Tag Archives: forests

Some Kudos from Scientists Using Island Press Books

"Now we are translating this book into Korean and would like to spread H. Bruce Franklin's idea about over-fishing and ecology concerns to people in our area."

“Now we are translating this book into Korean and would like to spread H. Bruce Franklin’s idea about over-fishing and ecology concerns to people in our area.”

“We organized a ‘fish book club’ about ocean books and chose The Most Important Fish in the Sea, which we learned about through the American nonprofit The Ocean Project. The book helped us understand over-fishing problems, diminishing fisheries resources, and environmental disasters in the global ocean. We recently saw a drop in the pollock population in our area. We don’t have any clear clue what happened, but experts suspect overfishing and climate change could be the main reasons for this phenomenon. Now we are translating this book into Korean and would like to spread [author] H. Bruce Franklin’s ideas about over-fishing and ecology concerns to people in our area. Eventually we want to help sustainable fishery management and keep our marine ecosystem service safe and profitable.”

—Jason Oh, Research Scientist, National Fisheries Research and Development Institute, Republic of Korea

 

 

This book has really helped inform the work of foresters and biologists world-wide.

“This book has really helped inform the work of foresters and biologists world-wide.”

“Some years back while we were working together on the Northern Forest Protection Fund project for OSI [Open Space Institute], we were having some challenges explaining the importance of proper management of working forests to a segment of the fund’s conservation-oriented advisory board. This group, and the representative of the major funder, was more focused on the importance of establishing reserves.

I was starting to feel a bit frustrated, but then at a key meeting the funder’s representative entered the room, slapped a book on the table and exclaimed, ‘Everyone should read this book!’ It was Conserving Forest Biodiversity: A Comprehensive, Multiscaled Approach (2002) by David B. Lindenmayer and Jerry F. Franklin. What made this particularly satisfying for me is that I had been eagerly awaiting the publication of the book (I knew that Jerry Franklin was working on it), and I had been more than a little concerned about how I might introduce this book to this group. The problem solved itself.

This book has really helped inform the work of foresters and biologists world-wide. There has been an emerging consensus that well-managed working forests can support biodiversity conservation, and that these forests are an essential part of any reserve strategy in forested landscapes.”

—Mike Ferrucci, Consulting Forester and Forest Certification Auditor

Heavy Logging vs Fires

From the Sacramento Bee

Viewpoints: Fires can be restorative, unlike heavy logging

This year, as in every year, fires are occurring in the forests of the western United States. And, as always, we read the predictable headlines about how many acres of forest were “destroyed,” whether in Yellowstone National Park in the famous 1988 fires or today’s Rim fire in the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park.

Some claim more logging is needed to “salvage” dead and dying trees and “rehabilitate” burned landscapes, and many complain about the smoke. But the central questions remain: Does fire harm forests and what remedial actions are needed, if any? Is the system out of whack due to fire suppression and global warming? As fire ecologists, we have spent years studying the aftermath of forest fires and the wealth of life that exemplifies nature’s healing powers.

Red Stanislaus Sunset  (cc) USFS Region 5 @ Flickr.com Dramatic tree silhouettes against a red sunset near Fahey Meadow on the Summit Ranger District of the Stanislaus National Forest. Photo by Alice Poulson.

Dramatic tree silhouettes against a red sunset near Fahey Meadow on the Summit Ranger District of the Stanislaus National Forest.
Photo by Alice Poulson.
Red Stanislaus Sunset (cc) USFS Region 5 @ Flickr.com

Bordering on some of California’s giant sequoias, the Rim fire is more than 255,000 acres in size, and has been consistently described as “catastrophic,” “destructive,” and “devastating.” It turns out that this fire is actually ecologically restorative. And, while it may kill some of the sequoias, large sequoias are highly resistant to fire, and sequoia regenerates most vigorously after intense fire turns understory brush and twigs and needles on the forest floor into useable nutrients.

