How Saving Orangutans Can Lower Your Cholesterol

This nearly mature male orang utan (Jenggo) was released several years ago from the Frankfurt Zoological Society Reintroduction Centre in Jambi, Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo courtesy of WWF and obtained at http://worldwildlife.org/photos/sumatran-orangutan--3 © Fletcher & Baylis / WWF-Indonesia

This nearly mature male orangutan (Jenggo) was released several years ago from the Frankfurt Zoological Society Reintroduction Centre in Jambi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
Photo courtesy of WWF and obtained at http://worldwildlife.org/photos/sumatran-orangutan–3
© Fletcher & Baylis / WWF-Indonesia

In my work as a nurse coach, I often explain to my patients the finer nuances of blood cholesterol laboratory results and how changes in nutrition can improve their numbers.  One type of cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL), is otherwise known as “the bad cholesterol” because it is the type of cholesterol most responsible for causing blocked arteries.  Blocked arteries increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.  Eating foods that are high in saturated fats, such as palm oil, significantly increases these risks because doing so raises LDL levels in the blood.  I liken it to pouring grease down the kitchen sink.  Eventually, the pipes are going to become clogged unless some action is taken to break up and eliminate the ever mounting accumulation of sticky goo.

Given this well established wisdom regarding palm oil’s negative effects on health, a logical expectation would be for a decreasing demand for palm oil.  Instead, demand has increased significantly.  From 2005-2012, the United States Department of Agriculture reported production and importation of palm oil had doubled.  In 2012, importation of palm oil to the U.S. was 2.7 billion pounds.  This is approximately 380 million gallons.  To give you perspective, that is 500 Olympic sized pools or more volume than was spilled in the Gulf of Mexico by BP Deepwater Horizon in 2010.

In addition to being a food additive, palm oil is used in personal care products (shampoo, lipstick), detergents, and has increasing use as biofuel.  By 2006, palm oil represented 65 percent of oil traded internationally.  Consumption of palm oil is expected to double again by 2020.

Why are we using so much palm oil?  Palm oil is semi-solid at room temperature and one of the world’s most versatile raw materials.  Oil palms are highly efficient oil producers, with each fruit containing about 50% oil. Palm oil is obtained from both the fruit flesh and kernel of the oil palm tree.  Oil palms can grow 66 feet tall with leaves up to 15 feet long. They bear clusters of fruit all year long, with each fully matured cluster weighing up to 110 pounds. This efficiency leads to land requirements that are ten times less than other oil-producing crops.

Historically, palm oil production has come at a great price to the environment, with a particularly negative impact on orangutan habitat. In 1900, there were around 315,000 orangutans. Today, fewer than 50,000 exist in the wild.  Scientists say the palm oil industry is the biggest threat to orangutans, with the potential for orangutans to be extinct in the wild within 12 years.  But there is more to the story.  I like to believe this is an emerging positive story of the environment.

There is growing movement towards sustainable palm oil production.  Certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) and palm kernel oil (CSPKO) is produced by palm oil plantations which have been independently audited and found to comply with the globally agreed environmental standards devised by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The RSPO was founded in 2003 and is the world’s leading initiative on sustainable palm oil. The principal objective of RSPO is “to promote the growth and use of sustainable palm oil through cooperation within the supply chain and open dialogue between its stakeholders.” Forty percent of the world’s palm oil producers are members of the RSPO.  Members and participants include oil palm growers, manufacturers and retailers of palm oil products, environmental non-governmental organizations, and social non-governmental organizations.  For a list of members and other details, you may visit http://www.rspo.org/.  The following brief video summarizes the history and development of sustainable palm oil production and the RSPO.

Of course, the single most effective way to prevent the extinction of orangutans is to protect their habitat through decreased demand for palm oil products.  For humans, that would include decreased consumption of food-like products that elevate LDL.  There are several smart phone applications developed by zoos to help you determine which products are RSPO certified and/or palm oil free.  The app developed by Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (Android) provides a searchable list by product brand name and advises if the manufacturer utilizes RSPO certified palm oil providers.  The El Paso Zoo (Android) app utilizes a bar code scanner function to check items which are in their database and only advises if the product has palm oil, regardless of source certification.  Here is the link to the El Paso Zoo iPhone app version.  The El Paso Zoo app is the better choice if you wish to avoid palm oil entirely.

There is room for everyone on this planet.  We do not have to choose between anything except how to be smarter and more humane in the equitable development and distribution of resources.  A world with more orangutans AND healthier human hearts is one example of an ideal outcome and what this nurse coach considers to be a win-win scenario.

For more information about orangutans, please visit the factsheet provided by the World Wildlife Fund http://awsassets.panda.org/downloads/orangutan_factsheet2006.pdf

Exploring the Near at Hand

An Arrow-shaped Micrathena spider (Micrathena sagittata) backlit in a web it wove between two of our front porch columns.  Copyright Richard Telford, 2012

An Arrow-shaped Micrathena spider (Micrathena sagittata) backlit in late day sun in a web spanning two front porch columns of the author’s home. Copyright Richard Telford, 2012

By:  Richard Telford

Living in Baldwin, New York on western Long Island in 1936, American naturalist writer Edwin Way Teale lacked wilderness.  At least, to the casual observer it might seem so.  Teale, however, was not the casual observer.  He had for several months searched for a site with sufficiently varied habitat to support the widest possible variety of insect life, finally chancing upon an abandoned apple orchard just fifteen minutes from his home.  As he later noted in his 1942 book Near Horizons, the site included “a line of slender cedars, a weedlot, […] interlacing row[s] of apple trees, [… a] margin of solid ground along the swampedge, […and] a spur of land [that] juts out into the brown water of the swamp stream where slope and swamp meet at […] a great mound of wild-cherry trees [that] lifts its green bulk above the level of the cattails.”

Walking in the footsteps of French entomologist Jean Henri Fabre, whom he admired deeply, Teale rented the old orchard for ten dollars annually and, as Fabre had done at the Harmas de Sérignan in Provence, France beginning in 1879, worked deliberately to convert the site into an insect garden that would provide “the habitat of nearly every kind of insect found in the region.”  In this insect garden, Teale conducted intensive observations for six years while, for most of that time, maintaining his day job as a staff writer and photographer for Popular Science magazine, a job he came to loathe due both to the sense of confinement it imposed upon him and to the capriciously brutal politics of the magazine editorial room.  For Teale, the insect garden was not just a place for observation but a place for escape from the modern world’s “well-grooved path remote from the Enchanted Ponds and Mad Rivers of the open world.”

