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Category: Forestry

Earth Day Through Indigenous Eyes

An undated photo of Black Elk

An undated photo of Black Elk who lived from 1863 to 1950. He was known amongst his people as Heȟáka Sápa and was a famous wičháša wakȟáŋ or medicine man and holy man of the Oglala Lakota and Sioux tribes.

Earth Day is April 22 and on this unique and special day the U.S. Forest Service is celebrating our nation’s forests and grasslands. Looking from space, the world has been described as the great blue planet. But you don’t need to travel beyond our atmosphere to see the Earth for what it is — a planet rich with vibrant life. And, sadly, it is facing one of its greatest challenges — the destructive impacts of a changing climate.

Today I offer an indigenous view of what many Native Americans refer to as Mother Earth from Black Elk who lived from 1863 to 1950. Black Elk, known amongst his people as Heȟáka Sápa, was a famous wičháša wakȟáŋ or medicine man and holy man of the Oglala Lakota and Sioux tribes. Read more »

Birds, Butterflies, Dragonflies and Bats

Jo Santiago, a U.S. Forest Service Wildlife Biologist with a red-tailed hawk

Jo Santiago, a U.S. Forest Service Wildlife Biologist who educates the public on birds through live demonstrations, shows off a Red-tailed Hawk during the “Wings Across America” event. (Photo by Sean Kelley)

When it comes to the U.S. Forest Service, it’s not always about trees.

Sometimes it’s all about the birds, the dragonflies and the butterflies. Oh, and the bats.  At least, that’s what it was all about during a ceremony last month recognizing some great contributions from U.S. Forest Service and partner organizations to the Wings Across the Americas program in the past year.

In a festive event held in Omaha, Nebraska, as part of the 80th North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference, U.S. Forest Service employees and agency partners received shout-outs for outstanding efforts supporting migratory species across the nation and beyond. Read more »

Historic Handwoven Rug Lays Path for US Forest Service Employee to her Shinaali

Nanebah Nez looking at her great-great-grandmother's rug.

Nanebah Nez connected to her past in a recent visit to the U.S. Department of the Interior Museum, where a rug made by her great-great-grandmother is part of the museum’s trove of historical pieces. (U.S. Department of Interior/Tracy Baetz)

Nanebah Nez turned to a roomful of U.S. Department of the Interior employees and asked quietly for a moment to herself. When the group of curators left, Nez turned her attention to an 80-year-old piece of her ancestral past and quietly began her private prayer in Navajo, “Yáat’eeh Shinaali,” or “Hello, grandmother.”

Bahe Shondee is a great-great-grandmother to Nez, an archeologist on the U.S. Forest Service’s Tonto National Forest north of Phoenix. Bahe Shondee, also known as Bull Snake Springs Woman, spent two years in the early 1930s preparing the yarn then weaving the 13-foot-by-12-foot rug “Sandpainting of the Arrow People.” Read more »

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 »