Soon after the fire, native wood-boring beetles will rapidly colonize the standing dead trees, detecting fires from miles away through infrared receptors they evolved in a long relationship with fire. The beetles bore under the bark of trees, and their larvae provide a food source for the rare and imperiled black-backed woodpecker – a keystone wildlife species that, every year, creates new nest cavities in fire-killed trees, providing homes for many other cavity-nesting wildlife species. Within years, the regenerating sequoia forest is a symphony of bird songs, punctuated by colorful butterflies and dragonflies, flowering plants, and a carpet of conifer seedlings that is anything but a disaster.

Contrary to what many may think about fires in Yosemite or elsewhere, there are far fewer of them in forests today than there were before European settlers arrived. Over the past few decades, fires have increased in size in some areas, but still remain well below what American Indians witnessed historically. Today’s climate scientists investigate whether fires are burning hotter than they once did; however, using decades of satellite images and pollen records that date back to the last millennium, we and other scientists have yet to see an increase in the severity of forest fires in the Pacific Northwest or Sierra Nevada. It is possible that global warming could lead to more fires in the future; however, some computer models predict increasing summer precipitation in these regions.

Mountainside erosion (cc) Sister Luke @ Flickr.com

Mountainside erosion (cc) Sister Luke @ Flickr.com

After fire, logging can damage the restorative powers of a forest by compacting and eroding life-giving soils, removing large trees that anchor fragile soils and shade new seedlings, taking big fire-killed trees that provide irreplaceable habitat for wildlife, and crushing conifer seedlings as logs are dragged uphill. Consequently, natural areas should be allowed to regenerate on their own as they have for millennia.

It is time we had a rational discussion on the proper role and management of wildland fire in forests, lest we continue to mislead people about the ecological role of fire and what to do about containing fire. Putting out fires close to homes is a matter of public safety, but attempting to squelch them in the backcountry is unlikely to succeed, as most large fires are put out by nature when it rains. Fundamentally, we need to develop a new way of discussing forest fires – one that recognizes what the current science is telling us: that post-fire habitat is as ecologically rich and diverse as old-growth forests, yet it is the rarest and least protected forest habitat type in the Sierra Nevada.

dominickdellasala

About Dominick A. DellaSala

Dominick A. DellaSala is Chief Scientist and President of the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon, and President of the North American section of the Society for Conservation Biology. He is the editor of Temperate and Boreal Rainforests of the World.

Why Forests Need to Be Enlisted in Climate Change Actions

“Forests have a vital role to play in overcoming this challenge.  Rainforests store vast amounts of carbon. That’s true across the planet, and in America, too. Our Tongass National Forest, a temperate Alaskan rainforest comprises only 2% of America’s forest land base, but may hold as much as 8% of all the carbon contained in the forests of the United States.”—Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack

Forests and Carbon Cycles

dellasala-forestscarboncyclesForests are a critical part of the global atmospheric carbon cycle that contribute to climate stabilization by absorbing (sequestering) and storing vast amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) in trees (live and dead), soils, and understory foliage.

As a forest ages, it continues to accumulate and store carbon, functioning as a net carbon “sink” for centuries. Ongoing carbon accumulation and storage have been measured in forests that are >800 years old.

When an old-growth forest is cut down, much of this stored carbon is released as CO2 – a global-warming pollutant. In fact, nearly 60% of the carbon stored in an old-growth forest is emitted as CO2 when it is converted to a tree plantation, via decomposition of logging slash, fossil-fuel emissions from transport and processing, and decay or combustion (within 40-50 years) of forest products, often in landfills. Planting or growing young trees does not make up for this release of CO2 from a logged forest. Indeed, after a forest is clearcut, it remains a net CO2 emitter for its first 15 or more years, and even if not cut down again will not reach the levels of carbon stored in an old forest for centuries. Globally, forestry-related losses contribute about 17% of the world’s annual greenhouse gas pollutants, more than the entire global transportation network, which is why many countries are seeking ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from logging.

