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  • Fraxinus Diversity and Emerald Ash Borer: Delineating Species, Engaging Citizen Scientists
    A multi-institutional team is promoting the conservation of North American Fraxinus spp. (Ashes) in the face of the invasion by Agrilus planipennis (Emerald Ash Borer, EAB). This two-year project has a two-pronged approach. First, is a need to better understand Fraxinus diversity and taxonomy, particularly in Section Melioides in the eastern United States. To achieve this goal, 96 Fraxinus collections, representing 12 putative taxa, consisting of herbarium vouchers and samples for DNA and chromosome analyses, were gathered during the 2018 field season in ten states. Once Ash species can be confidently delimited, molecular and chromosome data will be combined with morphological and ecological data to produce a hypothesis for evolutionary history and relationships among North American Fraxinus species to guide Ash conservation. Second, the project is engaging citizen scientists in the quest for “lingering Ash,” those individual trees that have some degree of EAB resistance, and thus which are potentially useful in the EAB resistance Ash breeding program of the U.S. Forest Service. To achieve this goal, outreach is focused in the Catskills region of New York State, where there exist suitable sites to search for lingering Ash among extensive stands of largely dead Ash trees. In the 2018 field season, five plots were established in the Catskills, following USFS protocols, and 20 citizen scientists were recruited to survey and monitor these plots in the 2019 field season, when an additional 20 volunteers will be recruited and five additional plots will be established in prime locations to find lingering Ash. Presented by Brian Boom, New York Botanical Garden, at the 2019 SAF National Convention, Louisville, KY.
  • U.S. Timber Products Monitoring: Background and Future Directions
    Wood product markets affect forest sector jobs, shape the composition and structure of future forests, and are strong drivers of investments in forest management.  Monitoring timber products is key to understanding the current utilization of raw material to support these markets.  In the United States, timber product monitoring started in 1809 and the USDA Forest Service, Forest Inventory and Analysis program has led this monitoring since 1948.  Estimates from timber products monitoring have provided the essential foundation for U.S. timber market analyses and projections, sustainability, policy analysis, and local wood basket analysis of potential market expansion. Here I present background information on timber products monitoring in the United States and provide information on future directions. Presented by John Coulston, USDA Forest Service, at the 2019 SAF National Convention, Louisville, KY.
  • Bringing Partners Together to Engage Rural Communities and Facilitate Native Alaskan Traditional Forest Use
    The Tongass National Forest includes most of southeast Alaska and supports rural subsistence activities and traditional lifeways for Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian Alaska Natives. High-value wood from this forest has been used for centuries in the creation of cultural commodities, yet climatic and human-related impacts may affect distribution and access to species essential for maintaining a robust cultural way of life, especially Alaskan yellow cedar (Callitropsis nootkatensis), western red cedar (Thuja plicata), and Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis). Furthermore, the 2016 Tongass Land Management Plan aims to conserve resources of heritage value used for Native craft, but little is currently known of the threats to access and supply of these culturally important resources to Alaska Native people, making it difficult to meet this need. We assembled an interdisciplinary team of federal, university, non-profit, educational, and tribal partners to assess needs and stimulate multigenerational cultural knowledge transfer. In this project we are developing better understanding of forest resource types essential for sustaining cultural lifeways, and of the concerns communities have for future resource availability. We engaged with local cultural leaders, provided opportunities for student involvement in forest research and cultural art forms, and developed a high-school science curriculum to transfer knowledge and raise awareness in a systematic format. The outcomes of this project provide useful touchstones for better integrating traditional knowledge and needs prevalent in rural communities into forest management plans and educational strategies to foster the sustainability of cultural heritage. Presented by Justin Crotteau, USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, at the 2019 SAF National Convention, Louisville, KY.
