Since Ken Burns’ film on the Dust Bowl is starting tonight, see website here.
Two Forest Service linkages to shelterbelts are noted in this note from Darrel Kenops, of the National Association of Forest Service Retirees
The U.S. Forest Service from the start and up to today worked in concert with many including the USDA Soil Conservation Service. State Foresters as well as NRCS thru the years which had its start in the “New Deal” “Prairie States Forestry Project”. From Harold (Pete) K. Steen’s book “The U.S. Forest Service: A History” 1976, University of Washington Press, pages 218-221 describe briefly the context of the coming together of sheltebelts, hurricane’s, disaster programs and needed employment, jobs programs indicated by CCC’s and WPA Administration work in the forestry, natural resources sector.
Over last few years, as I represented NAFSR at the Westsern Forestry Leadership Coalition meetings, the 21st Century discussions of shelterbelts and Great Plains forestry have very interesting in how they have evolved, and confronted many of today’s challenges.
And we need to thank the many USFS State and Private as well as USDA/USFS Research and Development colleagues who continue to work with State Foresters and sister agencies to not forget, neglect the importance of shelterbelt forestry in America!
Also, of course, the initiation of the National Grasslands.
Here’s a general history in the National Grasslands Management Primer:
A total of 2.6 million acres of land were acquired between 1938 and 1946 when purchases under Title III ceased for all practical purposes. With the lands that had previously been acquired, the Government held 11.3 million acres in the LUP. The total cost for the land acquired for the LUP under the BJFTA and the preceding authorities was $47,500,000.11
Almost immediately, intensive improvement and development activities began on the LUP lands. New roads, buildings, transportation facilities, and fences were built, flood and erosion control strategies were adopted, grass and trees were planted, water storage facilities were constructed, and stream channels were widened and cleaned. The land improvements cost $102,500,000.12 Not only did the improvement activities help to restore these badly damaged lands, but they also created more than 50,000 jobs at a time when the Nation was pulling itself out of the Depression.
This reminds me a bit of the “restoration” and ARRA. This article in the Denver Post saw it, at least partially, as a cautionary tale about climate change.
The Dust Bowl did not end farming, but it forced farmers to change. “It was a matter of rethinking farming,” says Nielsen. “And we need to rethink how we produce energy.” Renewable energy must be at the core, not the fringes, he says, supported when necessary by the cleanest, most efficient fossil fuel technologies.
There are differences, too. In the 1920s, few people foresaw the consequences of the massive plowing up of prairie turf. Today, the science supporting the theory of global warming is cohesive and clear about the broad outcomes unless we make changes in how we produce and consume fossil fuels. “Because we know more, we have greater responsibility,” says John Nielsen.
Human suffering during the Dust Bowl is hard to image today. Nearly 50 percent of families in Baca County were on relief. Many dryland farmers left the Great Plains. If the Nielsens survived well enough on their irrigated farm, the highway through the Arkansas Valley was filled with weary, dryland refugees. There were plenty of Joads, and they weren’t all Okies.
Federal action salved the worst of the wounds. Direct aid and then jobs were offered. More controversially, the federal government bought dryland farms to create the Comanche, Pawnee and other grasslands now managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Farmers were encouraged to plant belts of trees, to deflect the winds. Then, rainfall returned.
Which reminds me, I think I’m going to check this out of the library..
US Forest Service celebrates 75 years of national grasslands
The U.S. Forest Service is celebrating National Grasslands Week June 17-23, showcasing the beauty, history and economic value of these national treasures on the 75th anniversary of the legislation that established them.
America’s 20 national grasslands, spanning 12 states and 4 million acres, were created through the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act of 1937, authorizing the federal government to acquire damaged lands for rehabilitation. Thirteen of these national grasslands reside in the Great Plains, where the ravages of the Dust Bowl left the soil bare of vegetation for years. Today, the benefits grasslands provide are valued in the billions of dollars.
“Our national grasslands remain beautiful examples of successful restoration programs,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “These lands are once again rich habitats brimming with native wildlife, grasses and wildflowers. They are also economic engines, generating jobs and bolstering rural American communities.”
The national grasslands offer a wealth of recreation and education opportunities for more than 1 million annual visitors. The grasslands feature some of the world’s best bird-watching experiences as well as camping, hiking, biking, fishing, hunting, horseback riding, target shooting, off-highway vehicle riding, picnicking and learning activities. Scenic drives offer unique geological features, wildlife and stellar locations for stargazing.
History buffs can visit old cemeteries and homesteads and take guided tours of Native American petroglyphs. They can also share in the experience of early settlers and their trek on the Santa Fe Trail.
“It took decades to restore the national grasslands from the barren landscapes of the Dust Bowl, to the rich prairie habitats we see today,” said Tidwell. “Every American should experience these unique grasslands that are so much a part of our rich natural heritage.”
The national grasslands provide tremendous benefits including pollination of native and agricultural plants estimated at $6 billion annually. Livestock grazing and energy ventures including oil, gas, coal and wind also contribute to the economic benefits provided by these lands. They help prevent drought and floods, maintain biodiversity, generate and preserve soils, contribute to climate stability and protect watersheds, streams and river channels.
These lands were managed by the USDA’s Soil and Conservation Service, now the Natural Resources Conservation Service, until 1960 when they were transferred to the U.S. Forest Service and designated as national grasslands.
Check out your local grassland this week, they might have a special event to celebrate.
I had thought I had reposted this from Bob Berwyn’s blog here but couldn’t find it- the last two weeks have been a blur..
Climate-fire feedback loop likely to accelerate global warming
Wildfires can spur increased releases of nitrous oxide from the soil, adding significantly to greenhouse gas concentrations.
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — An accidental grassfire during a series of climate change experiments showed that increased nitrogen deposits in soils, combined with wildfires, can significantly increase the release of nitrous oxide from the soil, which in turn can accelerate global warming.
“Soils are the major source of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere,” said Jamie Brown, graduate student in biological sciences at Northern Arizona University and co-author of the study. “So increased soil emissions of nitrous oxide will accelerate global warming.”
Brown worked with colleagues from NAU, Stanford University, the University of Paris and the University of Lyon. The study used an experimental grassland at Stanford, where researchers exposed the grassland to simulated environmental changes — heat, extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, more rain, more nitrogen deposition, and, when part of the experiment accidentally burned, wildfire.
The study is significant because it measured the impact of several factors simultaneously, unlike previous studies that examined the impact of one element at a time.
“Alone, the treatments had little influence on nitrous oxide emissions, but what was really surprising was the interaction with wildfire, causing a huge burst of nitrous oxide production,” said NAU professor Bruce Hungate, Brown’s thesis adviser and co-author on the study.
Nitrous oxide is a potent greenhouse gas, Hungate explained. In some parts of the world, like the western United States, wildfires also are becoming more frequent and more intense.
“Increasing wildfire frequency and the changing climate could cause these soil micro-organisms to release more nitrous oxide into the atmosphere, accelerating global warming,” Brown said.
The experiment examined the complexity to simulate a realistic situation, where all factors are changing together. “The design is complex, with each treatment by itself in every possible combination with the other treatments,” Brown said.
With such a complex design, researchers can see if the effects of two or more global changes together can be predicted from their effects in isolation.
here’s an article about the importance of grasslands.
Name that Grassland Contest: Guess which grassland this is? Winner gets to have a photo of their favorite grassland posted as a sidebar on this blog for a month. If you are shy, send your entries to email@example.com under an assumed name.