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Category: Forestry

The Forest Legacy Program: 25 Years of Keeping Working Forests Working

A rancher and his son survey a swath of Dakota grasslands

A rancher and his son survey a swath of Dakota grasslands preserved by a conservation easement obtained with the help of Land and Water Conservation Funds.

Two million four hundred seventy thousand acres — equivalent in size to two Delawares — are protected through the Forest Legacy Program, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Enacted through the 1990 Farm Bill’s Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act, this voluntary program has proved popular and crucial to aiding states in meeting their forest conservation goals.

The first Forest Legacy project was located in Vermont, the 1660-acre Cow Mountain Pond property. Today, 53 states and territories participate. The map below shows program accomplishments through 2014. Read more »

Deer Sign of the Times: Pellet Surveys Reveal Whitetail Abundance

Deer pellet group in Pennsylvania spring woods

A classic example of a pellet group in the Pennsylvania spring woods - evidence that white-tailed deer overwintered in this area. The shed antler was a bonus find on this particular plot. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service)

It’s a cool 37 degrees Fahrenheit as Alex Royo and I step out of the Forest Service truck and on to the muddy forest road. With the meteorologist calling for sun and a high of 66 degrees by lunchtime, I am already faced with the day’s toughest decision – do I keep my warm jacket on or leave it in the truck? Either way, half of my 3.5-mile hike is going to be uncomfortable. A quick glance at Alex reveals that he has opted to leave his jacket behind. As we walk into the forest, I can’t help but notice the contrast of colorful spring beauties and trout lilies against the dull brown forest floor. And already, there is the object of my hike — deer pellets. To find pellets so early in the day one has to wonder, just how many deer are out here?

That’s the question that vexes hunters, scientists, and land managers throughout Pennsylvania and beyond. Each and every spring, a small army of individuals from the USDA Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, the Allegheny National Forest, multiple private land managing partners, and volunteers hike hundreds of miles of Pennsylvania’s forests to help determine how many deer the forest holds by counting the most visible part of a deer – deer pellets, which is the nicest term for deer waste. Read more »

In the Wake of the Rim Fire, What Comes Next? A Story of Recovery, Restoration and Reforestation

Current restoration goals include thinning and using fire as a management tool to reduce fuel loads. (Photo by Clint Gould, U.S. Forest Service)

Current restoration goals include thinning and using fire as a management tool to reduce fuel loads. (Photo by Clint Gould, U.S. Forest Service)

Like a phoenix rising from ashes, blackened portions of the Stanislaus National Forest, which were left by the Rim Fire that blazed through the Sierras in August of 2013, have begun to spring to life. Left with a burn scar that is one-third larger than New York City, a reforestation team is diligently working to bring forth a new forest.

Since the fire, much has been done in the way of making the forest safe for public travel and recreation along main travel routes. Snags and fire-damaged trees present significant safety hazards to humans. They also create a tremendous fuel load on the ground (biomass) as they fall. This fuel can feed future fires, which can be severely damaging to the soil. Read more »

Longleaf Pine Savanna Helps Educate Farmers, Others on Value of Forest

Longleaf pine is resistant to pests and disease, withstands drought and provides habitat for a host of wildlife. NRCS photo by Renee Bodine.

Longleaf pine is resistant to pests and disease, withstands drought and provides habitat for a host of wildlife. NRCS photo by Renee Bodine.

The Nature Conservancy’s Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve, an hour west of Tallahassee, Florida, protects nearly 6,300 acres of restored sandhill habitat. Young longleaf pines stand in thick waves of golden wiregrass. Wild turkey, bobwhite quail, gopher tortoise and Florida pine snake once again populate what 25 years ago were rows of industrial timber and bare sand.

About 50 people recently toured the preserve to see for themselves the beauty and benefits of the longleaf pine, many of them landowners interested in restoring stands on their properties.  They learned how The Nature Conservancy hand planted millions of longleaf pine seedlings and wiregrass plugs.

Foresters from Florida Forest Service explained how regular prescribed burns promoted the growth of native groundcover and kept hardwood and invasive species in check. Biologists from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission discussed how wildlife is managed in longleaf pine forests. Read more »

Latino Youth Conservation Leaders, Forest Service Leaders Share Blissful Experience of Transformational Conservation Successes

Green Ambassadors from Austin High School and The University of Houston interact with Woodsy Owl to spread the message of conservation education at the Austin and Chavez High School 9th Annual Future Farmers of America Livestock Show and Sale. (Photo Courtesy of the Houston East End Greenbelt)

Green Ambassadors from Austin High School and The University of Houston interact with Woodsy Owl to spread the message of conservation education at the Austin and Chavez High School 9th Annual Future Farmers of America Livestock Show and Sale. (Photo Courtesy of the Houston East End Greenbelt)

(Editor’s note: Luis Cruz is a youth conservation leader with Latino Legacy and PLT GreenSchools!, part of the Houston East End Greenbelt project. These projects are part of an eight-year partnership with the U.S. Forest Service Friends of the National Forests and Grasslands of Texas-Latino Legacy program, which promotes conservation education to diverse audiences in urban schools and communities surrounding national forests. Cruz was part of a group that came to Washington, D.C. to participate in a week-long program designed to connect youth to nature and establish a conservation ethic. The program also develops educational and career pathways in natural resources.)

By Luis Angel Cruz, Senior, Furr High School, GreenSchools! Co-op Green Ambassador Captain and Curriculum Lead, Houston, Texas

Meeting with the Chief and the executive leadership team of the U.S. Forest Service in March was like meeting your all-time favorite super heroes!

We are high school, middle school and college students and educators who are energized and alive with ideas to continue making a difference as part of our working partnership with U.S. Forest Service leaders to promote conservation education to Latino and diverse audiences. Read more »

Tusayan Ranger District Achieves Goal of Zero Human-Caused Fires

Fire prevention specialist Bob Blasi works to contain a small wildfire on the Tusayan Ranger District. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

Fire prevention specialist Bob Blasi works to contain a small wildfire on the Tusayan Ranger District. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

In calendar year 2014, the Tusayan Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest achieved a longtime goal of zero human-caused wildfires.

According to forest wildfire records, the last time the district had zero human fires was in 1965, exactly 50 years ago.

“Over the last three years, we have had a specific, written goal of reducing human-caused wildfires on the district to zero for an entire calendar year,” said Quentin Johnson, fire management officer for the Tusayan Ranger District. “Given that the district receives millions of visitors each year because it is located immediately adjacent to Grand Canyon National Park, we knew this would be an incredible challenge.” Read more »