In a changing climate, it takes elaborate and energetic collaboration to preserve forests around the world, and there is no better celebration of trees than water conservation. The United Nation’s International Day of Forests, this March 21, is a time for heightening awareness of these partnerships, their ambitions, and the values and services forests provide.
Events that disturb the forest on a landscape scale often dramatically alter all of the resources that characterize a healthy ecosystem. This is something the U.S. Forest Service is all too familiar with as every year more fires burn earlier in the fire season and many have grown in scale.
The 2009 Station Fire was the largest fire in Los Angeles County’s recorded history, burning a total of 161,189 acres – or nearly 252 square miles. The Station Fire was followed by years of severe and prolonged drought that has diminished the already tight water supply in the Angeles National Forest, where one third of Los Angeles County’s drinking water has its source.
This critical water resource is now being depleted by another disturbance, an invasive plant called the Arundo donax, or giant cane, that is thriving in the riparian areas of the Angeles, lapping up water five times faster than native vegetation.
The Angeles National Forest and the National Forest Foundation, along with numerous community and corporate partners including the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the Coca-Cola Company, the Walt Disney Company, Miller Coors, Anheuser-Busch, and Edison International have joined forces to protect riparian wildlife habitats in the Angeles and conserve water resources by stopping the spread of giant cane.
“By working together, we’re helping secure the future of our national forest headwaters,” said Mary Mitsos, National Forest Foundation Interim President.
The 97,000 acres Big Tujunga watershed is the current focus of efforts to remove giant cane, with teams working to eradicate the invader acre by acre. Each acre of giant cane removed frees up water for the ecosystem and supplies groundwater for 40 to 50 households in Los Angeles County per year.
“Through partnerships, we have collectively enhanced our ability to conduct watershed restoration activities by engaging local youth and volunteer crews to remove invasive weeds, improve wildlife habitat and watershed protection, and enhance recreation opportunities,” said Jeffrey Vail, Angeles National Forest Supervisor. The work to remove the 30 foot giant cane is tiresome and very involved, and Forest Service personnel and Youth Conservation Corps carry out this frontline restoration work.
The knowledge gained on a national level with project like those going on in the Angeles serve as an international example of how to protect open space for countries all over the world. In this spirit of cooperation, the U.S. Forest Service is proud to celebrate the United Nations’ International Day of Forests.