An Eastern Forktail damselfly photographed in the author's backyard.  Copyright Richard Telford, 2013

An Eastern Forktail damselfly (Ischnura ramburii) photographed in the author’s backyard. Copyright Richard Telford, 2013

In 1937, Teale published Grassroot Jungles, a book that compiled 130 macro photographs of insects, taken mostly at his insect garden, with accompanying text that expounded the life history of many featured specimens.  Teale’s photography was astounding for its day, and the book was featured in a full front-page review in The New York Times Book Review on December 19, 1937.  Reviewer Anita Moffett wrote, “Mr. Teale is well known for his insect photography, and these pictures combine fact with imaginative power in depicting the beauty and goblinlike [sic] grotesqueness of the fascinating and almost unknown world to which the reader is introduced.”  She noted that Teale’s book demonstrated that the study of insects could “be pursued in one’s own backyard as well as at the ends of the earth.”  Here, Moffett simply echoed Teale’s premise in Grassroot Jungles that “At our feet, often unnoticed in the rush of daily events, is the wonder world of insects,” the exploration of which “is a back-yard hobby open to all, […which] can begin a few feet from your own doorstep.”

The egalitarian quality of backyard nature study was not a trivial consideration in 1937 America, still largely in the economic throes of the Great Depression and four years away from a war-driven recovery.  Though the economic landscape has largely changed, the openness to all of backyard nature study is no less significant for a host of reasons that extend far beyond simple economics.  In fact, Teale’s premise is arguably more salient in the present age of widespread habitat fragmentation, rapid development, increasing privatization of large wilderness parcels, the alarming disconnection of so many children from the natural world, and a social media-blitzed society that makes Teale’s “rush of daily events” seem pastoral by comparison.

A male American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) eating petals of Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron annuus) less than ten feet from the author's back door.  Copyright Richard Telford, 2012.

A male American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) eating petals of Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron annuus) less than ten feet from the author’s back door. Copyright Richard Telford, 2012.

In a time when we feel increasingly disconnected not just from the natural world but from ourselves, it is perhaps more important than ever that we “pause like stooping giants to peer down into the grassroot jungle at our feet,” that we re-attune ourselves to the magnificent complexities of the natural world that go largely overlooked in the jumble of our daily lives.

Teale consciously manipulated the environment of his insect garden to maximize habitat, and thus the site’s inhabitant variety.  His manipulations included “an ageing pie-tin holding dabs of honey and syrup to provide a treacle-trough for ants and flies and wild bees” and “bits of decaying meat to bring carrion beetles from afar.”  However, such manipulations are not necessary for the back-yard naturalist.  The fecundity of the insect world, to our senses, seems to know no bounds, even in the smallest of natural landscapes.  Consider the fruit fly explosion that occurs when fruit is left a few days too long on the kitchen countertop.  It is perhaps a dangerous byproduct of that fecundity that we largely overlook the reality that many insects presently face potential extinction.  As of this writing, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, for example, lists nearly 150 insect species as endangered, threatened, or of special concern.  Still, there are abundant insects to be seen on nearly any plot, even the most encroached upon or inhospitable.  This fact was illustrated for me this past summer during a trip to the local building supply store.

Exiting with a cart full of lumber, an odd green shape on the brick-facing of the store caught my attention, a large female praying mantis vertically perched with at least 200 yards of asphalt separating her from any floral retreat.  I went to my car, emptied my lunch cooler, and, as nonchalantly as possible, trapped her, self-conscious of the piqued curiosity of several passersby.  I recalled the story of Edwin Way Teale’s domesticated praying mantis Dinah, whom he brought to the Brooklyn Entomological Society and, during a side trip to the New York Public Library, lost and eventually recovered on Broadway, near Times Square.  While I was tempted to drive the displaced mantis home to unleash her predatory powers in our garden, I worried about her survival of the trip and instead drove her to the far end of the parking lot where a long strip of dense thicket masked a long stretch of highway on the hillside above.

A Twelve-Spotted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula pulchella)landing in the author's default insect garden.  Copyright Richard Telford, 2012.

A Twelve-Spotted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula pulchella)landing in the author’s default insect garden. Copyright Richard Telford, 2012.

The previous summer, largely as a product of neglect, I had made a brief foray into the creation of an insect garden.  It was a busy summer, and with no conscious design I effectively relinquished our small backyard, surrounded by wooded acres, to the natural world. The resultant floral explosion included several species of goldenrod, common burdock, waist-high perennial ryegrass, jewel weed, and many other rapid colonizers.  By far the most prolific of these was daisy fleabane.  With this impromptu insect garden came insects of numerous species, including a host of damselflies and dragonflies attracted by the newly abundant prey stock.  These skilled aerial predators would sweep methodically above the canopy of our own “grassroot jungle” and reap the good living of summer.

A Twelve-Spotted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula pulchella)having landed in the author's default insect garden.  Copyright Richard Telford, 2012.

A Twelve-Spotted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula pulchella) having just landed in the author’s default insect garden. Copyright Richard Telford, 2012.

Interestingly, the dragonfly’s tightly grouped legs, effectively useless for locomotion on the ground, are held in a basket shape in flight, scooping up prey that is largely consumed on the wing. The daisy fleabane explosion had the additional effect of attracting a large cadre of American goldfinches, who rode the bobbing, fragile stalks on even the windiest days, plucking linear white petals by the mouthful, not ten feet from our kitchen windows.  Here, as Teale noted in Near Horizons, we could be “explorer[s] who stayed at home, […] voyager[s] within the near horizons of a hillside.”

Teale’s ten dollars per annum was money well spent.  His insect garden truly altered the course of his life.  The commercial success of Grassroot Jungles afforded him both an income and national recognition, allowing him to quit his job at Popular Science.  In notes he compiled for an autobiography titled The Long Way Home, which was neither finished nor published, Teale writes, “Remember sitting in Insect Garden in evening after hot day and coming to a final decision to quit.”

A female American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) eating petals of Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron annuus) less than ten feet from the author's back door.  Copyright Richard Telford, 2012.

A female American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) eating petals of Daisy Fleabane(Erigeron annuus) less than ten feet from the author’s back door. Copyright Richard Telford, 2012.

Thus, the site provided a space both for outward observation as well as introspection.  Jumping time in his notes, he continues, “I pack my books etc.  Leave on chill rainy day.  But my heart was bounding.  I was on my own.”  Teale would go on to publish Near Horizons in 1942, for which he would subsequently win the 1943 John Burroughs Medal for distinguished natural history writing, a recognition he prized greatly even up until the time of his death in 1980.  For us, too, the rewards of exploring the near at hand are plentiful.  Such exploration affords us opportunities for observation, for contemplation, for renewal of our sense of wonder, for appreciation of the complex world around us, and for humble acceptance of our small place in that world.