 

ENLISTING CARBON RICH FORESTS IN CLIMATE CHANGE ACTIONS

Scientists and many countries have increasingly recognized that if we are to avoid catastrophic effects of global warming within this century, we must take a comprehensive approach to reducing greenhouse gas pollution overall. Part of the solution to global warming must come from reducing emissions from forest losses, as recognized by the United Nations REDD+ Programme in developing countries.

Forests in the United States, especially older carbon dense ones, can play a critical role in reducing climate change impacts through sequestering and storing carbon for centuries if undisturbed. New forest inventories demonstrate that the U.S. forests store the equivalent of around 21% of the nation’s emissions. Notably, National Forests store approximately 28% more carbon than private lands and therefore are important as carbon sinks.

Logging on the Tongass rainforest releases vast amounts of CO2 as a global warming pollutant

Logging on the Tongass rainforest releases vast amounts of CO2 as a global warming pollutant

Importantly, forests in the Pacific Northwest are nationally significant carbon stores, mostly because of the strategic role older forests provide as carbon sinks. Notably, mature moist forests on public lands in Oregon and Washington store the equivalent of nearly 130 times the state’s annual greenhouse gases (Over 9 million acres of older carbon dense forests have been identified in Oregon and Washington (Krankina in review). These 9 million acres store about 450 metric tons of carbon per acre or 15 billion metric tones of CO2 (e) total. By comparison, Oregon and Washington emitted about 115 million metric tones of CO2 (e) in 2010.). Alaska’s Tongass rainforest is also a global champion in storing carbon, storing the equivalent of nearly 80 times Alaska’s annual emissions (5 million acres of old-growth rainforest store about 234 metric tons of carbon per acre or 4 billion metric tons of CO2 (e).  By comparison, Alaska emitted 55.2 million metric tons of CO2 (e) in 2010.).

In June, President Obama announced his Climate Action Plan. Among the President’s many steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, he specifically calls out forests – “the Administration is working to identify new approaches to protect and restore our forests, as well as other critical landscapes including grasslands and wetlands, in the face of a changing climate.”

Since forests play a such a critical role in the global atmospheric carbon cycle by absorbing and storing vast amounts of carbon, protecting forests, especially old growth forests like those in the Pacific Northwest and the Tongass Rainforest in Alaska, should be a key component of any plan to mitigate the effects of climate change.

dominickdellasala

About Dominick A. DellaSala

Dominick A. DellaSala is Chief Scientist and President of the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon, and President of the North American section of the Society for Conservation Biology. He is the editor of Temperate and Boreal Rainforests of the World.

Why Biodiversity is Important to Solving Climate Chaos: Top 10 Reasons

Having jump-started my career as a conservation biologist riding the 1980s explosion of scientific and public interest in biodiversity, I have progressively witnessed how biophilia has given way to climate change concerns with the public, decision makers, scientists, and philanthropists (who have increasingly moved funding out of biodiversity and into climate change). In the meantime, we have lost sight of why biodiversity is critical to solving climate chaos. In fact, our biodiversity roots are indeed needed to solve climate chaos as the natural world holds the keys for reaching both a safe climate and living planet. After all, the planet’s life-giving atmosphere is a byproduct of billions of years of atmospheric and biological forces in synch with one another and balanced by life on earth. We are poised to change that balance through unprecedented human-caused extinctions interacting with greenhouse gas pollutants, both byproducts of runaway population growth and unsustainable consumption levels.

Simply put, the path we are on today – some call it the “Great Acceleration” – or “Anthropocene” (Age of Humanity) – is triggering the sixth great extinction spasm (aka E.O. Wilson) through unprecedented species losses and a build up of heat-trapping gasses. The path ahead must recognize that we need nature to survive and overcome these dangerous times, lest we live in a world where wild things are pushed to the brink and climate disruptions worsen loses to both nature and people. Here are my top 10 reasons for why reinvigorating biodiversity conservation is critical to both a stable climate and a living planet.