  • Water Management and Inventory and Monitoring Providing Needed Data to Decision Makers
    Forest management has long identified with the production of water as a fundamental human need. The creation of the earliest United States forest reserves around 1905-1910 codified this need in their enabling legislation and societal discussions of values at that time.  Congressional direction for administration of the forest reserves, now called national forests, began in 1897 with passage of the Organic Administration Act. One of the defined purposes for which forest lands were set aside from settlement was “securing favorable conditions of water flow” (Glasser, 2007).  The intrinsic and aesthetic human needs for forests and water, with working ecological systems of natural resistance to erosion and soil loss demonstrate that “Trees Are the Answer” and watershed management is complimentary to sustainable active forest management. Inventory and Monitoring gives all land management agencies critical information, GIS layers, and location details to both quantify and characterize the landscape. The National Park Service has supported a GIS enabled vegetation mapping collection since 1994 when it teamed up with ESRI and the Nature Conservancy to map 5 prototype Parks. Successes include completed mapping of 10 million acres, 8.5 million acres underway in 2019, 12 million acres of projects to yet to complete.  The National Park Service identified a critical need for future vegetation data. What data, when, and at what scale are critical inventory elements. The synthesis of these data with potential water improvements, wildlife habitat, and fuels concerns are active and needed management decision making elements. These serve public need and healthy forests too. Presented by Karl Brown, US National Park Service, at the 2019 SAF National Convention, Louisville, KY.
  • Intensive Thinning Prescriptions for Extending Fire Resiliency
    The Hungry Bob fuels reduction project was part of a 12-site National Fire and Fire Surrogate (FFS) network of experiments conducted across the United States from the late 1990s through the early 2000s to determine the regional differences in applying alternative fuel-reduction treatments to forests. The Hungry Bob project focused on restoration treatments applied in low elevation, dry second-growth ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) forests of northeastern Oregon. Treatments included a single entry thin from below in 1998, a late season burn in 2000, a thin (1999) followed by burning (2000), and a no-treatment control. This presentation will recommend thinning prescriptions based upon “a minimum required distance between overstory trees” in lieu of basal area metrics. The minimum distance requirements also includes a minimum distance between overstory tree crowns. This assessment will be based upon measurements taken (summer 2019) 20 years after thinning treatments were applied for the purpose of reducing stand basal area to an average of 16 m2 per hectare. The assessment was also conducted within units where prescribe fire followed the thinning operation so the effects of prescribed fire on furthering the minimum required distance between overstory trees could be evaluated. Presented by George McCaskill, USDA Forest Service Pacific NW Research Station, at the 2019 SAF National Convention, Louisville, KY.
  • Temporal Effects of Hurricanes on Fuel Loading and Regeneration
    The frequency and severity of extreme weather events, including hurricanes, are expected to increase in response to global change. Concurrently, coastal southern US forests, will experience droughts that may facilitate a rise in the occurrence of wildfires. Wind damage can substantially alter fuel dynamics and forest structure in coastal forests by increasing their susceptibility to wildfire, especially during severe drought. To mitigate excessive fuel loading, managers commonly use salvage logging and prescribed fire, and time since disturbance may further reduce fuel loads through decomposition. To understand the effect of hurricanes on fuel loading, and the impact of time since disturbance and management action we compared fuel loads across four hurricanes: Hugo (1989), Opal (1995), Katrina (2005), and Ike (2008). Fuels and regeneration data were collected across five upland pine study sites located in South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas. Highly impacted stands (managed and/or unmanaged) were paired with an equal number of less impacted, control stands at each site. Fuels data were collected using Brown’s planar intercept method and tree regeneration was tallied by species. Fuel accumulations increased dramatically with disturbance but decreased and stabilized with time. With frequent prescribed fire, coarse woody debris decreased more rapidly than without fire. However, without prescribed fire, damaged stands had greater fuel loads than control stands, even after 24 years. Salvage logging reduced fuel loads across all fuel size classes. Although overstory mortality can provide growing space for regeneration of shade-intolerant species, effects from frequent prescribed fire override resource availability for recruitment. Presented by Lauren Pile, USDA Forest Service, at the 2018 SAF National Convention, Portland, OR.