Modern-day Regulation Up Against Homesteading Common Sense

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By Neva Knott

This past year my sister and I inherited a piece of land that was the homestead of our stepfather’s grandfather. He came from Scotland, somehow found his way to what is now Olympia, Washington. At that time, 1905, Washington was still the frontier, still territory, still wild. He staked his claim to 20 acres, and built a house on the cleared high portion of the property. He dug a well and lined it with cedar, built a small barn, a hen-house and a root cellar. The house stood on the land until some time during the Great Depression. There’s speculation that his wife’s family burned it down—he’d divorced her—or that his son—then the owner—had burned it for the insurance money. At the time there was some speculation that it was burglary, since the dishes went missing. About 10 years ago, the dishes were found buried on the property, under a cedar stump. This homesteader, great-grandpa Huntley, claimed the land before there were roads to it. He paid $280 for the land and a $300 bond to have the road built. And, he had to contribute 50 hours of labor toward getting that road down.

It’s a beautiful piece of property. Ten acres, wooded with native trees—alder, Douglas fir, and cedar. A little stream running through in a jagged pattern from corner to corner. And that’s where our problems begin. Wetlands. Buffer zones. Environmental regulation.

Woodard Creek runs through our property and drains into Henderson Inlet, which flows into Woodard Bay, which connects to Puget Sound. The inlet is prime shellfish growing ground, and the shellfish industry is a huge part of the economic make-up of this region. Woodard Bay is a Natural Resources Conservation Area, and Puget Sound is polluted enough without runoff from our little parcel of land.

There’s about an acre, maybe two, of high ground on the property. Possibly enough to make the lot buildable. Much of the property stands under water most of the winter. Wetlands flora validates the presence of this ecosystem even when the ground itself is dry.

According to county regulation, we must leave a 300-foot buffer around the wetlands. No logging, no building, no digging for septic. Given the pervasiveness of wet land on the property, not much is left for human habitation.

Wetlands are said to be the kidneys of the earth. They drain the land around them, filter groundwater of toxins like car oil and fertilizer and of general gunk like decomposed leaves and animal feces. They help rivers, lakes, and the ocean stay clean. The flux of water in wetlands carries nutrients across the landscape. Water fowl depend on these waterways for habitat. Wetlands provide some of the most important ecosystems services. Protection of wetlands is a newer area of environmental regulation; in the last few decades the importance of keeping these areas functioning—and of not filling them in—has come to the fore of environmental science. I agree with the science and the regulations for land use that are built upon it. But what to do with our land?

In homesteading times, common sense took the place of regulatory what-not. No person trying to live on his acreage would think to orient his waste stream near the water source. The interconnectedness of parts of the landscape were clear. It made sense that Woodard Creek running through the Huntley property connected to Puget Sound via all waterways between. And life depends on clean water. These days, the interconnectedness is hidden. Roads block water pathways that are diverted by culverts. Humans are so used to water coming into homes from the city source and the waste being carried away to a treatment center that it is easy to forget that nature has systems in play for all of these functions. When we live past the carrying capacity—the ability of an ecosystem to support all who live there—we butt up against regulation.

This evening, I learned much of what I know about our property by talking to my stepfather’s brother. He’s lived on his side of the homestead for several years, and has watched the landscape flux and flow seasonally. He’s walked the land. In about an hour, he explained to me more than I will ever get from a wetlands report or septic survey. Our conversation reminded me of the importance of knowing a place by feeling it. By hearing the stories of china hidden under cedars, and by watching the water table flux, the trees grow and decay, and the seasons change. That information is not found in the county records.

Whatever we decide to do with this land, we will honor the land itself and the waterways to which it drains.

Community Forestry Projects Around the Globe

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By Neva Knott

Community Forestry is a blend of science, policy, and culture, an action plan by which trees can rescue people and landscapes. When this model is followed, the result is that more, if not most, of the money gained from harvesting trees stays in the community near the forest. This eliminates the one-time payment, clear-cut and go model and replaces it with the long view, with sustainable harvests and ongoing revenue streams. Many developing nations–who have often suffered from significant natural resource extraction by foreign corporations–have established successful community forestry projects in place. Here are some examples from around the globe:

Nuevo San Juan Parangaricutiro in Mexico is a town comparable in population to the rural Oregon towns of Athena, Banks, Bay City, Canyonville, or Heppner. The community there manages an 800-acre forest. Over nine years, local employment tripled. The result: seventy-nine percent of working adult males hold permanent jobs in forestry. The timber goods industry improved from a sawmill, carpentry and workshop to include a chip mill, furniture production, and a resin processing plant. A community store and tortilleria, a library, a bus system, farm supplies store, technical advise station, and a recreational facility were built.  Production of seedlings increased from 140,000 to 3,200,000, while protected forest area increased from 155 to 459 acres.

Oaxaca, Mexico, provides another inspiring example. An important outcome of community-based forestry management is that logs and lumber are not the only money-makers. There, forest managers use profits for economic diversification into transportation, agriculture, mushroom-hunting, and eco-tourism.  These other revenue streams decrease pressure to over-log forests. In this rural, poor area, the economic diversification has increased incomes. Better wages have improved nutrition. The forestry union has invested in sanitation and healthcare, which has decreased disease. Previously, this forest was harvested by concessionaires. Now that the community manages it, they run their own sawmills and logging businesses, and a technically skilled workforce is developing.

Baghmara Community Forest in Nepal, a former tiger habitat now denuded of trees, uses money from jungle safaris and elephant rides to improve the local forest.   The government gave over control of this land to the community to start a tree plantation. The forest there has grown from 32 to 4,000 hectares. In turn, residents now have fodder for livestock and fuel wood for cooking, and are able to harvest small amounts of timber for sale.

The Greenbelt Movement in Kenya also began because of scarcity. Dr. Wangari Maathai, the founder, began planting trees in response to government corruption and over-cutting of trees, and as a way to create income, clean water, and fuel for people in her village. She created a work force of women and a funding program. The women villagers then established seedling nurseries. For this work, Dr. Wangari was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. Both of the Baghmara Community Forest and The Greenbelt Movement provide community well-being and basic needs for daily living. Both communities are making money by rejuvenating clear-cuts.

On Pemba, an island of Tanzania, the main industries are fishing and clove farming. Locals have recently teamed up with Community Forests International. Fourteen Pemban communities are planting trees to grow forests in an effort to create new economic opportunities, such as the harvesting of fruits, nuts, and timber. Pembans are attempting to avoid exhausting their fishery, to improve the natural environment of their island, and to develop rural economies.

Community-based forestry management practices are distinctly different from the Business As Usual concession model, in which an outside company leases the land from the forest dwelling community, plants and manages a stand of trees, and makes the harvest. In BAU, the forest community serves as a low-paid, expendable workforce, and the profits go to the concession-holder. This system creates a type of dependency on outside economic influence, rather than economic sustainability through forest management.

There is much to learn from the international model of community based forestry management. These projects build local economies and provide real livelihoods to people who live in these forests. As well, these are ecologically and environmentally sound programs. Projects such as these offer a model for economic and environmental productivity functioning in tandem.

The following links provide photographs and video clips of the projects listed above. All photographs and videos are copyrighted by the producers, thus links have been provided here as direction to further information about this important topic.

