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Posts Tagged: forest management

Teachers invited to learn about natural resources in the forest

Mike De Lasaux shows FIT participants the tree rings in a core sample.
California teachers are invited to spend a week in a northern California forest this summer and participate in the Forestry Institute for Teachers.

“The goal of the Forestry Institute for Teachers, or FIT, is to provide K-12 teachers with knowledge, skills and tools to teach their students about forest ecology and forest resource management practices and introduce them to environmental education curriculum such as Project Learning Tree, Project WILD and California's Education and the Environment,” said Mike De Lasaux, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension advisor for Plumas and Sierra counties and a FIT instructor.

The program, which is in its 23rd year, brings teachers from rural and urban settings together with natural resources experts to gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between forest ecosystems and human use of natural resources. The environment becomes the basis for learning in many subject areas, including environmental science, physical science, social science, biology, forestry and history.

“FIT gave me a lot of physical group activities and ideas for how to get to know a new group of people,” said Renata Martin, who is a substitute teacher for grades 3 through 8 in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Teachers learn how to take tree measurements.
By examining the rings in a tree's cross-section, foresters can tell a lot about events – such as wet or dry periods, insect or disease damage – that have occurred during the tree's lifetime. She has used the tree analogy to teach students that important events shape their own lives.

“Especially because I meet new kids every day, I've been able to use the lesson that we did around the campfire the first night with sharing important points in our lives as if they were tree cookies” or slices of a tree, said Martin.

FIT emphasizes California Department of Education Content Standards including Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards. Since 1993, more than 2,200 teachers have graduated from the program. 

Using what they learn at the workshop, the participants conduct training for their colleagues and develop a forestry education project for their students during the school year.

Martin, who participated in FIT in 2014 in Plumas County, said she has adapted many of the lessons for her students based on their age, development and behavior.

Tom Catchpole leads a Talk About Trees program exercise for teachers to practice applying tree science to activities they can do with their students.
Meeting forest-related professionals including small property owners, archaeologists, large lumber corporations and historians made an impression on environmental educator Carrie Raleigh. “It was interesting to get a variety of perspectives on forestry issues and to have face-to-face conversations with a variety of specialists,” said Rawleigh, who participated in the program in 2010 and teaches in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Four 1-week FIT sessions are scheduled at four different locations: Plumas, Tuolumne, Shasta and Humboldt counties.

Two June sessions will be held at the University of California Forestry Camp, close to Quincy in Plumas County, and at Sierra Outdoor School near Sonora in Tuolumne County. The July sessions will be at Camp McCumber just east of Shingletown in Shasta County and at Humboldt State University in Arcata in Humboldt County.

The presenters and staff include public and private forest resource specialists and other natural resource managers, environmental activists and science and environmental education curriculum specialists. Groups are welcome to register as teams. There is an application fee of $25, but training, meals and lodging are free for first-time participants.

The deadline for applications is March 16. For more information and to apply, visit http://forestryinstitute.org or call the Forest Stewardship Helpline at (800) 783-8733. 

The Forestry Institute for Teachers (FIT) workshop was developed by the Northern California Society of American Foresters, University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension, Shasta County Office of Education, The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and Project Learning Tree. The FIT Program is underwritten by a consortium of public and private sources.

An initiative to maintain and enhance sustainable natural ecosystems is part of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.

Taming Sierra flames

A UC team tamps down fire danger and finds common ground

“All parties deeply care about the fate of these landscapes, and it was this care that sustained SNAMP for the long haul.” John Battles with a clearing axe.
The summer of 2002 was a bad fire season in the United States. Twice as many acres burned than in 2001, and more total acres were destroyed than in all but one of the previous 40 years. The McNally Fire in Sequoia National Forest was only the second largest fire in California that year, and it alone cost more than $50 million to extinguish. It was against this smoky backdrop that George W. Bush launched the Healthy Forests Initiative, a wide-ranging plan to reduce the severity of western wildfires.

In California, the plan coalesced around the concept of strategically placed landscape treatments, colorfully shortened to SPLATs. Mark Finney, a researcher at the Missoula Fire Lab in Montana, proposed that instead of thinning entire old growth forests, land managers could “treat” a fraction of the land with tree thinning and prescribed burns. These treated plots would slow a fire's rate of spread, acting like speed bumps along a road.

It was an interesting but untested idea, and by 2004 the plan ran into bureaucratic roadblocks. Because, while the federal government owns the national forests, the old-growth dwelling wildlife — fishers, goshawks, spotted owls — can fall under state or federal management, depending on the species. Closer to the action, the local communities of Foresthill and Oakhurst were concerned about large-diameter trees being cut as part of the thinning effort, and about the effect of prescribed burning on issues like home safety, wildlife and water quality.

