Tuesday, March 30, 2021

American Chestnut Videos

Below you will find links to three videos on the American chestnut. The videos provide valuable updates about the restoration of the species following it's demise from the blight.  

These first two videos, from the USDA Forest Service’s Southern Research Station, are on restoration of the American chestnut in the southern Appalachians. The videos feature information on the Southern Research Station’s chestnut research, the National Forest System’s silvicultural program, The University of Tennessee’s Tree Improvement Program, and The American Chestnut Foundation’s backcross breeding program.

Video: Restoration Research ofthe American Chestnut (Part 1 Intro)

The American chestnut was once a common and abundant tree species that occupied 200 million acres in the eastern hardwood forests of North America. The species had a cultural significance and was a keystone species, providing wildlife with food and habitat sources. Two non-native pathogens led to the chestnut's extirpation in the 20th century, but efforts are underway to conserve and restore this iconic tree.

Video: Restoration Research ofthe American Chestnut (Part 2: Science in Action)

The USDA Forest Service, The University of Tennessee, and other partners showcase their research on the American chestnut (Castanea dentata), a species that was extirpated by a non-native pathogen (Cryphonectria parasitica) that causes chestnut blight disease. Over 4,000 hybrid chestnuts that were bred for blight-resistance were planted on three national forests since 2009, and research is still ongoing.

This next video is by Dr. William A. Powell.  Dr. Powell is the Director of the American Chestnut Research & Restoration Project at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. His team has focused on enhancing blight tolerance by adding only a couple genes to the approximately 38,000 gene pairs in the chestnut genome using the tools of genetic engineering (GE). This is important because these GE tools retain all of the American chestnut genes required for its adaptation to its forest ecosystem.

The most promising gene tested to date comes from bread wheat (Triticum aestivum) and encodes an oxalate detoxifying enzyme, called oxalate oxidase (OxO). This gene is a common defense gene found in many plants and it can confer enhanced blight tolerance in American chestnut. The original blight tolerant trees have been outcrossed to susceptible American chestnut trees through three generations to date, increasing genetic diversity and local adaptation. Environmental impact experiments have been completed and these trees are currently under federal review before being released to the public and to restoration programs. This video describes the program and its current progress toward restoring this keystone species.

Video: The Chestnut Tree: Bringing Back an American Icon

Billions of American Chestnut trees used to grow in America—and then a fungal blight spread throughout its native range. By the 21st century, this population had all but disappeared. Using revolutionary technology, the American Chestnut Research & Restoration Project aims to resuscitate the Castanea dentata. In this Stories of Impact video, William A. Powell (SUNY ESF) and Rex Mann (The American Chestnut Foundation) discuss the American chestnut and their goal of restoring the iconic tree to its former glory. Supported by the Templeton World Charity Foundation, this first-of-its-kind project is engineering a blight-resistant chestnut and reintroducing it to its native habitat.

Monday, March 22, 2021

How to Talk About Hunting Webinar Series

How to Talk About Hunting Webinar Series to Provide Research-Based Communications Instruction 

Responsive Management, in partnership with the Hunters’ Leadership Forum of the NRA and the support of the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports, will conduct a free webinar series covering material from the new book, How to Talk About Hunting: Research-Based Communications Strategies.

Humans have hunted for almost 2 million years, and more than 11 million Americans continue to hunt today. In addition to providing numerous cultural and ecological benefits, hunters contribute the bulk of state-based funding for wildlife conservation in the United States. Additionally, every fish and wildlife agency across the United States is legislatively mandated to manage and provide opportunities for hunting. Despite these facts, legal, regulated hunting remains vulnerable to the volatile nature of public opinion. The future of hunting and an integral portion of conservation funding in America depend on cultural support. This means that wildlife professionals must use language that resonates with non-hunters and those unfamiliar with hunting.

The How to Talk About Hunting webinar series includes four separate sessions devoted to individual areas of focus from the book. Webinar presenters include Mark Damian Duda, founder and executive director of Responsive Management and senior author of How to Talk About Hunting: Research-Based Communications Strategies; Sam Nelson, founding partner of A-Game Speech and Debate Consulting and a senior lecturer at Cornell University; and Armands Revelins, researcher and consultant with A-Game Speech and Debate Consulting and Assistant Director of Speech & Debate Programs and Director of Policy Debate at Cornell University.

The webinar series includes the following sessions:

Webinar 1: Why Communicating About Hunting Is Important (Thursday, April 15, 2021, 12:00-1:00 pm EDT). The first webinar will explain why communicating about hunting is important and focus on the implications of effective communications about hunting (agency mandates, conservation funding, etc.). This webinar will also provide an overview of the fundamentals of effective communications. The webinar will be presented by Mark Damian Duda and Sam Nelson.

