Wednesday, August 27, 2014

2014 Farm Bill Programs for Forestry and Conservation

2014 Farm Bill, University of Arkansas
Farm Bill programs are an important tool that forest landowners can take advantage of to secure funding assistance for numerous conservation practices.  When I worked as a Service Forester in the past it was uncommon for landowners to perform any kind of forest management practice such as tree planting, spraying competing plants, timber stand improvement, etc without being signed up in some sort of Farm Bill assistance program.  Karen Sykes from the US Forest Service, State and Private Forestry, wrote and excellent summary of the programs currently available.  I have also provided a link to the University of Arkansas site with the image to the left.  Hope this helps you better understand what programs are currently available.

2014 Farm Bill: Summary of Conservation, Forestry, and Energy Title Programs
by Karen Sykes, U.S. Forest Service, Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry

The Farm Bill establishes the policies and government support for U.S. agriculture, nutrition programs like food stamps, rural economic development programs, agricultural research, and much more. The bill is divided into sections, called “titles,” that cover specific program areas and generally last for about 5 years. The previous Farm Bill of 2008 had 15 titles that covered a range of forestry, food, and agricultural-related topics, including food stamps, rural development, trade, fruits, and vegetables.

As foresters, we are mainly interested in Title II–Conservation and Title VIII–Forestry, which have programs to assist nonindustrial private forest landowners. In this article, we’ll explain the major changes in the 2014 Farm Bill that pertain to forest landowners and State and Private Forestry programs. We’ll also touch on Title IX – Energy, especially regarding the Biomass Crop Assistance Program.

2014 Farm Bill Finally Passes
The 2014 Farm Bill (P.L. 113-79) was finally enacted and signed on February 7, 2014. Under the authority of the 2008 Farm Bill, there were about 23 conservation programs. The new Farm Bill streamlines these programs, and reduces and consolidates some of the conservation programs into 13 “new” programs. Many of the larger existing conservation programs—Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)—were reauthorized, while smaller and similar programs got rolled into them, or “umbrella” programs were created to consolidate other programs.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Service Agency (FSA), Rural Development, and other agriculture agencies held “listening sessions” for several weeks this spring so that agriculture producers, forest landowners, and agency employees could become familiar with the changes.

Congress considered other forestry provisions that were not included in the final Farm Bill, but which could be debated later or enacted in other legislation. For example, protecting communities from wildfire and controlling invasive species are issues that were debated, but never made it to the final law. These and other issues could come up again in the future.

Title II: Conservation
To read the rest of the article click here.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Forests and Bats: Why All the Fuss?

I saw this article written by our friends at the University of Minnesota Extension and thought I would share it with my readers.  It provides a great overview of the connection between bats and forests.  With the proposed listing of the northern long-eared bat as federally endangered this is timely information.

The northern long-eared bat: why all the fuss?
By Jodie Provost, Minnesota DNR Private Land Habitat Coordinator

You may have heard mention of the northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) in the news lately. Last October, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to list it as an endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act due to a dramatic decline in its population.

Decline or loss of the northern long-eared bat is a concern. All native species have essential niches or jobs they fill in our ecosystems. For example, bats eat up to half their weight in insects each night. Recent studies estimate that bats deliver $6 billion in insect control services to agriculture, forest industries and the public each year!

Federal listing could potentially restrict summer forest management since removal of trees used as summer maternity roosts would be prohibited. Land development activities involving tree removal, such as development for transportation, utilities, mining, and parks, could also be restricted.

The recent population decline of northern long-eared bats is caused by an outbreak of white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease first observed in New York State in 2006 that has spread rapidly from eastern North America westward. The disease is expected to spread throughout the range of northern long-eared bats which includes much of eastern and north-central United States, and most of Canada. In Minnesota, long-eared bats occur in both summer and winter, have been found in many caves and mines, although typically in low numbers, and are currently designated as a species of special concern.

The northern long-eared bat is about three to four inches long with a nine to ten inch wing span. Its fur is medium to dark brown on the back and tawny to pale-brown on the underside. As its name suggests, it is distinguished by its long ears, relative to other bats in its genus, Myotis, which means mouse-eared. Winter is typically spent in cracks & crevices of caves and mines, called hibernacula, which have constant temperatures, high humidity and no air currents. In summer, the bats roost under bark and in crevices and cavities of live or dead trees. Males and non-reproductive females may also roost in cooler places, like caves and mines.

To read the rest of the article click here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Pennsylvania Team Competes at National 4-H Forestry Invitational

Pennsylvania was one of 12 state teams that competed in the 35th annual National 4-H Forestry Invitational from Sunday, July 27, through Thursday, July 31.  Teams from Alabama, New York, and Georgia placed first, second, and third respectively.  Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Virginia were also represented at this year’s Invitational.