  • Small-Area Family Forest Ownerships in the USA
    Funding for the National Woodland Owner Survey comes from the Research and Development and State and Private Forestry deputy areas of the USDA Forest Service. The NWOS is implemented by the Family Forest Research Center (, a joint venture between the USDA Forest Service and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Presented by Stephanie Snyder, USDA Forest Service, at the SAF National Convention, Portland, OR
  • Forest Disturbance and Forest Sustainability Reporting at the National Scale
    Forest disturbance processes are increasing in both frequency and severity, and they have emerged as a primary determinant of forest conditions, and thereby forest sustainability, in many areas of the United States. Following a brief discussion of sustainability criteria and indicators (C&I) and related concepts underlying the Forest Service’s sustainability reporting efforts, we present recent aggregate data on biotic and abiotic disturbance processes reported at the national level using the relevant indicators in the Montréal Process C&I. Next we consider the relationship between these aggregate data and data available at finer spatial scales or for specific disturbance agents. The aim of this presentation is to provide a national context for the western regional focus and detailed consideration of specific disturbances that characterize the project presented in this session. Presented by Guy Robertson, USDA Forest Service, at the SAF National Convention, Portland, OR
  • Balsam Woolly Adelgid in Western North America: Can We Manage It?
    Invasive species represent a serious threat to the health of natural systems throughout North America. Balsam woolly adelgid, Adelges piceae (Ratzeburg) (Hemiptera: Adelgidae) (BWA), was introduced to the United States around 1900 and is considered a severe pest of native true firs. In western North America, the balsam woolly adelgid was discovered in California in the 1930s on grand fir (A. grandis), noble fir (A. procera) and European silver fir (A. alba). During the 1950s and 1960s infestations were observed in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia on grand fir, pacific silver fir (A. amabalis) and subalpine fir (A. lasiocarpa). Today the insect continues to disperse eastward across Idaho into Wyoming, northward into western Montana and British Columbia and southward into Utah. BWA causes degradation in tree quality due to swelling of nodes, branch dieback, and cessation in terminal growth, and frequently kills trees. In managed settings such as Christmas tree farms, insecticides continue to be the only successful way of dealing with BWA. In wildland forests, biological control has been employed with mixed success. The literature indicates there are not many effective measures of prevention through forest management practices. In 1957 after three years of study, 26 species of arthropods were found associated with the balsam woolly aphid in the Pacific Northwest. In the 9 years from 1957 through 1965, 23 species of insect predators from 7 countries were introduced. Five species became established; a 6th produced progeny, then disappeared. Presented by Robert Progar, USDA Forest Service, at the 2018 SAF National Convention, Portland, OR
  • Recent Trends in Wildfire and the Impacts on Sustainability of Western Forests
    Wildfire has shaped the forest ecosystems of the western U.S. over millennia, but fire regimes have been highly variable through time. Recent changes in suppression costs, losses, and area burned have heightened awareness about fire and its potential impacts on society. National monitoring data shows fire regimes have changed substantially in recent decades. The ten-year average area burned in the United States has doubled over the last 20 years, from 3.3 million acres per year to 6.6 million acres per year. In large portions of interior western forests, pre-settlement low-severity frequent fire regimes have been replaced by mixed and high-severity fire regimes. The wildland urban interface in the western U.S. has continued to expand in recent decades, exacerbating suppression costs and losses. The ten-year average for federal suppression costs more than tripled from 1997 to 2017, now costing an average of more than 1.6 billion dollars per year. These trends have implications for sustainability of western forests, using the Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators, as the ongoing changes in wildfire regimes affects biological diversity, the productive capacity and health of ecosystems, conservation of soil and water, carbon sequestration, and socioeconomic uses of forests. Presented by David Peterson, USDA Forest Service, at the 2018 SAF National Convention, Portland, OR
  • Effects of Riparian Buffers and Climate Change on Headwater Stream Flow: Shrinking Heads in Western Oregon
