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Category: Forestry

Web of Intrigue: New Spider Species Spotted on Fort Pierre National Grassland

The Fort Pierre National Grassland is home to a series of spiders previously unknown. A new species, Theridion pierre (Levi & Patrick 2013) is part of the cobweb family of spiders, Theridiidae, the fifth largest family of spiders which boasts 2387 currently recognized species (Platnick 2014). This 1 millimeter spider – about the size of a lead pencil point – is relatively abundant and easily caught on the grasslands. (Photo courtesy of Patrick Brian)

The Fort Pierre National Grassland is home to a series of spiders previously unknown. A new species, Theridion pierre (Levi & Patrick 2013) is part of the cobweb family of spiders, Theridiidae, the fifth largest family of spiders which boasts 2387 currently recognized species (Platnick 2014). This 1 millimeter spider – about the size of a lead pencil point – is relatively abundant and easily caught on the grasslands. (Photo courtesy of Patrick Brian)

When a new species is discovered on the planet, people usually imagine a discovery process that is dangerous and remote in location. However, one scientist didn’t have to venture far from home to learn about a few new discoveries that has the science community spinning about a native grassland ecosystem in South Dakota.

Arachnid hunter Brian Patrick, an assistant professor of biology at Dakota Wesleyan University, is looking for creatures that are usually overlooked in the grasslands, and his work is making a mark in the scientific world. With help from partners like the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks and the University of South Dakota Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network, Patrick works with the Nebraska National Forest to conduct research on arachnids on the Fort Pierre National Grassland. Read more »

Ready, Set, Charge! Mt. Hood National Forest Welcomes First Electric Vehicle Charging Station

Mt. Hood National Forest is home to the nation’s first electric vehicle fast charger installed on land managed by the U.S. Forest Service and on a ski resort. (Courtesy Oregon Department of Transportation)

Mt. Hood National Forest is home to the nation’s first electric vehicle fast charger installed on land managed by the U.S. Forest Service and on a ski resort. (Courtesy Oregon Department of Transportation)

Oregon, home to the nation’s first border-to-border electric highway, continues its emergence as the ultimate travel destination for electric vehicle (EV) drivers. The Forest Service, the Oregon Department of Transportation and their partners recently unveiled America’s first EV fast-charger installed on U.S. Forest Service land and at a ski resort.

By using the growing West Coast Electric Highway fast-charger network, EV drivers can now travel up Mt. Hood’s rugged slopes, looming large at 11,250 feet and located just over an hour from Portland, Ore. The charging station, at Mt. Hood Skibowl West, completes Oregon’s Mt. Hood-Columbia River Gorge Electric Byway.

“It’s a natural fit to support infrastructure that promotes clean energy near forest recreation sites,” said Bill Westbrook of the Forest Service’s Zigzag Ranger District. Read more »

U.S. Forest Service: Responding and Adapting to Wildland Fire

The U.S. Forest Service has burned more than 480 acres in the Flying J Project, an effort on the Kaibab National Forest in Arizona to protect the community of Tusayan. The project is outside the Grand Canyon National Park and represents a small part of a larger effort to use controlled burns on more than 4,500 acres of the forest. So far, nearly 1,900 acres have been treated. (U.S. Forest Service/Holly Krake)

The U.S. Forest Service has burned more than 480 acres in the Flying J Project, an effort on the Kaibab National Forest in Arizona to protect the community of Tusayan. The project is outside the Grand Canyon National Park and represents a small part of a larger effort to use controlled burns on more than 4,500 acres of the forest. So far, nearly 1,900 acres have been treated. (U.S. Forest Service/Holly Krake)

The loss of property and firefighters during wildfires are a reminder of the challenges we face in reducing the risks associated with large, unpredictable wildfires. Climate change, drought, insect infestations, changing land-use patterns, and other factors have contributed to increases in the complexity and in the numbers of wildfires across the United States.

Over the past four decades, some states such as Arizona and Idaho have seen the number of large fires burning each year more than triple. In many other western states, including California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Wyoming, the number of large fires has doubled, according to a report by Climate Central. Average spring and summer temperatures across 11 Western states have increased by more than 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit, contributing to higher wildfire risks. In Arizona, spring temperatures have warmed faster than any other state in the U.S., rising nearly 1 degree per decade since 1970, which likely played a role in the increasing number of fires in the state. Read more »

Old Microscope Sparks New Idea for Kids’ Science Club

Drs. Rebecca Efroymson and Bill Hargrove held a recent science club meeting in Haw Creek Elementary School’s computer lab. (U.S. Forest Service/Stephanie Worley Firley)

Drs. Rebecca Efroymson and Bill Hargrove held a recent science club meeting in Haw Creek Elementary School’s computer lab. (U.S. Forest Service/Stephanie Worley Firley)

When he was a child, Forest Service scientist Bill Hargrove burnt off his eyebrows making rocket fuel, blew up a sealed jar of cultured yeast and started a bathroom fire while doing sterile transfers for a carrot tissue culture. Fortunately, he survived his early scientific experiments and is now inspiring a new generation of young students.

Hargrove, a research ecologist with the Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center, and his wife, Rebecca Efroymson, are pioneering an extramural science club for fourth and fifth graders at Haw Creek Elementary School in Asheville, N.C. Each monthly club meeting features real-life scientists who lead lively discussions and activities about diverse scientific topics.

During the first club meeting last year, students looked at living creatures found in drops of pond water through a light microscope—Hargrove’s own childhood microscope. Read more »

National Forests Contribute to Alaska’s 2013 Record Salmon Harvest

Sockeye salmon swim upstream in Yakutat, Alaska. (U.S. Forest Service/Nate Catterson)

Sockeye salmon swim upstream in Yakutat, Alaska. (U.S. Forest Service/Nate Catterson)

Alaska’s Chugach and Tongass national forests are sometimes referred to as salmon forests, producing all five species of wild Pacific salmon: king, coho, sockeye, pink, and chum.

Salmon is vital to Alaska’s economy, and last year’s statewide commercial salmon harvest is being noted as a banner year. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced the salmon harvested in 2013 set a new record at 272 million fish.

About 45 percent, or 122 million, of these commercially harvested salmon relied on habitat managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Much of the harvest consisted of pink salmon, the most abundant of salmon found in Alaska. Don Martin, the aquatic and fish program leader for the Alaska Region, said that 95 percent of the habitat where pink salmon spawn in Southeast Alaska is on the Tongass National Forest. The work of Forest Service fish biologists contribute to the health and viability of these salmon. Read more »

Scientists Discover New Fish Species in the Upper Columbia River Basin

Cedar sculpin (Cottus schitsuumsh). (Emily Harrington/E.H. Illustration)

Cedar sculpin (Cottus schitsuumsh). (Emily Harrington/E.H. Illustration)

U.S. Forest Service scientists at the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula, Mont., have identified a new species of fish—the cedar sculpin (Cottus schitsuumsh). Although thousands of new species are described by scientists each year, only a small percentage of them are animal species, and even fewer are found in the United States, underscoring the importance of this discovery.

Freshwater sculpins, with their characteristic large heads and fins, are bottom dwellers that can be found in cold, fast-moving streams throughout North America. Biologists have long suspected that there were undescribed species of sculpins in the Upper Columbia River Basin, but lacked the tools to recognize them. Cedar sculpin populations were previously thought to be shorthead sculpin (Cottus confusus), an understandable misidentification given that sculpins are notoriously difficult to identify based on their physical features. Read more »