Massive trees like New Zealand’s Kauri (Agathis australis) not only support unique temperate rainforest communities but are vital in the effort to find a solution to global warming. Bio-diverse temperate rainforests globally absorb the equivalent of over 60 times the world’s annual greenhouse gas pollutants.

Massive trees like New Zealand’s Kauri (Agathis australis) not only support unique temperate rainforest communities but are vital in the effort to find a solution to global warming. Bio-diverse temperate rainforests globally absorb the equivalent of over 60 times the world’s annual greenhouse gas pollutants.

  1. Areas of high ecological integrity (generally intact systems) with full complement of species and processes (biodiverse) are more resilient (capable of rebounding from disturbance) and resistant (capable of withstanding disturbance) to climate change and human disturbances.
  2. High levels of biodiversity are associated with productive ecosystem services, including pollination (in major decline in agriculturally simplified systems), carbon sequestration and long-term storage (highest in old-growth biodiverse forests), nutrient cycling, soil formation, predator-prey dynamics (complex food webs), and provisioning services such as clean air and water, food, timber, and fiber. All of these services are at risk in a changing climate and from their exploitation.
  3. High levels of biodiversity tend to be associated with human-well being (quality of life) and human health, which are at risk from increased air pollution, reduced quality and quantity of clean water, respiratory ailments, and natural disasters exacerbated by climate change. Natural systems and their inherent biodiversity can ameliorate at least some of these ailments as nearly 1 of every 4 medicines was originally synthesized from the world’s tropical rainforests that we also desperately need for a stable climate.
  4. A diverse coastal environment with intact and functional wetlands is best at absorbing increasing storm surges and sea-level rise caused by global warming.
  5. A diverse streamside channel with fully functional and intact riparian areas and wetlands are more capable of ameliorating flood damages and storing water especially if keystone species such as beaver are present.
  6. Biodiversity is a kind of climate change insurance – we humans know very little about how natural systems work and how tipping points can trigger cascading ecological effects. Examples from marine fisheries abound where entire systems have collapsed due to over-fishing of a few commercially valuable fish that limit options for climate change adaptation.
  7. There is magic in wild places; climate change removes that magic as a product of an ever-increasing human footprint – a dangerous feedback loop is being set up where biodiversity is hammered, resulting in diminished ecosystem services, concomitant impacts to humans that then put more pressure on those systems until they are extinguished. Numerous studies have linked poverty to decline in natural capital and this will only worsen as the poor feel climate impacts disproportionately.
  8. Diversity in nature allows for more adaptation options in the future –biodiverse prairies with their full complement of wildflowers, for instance, are more capable of rebounding after disturbance than mega-farms.
  9. Intact and connected landscapes are better able to provide refugia for climate-forced wildlife migrations than fragmented areas with low levels of diversity and artificial barriers to migration.
  10. High levels of genetic diversity allow for greater phenotypic plasticity (i.e., more adaptive responses) than low levels of genetic diversity. Similarly, genetically modified organisms may be maladaptive in a changing climate due to their simplified genetic structure.
for the future

For the future.

All species have a right to exist and are a product of eons of evolution at work (many believe a Creator is also at work). We should not have to choose between climate change or biodiversity nor justify biodiversity investments based mainly on anthropocentric views. We owe it to our children to leave both a living planet and a safe climate: the two are woven together like strands in the great web of life and all the strands are important for their own sake as well as ours.

dominickdellasala

About Dominick A. DellaSala

Dominick A. DellaSala is Chief Scientist and President of the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon, and President of the North American section of the Society for Conservation Biology. He is the editor of Temperate and Boreal Rainforests of the World.

Where Were the Forests in the President’s Speech?

On June 25, President Obama delivered his most significant speech on climate change. “As a president, as a father, and as an American,” he stated, “I am here to say, we need to act. . . . I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing.”

