Challis National Forest Soil Scientist Jeremy Back monitoring forest soils
Soils sustain life. Without soils there would be no life as we know it. Consider what healthy soils mean for the 154 national forests and 20 grasslands in 44 states and Puerto Rico. Soils provide the fertility needed to grow the plants, forests and grasslands that support and shelter humans and animals; they store water and carbon; they recycle and purify water, air and nutrients; and healthy soils can reduce nutrient loading, sediment production and runoff.
Healthy productive soils are critical to the Forest Service mission to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nations’ forests and grasslands to meet the needs of future and present generations. Many of the forests and grasslands we manage today were created as part of a national effort to protect soil and water resource degradation and restore forests and ecosystems. The original forest reserves were identified to protect and secure favorable flows of water and timber (Organic Act). This included the means to reduce or minimize soil erosion.
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U.S. Forest Service photo by Kari Greer.
Cross-posted from the Seattle Times:
Wildfires are now burning in Washington and across the West, in a year that may become the hottest on record. As our forests go up in flames, so too does the budget of the U.S. Forest Service, putting at risk lives, property, clean air and water, and jobs for thousands.
The number of fires the Forest Service and its partners fight every year is staggering: There have been more than 36,000 fires this year alone. And although we are successful at suppressing or managing 98 percent of fires when they start, the 1 to 2 percent of fires that escape are expensive, constituting 30 percent of annual costs. Read more »
Researchers found that thinning could boost water yield, but the results are not proportional. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.
Planning for the future of the nation’s water resources is more important now than ever before as severe drought grips the West, affecting heavily populated areas and critical agricultural regions. Forests generally yield huge quantities of water—much more than crops or grasslands—but also use a lot of water during the growing season, so some land managers wonder if forest thinning could boost water supplies to people and ecosystems in a changing climate.
U.S. Forest Service researchers from the Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center and the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory tested this idea and found that the results were not so cut and dried. Their findings were recently published in a special issue* of the journal Hydrological Processes. Read more »
Many of Oklahoma’s woodlands developed where natural or man-caused fires were essential in regenerating new trees, controlling invasive species and improving overall forest health. (USFS photo)
(This post was written by George Geissler, State Forester of Oklahoma Forestry Services)
Forest Action Plans represent the first-ever comprehensive assessment of America’s forest resources across all lands—public, private, rural, and urban—and offer proactive strategies that state forestry agencies use to conserve, protect and enhance the trees and forests we depend on.
The Forest Action Plans are invaluable at a time when tree mortality is on the rise due to disease and invasive pests; wildfires continue to increase in size and intensity; and forests are being permanently converted to non-forest uses at a rate of one million acres per year. These assessments help state forestry agencies employ a variety of tools for protecting and conserving forests and the benefits they provide to people, from quarantines related to invasive species, to practices to reduce hazardous fuels buildup, to enhanced landowner outreach and education on sound forestry practices. Read more »
United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket with NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite (SMAP), a remote sensing mission designed to measure and map the Earth's soil moisture distribution and freeze/thaw stat with unprecedented accuracy, resolution and coverage. Photo by NASA’s Kim Shiflett.
The second stop on our #USDARoadTrip is our recreation and conservation portfolio, including our vast and spectacular forest and grassland system managed by USDA’s Forest Service as well as some of the cooperative conservation efforts underway by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA).
With Independence Day fireworks behind us for 2015, USDA gives you another reason to look up into the night sky. With a new satellite, NASA and USDA have partnered to map Earth’s soil moisture from orbit, letting us monitor droughts, predict floods and forecast the water supply in major cities. Read more »
A secret waterfall on the lost river Whychus. Photo credit: USFS (Maret Pajutee)
Sisters is a dreamy mountain town in Central Oregon with almost everything you might want in a scenic hideaway. With snowy peaks and expansive forests, it is an ideal location for biking, hiking, or simply contemplating wide expanses of blue sky. But for many years Sisters was missing one crucial thing – we had lost our river.
For thousands of years, Native Americans followed a winding course of icy snowmelt into the high country of the Three Sisters Mountains that gave the town its name. The river was full of waterfalls and wild steelhead salmon. It provided more than half of the steelhead spawning habitat in the Upper Deschutes River Basin. The river had several names, but in 1855, when Pacific Railroad Survey Engineers came through looking for a railroad route to the ocean, they recorded in their journals that the river was called “Whychus”. Read more »