Here is Region Five’s “Ecological Restoration Implementation Plan”. It is definitely worth a browse, especially if you are a local within or near any of these National Forests. Each Forest spells out what it is doing and what it is planning.
(The picture is an old one, from fall of 2000. I had been here, salvaging bug-killed trees, in 1991. There was obviously additional mortality after that.)
From the Eldorado NF entry:
Maintain healthy and well-distributed populations of native species through sustaining habitats associated with those species
Use ecological strategies for post-fire restoration
Apply best science to make restoration decisions
Involve the public through collaborative partnerships that build trust among diverse interest groups
Create additional funding sources through partnerships
Incorporate the “Triple Bottom Line” into our restoration strategy: emphasizing social, economic and ecological objectives
Implement an “All lands approach” for restoring landscapes
Establish a sustainable level of recreational activities and restore landscapes affected by unmanaged recreation
Implement an effective conservation education and interpretation program that promotes understanding the value of healthy watersheds and ecosystem services they deliver and support for restoration actions.
Improve the function of streams and meadows
Restore resilience of the Forests to wildfire, insects and disease
Integrate program funding and priorities to create effective and efficient implementation of restoration activities
Reduce the spread of non-native invasive species
Forestry operations and bioenergy have been part of the economic and social fabric in Northern California for decades. A five-year study produced in 2009 by the USDA Forest Service modeled forest management under different scenarios across 2.7 million acres encompassing the Feather River watershed. The model’s time horizon spanned four decades, examining wildfire behavior, forest thinning operations and a range of environmental and economic impacts. It concluded that in virtually every aspect analyzed, managing forest resources and utilizing biomass for energy production provides significant advantages over the status quo.
With acres per wildfire going WAY up, thinning projects seem to be the way to go to reduce both wildfire sizes and wildfire intensities. Again, we have strict diameter limits in the Sierra Nevada, and clearcutting has been banned since 1993.
The link is here
Indian Valley, part of the Amador Ranger District, Eldorado National Forest, is being restored as a high elevation meadow, after decades of misuse. Grazing has ceased but, its impacts still linger. In the past, willows were removed and water was channeled away, causing increased erosion of these shallow and fragile soils. The water table has been lowered and the meadow hasn’t been able to support the vegetation that it used to.
Concentrating runoff by channeling the water causes increased erosion, especially when we have rain on snow events. There were significant impacts from the winter of 1996. This project aims to get the water to spread out, linger, and re-charge the water-holding capacity of up to 500 acres.
A system of catchment ponds, compacted soil plugs, and native plant re-vegetation will cause snowmelt runoff to spread out and slow the erosive power of concentrated water. This project has a history of being de-funded and handed off but, all things came together when Coca Cola offered up some cash, which led to some additional matching funds and collaboration. The Ranger District had to jump through all the NEPA hoops, as surveys had to be completed for endangered willow flycatchers, frogs and toads. The one impact they could not remedy is a historic road, which travels across the meadow. Relocation was made impossible, due to archaeological sites. Removal or closure would be politically impossible.
The willows have made a great comeback, since grazing ended. However, you can clearly see that the foreground vegetation is quite sparse. Raising the water table a few feet will lead to meadow restoration. The numerous braided side channels would re-charge the water table. There appears to be one of the historic man-made channels in this picture.
Here is what appears to be one of the natural side channels, which no longer is supplied with water, due to lowered water table, erosion, and channeling of the water. This restoration project appears to be a win-win situation for everyone.
Here is a non-Forest Service link to the project:
I thought some of our readers might be interested in a recent paper by Headwaters Economics examining ideas for reforming the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS) and Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT).
Here is the PDF Reform_County_Payments_WhitePaper_LowRes
This outfit does some really neat work and this paper is no exception. Both programs are about to expire and the paper explores eight options in how to possibly move forward. Some of the most interesting ideas are to change the distribution formula to give proportionately higher payments to counties based on various things, such as:
A) giving preferential assistance to counties with the greatest need
B) Linking payments to a County’s willingness to control federal costs by reducing development in wildfire-prone areas
C) Linking payments to the value of ecosystem services provided by federal public lands
D) Distibute higher payments to counties with protected public lands
Also included in the paper is an interactive mapping tool with which you can mess around and see how the various options would impact a particular county, and in some cases a Congressional District.
A group of scientists published a study earlier this month in the Nature journal, citing mounting evidence that biodiversity loss frequently increases infectious disease transmission.
One of the primary authors, Felicia Keesing from Bard College, explained the general pattern to Science Daily: “biodiversity loss tends to increase pathogen transmission across a wide range of infectious disease systems.” Keesing has been following the ecology of Lyme disease in northeastern forests for several years, and she said that evidence is mounting about biodiversity and disease. For instance, an opossum can serve as a biological buffer between the Lyme bacterium and humans by picking and killing off ticks. Opossums are poor hosts for ticks, but mice are good hosts. As biodiversity is lost, opossums move away and mice remain.