1. Nuevo San Juan:

Manejo Forestal en San Juan Nuevo

2. Oaxaca Forest Stewardship Council project:

http://www.fsc.org.vm-fsc-entw.tops.net/1958.html

3. Baghmara Community Forest in Nepal:

Elephant safari in Baghmara Community Forest, Chitwan_IMG_0398

4. The Green Belt Movement in Kenya:

http://www.braaschphotography.com/pages/KenyaGreenBeltPlanting53.htm

5. Community Forests International on Pemba:

http://forestsinternational.org/pemba/

Quiet Giants and the Legacy of Public Lands: Part 2 of 2

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by Shauna Potocky

The dirt road leads to a fork, and from here you must decide, which path to take. The forest here, now in fall, is a mix of Black oaks, Pacific dogwoods, pines and firs. The light is filled with colorful foliage, illuminated gold, flaming red, greens in every hue. The air is crisp and the ground just damp after the first rains of the season. The road, in either direction, winds through the forest and leads you to a grove of Giant Sequoias (Sequoia giganteum).

The Nelder Grove is located in the Sierra National Forest of California, south of the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias that reside within Yosemite National Park. This grove, named for John A. Nelder, a retired miner who once called the grove his home, stands stoic and beautiful in the mixed conifer forest—revealing for all to see, it’s past.

Not all giant sequoia groves benefited from early government protection, as the Mariposa Grove did during the mid to late 1800’s and early 1900’s, and thus, some Sequoia groves were logged—massive trees felled for timber. The irony of which proved to be that the wood was not ideal for building since, when the tree fell it often broke apart—shattered or splintered. Thus, many of these logged trees were made into shingles, stakes and other smaller scale items.

The Nelder Grove had such a fate. In the late 1800’s, the grove was logged by timber operations. Today, among the approximately 100 standing mature and majestic sequoias are gigantic silent stumps that tell of the groves’ past. Just as the standing glorious trees, these stumps too, make one stop in awe—they take your breath away.

The realization that some of these trees have been cut down, in fact deepens the importance for all the trees which remain.ImageImage

There is truly an extraordinary gift in this grove. Here, among the tales of history, are some extraordinarily old and massive sequoias and among them, young sequoias reaching upwards. Together, they stand in a grove that is lightly visited and teeming with biodiversity—a forest thriving with the song of birds, the echoing pound of woodpeckers, the flow of running rivers and creeks.

This provides countless teaching opportunities—sharing with students and visitors the ecology, fire history, and species that call this area home, including one of the Sierra’s most elusive sensitive species, the Pacific fisher. Along side biology and ecology is the deep and rich history of this place; once used, the lessons learned, the values gained and protections established so these trees and their story can be told for generations to come.  And it doesn’t end there—there is a remarkable human story too, from the historic figures to the people who care for the grove now.

The grove came under management by the United States Forest Service in 1928. A campground was established and the grove benefited by the presence of campground hosts. John and Marge Hawksworth served in this role and together they assisted and educated visitors; going on to care for the grove for more than 20 years. While doing so they also passed a great love of the grove down to their children, grandchildren, and great grand children.

One of those grandchildren was Brenda Negley; Brenda fell so deeply in love with the Nelder Grove, that today, Benda and her family serve as the grove’s campground hosts—continuing a legacy of sharing the grove with visitors, educating people about the history and being stewards to this remarkable place.

In total, Brenda’s family has cared for the grove, in various capacities for over twenty-six years. Together, they tirelessly help to maintain the exhibits that are displayed throughout the summer and assist visitors with campground access and information regarding trails. Without a doubt, if you see a smiling, approaching face in the grove, it is almost assuredly, Brenda.

For this service, her family has received some notable honors, which now includes the 2012 United States Forest Service national award for Volunteer Campground Host of the Year.

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Along with this recognition, there have also been recent achievements for the grove including the establishment of a non-profit organization, Friends of Nelder Grove, Inc., which seeks to share and preserve the grove and its history, while making it accessible for the public to enjoy.

Then there are the unexpected surprises, the ones that confirm how truly important the stewardship and access to public lands, like the Nelder Grove, are to people all over the world.

During the recent government shutdown, visitors were unable to travel into Yosemite National Park to visit the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Yet, these same visitors, who came from all over the world to see giant sequoias, driven by the desire to see even just one tree, if just for a moment, made the trek down the dirt road to that same fork framed by oaks, dogwoods and pines. Their journey and moments of inspiration in the Nelder Grove, affirm that the preservation of these quiet giants in all their glory—instead of being used as a resource by a select few—are worth more when preserved for the benefit of everyone.

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Cool Fact: John Muir and John Nelder met in the fall of 1875, when Muir was exploring the region in search of giant sequoias. Named the Fresno Grove at the time of their meeting, the grove and Mr. Nelder are captured in Muir’s writings: Our National Parks, Chapter IX: The Sequoia and General Grant National Parks.

Cool Fact: Brenda’s husband proposed to her under the sequoia tree named for her grandparents, the Hawksworth tree.

Photo credits:

Award photo: Courtesy of Brenda Negley and Friends of Nelder Grove, Inc.

Sequoia photo credits: Shauna Potocky

Portland’s Urban Foresters

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By Neva Knott

It’s tree-planting season and the Friends of Trees Crew Leader Training begins, here in this warm church basement that is abuzz with caffeinated chatter. I’m surrounded by people in rubber boots and every variety of raincoat, all of us drinking coffee out of small church cups, eating donated baked goods. On tarps set out around the room are two displays. One has a leafy tree in a black plastic pot, its boughs bound by twine, a pair of two-by- two stakes, a shovel, rake, and a post pounder, a hard-hat. The other display holds all the same goods, except the tree is barren. It’s cold and drizzly outside. Fall is turning to winter soon. These are shiny people, all here in good cheer and with a simple purpose—to plant trees.

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Friends of Trees, here in Portland, Oregon, is an urban forestry program designed to increase tree canopy cover over the city.  With these shovel-in-hand efforts weekend after weekend, the city becomes more lush and leafy. In fact, Portland has the only increasing urban canopy in the nation, a statistic that is colloquially known as the “Friends of Trees effect.”  As awareness of Portland’s model grows, city dwellers elsewhere are beginning to realize the importance of the interface between developed areas and natural spaces. According to the US Forest Service, “in an effort to maintain and improve the public benefits of trees, more and more cities—Atlanta, Chicago, Baltimore, Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Washington DC—are setting tree canopy goals.” Trees are no longer simply aesthetic adornment to homes, but are considered part of the sustainable, green infrastructure of urban development.

A couple of hours are spent sitting inside, learning the procedures to teach our volunteers. Then the volunteer planters arrive, and everyone shares a potluck lunch of warm soups, macaroni and cheese, cookies, and lemonade. Friends of Trees works build community while planting trees—by bringing neighbors together.