Quinault Rain Forest, Olympic National Forest (cc) Wildcat Dunny @ flickr.com

Quinault Rain Forest, Olympic National Forest (cc) Wildcat Dunny @ flickr.com

In his address, the President laid out a three-pronged approach that balances short-term and long-term strategies: to reduce carbon emissions from power plants, to increase federal funding for developing renewable energy, and to help states and cities respond more proactively to rising sea levels, storms, and droughts. The administration’s goal is to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from their 2005 levels by the year 2020. That’s only 7 years from now.

Missing from the President’s otherwise laudable comments was anything about our nation’s forests. This oversight was disappointing but perhaps not surprising. The importance of forests in mitigating the impact of climate change is often overlooked—not only by presidents but by the general public.

In 2007, the U.S. Forest Service published a wide-ranging report on U.S. forests, titled Forests Resources of the United States. You can find this important document at http://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/pubs/7334. Authored by forestry specialists in the Forest Service, the document paints a comprehensive picture of American forests today.

One of the topics it highlights is the importance of our forests in absorbing and storing greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide. According to the report, the United States has about 750 million acres of forestland. These forest ecosystems, as well as the wood that is harvested from them, store an immense amount of carbon. In 2005, forests and wood products stored approximately 699 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. They capture similar amounts of carbon every year. By way of comparison, the United States emitted about 5.9 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere in 2011.

Deschutes National Forest - Oregon (cc) Dougtone @ flickr.com

Deschutes National Forest – Oregon (cc) Dougtone @ flickr.com

Yet American forests today are in deep trouble, which is why we wish that President Obama had talked about them in his speech. Destructive wildfires are raging throughout the West this summer. Just a few weeks ago, fires north of Colorado Springs destroyed 511 homes and caused the deaths of two people. In the San Juan National Forest, wildfire has attacked 83,000 acres.

To stop this onslaught of fires, the Forest Service now spends 40 percent of its annual budget on firefighting. In 1993, it devoted only 13 percent of its budget to fighting fires. To make matters worse, the federal budget sequester has cut the Forest Service budget to the bone.

As a result, the Forest Service has far less money to maintain the health of America’s national forests. When forests burn, they release carbon into the atmosphere. The Forest Service has fewer resources to clear away underbrush, cull mature and diseased trees, and plant new trees. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden told the New York Times, “[W]hen the big fires break out, the bureaucracy steals money from the prevention fund and the problem gets worse. The Forest Service has become the fire service.”

Since the passage of the Weeks Act in 1911, the United States has done a remarkable job of restoring and maintaining its forests. A century age, global warming and climate change weren’t issues at all. But since then, the earth has warmed, and forests have helped slow the rate of warming by absorbing carbon. If we don’t act now to protect our forests, we will only be destroying one of our major tools in mitigating climate change.

In President Obama’s next speech on the environment, we urge him to acknowledge the critical role that forests must play in protecting our planet for future generations.

Christopher Johnson & David Govatski

About Christopher Johnson & David Govatski

Christopher Johnson is a writer with extensive experience in education and publishing. He has written numerous articles on nature and the environment for American Forests, Appalachia, Chicago Wilderness, E: The Environmental Magazine, Snowy Egret, and other magazines and journals. In 2006, the University of New Hampshire Press published his book, This Grand and Magnificent Place: The Wilderness Heritage of the White Mountains. He is a member of the Forest History Society. David Govatski is a forester and environmental consultant who worked for the U.S. Forest Service for more than thirty years. He has conducted forest inventories, developed and supervised forest management plans, and written assessments of the environmental impact of forest plans and policies. From his base in New Hampshire, he conducts field inventories and prepares management plans for endangered plant and animal species. He is also a professional trip leader and leads canoeing, birding, and hiking expeditions throughout the United States and Canada. David is past president of the board of Weeks State Park in Lancaster, New Hampshire, the summer estate of John Wingate Weeks, the cosponsor of the Weeks Act. He is a member of the Forest History Society.

