Center for Forestry News
"The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that the U.S. Forest Service has identified an additional 36 million dead trees across California since its last aerial survey in May 2016. This brings the total number of dead trees since 2010 to over 102 million on 7.7 million acres of California's drought stricken forests. In 2016 alone, 62 million trees have died, representing more than a 100 percent increase in dead trees across the state from 2015. Millions of additional trees are weakened and expected to die in the coming months and years."
Current U.S. forest fire policy emphasizes short-term outcomes versus long-term goals. This perspective drives managers to focus on the protection of high-valued resources, whether ecosystem-based or developed infrastructure, at the expense of forest resilience. Given these current and future challenges posed by wildland fire and because the U.S. Forest Service spent >50% of its budget on fire suppression in 2015, a review and reexamination of existing policy is warranted. One of the most difficult challenges to revising forest fire policy is that agency organizations and decision making processes are not structured in ways to ensure that fire management is thoroughly considered in management decisions...
"An unprecedented 40-year experiment in a 40,000-acre valley of Yosemite National Park strongly supports the idea that managing fire, rather than suppressing it, makes wilderness areas more resilient to fire, with the added benefit of increased water availability and resistance to drought.
After a three-year, on-the-ground assessment of the park's Illilouette Creek basin, UC Berkeley researchers concluded that a strategy dating to 1973 of managing wildfires with minimal suppression and almost no preemptive, so-called prescribed burns has created a landscape more resistant to catastrophic fire, with more diverse vegetation and forest structure and increased water storage, mostly in the form of meadows in areas cleared by fires."
Center for Forestry & Center for Fire Research and Outreach at University of California, Berkeley are part of the initiative that supported the inclusion of forest biomass issues in the proposed FY2017 Interior Appropriations bill.
The scientists working on forest biomass issues all over the US were delighted to learn about the legislation's efforts to incorporate more data driven science into the legislative process. The letter shown below provides scientific commentary on the legislative language on forest biomass.
"Even where a forest bioenergy system is predicted to result in near-term increases in CO2 emissions compared to fossil fuels, as long as it results in lower emissions in the long term, the effect on peak global temperature is beneficial. Put differently, policies that focus only on near-term emissions without considering longer term impacts may result in higher peak global temperatures. Understanding the relationship between long-term cumulative CO2 emissions and peak global temperatures is critical to correctly assessing forest bioenergy systems."
William Stewart, PhD Forestry Specialist, Co-Director of the Center for Forestry & Center for Fire Research and Outreach, and other eight other scientists came together to write this commentary. (PDF is attached below.)
Scientific Commentary on proposed biomass legislation
The UC Center for Forestry's Whitaker's Forest was recently featured in a video put together by the Cornell Outdoor Education program during a recent trip to climb trees and help collect cones as part of an ongoing research project. To learn more about this exciting experience, check out the video on Cornell's website.