Webinar 2: Attitudes Toward Hunting, Animal Rights, Animal Welfare, and Dominionism (Friday, April 16, 2021, 12:00-1:00 pm EDT). The second webinar will focus on content and major takeaways from Chapters 4 (“Attitudes Toward Hunting”) and 5 (“Attitudes Toward Animal Rights, Animal Welfare, and Dominionism”). This webinar will provide participants with a thorough overview of the latest research that underpins the communications guidelines. The webinar will be presented by Mark Damian Duda.

Webinar 3: Communications Strategies (Thursday, April 22, 2021, 12:00-1:00 pm EDT). The third webinar will provide extensive instruction on formal and informal communications strategies, including persuasive tactics and effective messaging. Content in this webinar will draw on Chapters 9 (“Debating About Hunting”) and 10 (“Developing Formal Communications Programs in Support of Hunting”) of the book. The webinar will be presented by Sam Nelson and Armands Revelins of A-Game Speech & Debate.

Webinar 4: Talking About Hunting: Don’ts and Dos (Friday, April 23, 2021, 12:00-1:00 pm EDT). The final webinar will present the most important “don’ts” and “dos” for communicating about hunting, drawing primarily on the final chapter of the book. This webinar will focus on the core guidelines and best practices for effective communications about hunting. The webinar will be presented by Mark Damian Duda and Sam Nelson.

Click HERE to register for the webinars.

By taking a proactive approach to communications, hunters, conservationists, and members of the wildlife profession will become more effective proponents of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. In doing so, they will help to build the public support for hunting that remains essential in today’s society.

For questions or additional information about the webinar series, please contact us at research@responsivemanagement.com.

Webinar participants will receive a free copy of How to Talk About Hunting thanks to the generous support of Hunters’ Leadership Forum donors. If you do not already have a copy, please email Peter Churchbourne at PChurchbourne@nrahq.org.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

USDA Seeks Input on Climate Smart Ag and Forestry

The USDA is currently seeking public comment on President Biden’s Executive Order on “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.” As you all know, Pennsylvania is a forest and forest products industry leader, so we should ensure that our voices are reflected in the comments.

“USDA wants to understand how to best use their programs, funding and financing capacities, and other authorities, and how to encourage the voluntary adoption of climate-smart agricultural and forestry practices that decrease wildfire risk fueled by climate change and result in additional, measurable, and verifiable carbon reductions and sequestration and that source sustainable bioproducts and fuels. This public input will be considered as USDA prepares recommendations to expand climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices and systems. The feedback requested through this Executive Order is far-reaching; it encompasses the best use of USDA programs, funding and financing capabilities, authorities, and encouragement of voluntary conservation adoption.”

There are four main categories on input, each with specific questions that the USDA wants public comment on:

1.            Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry

2.            Biofuels, Wood and Other Bioproducts, and Renewable Energy

3.            Addressing Catastrophic Wildfire

4.            Environmental Justice and Disadvantaged Communities

The public comment period is open through April 30. Comments can be submitted online via www.regulations.gov under Docket No. USDA-2021-0003. Additional information is available on the USDA website. Please feel free to share this email with stakeholder, members, and others who would like to provide comment.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

DEP Provides Guidance on Erosion & Sedimentation Plan Reviews

Many timber harvesters in Pennsylvania are running into issues with municipal ordinances that require written Erosion & Sedimentation Control Plans (E&S Plans) be submitted to and approved by the local County Conservation District prior to the granting of a timber harvesting permit, even when there is no state regulatory requirement to do so. Most, if not all, County Conservation Districts charge a review fee for these approvals, and those fees unnecessarily add several hundred or even thousands of dollars to the cost of a timber harvesting operation.

Through Act 38 of 2005, also known as “ACRE” (Agriculture, Communities and Rural Environment) the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has specifically addressed this issue with a number of municipalities across the state. While each ordinance issue reviewed through ACRE is unique and fact specific, and the determinations of one review do not necessarily have predictive value as to how the OAG would handle future cases, the OAG has stated that “The [Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP] erosion and sediment control regulations do not require submission of an E&S plan to the Conservation District and the Conservation District has not role in DEP’s approving of such plans.” The OAG further stated “The Township may, at its own expense, submit an applicant’s E&S Plan to the Conservation District for review to check compliance with the regulations.