The invitational was held at West Virginia University Jackson’s Mill State 4-H Camp and Conference Center near Weston, West Virginia.  The event was sponsored by Farm Credit System, Plum Creek, The Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Inc., The Society of American Foresters, West Virginia University Extension Service, The American Forest Foundation, and the Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals.  In Pennsylvania, the 4-H Forestry Program is sponsored by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative of Pennsylvania.

While at the Invitational 4-H members competed for overall team and individual awards in several categories.  Events included tree identification, tree measurement, compass and pacing, insect and disease identification, topographic map use, forest evaluation, the forestry bowl and a written forestry exam.

Pennsylvania was represented by Serena Nicoll from Pittsburgh, Kelsey McLaughlin and Dalton Stewart both from New Bethlehem.  The team was coached by Bill Stewart from New Bethlehem and Gayle Nicoll from Pittsburgh.

Lisa Barron from Alabama received the high point individual award.  Second place high individual award was given to Daryl Blough from New York and third place high individual award was given to Seth Rankins from Alabama.

The Joe Yeager “Spirit of the Invitational” award was given to Nathaniel Erwin of Kentucky.  This award recognizes an outstanding 4-H contestant at the Invitational.  It is presented to the individual who takes initiative, is enthusiastic, and is eager to lead academic and social situations.

4-H is a youth education program operated by the Cooperative Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the state
land grant universities. More than six million youth, 540,000 volunteers, and 3,500 professionals participate in 4-H nationwide, and nearly 100,000 are part of the 4-H Forestry Program.

For more information on the National 4-H Forestry Invitational, click here.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Forest Health Complexities showcased through TNC Woodbourne Preserve

The Nature Conservancy is showcasing the state's forest health issues through a number of very well written articles based on one of their properties located in Susquehanna County, North Central Pennsylvania, called the Woodbourne Preserve.  The preserve is dealing with emerald ash borer, hemlock wooly adelgid, high deer impacts and a number of other issues including wetlands, and beavers cutting old growth.

The five part series is based on the fact that the forest changes.  The articles pose the question.......How will we respond?  How can we address these new and conflicting issues, sometimes with devastating consequences, and protect the forest for future generations?  We want future generations to be able to experience the forest in the same way that we did.  We need the forest for so many things, wood, clean water, wildlife habitat, places to recreate.  In the face of forest change, what will the forests of the future hold?  What will they look like?  What species will they contain?

In the Nature Conservancies Cool Green Science blog they explore these questions in a 5 part series.  I have provided links below to the first four.  They are worth a read.  Matt Miller is an excellent writer and has experienced the forests of Pennsylvania first hand.

1. Change Comes to the Eastern Forest
Change is coming to the eastern forest. The decisions made now could have long-lasting implications for the forests we know in the future. How will conservationists respond? What does it mean to manage a “pristine” forest? What complexities do land managers face as they try to maintain a healthy forest in the face of new ecological threats – and differing human values that at times conflict with the science? I’ll be exploring these questions this week in a five-part blog series on the issues faced by one seemingly pristine forest preserve in north-central Pennsylvania, a microcosm of the complexities faced in forests in the eastern United States.............

2. Notes from the Deer Wars: Science & Values in the Eastern Forest
One of the biggest threats to the eastern forest also happens to be one of its most charismatic creatures: the white-tailed deer. Recently, a group of Conservancy scientists and land managers called over-abundant deer a bigger threat to forests than climate change. The white-tailed deer is arguably the most studied wild animal in the world, but this is more than a science issue. You cannot talk about deer without addressing competing human passions, values and traditions. This is true anywhere the white-tailed deer roams in the United States. It is especially true in Pennsylvania, a place where opinions on deer management have probably ignited more bar fights than politics or religion............

3. Can Integrated Pest Management Save the Eastern Hemlock?
Drive along some of the most scenic routes in the eastern United States — Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park, the Smoky Mountains – and you’ll see the ghosts of forests past. Hemlock groves, once some of the most beautiful forests in the country, stand dead and dying. They’re the victim of a tiny, invasive pest that’s raging through trees. The rapid loss of trees can leave the most optimistic conservationist feeling hopeless. And indeed, there is not enough time or money to save all the hemlocks. By mapping hemlocks, identifying trees that are most vital ecologically and using a variety of pest management techniques, forest conservationists are finding that they can ensure that hemlocks remain a part of the eastern forest.............

4.  Logging Ash to Save Hemlocks
This might seem a tough thing for a forest conservationist to admit: there are times when an invasive forest pest can’t be stopped. There are times when you know it’s coming, and you can’t do anything about it. It will arrive in the forest, and trees will die. They will die en masse. It might seem a hopeless situation, to watch helplessly while the trees you’re trying to protect are dying. But what if you could sell those trees for lumber before the pest arrived, and use the proceeds to save other trees?................