President Obama Delivers Historic Speech on Climate Change: But Will His Rainforest Actions Speak Louder Than His Words?

The President’s groundbreaking speech on climate change was as an historic step to follow up on his message to Congress that if they don’t take action on climate change, he will. But will he now follow suit by taking even bolder actions on forests?

Old-growth temperate rainforest in southwest Oregon with large carbon-storing trees marked for logging (photo credit: F. Eatherington, Cascadia Wildlands)

Old-growth temperate rainforest in southwest Oregon with large carbon-storing trees marked for logging (photo credit: F. Eatherington, Cascadia Wildlands)

Following the hottest year on record, and $110 billion in storm related and other climate chaos damages, the President is reading the climate change tea-leaves and taking advantage of how the public is gradually warming up to weird weather being the new norm.

His milestone “Climate Action Plan” includes fuel-efficiency standards for heavy trucks, tougher rules on new and existing power plants, efficiencies in the energy grid, and a menu of other climate change mitigation and adaptation measures that will set the stage for new policies on climate change for years to come.

But where do forests fit in the mix of climate change remedies?

The President’s announcement includes “preserving forests in their role to mitigate climate change.” Specifically, he aptly notes that “conservation and sustainable management can help to ensure our forests continue to remove carbon from the atmosphere” and, in recognizing this, he is directing federal agencies to “store more carbon” in forests.

dominickdellasala

About Dominick A. DellaSala

Dominick A. DellaSala is Chief Scientist and President of the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon, and President of the North American section of the Society for Conservation Biology. He is the editor of Temperate and Boreal Rainforests of the World.

Are the United Kingdom’s Coastal Woodlands “Rainforests?”

Hazelwood stools - growing in dense and genetically related "stools" repeatedly on the same microsite, hazel wood is an ancient temperate rainforest. Note the extensive green lichen blotches growing on hazel wood stems. Photo - D. DellaSala

This August I traveled to Glasgow to keynote a symposium on temperate rainforests at the European Congress of Conservation Biology (Society for Conservation Biology). Having never set foot in a European rainforest, I was especially challenged by the invitation to help put these rainforests on a global map of conservation importance (the theme of my rainforest book, Temperate and Boreal Rainforests of the World), and so set out to learn more about these unique ecosystems.

In particular, the UK’s temperate rainforests are fragmented emeralds in a sea of human-modified landscapes impacted by people dating back to the retreat of the last ice age. Climatically, they meet the definition of a rainforest, and on the British Isles they are extremely wet places moderated by the Gulf Stream. But these rainforests are vertically challenged compared to the more statuesque rainforests of North America, Chile, and Tasmania, some with trees no taller than 3 meters.

I was able to get a firsthand look at a UK woodland rainforest during a post-conference field trip to the hazel woods located at the southeastern tip of the Isle of Seil, close to Oban, western Scotland. Here, I visited the world-renowned (for its lichen richness) Ballachuan Hazel Wood Reserve, an encounter that challenged my North American perception of rainforests as cathedrals of giant trees. In the UK, hazel wood is managed as semi-natural woodland where conservationists often struggle to maintain some naturalness in the vast sea of humanity.  In this Atlantic woodland, hazel “trees” barely rise above the ground, windswept by North Atlantic storms. Their dense canopies are so tightly knit that sunlight barely reaches the ground beneath them.

dominickdellasala

About Dominick A. DellaSala

Dominick A. DellaSala is Chief Scientist and President of the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon, and President of the North American section of the Society for Conservation Biology. He is the editor of Temperate and Boreal Rainforests of the World.

Ghost Trees

Ghost_Trees

The standing dead trees were everywhere, their boles weathered silver where the bark had peeled. The carcasses of their fallen comrades littered the understory, with few aspen sprouting from the deadfall. The occasional mangled saplings we observed provided graphic evidence of heavy elk browsing.