It was beginning to look like then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican and a self-professed environmentalist, was going to sue the Bush administration over its forest policy mandates — an expensive, bitter process that nobody relished. Instead, a novel approach was conceived: The U.S. Forest Service agreed to test the unproven SPLAT approach along with state agencies, like Fish and Game, Department of Water Resources, and Cal Fire, as long as a neutral third party could be tasked with analyzing the results. And that third party would be the University of California.

And thus, the Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Project was born, with another endearing acronym, SNAMP. Today, as SNAMP reaches the end of a 10-year run, the project has proven to be a multidisciplinary, multiagency, multimedia success that has the potential to transform not only how we view forest fires, but more intriguingly, how scientists, government agencies, and public stakeholders interact in the pursuit of common goals.

“Anyone can talk about ‘resilient forests,’ but if you go to the Rim Fire you can . . . show someone that this is how a high-severity fire sterilizes the soil.” Kim Rodrigues with her “triangle of success”—balancing relationships, process, and results to reach shared goals.
“Honestly, nobody wanted to do this,” recalls John Battles, a UC Berkeley professor of forest ecology and the chair of the Ecosystem Science Division in in Berkeley's Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM). “It seemed like it was going to be a quagmire of wasted time.”
 
Take the always contentious issues of fire, water and wildlife, then add in an alphabet soup of local, state, and federal agencies, and it's easy to see why most academics would keep their heads down and hope not to be called upon. But the governor was looking to the UC system to step up, and Battles, as head of Berkeley's Center for Forestry, felt that he could not refuse. “That's what we do,” he says. “That's the stuff that we should do.”

Gradually, a plan took shape. With the ultimate goal of moderating fire behavior, the U.S. Forest Service would conduct prescribed burning and tree thinning as they saw fit. It would then be up to UC scientists to study the results — not just in terms of fire, but also the impact on wildlife, water and forest health.

Working with stakeholders

Modern adaptive management takes into account complex factors — climate change, human impact, a century of fire suppression, marijuana farms on federal lands — requiring forest managers to continually adapt their strategies to new information, new methods, and new facts on the ground. Even so, a traditional study of various fire treatments would have been fairly straightforward: Do a range of experiments, analyze the results, publish some papers.

But SNAMP's goals went far beyond simply figuring out the best way to slow a wildfire's spread. The experiment proceeded along parallel tracks, studying fire, forest health, fishers, owls, water quality issues and spatial data. And crucially, public participation wasn't an afterthought or an also-ran, but the key piece of the puzzle. According to Kim Rodrigues, a UC Cooperative Extension regional director at the time, “The overall goals of public participation are efforts to reduce conflicts around resource management on the ground.” Rodrigues focused on figuring out how to make public participation more meaningful and relevant.

“You have to keep listening to your participants. These kinds of networks . . . can be fragile, but they can also be really strong if nurtured correctly.” -Maggi Kelly with her Trimble GeoXT GPS receiver, which collects data about her location in the forest.
While the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act both require public comment periods, actual community participation is often disappointingly low. “You really can't just pay lip service to interaction when you have contentious issues,” says Maggi Kelly, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. She is a principal investigator of SNAMP's Public Participation Team as well as its Spatial Team. “You have to dive in and do it in a committed way. You have to keep listening to your participants. These kinds of networks and coalitions can be really fragile, but they can also be really strong if nurtured correctly.”

How to best engage the public was an open question. The team eventually settled on a simple strategy: try everything. Kelly and others created a comprehensive, interactive website stuffed with videos, summaries of scientific findings, and a huge trove of documents available for scientists, agency employees, and any member of the general public who took an interest. Perhaps the best feature was the discussion section, where people submitted questions about topics as varied as fuel break maintenance, government intrusion onto private lands, and the affects of the Native American practice of gathering pine roots. The questions received thorough responses from the team members, a level of public engagement that's truly unusual for scientists who are more accustomed to responding only to peer reviewers.

The website was moderately successful. “But our stakeholders really prefer face to face,” says Kelly, so her team ramped up its in-person efforts. Extension agents who lived in the affected communities of Oakdale and Auburn made themselves available for public questions and concerns at board of supervisors meetings, PTA gatherings, and fire-safe councils. Beyond the standard bad-coffee talkathons, the scientists also held field trips to show these theoretical issues in action.

“Anyone can talk about ‘resilient forests,'” Rodrigues says, “but if you go to the Rim Fire [the massive 2013 Yosemite blaze] you can operationalize these terms. You can show someone that this is how a high-severity fire sterilizes the soil.” And the learning went both ways, according to Lynn Huntsinger, professor in the Department of ESPM at Berkeley, who was recruited by Battles for her experience working with landowners. “I've seen management programs in the past where scientists don't come to meetings and face stakeholders,” she says. “But in this case, the stakeholders ended up influencing the kinds of research questions that the scientists asked.”

Adapted from an article Breakthroughs Magazine. Read the complete story in here.

Tintype photography by Michael Shindler

 

Posted on Wednesday, June 4, 2014 at 8:58 AM
  • Author: Zac Unger
 
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