    Climate change models for the US Northwest have been used to assess changes in stream flow conditions, with altered flow regimes projected to affect aquatic-dependent communities. We addressed the effects of climate on headwater stream amphibian habitats in western Oregon managed forests using a combined approach of retrospective analyses of 16 years of headwater stream flow in 109 stream reaches and associated climate data, and applying results to future climate projections and to landscape projections of consequent headwater stream flow conditions. Using multivariate and simple linear models, percent dry length of spatially intermittent stream reaches was positively related to summer heat:moisture index. Although we included alternative riparian buffer widths with upland thinning in models, these management treatments were not significant in our models. Increases in summer heat:moisture indices with climate change models of future conditions (to year 2080) resulted in ~2% increases in percent dry lengths of headwater reaches (i.e., shrinking heads). We applied our results to the western Cascade Range, examining first-order streams occurring in 135 6th-field watersheds between 0 and 1433 m (0 to 4,700 ft) elevation, the area coincident with the distribution of the sensitive headwater-associated Cascade Torrent Salamander, Rhyacotriton cascadae. The projected ~2% increase in dry length of first-order streams sums to ~358 km across the area known to be occupied by this species. Consequences of shrinking headwaters to both first-order stream habitat conditions and over-ridge head-to-head connectivity distances are potentially pronounced, likely having an isolating effect on salamanders occurring in discrete watersheds. Presented by Deanna Olson, USDA Forest Service, at the 2018 SAF National Convention, Portland, OR
  • Predicted Changes in Forest Disease Disturbance Regimes in the Western U.S.
    In what ways do plant pathogens, both biological organisms and abiotic factors, affect forest sustainability? How will disease disturbance regimes change given global warming and increasing population pressures? Both native and invasive pathogens cause significant growth reduction, deformity and mortality of forest trees. Currently, root diseases are the most damaging group of forest diseases in terms of tree volume loss in the western U.S. Damage from invasive pathogens is on the rise as the number of invasive pathogens detected continues to increase, and is likely to intensify in the future. As climate changes, disturbance patterns will be altered as pathogens and their hosts adapt to new environmental conditions. Megadisturbances, such as the accelerated tree mortality in the drought-stricken forests of the central Sierra Nevada Mountains, where 129 million trees died from 2010 to 2017, are a foreboding example of the magnitude of change to come. Abiotic forest disturbances will increase in size and frequency which may decrease the impact of some biotic pathogens, since the hosts that the microbes attack will be killed by direct effects of abiotic damage agents. Caution is warranted, since management approaches to address climate change may inadvertently increase forest disease. As areas transformed by megadistubances are reforested, increased replanting raises the potential for pathogen introductions. Assisted migration of tree species may allow pathogens to be introduced to new areas on nursery stock. Management approaches need to integrate historic, current and predicted pathogen risks and embed disease prevention into planning and treatment strategies. Presented by I. Blakey Lockman, USDA Forest Service, at the 2018 SAF National Convention, Portland, OR
  • Recent Impacts of Insects on Western Forests and Effects on Sustainable Use
    Insects are essential components of forest ecosystems representing most of the biological diversity and affecting virtually all ecological processes. Most species are beneficial, yet others periodically become so abundant that they threaten ecological, economic, social and/or aesthetic values at local to regional scales. In the western U.S., chief among these are several species of bark beetles, most notably mountain pine beetle. Several defoliating and sap-sucking insects are also important. We review recent impacts of insects on western forests, including several outbreaks that are considered the most severe in recorded history; and discuss the role of climate change and forest densification in exacerbating impacts. We project future impacts based on the 2013−2027 National Insect and Disease Forest Risk Assessment and expert opinion. Finally, we discuss implications to forest sustainability focusing on whitebark pine forests as a notable example. Presented by Christopher Fettig, USDA Forest Service, at the 2018 SAF National Convention, Portland, OR.
  • Climate Change and the Impacts of Invasive Species on Western Forests and Rangelands
    Annual average temperature over the contiguous U.S. increased by 1.0°C during 1901–2016, and over the next few decades (2021–2050) is expected to rise by about 1.4°C. More extreme weather events are occurring, and atmospheric concentrations of CO2 now exceed 400 ppm for the first time in about 3 million years (Fourth National Climate Assessment 2017). We review the indirect effects of climate change on invasive species as mediated through changes in habitat, hosts, other disturbances, trophic interactions, and land use and management. We highlight specific examples of these relationships in the western U.S. Presented by Christopher Fettig, USDA Forest Service, at the 2018 SAF National Convention, Portland, OR
  • Where Do Trees Occur in the Interior West?