As the meal ends, people are divided into small work groups and tromp outside.  Each crew has a set of houses in the neighborhood to visit. At each site, trees have been delivered and the holes for them have been dug. On my crew, I have someone from Environmental Services, a guy who just moved from Las Vegas and is studying horticulture, two young college students, four Hispanic teenagers from a high-school service club, and the homeowner of one of our planting sites. Three hours later, eight new trees are in the ground. Now dirt-covered and exuberant, we laugh and chat our way back to the church, wash the tools and call it a day.

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Urban forestry is a blend of social and scientific necessity. With 80 per cent of the US population living in cities, use of city trees as natural resources takes on a much broader context. It includes safe-guarding against tree loss during development; treating trees as part of the infrastructure of the city; putting in place codes and policies to maximize tree preservation; expansion of private and public urban forestry programs; removal of regulatory obstacles; reduction of the heat island effect caused by development. This, for sure, is a new way of thinking. It’s a fresh approach, and aligned with the science of climate change as well as the ideas behind livable cities.

Portland’s Grey to Green Initiative works in partnership with Friends of Trees. Its concern is the use of the city’s trees in the control of storm-water run-off. The canopy of leaves of the 50-foot-tall buckeye in my yard catches rain as it falls; a mature tree can capture up to 700 gallons a year. The paperbark maple planted on Saturday, not yet as leafy and large as the buckeye, holds onto water that falls to the ground and uses it for root growth. A tree’s root system holds soil in place. In turn, some of the captured water is stored in the soil to replenish the ground water supply.  As well, much of run-off water in cities contains chemicals like car oil and other debris—that gunk you see in the street drains during a downpour. When that water moves through the soil, some of the debris is filtered out.  With water held in tree fiber and the soil, and with the soil stabilized and working to filter out toxins, significantly less run-off makes it into the city sewage system, to the nearby Willamette River, and out to the sea. A healthy urban forest, one composed of the newest to the oldest trees, slows run-off by about 35 per cent; in Portland, this amounts to 500 million gallons of storm water a year. Trees also allow the city to spend less building and maintaining sewage systems. Portland saves $58 million dollars—or 40 per cent of traditional sewage repair costs—per year because of its street trees. Deciduous, or leafy, trees aren’t doing all the work; evergreens actually help even more with storm water run-off, because they have needles year-round. By providing ecosystem services such as storm-water control, urban trees can be used as a cost-saving component of a city’s infrastructure.

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Trees breathe carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gases, most of which—in the city—comes from vehicles. Other sources of the carbon that is emitted into the air by industry, fires, fuel burning, agriculture, and all kinds of human activity. As trees take up COand other pollutants they filter the air—at the rate of 25 million pounds a year here. It takes about 20 trees to offset driving one car for 60 miles each day. The larger and healthier the tree, the more filtration. Think of the old neighborhoods full of maples, cherries, and tulip trees, working hard to help us breathe. And interestingly, researchers have discovered that urban trees begin to store carbon at an earlier age than do rural or wilderness trees.

The economic aspect of air filtration, mainly that of carbon storage, comes in the form of carbon trading. More and more, industries that send the pollutants into the air pay tree growers for the air-cleaning capacity of their trees. Cities are now able to compete in this market. In fact, buyers often pay more for credits that are attached to sustainable projects with local, social benefits, such as urban tree-planting programs.

A full tree canopy provides shade and lowers the overall temperature of a place. In the city, this is important socially—ever step into the shade of a tree on a hot day? Such cooling also works to against global warming. Cooling is particularly important in cities where heat islands occur. The lack of trees and other vegetation combined with pavement, buildings, and other human-made, sealed structures disallow the flow of energy and air. Think of walking on a sidewalk at sundown on a hot day, and passing by a brick or cement building. You can feel the heat wave bounce of its walls. That’s the heat island effect working. A 2006 study of Portland’s July temperatures reported a 20-degree difference between the well-treed Northwest quadrant and an area designated as an urban heat island.

Wildlife fare better in the city when trees provide food and shelter for them. Salmon swim our creeks on the way to the big rivers—Willamette and Columbia and coyotes roam through town. If you live here you are no stranger to the crows, squirrels, and raccoons. The tree canopy keeps river water clean for the fish and helps to moderate water temperature so they can flourish. Fruit and nuts feed many of the 200 species of birds call this city home. Squirrels live in the leafy high-rises. Travel corridors provide safety for larger creatures hoping to sneak from tree patch to tree patch for cover. These habitat resources lower incidents of wildlife encroaching on human habitat; in turn, the city is safer for all species—humans and those with scales, fur and feathers.

All of these ecosystems services add up to a boon for the city. Homeowners also cash in on street tree value. When you drive down a street under its lush canopy with boughs that reach across to make an arc overhead, know that the shade these trees provide lowers energy use, and increase property value by $14,500 per street tree. Storm-water Management credit and Clean River Rewards credit are available on your sewer bill for efforts made on the home front. Crime is lower where there are trees. People walk more in tree-dense areas. Overall livability increases when a city’s canopy is dense.

Forests in the United States are being converted for non-forest uses such as urban development and agriculture at the rate of 1 million acres a year, yet humans need trees to live. City trees provide opportunities. They provide another way for trees to work for us by shaping new economies and new types of forestry jobs. City trees significantly lower the costs of running a city. A tree-planting program costs about $5 per capita. What enthuses me about urban forestry and tree-planting programs is the opportunity for individual empowerment. In all the talk about climate change and environmental degradation it is easy to feel helpless. I have been studying conservation biology for the last two years, during which I’ve come to believe that trees can assuage many of the world’s problems. I volunteer for Friends of Trees and I am hooked.

Saturday morning, and it’s 7 AM. It’s early, but I can’t get my rubber boots on fast enough and get out the door—rain, sun, or freezing cold. I can’t stop global warming, but I can plant a tree.

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The next Crew Leader Training is on November 9, 2013. See the Friends of Trees website for details.

Community-Based Forestry Management–A Boon for Oregon

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By Neva Knott

I live in Oregon where forests weave together people and place, connecting urban and rural, past generations and present. Forests underpin the economic health of the state, and are at the center of long-standing conflicts between loggers and environmentalists.  Having grown weary of this conflict, and because I want solutions instead of the doom and gloom messages about the environment, I turned my attention to efforts around the globe to end forest-based conflicts.  What I found is, project by project, community-based forest management is being used to solve forest-based environmental and economic problems. Overall, the goals of community forestry are: community well-being, sustainable livelihoods, and forest stewardship. In a time when federal harvest subsidies are ending for Oregon counties this combination of strategies makes sense.

Tree harvest has been the legacy of Oregon. The logs bring money but, as Oregonians are now finding, once the forest is depleted and the logging stops, people in forest-dependent communities find themselves trying to live in a clear-cut economy. On land left bare by logging, it is hard to survive.