Recently, I explored this stand of ghost trees on Colorado’s High Lonesome Ranch (HLR), accompanied by some of the finest aspen ecologists in North America. Such stands are so ubiquitous in the Intermountain West that in 2008, US Forest Service ecologist James Worrall termed this phenomenon SAD (Sudden Aspen Decline). Rapid canopy death accompanied by lack of understory sprouting characterize this troubling decline. For the past decade, such forests have inspired ecologists like Charles Kay to ask, “Are aspen doomed?” In late June of this year, the Western Aspen Alliance (WAA) convened a symposium on the HLR, a conservation ranch that covers 300,000 square miles, to help answer this question.

Aspen is the most widely distributed tree species on earth. An aspen stand often consists of a single organism, called a clone, which comprises genetically identical stems (e.g. trees), sprouting from a common root system. Aspen’s purported decline is of high conservation concern, because this species provides some of the richest, most biodiverse habitat in terrestrial ecosystems. While SAD is primarily related to drought, at the symposium we examined other predisposing factors, such as heavy herbivory by elk and cattle, and disease and insect outbreaks. Together these environmental forces have stressed aspen to the breaking point in many regions. But are aspen really doomed?

Cristina Eisenberg

About Cristina Eisenberg

Dr. Cristina Eisenberg is a conservation biologist at Oregon State University, a Smithsonian Research Associate, and a Boone and Crockett Fellow who studies how wolves affect forest ecosystems throughout the West. She is the author of The Wolf's Tooth and the new book The Carnivore Way.

Forests at Risk: Real and Personal

As I gathered with other concerned Coloradans for the “Forests at Risk” symposium in Aspen, Colorado last week, the importance of climate change and forests became immediately clear with the absence of two key speakers.

The symposium, organized by the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES), focused on bringing together a range of distinguished scientists, policy makers, conservationists and business leaders for a dialogue to address the relationship between rising temperatures and a plethora of other challenges facing the forests of the Western United States. The event was meant to include a range of speakers from Harris Sherman (Undersecretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and Environment) to environmental leaders and the CEOs of Snowbird Resort and the Aspen Skiing Company.

What symposium organizer John Bennett and those of us attending the conference did not expect, however, was that Harris Sherman and Dan Jiron (U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Regional Forester) would be needed at a new coordinated command center in Denver due to the new fires that had broken out in Colorado over the weekend. On the first day of the symposium a record 14 wildfires were raging in Colorado alone and 32,000 residents in the Colorado Springs area were forced to evacuate their homes that night.

When Will the Fish & Wildlife Service Give a Hoot for Spotted Owls?

photo credit - US Fish & Wildlife Service

Perhaps no other species symbolizes the conflict over logging in the Pacific Northwest more than the northern spotted owl. This medium-sized, forest-dwelling raptor has been credited with shutting down the logging industry in the 1990s and with shouldering the responsibility of conservation for hundreds of species that share its old-growth forest habitat. Since then, efforts to recover the owl have been mired in controversy, including political interference in the Endangered Species Act (ESA) during the Bush administration that would have promoted more logging on federal lands to save the owl. At the time, scientific societies such as The Wildlife Society, American Ornithologists’ Union, and Society for Conservation Biology each criticized these logging plans disguised as recovery actions.

In 2008, there was great hope that the incoming Obama administration’s redo of the recovery plan and critical habitat determination would lead to a return to sound science in endangered species decisions. And while there have been strides made by the agency to improve the science of owl recovery, the Service continues to endorse logging measures that it too believes will save the owl from extinction.

The Obama administration’s Fish & Wildlife Service has labeled these new measures “ecoforestry” or “active management.“ However, this approach to owl recovery has at least three flaws:

dominickdellasala

About Dominick A. DellaSala

Dominick A. DellaSala is Chief Scientist and President of the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon, and President of the North American section of the Society for Conservation Biology. He is the editor of Temperate and Boreal Rainforests of the World.