    Tree distributions in the Interior West are influenced by physiographic gradients such as slope and aspect that control moisture availability. In the Interior West, steep, north-facing slopes dominated by Douglas-fir occur directly adjacent to broad, south-facing slopes dominated by Utah juniper. Despite these visually evident patterns, little quantitative work has indicated whether species’ preference for particular locations based on aspect and slope can be generalized. In particular, much of the community gradient analysis literature has relied on non-random sampling approaches, especially across large gradients (such as elevation, latitude, longitude), that are likely to greatly oversimplify any nuance in natural patterns. We investigate the possible role that slope and aspect play on the occurrence of important western tree species over eight ecoregions within eight Interior West states. We used plot-level data from a stratified random sampling design implemented as part of the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program (n=12,010). Given the sampling design, the existence of a forested plot represents an expectation of forest occurrence, against which we tested for the occurrence of individual species. The overall distribution of species across elevation suggested general habits characterized as woodland, montane, and subalpine. Montane and subalpine species occurred more often on north aspects and least often on south aspects, and this difference was most pronounced for shade-tolerant species. Woodland species occurred more often on south aspects and gentle to intermediate slopes. Regardless of habitat groupings, or general patterns, individual tree species occurred across a wider range of slope and aspect than anecdotal observations suggest. Presented by Justin DeRose, USDA Forest Service, at the 2018 SAF National Convention, Portland, OR
  • A Design Scenario Informs Understanding of Neighborhood Tree Planting Preferences
    Urban trees provide myriad ecosystem services, and public perception surrounding these benefits has been studied by multiple researchers. Some work suggests that city residents perceive multiple benefits of greenery (broadly defined) from air purification to recreational use (Derkzen et. al, 2017). While well-being and aesthetics are commonly identified as reasons behind tree or green space preferences (Muratet et. al, 2015), little work has compared how these reasons interact with perceptions of the ecological or climate-related values of urban trees (Jim & Chen, 2006). Nevertheless, these later functions are of essential interest in addressing current heat and other health related risks in urban areas, and when considering projected impacts of climate change. We conducted an observational study of tree preferences, including species selection and placement of trees using a design scenario. Study participants were presented with a pictorial layout of a neighborhood street, and were invited to ‘plant’ up to six trees considering their own residential lot, adjacent lots and a nearby park. Species selections were climate adaptive, carbon sequestering, fruit trees, or flowering. Information about each tree’s features was made salient through a provided description for approximately half of our participants using a between-subjects design. Working through a ‘think aloud’ procedure we noted remarks made by participants as they ‘planted’ their street; and photos of the final ‘design’ were captured. Findings may be of use in urban forestry programs which rely on understanding public preferences surrounding tree selection and planting in neighborhoods, especially for climate adaptive and carbon sequestering species. Presented by Nora Davis, USDA Forest Service, at the 2018 SAF National Convention, Portland, OR
  • The Economic Contributions of Stewardship Contracting: Two Case Studies from the Mount Hood National Forest
    We conducted an economic analysis of two case study stewardship contracts located on the Mount Hood National Forest in western Oregon. Stewardship contracting has been embraced by some federal managers to achieve restoration goals while providing economic benefits to local communities. Little is known about economic contributions from stewardship contracts, including how they compare against Secure Rural Schools funding or the century old payments to counties revenue sharing system. Using expenditure data from sale purchasers, contractors, and fiscal agents, we developed flow charts that trace spending from the two contracts and used IMPLAN software to estimate employment and output effects and multipliers. Results showed that (1) commercial thinning, harvest, service work, and retained receipts projects all contributed to local economic activity, (2) expenditures for the two contracts generated $4 million of output and 36 jobs, but (3) effects were disproportionate to county payments from traditional timber sale revenue sharing. Presented by Jean Daniels, USDA Forest Service, at the 2018 SAF National Convention, Portland, OR