If you live in Oregon, you’ve likely driven through this landscape. First, on descent from the mountain pass or just as you cross out of an urban center, you notice the bare patches where trees once stood. A few miles down the road, you slow in approach of a town. The mill is boarded up, the grocery, hardware store, and curio shops are closed. If you are lucky, there is a coffee stand. Maybe a restaurant. Maybe a quick-mart. Maybe a gas station. It’s pretty likely you’ll find a tavern or two. No matter the reason for the drive in Oregon, one is driving through forest land.

I road-trip around the state often, to hike, photograph, or just plain get out of the city. And for a brief while, I lived on the dry side of the Cascades, in Central Oregon. Since most of my life was still in Portland, I made frequent trips, taking the Willamette Pass or heading over Mt. Hood.  On many of these high desert to city runs, I stopped at the Deschutes River Crossing Café in Warm Springs, at the bottom of the canyon, and literally at water’s edge. I stopped not for the food, but for the walls adorned with old photographs of the logging glory days. Of proud men standing seven or eight across the cut end of a fallen log, of trees so big they dwarf the machinery, of two loggers, each standing on an end of a misery saw, the middle of it stuck in the stump, of log floatillas on the river, of mills in full operation. Pictures of days gone by. Two scenes, one of boon and one of bust. This is the imagery of forests and the forest economy in Oregon.

About half of Oregon is forested. It appears to be a lush, green state, punctuated by high desert and coastlines. Oregonians take pride in big trees, clean rivers, clear skies, and robust salmon runs.  Even so, Oregon forests are suffering the effects of a century or more of over-logging, wildfires, and other forms of degradation.  Most of the old-growth forests are gone. These realities heralded the era of regulatory action. Laws were passed to protect wildlife, and those laws limited logging. The first reductions in harvest came in 1993 with the Northwest Forest Plan. Since then, timber harvests on public lands have decreased 82 per cent. Outcry arose in the populace—loggers versus environmentalists became part of Oregon’s common conversation. Dealing with decreased logging in the face of regulation has shaped the last 20 years of forest history here, to the extent that the status quo of this conflict at times seems irrevocable. Encouragingly, community forestry includes a framework for mitigation of such conflicts.

Community Forestry is a blend of science, policy, and culture, an action plan by which trees can rescue people and landscapes. When this model is followed, the result is that more, if not most, of the money gained from harvesting trees stays in the community near the forest. This eliminates the one-time payment, clear-cut and go model and replaces it with the long view, with sustainable harvests and ongoing revenue streams.

The Harrop-Proctor Co-op in British Columbia exemplifies the idea that, even though community forestry takes on a unique configuration in each location, common principles exist, one of which is that economic well-being and environmental stability can co-exist, and should. In 1999 they secured a public-lands tenure contract to manage the forests themselves. The Canadian tenure program shifts responsibility for forest management from government agency to the local community. The community is then responsible for the forest, and is allowed to keep any profits. At Harrop-Proctor, a fully functioning forest is left after harvest. This protects the watershed, ensures that there will be harvestable timber for a long time, and provides jobs. Much community involvement and effort went into building this enterprise; loggers and environmentalists alike pitched in. The Co-op manages the venture; each resident can purchase a lifetime share and gain voting rights, one share per person, one vote per share.  Harrop-Proctor Forest Products does the work, harvesting, producing lumber, paneling, flooring, decking, siding, timbers, fencing, and the T-house—built from trees that are specifically selected for each house.

Burns Lake Community Forest, Ltd., was founded on the belief that rural communities should have a say in how the public forests they live in are managed. Burns Lake, also in British Columbia, shares similarities with many Oregon logging towns: a majority of citizens are employed in the forest industry; there are interconnected but diverse groups involved—tribal, local, state, and federal governments. At the outset of the project there was frustration over outside control of forests, either corporate or governmental; a mistrust of city-slickers who call all the shots without understanding local reality; and an us v. them mentality. In the early planning days, community involvement was greater. Now, a community of 2,700 persons benefits from the efforts of forestry experts who demonstrate that forests can and should be used as a natural resource to meet economic needs, and that those needs can be met while practicing forest stewardship. Burns Lake Community Forest operates as a tenure contract; in fact, it was the original pilot project for the tenure program. Just over 92, 000 hectares of mostly lodge pole pine are managed for sustainable yield timber. Forestry there is more than growing and harvesting of trees; it is community-building. In the first ten years of operation, donations to community programs ran to $3 million. Economic activity—dollars flowing into the community—totalled $103 million. The organization runs a log home building course, logging equipment trainings, and non-timber forest products workshops. Through its community tree program, 10 million seedlings have been planted. What makes this project so successful is a thoughtful system of focus, stemming from clear objectives. Loggers wanted less dependency on outsider big business and more control over management of their forests, and the community wanted their forestry project to operate as a self-sufficient business with jobs and profits.

These forestry management practices are distinctly different than the Business As Usual concession model, in which an outside company leases the land from the forest dwelling community, plants and manages a stand of trees, makes the harvest. In BAU, the forest community serves as a low-paid, expendable workforce, and the profits go to the concession-holder. This system creates the type of dependency on outside economic influence, rather than economic sustainability through forest management.

Instituting community forestry is a process. This message comes through every project story. One of the strongest suggestions given is that early work should focus on social education to help people understand community forestry. With that, it takes citizen participation—civic duty, if you will–and supportive government policy. Expertise in forestry and business management is essential.

I think this is the direction for Oregon; in fact, some such projects are starting to emerge.

The Oregon Coast Community Forestry Association is a fairly new organization, seeking to acquire, restore, protect and manage forest lands in Lincoln County. They are currently looking for 1, 000 to 10, 000 acres to purchase, and are in negotiation for Poole’s Slough.

Oregon Solutions at Portland State University works closely with collaborative groups, promoting a new style of community governance based on collaboration, integration of services, and how to manage sustainability.

Oregon State University’s extension services offers a Master Woodland Manager program, much like the familiar Master Gardeners. Once trained, Woodland Managers volunteer in their communities, helping neighbors with forestry planning. They also take on leadership roles in local government and give public presentations on forestry. This type of community interaction is what started The Greenbelt Movement in Kenya and tree-planting on Pemba.

These are forward-thinking, smart programs for Oregon, and are parallel to community forestry abroad. This work serves to dissolve the conflict of loggers v. the environment in favor of a new vision of healthy and productive Oregon forests and timber towns.

The Bureau of Land Management has a Stewardship Contract program awards 10-year contracts to logging firms and similar organizations for work that improves, maintains, or restores forest or rangeland, water quality, habitat, or reduces fire fuels.

