), New England (Maine) and the Great Lakes region (Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ontario). This species is similar to P. detersa, differing primarily by the type of propagules formed along the lobe margins: granular to weakly coralloid isidia and few to many dorsiventral lobules instead of true soredia. A description of the species is provided and comparisons with similar species are given. © 2010 by The American Bryological and Lichenological Society, Inc.

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