  • Engaging Private Forest Owners in the All Lands Approach to Forest Restoration
    Federal and state policies and programs promoting an all lands approach to forest restoration, including wildfire risk reduction, have become prominent over the past decade. The all lands approach calls for engaging diverse landowners in coordinating to plan and implement restoration treatments, which may cross property boundaries. This presentation addresses how to engage private forest owners in all lands approaches to wildfire risk reduction. We conducted a survey of family forest owners at three project sites in Oregon and California that were part of the NRCS-USFS Joint Chiefs Landscape Restoration Program, which funds forest restoration at the interface of public and private lands. We also interviewed agency personnel responsible for implementing the program among family forest owners. We found that: (1) agencies used different strategies for working with family forest owners, some more successful than others; (2) family forest owners were more likely to engage in the project if they were concerned about wildfire, had a history of working with neighbors, funding for treatments was available, outreach was strong, and they perceived tangible benefits; and (3) barriers to engagement included absentee ownership, certain land uses, lack of time, lack of information, and lack of incentive if public neighbors failed to treat. We identify implications of our findings for better engaging family forest owners in the all lands approach to forest restoration. Presented by Susan Charnley, USDA Forest Service, at the 2018 SAF National Convention, Portland OR
  • Hot Off the Press: A Scientific Assessment on Agroforestry and Climate Change
    A scientific assessment was conducted on the potential for agroforestry to help adapt agriculture and agricultural lands to threats from climate variability and change. This recently released report entitled Agroforestry: Enhancing Resiliency in U.S. Agricultural Landscapes under Changing Conditions will provide technical input to the National Climate Assessment and can serve as a framework for using agroforestry as a sustainable agricultural strategy in the U.S. The agroforestry assessment was led by USDA Forest Service scientists and included participation from more than 50 scientific experts from the Forest Service, other federal agencies, research institutes, tribal lands, and universities across the U.S., as well as input by scientists from Canada and Mexico. Based on expert input and information gleaned from over 1000 citations, this document represents the first-ever synthesis on agroforestry as a mechanism to provide climate change mitigation and adaptation services. The report also evaluates the social, cultural, and economic aspects of agroforestry and the capacity of agroforestry systems to provide multipurpose solutions. For instance, indigenous and tribal agroforestry systems of the United States and U.S.-affiliated islands can offer time-tested models that could inform current agroforestry systems. In addition, the report presents U.S. regional overviews as well as international overviews from Canada and Mexico to provide a comprehensive North American perspective and understanding of agroforestry’s strengths and limitations. This presentation will provide an overview of the assessment and will highlight key sections of the report. Presented by Gary Bentrup, USDA National Agroforestry Center, at the 2018 SAF National Convention, Portland, OR
  • Recent Forest Disturbances in the Western U.S.
    Various disturbance processes affect the sustainability of forest attributes and outputs in the U.S. West. These processes include fire, insects, disease, and weather. We used 172,472 Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) plots (49,715 forested plots) measured between 2001 and 2015 from the states of AZ, CA, CO, ID, KS, MT, ND, NE, NM, NV, OR, SD, UT, WA, WY, and southeast Alaska to evaluate the amount and type of recent disturbance affecting western U.S. forests. Natural and human-caused disturbances affected 57.8 million forested acres in these states within a five year window, or 22.3% of all forest land. The most common types of disturbance recorded were disease and insects, each estimated as impacting 15.0 million acres. Human disturbance (including silvicultural management) affected 10.8 million acres, while grazing and animal damage affected 9.6 million acres. While fire may be the most costly disturbance, it was only the fifth most prevalent in terms of spatial extent, affecting 9.1 million acres. We discuss how results compare to other monitoring methods, and how these data can be used to understand longer-term trends and impacts on sustainability. Presented by Tara Barrett, USDA Forest Service, at the 2018 SAF National Convention, Portland, OR