To get a better sense of how these contracts work, I attended a meeting of the Clackamas Stewardship Partners. Forest rangers, sawmill owners, loggers, and environmental groups comprise CPS, and work employment through watershed stewardship. Between 2006-2010, they managed $6 million in projects and created $825,000 in timber sales, through the use of BLM Stewardship Contracts. Getting a contract works like getting a traditional bid. The forest agency, in this case Mt. Hood National Forest, offers up a lot of trees for harvest and sale, and timber contractors bid their price to do the work. In the traditional system, it’s straight dollars. In the stewardship contract system, the bid includes restoration work, so the purchase price is a mix of services and money. One might look something like, for that stand of trees, the contractor will build two river culverts and pay $250,000. Profit comes for the contractor when he sells the end product, either as raw logs or value-added lumber or wood products.

Other examples of groups using stewardship contracting are The Siuslaw Basin Partnership that operates a contract for streamside tree planting. The Central Oregon Partnership for Wildfire Risk Reduction harvests small diameter wood and sells it for biofuels production. They also work to develop new markets for biomass, and to develop long-term community jobs. Southern Oregon Small Diameter Collaborative conducts forest thinning to provide jobs, reduce fire risk, and improve forest health.

The Lakeview Stewardship Group stands as an excellent example of a collaborative operation. Members of the collaborative include The Collins Companies—a logging and sawmill operation, Fremont-Winema National Forest, Lake County Chamber of Commerce, Oregon Wild, the local high school, and others. The Group works with a broader reach than operation of stewardship contracts alone. This collaborative actually began in 1950 as a timber-harvest and mill operation on federal land. After the imposition of harvest limits, the Group reshaped itself in 1998, to become what it is today. Not only does the group work on forest restoration and improved watershed quality, it operates a stewardship contract for small diameter removal and milling. This saw mill also processes logs from private woodlots. The Group provides community workforce training, and has taken a lead, alongside the US Forest Service and BLM in biomass and biofuel research. Lakeview is also part of The Nature Conservancy’s Northwest Fire Learning Network. Lakeview Stewardship Group’s story can serve as an emblem for Oregon. First an aggressive logging operation halted by regulatory measures, now a leadership group in advancing new forestry management in hand with community vitality.

Finding additional ways to profit from forests is a concept that will serve Oregon well. Several groups are marketing salvage wood for biomass energy production.  Other suggestions include finding use for small trees, once considered junk, that are cut to thin growing forest stands. Some collaborative groups are researching new markets for products made from these trees. Governor Kitzhaber, in his November speech to the Oregon Board of Forestry, raised concern over the fact that, currently, most of Oregon’s raw logs are exported to Asia. He adamantly supports finding new uses locally, which will create jobs and profits for OregonI envision opportunity for micro-niche economies arising in artisan craftsmanship. Canoe paddles, hunting bows, small watercraft, bowls and even furniture—the types of goods local Native Americans made. As well, forests support the growth of other marketable products, such as mushrooms, huckleberries, and other wild edibles and medicinal herbs.

Oregon can make good use of the community forestry model.  Policy support and direction exists. Our current Governor, John Kitzhaber, is sincerely invested in forestry management, as he clearly stated in his recent address of the state Board of Forestry. Our previous Governor, Ted Kulongoski, also worked with the OBF to develop a plan for use of federal forest lands, with the goal of restoration from past over-harvesting and sustainable future management for economic, social, and ecological values. There is rich economic opportunity in restoration work here. Both governors spoke to the need to support emerging collaborative groups. Both speak to the need to move beyond conflicts and to develop a shared vision and community engagement in the process for managing Oregon’s greatest natural resource.

As is demonstrated time and again in community forestry stories, localized control makes the biggest difference. Extending the decision making to the community level is key as a rural logging towns work to solve their clear-cut problems. Then, these emerging opportunities can be seized. The idea is simple—the community puts the production value of the forest to work for the community, while holding on to what Oregonians value in our forests, in terms of both conservation and economics.

I grew up in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. They are iconic imagery in my mind. It’s fall now, chantrelle mushroom season. For just a moment, I’m carried back to mushroom hunting with my dad and his life-long friend and colleague, both directors at Washington Game Department. Every trip they’d argue, both grinning, about where the best mushrooms were—in this stand of second growth or just down the logging road a bit. There’s nothing better in September than chantrelles cooked in butter with a little sage. I would never buy imported chantrelles. I’ve come to think twice before making all my purchases. I now drive a diesel car and fuel it with Oregon-made biofuel. As I add furniture to my home, I’m committed to purchasing local goods rather than something flimsy from Ikea or Target. In the big picture, the shared vision, of a healthy forest economy, we are all part of the community of Oregon. Each of us consumes wood products, paper, and other goods that come from the forest. Let’s make local habit.

I feel confident that, with the hard work that built such as successful logging industry here in the past centuries, this state will pull through to a new era of healthy forests and a strong forest-based economy, as she has always done—under the power of her own wings. 1  Then, as I drive down that mountain pass and into that small town, I will see Open signs, proudly displayed.

 

 

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Not the Maple Syrup! Loss of Vermont Maple Trees to Climate Change

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By RJ Thompson

Photo courtesy of Sandiwood Farm, Wolcott, VT

I remember the first time I had real maple syrup.  I was around the age of ten or eleven and on a ski vacation in Vermont. Like any young skier, I was anxious to put my snow-gear on and run out the door to catch the shuttle to the mountain, but my aunt convinced me I should eat some breakfast before hitting the slopes. That’s when my taste buds were introduced to one of nature’s most splendid treats.

What I experienced next was a life-changing moment.  Warm Vermont maple syrup cascaded down upon a heaping stack of steamy buttermilk pancakes as the scents of both collided to form a smell that can only be described as euphoric.  I took my first bite and quickly realized something was very different.  The pancakes were out of this world!  The skiing could wait.

Reflecting on that experience nearly twenty years later, I find myself not only wondering what the heck I had been putting on my pancakes the first ten years of my life, but also what I would do if maple syrup no longer existed as we know it today.  Most of us (not me) would probably get by just fine with the artificial high-fructose corn syrup goo that congeals on a plate if you don’t touch it after a few seconds, but some individuals, particularly Vermonters reliant on the maple industry for a big part of their income, may find themselves in hard times.

While 2013 yielded Vermont’s largest maple crop in 70 years. The increase was mostly due to advancements in technology such as maple lines that are far more efficient than the traditional method of gathering sap with metal buckets.  Linking multiple trees together with one tube that flows into a large barrel has drastically increased sugaring output; however, this innovation may not be enough to guarantee a perpetual syrup surplus in Vermont.

Why the grim outlook?  It turns out global warming may be pushing the sugar maple out of Vermont and into Quebec.  That’s right; we’ve managed to alter yet another species’ habitat with climate change.  What does that mean for maple sugaring in Vermont and future generations enjoying their first authentic Vermont maple syrup experience?  The survey is still out, but there are many scientific computer models that predict sugar maples will virtually disappear from Vermont by the end of the 21st century.  As temperatures continue to increase, sugar maples will begin to migrate to more favorable conditions found at higher latitudes and elevations.  That means Quebec, the world leader in maple syrup production, will get most of Vermont’s precious sugar maples in less than 100 years.