The authors also cite the relationship of the mosquito-transmitted West Nile disease and low bird diversity, as well as the relationship of hantavirus and lower diversity of small mammals. There are three reasons the loss of biodiversity can affect the transmission of infectious diseases:
- The more diverse the number of intermediate hosts, the less likely that a specific host will be present that are dangerous to humans.
- In a more diverse community, it’s more likely that the disease will end up in an unsuitable intermediate host.
- Genetically diverse hosts are generally in better condition and more resistent to disease.
The authors conclude: ”despite remaining questions, connections between biodiversity and disease are now sufficiently clear to increase the urgency of local, regional, and global efforts to preserve natural ecosystems and the biodiversity they contain.”
At the very least, the relationship of biodiversity and epidemiology is a very direct example of a principle the Forest Service has been using during the development of a new forest planning rule: that people and the environment are inseparable and interdependent. The idea that forests are actually a safety net is a compelling argument for the maintenance and restoration of functioning and diverse ecosystems.
Next week is the summer June 2-4, 2010 Martz Summer Conference 2010
The Past, Present, and Future of Our Public Lands.
University of Colorado Law School
It sounds like John Rupe, Martin and I will all be there. Martin is the moderator of the timber session, and Rick Cables is speaking about Forest Service planning. Scott Fitzwilliams, the White River Forest Supervisor, is speaking on recreation, and Harris Sherman the Undersecretary for Natural Resources is a keynote speaker. With the variety of speakers, I am looking forward to some stimulating discussions to carry forward to this blog.
Question for consideration…
John and I have been talking about using ecosystem services as a broadening of consideration of different uses in forest plans- rather than “desired conditions” talk about desired services provided. Not to quantify them or cost them out, just to talk about what we want from a piece of ground and how those desires interrelate. John and I think that might be an easier shift from multiple uses to ecosystem services. I think he’s going to post in the near future on some of the problems we’ve experienced with the use of desired conditions.
As to sustainability- great concept, but it is difficult to prove anything is sustainable and balancing the three kinds of sustainability just led to analytical and conceptual problems, in my view.
What do you think about using ecosystem services as a framework for forest planning?
Pros, cons, and watch-outs?
So what’s the value of a forest?
In a previous post, I described the shift away from the Forest Service’s multiple-use mission to a sustainable ecosystem mission. Many public stakeholders are confused by this shift, including those that rely on forest uses and services. The same is true for Forest Service employees trained in multiple-use management. Often, it’s about having a voice, or being able to clearly articulate these viewpoints, as the dialogue shifts toward concepts such as resilience, ecosystem integrity, ecological function, restoration of degraded ecosystems, etc. As an example of this new framework, see the interim directive FSM 2020-2008-1, intended as a “foundational policy” for all restoration activities.
In the shorthand about sustainability, we sometimes forget the reason we want to achieve sustainable management. In Forest Plans, we talk about desired conditions, but we don’t describe why they are desired.
The interim FSM 2020 explains the reason for ecological restoration and maintenance of resilience: ”to provide a broad range of ecosystem services.”
It really isn’t much of a leap at all to move from the idea of multiple-uses to the idea of multiple-services. The 1960 Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act itself explains that multiple use results in both products and services. The idea of ecosystem services draws on these concepts, and extends the idea by attempting to categorize all of the benefits. In particular, one framework getting attention was developed for the worldwide U.N. Millenium Ecosystem Assessment. It divides services into four categories:
1. The provisioning “uses”, including those mentioned in the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act: timber and grazing.
2 The cultural services, including recreation. It would also include things like historical and heritage appreciation, and the experiences people have in the forest that create feelings of solitude or aesthetic appreciation. The diversity of wildlife could fall into this category also.
3. The regulating services, including streamflow or flood control, alteration of fire, and influence on climate. The role of wildlife species in ecological processes is also important.
4. The supporting services for the other three categories, like soil formation and retention, or production of atmospheric oxygen.
Based on the Farm Bill, the Department of Agriculture has established an office for ecosystem services, now called the Office of Environmental Markets, to explore the development of markets. For Forest Service planners who suffered through the economic requirements of the 1982 planning rule, this is a bit scary. The same type of linear programming models used in forest planning to maximize sustained yield of timber are now being used to maximize carbon storage. Economists are working on ways to value services. We should encourage qualitative descriptions of services. The director of the office, Sally Collins, advised a slow-cautious approach to these issues in a 2007 speech:
Resist the impulse to jump on the ecosystem services bandwagon in response to the Forestry Blues—but also resist the impulse to dismiss it as the latest in a series of attempts to redefine forestry. It is what it is, and forestry in America and the world is what it is.
The idea of ecosystem services was introduced in the December 18 Federal Register notice for a new planning rule. This may be a chance for the Forest Service to embrace its multiple-use roots while articulating the importance of intact, functioning ecosystems.