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Posts tagged: Pacific Northwest

Early-Season Forecast Shows Rain – Not Snow – Keeping Pacific Northwest Wet

Wind rearranges the early season snowpack on Mount Hood, Oregon. NRCS photo by Spencer Miller.

Wind rearranges the early season snowpack on Mount Hood, Oregon. NRCS photo by Spencer Miller.

Something about January’s water supply forecast confused me. Current condition maps of the Pacific Northwest are a discouraging spread of red dots, meaning the snowpack contains less than half the normal amount of water. But water supply forecasts for the same region predict normal streamflow in the spring and summer. How can that be? Less snow means less snowmelt, right? Well…maybe.

To rise above my simple, linear thinking, I met with Rashawn Tama with USDA’s National Water and Climate Center. Tama, a hydrologist and forecaster for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, produces forecasts for the Columbia River basin. His forecasts are built around prediction models that help transform tables of raw data into meaningful maps and colorful dots. Read more »

U.S. Softwood Exports Making Headway in Thailand

A delegation of Thai lumber company executives (including Opas Panitchewakul, Pracha Thawornjira, Jaroonsak Cheewatammanon, Khomwit Boonthamrongkit and Wasant Sonchaiwanich) tours the Mauvila Timber distribution warehouse in Loxly, Ala., with Lane Merchant (left), the company’s general manager.

A delegation of Thai lumber company executives (including Opas Panitchewakul, Pracha Thawornjira, Jaroonsak Cheewatammanon, Khomwit Boonthamrongkit and Wasant Sonchaiwanich) tours the Mauvila Timber distribution warehouse in Loxly, Ala., with Lane Merchant (left), the company’s general manager.

The pine forests of Georgia and the Pacific Northwest are a far cry from the crowded streets of Bangkok, where several shipments of U.S. softwood products are headed thanks to a collaborative effort by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), the Southern Forest Products Association and the Softwood Export Council.

In June 2014, executives from five Thai lumber companies visited the United States under the auspices of FAS’s Cochran Fellowship Program. Thanks to the knowledge they gained and the relationships they forged with the U.S. softwood industry during their visit, several participants subsequently made first-time purchases of U.S. softwood. These initial purchases are a big step for U.S. softwood producers to make headway into the $58 million market in Thailand. Read more »

Grains, Trains and Global Success

Asia-bound grains, including soybeans, are commonly shipped by rail to ports in the Pacific Northwest. The cost to ship by ocean is the main driver for the choice of port for export, because inland barge transportation to the Mississippi Gulf is usually more efficient and less expensive than rail. Photo courtesy Oregon Department of Agriculture.

Asia-bound grains, including soybeans, are commonly shipped by rail to ports in the Pacific Northwest. The cost to ship by ocean is the main driver for the choice of port for export, because inland barge transportation to the Mississippi Gulf is usually more efficient and less expensive than rail. Photo courtesy Oregon Department of Agriculture.

Fall is harvest time and our rural communities are bustling with activity.  For American soybean farmers the days start in the early dawn, and they stay until the last light is gone, tending fields that seem to stretch to the end of the world.  But success for them relies on more than just growing a good crop.  Their soybeans must also move efficiently from the fields to the far corners of the world.

Helping farmers understand the importance and impact of transportation trends is one of the services provided by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).  AMS helps growers and exporters by gathering agricultural transportation data for a wide array of publications that are available to everyone on our agricultural transportation website. Read more »

Forester Says Variety in the Job Created His Trail

Dick Fitzgerald, Forest Management Assistant Director for the Forest Service, says it’s the variety of work and working with the highly-educated sharp young folk in the agency that contributes to his joy of the work challenge. (U.S. Forest Service)

Dick Fitzgerald, Forest Management Assistant Director for the Forest Service, says it’s the variety of work and working with the highly-educated sharp young folk in the agency that contributes to his joy of the work challenge. (U.S. Forest Service)

When a forester embraces the various challenges of his job – such as timber management, building roads, squelching wildfires or perhaps even national policy issues – you can count on the variety of experiences and the ever-changing nature of the job to provide interest.

For Dick Fitzgerald, currently the agency’s assistant director of forest management in the Washington Office, it became a 57-year career and running. He began by working summers in a fire lookout before becoming full time as a junior forester, as it was known in those days. He also worked as a district ranger, managed timber sales and served as a regional silviculturist in two of the agency’s nine regions.

“Each job has had its challenges,” Fitzgerald said. “During my first jobs, I was out in the country in places where a lot of folks had never been locating and developing roads to support the mission. Working as a district ranger, I worked with the public from local areas, trying to balance a forest’s timber or range or recreation agenda.” Read more »

Pacific Northwest Climate Hub Gets “Information to People in the Right Way”

This is an image of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station in H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest near Portland, OR. USDA photo.

This is an image of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station in H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest near Portland, OR. USDA photo.

The lands of the Pacific Northwest produce a bounty of grains, dairy, beef, fish, vegetables, and wild game that feed the people of the region and the rest of the country.  Many of those who work directly with the land have been doing so for generations.  Two of my own great uncles helped to bring irrigation to the Rogue River Valley near the turn of the 20th century, and my cousins have been farming there ever since.

Over time, farmers, ranchers, fishers, and private forest owners have accumulated knowledge and wisdom from family, local communities, and agricultural universities.  These individuals have supported a technically progressive agricultural industry that supplies most of the nation’s potato crop and a good share of its wheat and milk.  Agricultural producers are used to working with many sources of information about weather, water, climate, soils and fertility, pests, and disease and then making important decisions and investments about what they will do on the land.  Their decisions about investments of time, money, and materials have daily, seasonal, annual, and multi-year implications.  Selections of fruit, nut, grape, or forest tree varieties and capital investments in machinery, irrigation, and processing are made with today’s best information in anticipation of several decades or more.  Doing this right requires both technical savvy and the wisdom to integrate many different kinds of information. Read more »

Pioneer African-American Smokejumper Laid to Rest at Arlington National Cemetery

Gen. George W. Casey Jr., former chief of staff of the Army, talks to Lt. Col. Roger Walden during a recognition ceremony at the Pentagon on March 25, 2010. (U.S. Army)

Gen. George W. Casey Jr., former chief of staff of the Army, talks to Lt. Col. Roger Walden during a recognition ceremony at the Pentagon on March 25, 2010. (U.S. Army)

During World War II, a time when segregation was still a part of everyday life, a group of 17 brave men took the plunge to serve their country and become the first all African-American paratrooper unit known as the Triple Nickles.

The battalion’s original goal – to join the fight in Europe – was thwarted when military leaders in Europe feared racial tensions would disrupt operations. At about the same time, the U.S. Forest Service asked the military for help to minimize damage caused by balloon bombs launched by the Japanese across the Pacific Ocean with the intent to start forest fires in the western U.S. during World War II.

In the end, few of the incendiary devices reached U.S. soil, but the Triple Nickles were instrumental in helping the Forest Service fight naturally-caused fires. They became history’s first military smokejumpers who answered 36 fire calls and made more than 1,200 jumps that summer of 1945. Read more »