Humans will always favor the growth of sugar maples because of the tree’s high economic value (maple syrup is nearly worth its weight in gold, so it makes sense to keep these trees around as long as possible).  We can alter soils to increase the propagation of sugar maples, but that’s not a sustainable practice.  Instead, we must look at the big picture and use Vermont’s maple tree as another symbol to take action against climate change.

If the melting of ice caps, near-extinction of polar bears, increasing sea levels, and higher frequency of natural disasters are not enough, consider the Green Mountain State without maple syrup.  Sure, it will still be available from Quebec and other parts of Canada, and it will most likely taste the same as those delicious pancakes I had some twenty years ago, but Vermont will have lost a $40 million industry and one of its sweetest, most delicious treasures.  Not to mention, we’ll have to rely on yet another import.  So, the next time your pancakes need a lathering in syrup, consider leaving your car and riding your bike to the store to pick up that bottle of gold we call Vermont maple syrup.  The effort will be worth it.

The Values of Ecological Thinning on Small Woodlots

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By Neva Knott

If your woodlot looks anything like mine did when I inherited it, you might describe it as a scraggly mess. Trees are crammed together so closely I can’t walk through, fallen logs lean on growing trees, and many trees seem too thin. Such a mess inhibits growth within stand structure and creates unhealthy competition between tree species and between individual trees. Thinning reduces the stem count of the woodlot, giving way to more resources such as soil nutrients and sunlight for the stronger trees and the more desirable species. Thinning also increases the merchantability of the trees because, with less competition, trees will grow to be bigger and healthier.  Dead or diseased trees are also removed during thinning.

Ecological thinning improves the growing conditions of a tree stand, creates aesthetic value of the landscape, and can put money in the woodlot owner’s pocket, as well as provide jobs for foresters, loggers, and millworkers. A thinned tree stand will have easily visible trees of varying size, and will look better. The scraggly mess will be transformed into a wooded area that is pleasant to hike through and for other recreational activities.

Ecologically speaking, thinning is sound practice. It is becoming common in large, public forests as a way to reduce woody debris and small trees that easily ignite as wildfire fuel. Thinning benefits wildlife by creating travel corridors, and healthier tree stands produce better edibles such as pine nuts and fruits. Brush piles created during a thin become habitat for critters like rabbits. The healthier the forest or woodlot, the more able the trees are to store carbon, thus work against global warming.

Logs harvested during the thinning process create an income stream. Not only does ecological thinning provide jobs in the forest industries sector, it can provide profits for the woodlot owner. Also, privately held parcels of land managed as woodlots often qualify for property tax reduction programs. Depending on the species of tree, these logs can be sold as hog fuel, pulp, or to a mill specializing in small diameter production. As forestry researchers and professionals look to adapt to changes in forestry regulation and management, more and more uses for small diameter trees are coming onto the market. Furniture, flooring, cabinetry, sporting equipment like bats and bowling pins are some of the many products made from trees once considered too small to be good timber.

Regardless of your aim as a woodlot owner, cleaning up that scraggly mess will result in healthier, more merchantable trees, viable wildlife habitat, a more visually pleasing forest open for recreation, and will make you money. Here in Washington State, log prices average $500 per 1000 board feet, filling your pockets with a few thousand dollars, or more, depending on your acerage. Thinning is an opportunity to increase the triple bottom line on your property—it is good for people, the planet, and profits.

Quiet Giants and the Legacy of Public Lands: Part 1 of 2

By Shauna Potocky

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Public lands are by far one of the greatest gifts we have been given. They were saved by passionate people who came long before us; today, teams of inspired managers, educators, scientists, and volunteers work tirelessly to keep these amazing places open to us and protected for generations to come.

The birth of these legacies emerged in part, due to the work and passion of Galen Clark, a man who was inspired while standing amongst quiet giants—the Giant Sequoias of the Mariposa Grove. Galen helped to capture the interest and support of many other individuals and from this a legacy was born. On June 30, 1864 the first land grant of its kind emerged, the Yosemite Grant. Signed by President Abraham Lincoln, the Yosemite Grant protected Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias for all time—a legacy that created the foundation for what would eventually become our state and national parks.

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This gift of land preservation remains as profound today as it was then—yet, the true depth of this gift might still be emerging. Beyond the legacy, for example, the Mariposa Grove is teaching us—it is influencing how we understand and work within natural systems—from fire ecology to hydrology, sensitive species to ecosystem restoration; the grove serves as an important center of emerging knowledge.

When you consider that areas like the Mariposa Grove are some of the most protected land in our country—they become critically important classrooms and areas of study. Generally, protected with its natural systems intact, we can see precisely the effect of various management strategies and impacts. The results of these observations are impressive and profound.

One example of the lessons learned in the Mariposa Grove, is the influence of fire and the importance of its occurrence in Sierra Nevada ecosystems. This region evolved with fire as a natural part of its processes; a variety of trees and plants exhibit fire adaptations and require fire for germination—including the Giant Sequoia.

From the time of early settlers and holding fast in many areas even today, is the belief that fire is destructive and should be suppressed. Yet, the Grove has shown us a different perspective; when fire was suppressed in the Mariposa Grove for decades, concern emerged due to the lack of new sequoia seedlings. Land managers and scientists questioned this issue and eventually attempted to reintroduce fire into the ecosystem, with the result of new seedlings emerging.

What was found is that sequoias benefited from the understory fuels being cleared from the forest floor; the burned materials restored nutrients to the soil, opened space for germination and a new generation of seedlings could take root. Today, we see the importance of reducing fuel loads in order to maintain healthy ecosystems as well as reduce the risk of severe fires.

The lessons in the Mariposa Grove don’t end with fire ecology; in fact this grove has influenced our understanding of hydrology changes and impacts, invasive species, and plays a significant role in connecting people to nature.

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Imagine putting your own hands to work protecting a Giant Sequoia in the Grove where the idea of land preservation began. Each year, volunteers of all ages work to restore impacted areas, remove invasive species and ultimately, become stewards to the environment.

What grows out of this service is a whole new generation of people with a passion for protecting some of the greatest natural wonders in the world—our ecosystems… and they take these lessons home to their own communities.

Galen Clark couldn’t haven known that his passion for the Giant sequoias in the Mariposa Grove would play such a significant role in the creation of public lands or transforming our understanding of natural systems. What he did know was that the Grove was awe-inspiring and worthy of protection.

What will your passion help to protect?

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Part 2: Ponder the legacy of a sequoia grove that did not receive the same protection—you might just be surprised at what we find! Scheduled for release November 2013.

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Cool Fact: Through the Yosemite Grant, State Parks had been created, and from this, eventually National Parks would emerge. In 2014 we have the honor of celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Yosemite Grant and State Parks!

Photo credits: Shauna Potocky; National Park Service; Ian Ojeda; National Park Service.