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Posts tagged: Forests

Secretary’s Column: Skyrocketing Fire Costs

Spiraling firefighting costs have shrunk the budget for critical forest and rangeland priorities, including investing in Forest Service programs designed to mitigate the impacts of wildfire.

Spiraling firefighting costs have shrunk the budget for critical forest and rangeland priorities, including investing in Forest Service programs designed to mitigate the impacts of wildfire.

Over the past twenty years, a changing climate, population growth near forests and rangelands, and the buildup of brush and other fuels have dramatically increased the severity of wildfires and the damage that they cause to our natural lands and communities. Year after year, fire seasons grow longer and longer, destroying homes, threatening critical infrastructure and the watersheds that provide clean drinking water to millions of people. Between 1980 and 2011, the average annual number of fires on Federal land more than doubled, and the total area burned annually tripled. Even as fire seasons have grown, the way we pay to fight these fires remains unchanged – and fundamentally broken.

The Forest Service’s firefighting appropriation has rapidly increased as a proportion of the Forest Service’s overall budget, increasing from 16 percent in 1995 to 42 percent today. As the costs of wildfires have spiraled out of control, it has shrunk the budget of other Forest Service programs, taking millions of dollars from other critical forest health and land management priorities in order to pay for them. What’s more, often the programs we are forced to divert funds from are the very programs which help to mitigate the impact of wildfires. Read more »

Conservation Efforts Help Protect Longleaf Forests for Future Generations

A private landowner in Hancock County, Miss. is restoring a longleaf pine forest on his land.

A private landowner in Hancock County, Miss. is restoring a longleaf pine forest on his land.

I have a few decorative items on my desk at work, and some of those are longleaf pine cones. Even though I only learned of the rare longleaf pine forest – and the large pine cones that fall in them each year – a few years ago, it was love at first sight.

Longleaf pine forests once covered the coastal landscape of the Southeast, and they’re home to nearly 600 plant and animal species.

But over the past two centuries, development, timbering and fire suppression reduced the longleaf’s range by almost 97 percent. And many groups, including USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), are working to save and restore this landscape. According to the America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative, longleaf forests have increased from about 3 million acres to about 4.4 million acres in recent years, reversing a century-long decline across the region. Read more »

Charles E. Bessey Nursery Showcases its ‘Babies’ – Seedlings That Will Become ‘Forests of the Future’

Richard Gilbert, Bessey Nursery Manager talks with students from Sandhills Public Schools about the seed collection process, growing process and replanting. (U.S. Forest Service/Tim Buskirk)

Richard Gilbert, Bessey Nursery Manager talks with students from Sandhills Public Schools about the seed collection process, growing process and replanting. (U.S. Forest Service/Tim Buskirk)

Two million seedlings will grow up one day to become the forests of our future.

The vision for all of those trees is part of the mission of the Charles E. Bessey Nursery, part of the Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands, and the oldest federal seedling nursery in the nation.

Working with the Bessey Ranger District and the volunteer group Friends of the Nebraska National Forests, the nursery recently invited the public in for a rare opportunity to see the nursery in full production; growing, packing and shipping hundreds of thousands of seedlings to U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, conservation districts and other government agency locations. The seedlings are used for reforestation following fire and insect infestations, wildlife/habitat plantings, wind breaks, conservation plantings, and general planting. Read more »

US Forest Service Waives Fees for National Get Outdoors Day

A family sets up camp on the 3,450-acre Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area in Michigan’s lower peninsula. (U.S. Forest Service)

A family sets up camp on the 3,450-acre Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area in Michigan’s lower peninsula. (U.S. Forest Service)

As chilly winter weather gives way to the green of springtime, thousands of people are expected to experience the benefits of the great American outdoors by participating in the 7th annual National Get Outdoors Day (GO Day), Saturday, June 14, 2014. In the spirit of GO Day, the Forest Service is encouraging outdoor activity by participating in a “fee-free day.”

“Working with our partners, we are able to provide a variety of opportunities for kids and adults to learn enjoy and explore on our national forests and grasslands,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “From Alaska to the Rockies to the Great Plains to the East Coast, we are hosting events and providing opportunities that stimulate the mind as well as the body.” Read more »

Trashy Life: Crayfish Turn Rubbish into a Home

Crayfish, like this Procambarus hayi are freshwater crustaceans, and live in rivers and streams. (U.S. Forest Service/Chris Lukhaup)

Crayfish, like this Procambarus hayi are freshwater crustaceans, and live in rivers and streams. (U.S. Forest Service/Chris Lukhaup)

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

To raccoons, snakes and opossums, crayfish look pretty tasty, and large crayfish will even cannibalize their smaller kin. Crayfish, which live in rivers and streams, need instream cover to hide from all their predators. They also use cover to find food, to shelter while incubating eggs, and to keep themselves from being washed away in floods.

Susan Adams, a fisheries research scientist for the Forest Service’s Southern Research Station, examined different types of cover in the Yazoo River basin of Mississippi to see whether crayfish used large pieces of household trash for shelter when natural cover was limited. Her findings recently appeared in the journal Environmental Management. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Caring for Our Forests, Protecting Our Families and Our Communities

Over the past several years, we have seen the spread and occurrence of wildfires increase significantly. Deadly wildfires threaten our homes and communities and turn lives upside down.

USDA continues to do all that we can to protect people, homes and our forests in the face of fire. Just this week, we announced four new airtanker additions to the U.S. Forest Service’s next-generation firefighting fleet, which brings the total amount of aircraft to 21 large air tankers (with opportunities to add additional aircraft, if needed) and more than 100 helicopters. These new aircraft will enter service in the coming weeks and support over 10,000 firefighters during this year’s wildfire season. Read more »