Because the Conservation Districts’ authority is delegated to them by DEP, the Pennsylvania Forest Products Association wrote a letter to the Department in July of 2020 about this issue and requested that the Conservation Districts be provided with guidance on E&S plan reviews. In their December 2nd response, DEP provided the following guidance to the Conservation Districts, which might also be helpful to timber harvesters and administrators.

· Districts are not prohibited from reviewing E&S Plans under the ACRE law. If a landowner/operator or municipality requests a District to review an E&S Plan, the District may do so.


· Even where an E&S Plan is not required to be reviewed prior to earth disturbance, if an E&S Plan is required to be developed and implemented, it must be available on site during all stages of the earth disturbance activity (25 Pa. Code § 102.4(b)(8)). DEP or the District can request to review the E&S Plan at any time during an inspection or upon complaint (25 Pa. Code § 102.4(b)(9)). If a landowner/operator refuses to provide their E&S Plan upon request in one of these situations, the refusal may constitute a violation of Chapter 102 and should be addressed through appropriate enforcement means.


· According to the Attorney General, municipalities may not require a landowner/operator to submit an E&S Plan to DEP or a District if Chapter 102 does not require such a review. Although DEP does not enforce the ACRE law, DEP respects the opinion of the Attorney General. If a District is aware of a municipal ordinance that requires a landowner to submit an E&S Plan for review outside of Chapter 102 requirements, the District can suggest that the municipality review their ordinance and the opinions of the Attorney General’s office on this issue. The District cannot provide legal advice, however the Attorney General’s website provides publicly-available resources on the ACRE law that may be of assistance to the municipality (see, for example, www.attorneygeneral.gov/resources/acre/).


· Districts and municipalities may enter into MOUs that include the review of timber harvesting E&S Plans, however, in accordance with the opinion of the Attorney General, any such MOU should not require that landowners/operators submit E&S Plans to the District if not otherwise required to do so under Chapter 102. An MOU that allows the municipality to submit E&S Plans for review at the municipality’s sole expense is acceptable. Districts should review any existing MOUs with municipalities to ensure that the MOU is not in conflict with the opinions of the Attorney General regarding the ACRE law.

Both letters are available on the Pennsylvania SFI website

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Spotted Lanternfly 2021 Quarantine Increases

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has just added 8 counties to the spotted lanternfly quarantine, creating a total of 34 counties under a state-imposed quarantine. These include: Allegheny, Beaver, Berks, Blair, Bucks, Cambria, Cameron, Carbon, Chester, Columbia, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Franklin, Huntingdon, Juniata, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Mifflin, Monroe, Montgomery, Montour, Northampton, Northumberland, Perry, Philadelphia, Pike, Schuylkill, York, Wayne, and Westmoreland.

A county is placed under quarantine when

evidence of a reproducing population of spotted lanternflies, such as an egg mass, is found by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. The newly added 8 counties are not completely infested, but rather have a few municipalities with a known infestation, which led to a quarantine being placed on the entire county. This action is taken as a precaution and reflects the importance of awareness for early detection and stopping this pest in these new areas.

The spotted lanternfly quarantine regulates the movement of plants, plant-based materials, and outdoor household items out of the quarantine area to keep this pest from spreading. Businesses/ organizations that operate in or travel through quarantined counties are required to obtain a spotted lanternfly permit. A permit shows other businesses and states that a company has done its due diligence to avoid transporting the pest to new areas. This applies to the entire county quarantined, not just the affected municipalities. Businesses should plan to become permitted as soon as possible and may send any questions regarding the permit to SLFPERMIT@pa.gov . Additionally, businesses may check whether they need a permit by using this resource.

Because the populations in the new areas are much smaller compared to the original population in southeastern Pennsylvania, it is critical that we do our part to prevent further spread of this insect to new areas. If you see it, destroy it, take a photo if possible and make note of when, where and how many were seen. Then, report it by calling the spotted lanternfly hotline at 1-888-422-3359 or report it online here. Be sure that you do not move any life stage of spotted lanternfly, including the egg masses.

Newly found spotted lanternfly populations will be intensively managed by the Pennsylvania and U.S. Departments of Agriculture with the goal of local eradication. To that end, regulatory representatives may need access to properties near the infestation area to conduct treatments or monitoring. We encourage cooperation with these treatments. These officials will always provide proper documentation and identification. They will not ask for any form of payment.

The success of stopping the spotted lanternfly depends on help from the public to look for and report signs of the pest. It is easier to stop a few than it is a few hundred. To learn more about the spotted lanternfly including pictures, visit the Penn State Extension website.