Posts Tagged: forestry
Top 10 tools for new forest landowners
Earth Day 2023 celebrates the ways in which we can all invest in our planet, and forest landowners play a considerable role in this. Part of being a forest landowner is deciding where and when to invest your time, money and energy. To assist them, the UC Cooperative Extension Forest Research and Outreach team collaborated with four experienced landowners to highlight 10 tools a first-time forest landowner can invest in.
Listed below, these 10 tools expand past saws and rakes to include tools that educate landowners and support their management activities. We hope this compilation gives readers new to forest management a proper start.
1. Management Goals: Every tool a new forest landowner buys should help advance a management goal. Each of the four interviewees emphasized that understanding what you and your land need is the number-one priority to be investing time and effort into.
“That's my management goal: a healthy forest with as much biology as I can support. Keeping the big trees, letting fire in every once in a while…and correcting the problems we've caused in the past. The species we have here now, it's mostly white fir. People took out the Douglas Fir, the Sugar Pine and you have to do enough thinning to replant those species because they're not coming in that fast underneath the dense fir forest.”
-Brent, Nevada County
2. Pruning and Cross-cut saws: When completing thinning or clearing projects, every forest landowner has their go-to saws. Cross-cut saws are used for cutting down trees, whereas pruning saws cut away dead or diseased branches. Don't forget to look outside of the box for your tools, as one landowner told us about her preference for Japanese tools.
“My Japanese pruning saw… it cuts like butter! It can easily take down trees up to four inches in diameter. The Japanese-made tools, they're smoother and sharper.”
-Danica, Sonoma County
3. A McLeod was cited by each of the four landowners as a must-have tool in every forest landowner's tool kit. One side can be used as a hoe and the other side as a rake, making it useful for activities ranging from trail building to raking in brush for a pile burn.
“For pitching stuff in and raking things out [of a pile burn], you're going to need a McLeod. And if you want to clear a brush pile, it's heavy. And it [the McLeod] works really well for that.”
-Brent, Nevada County
4. Succession or legacy plan: Thinking about who will take care of your land after you is a key aspect of successful forest management. However, bequeathing land to a family member isn't the only option. You could also consider donating your land to a local tribe or to group like the Nature Conservancy.
“[Regarding legacy] On the forest that we manage, we have a conservation easement so it can't be developed. But it doesn't stop it from being logged…How do you conserve? How do you decide? You can let an organization manage it, but it might be in their interest to thin [the forest]. I'll do what I can - I'll set it up for you [the next generation] and hope that there's a shift in the future and we'll learn to steward our resources.”
-Brent, Nevada County
5. Weed Wrench: What to do when you encounter an unwanted plant? When restoring native plants and clearing unwanted invasives, some species are more difficult to uproot than others. If your garden shears aren't cutting it, reach for a weed wrench like the one here.
“I have a lot of bay laurel and there's a lot of saplings that come up and they resprout vigorously. You have to literally pull it out by the root…so I use a weed wrench, and that's been a really valuable tool for me. It's also good for Scotch Broom, anything that has a small diameter neck that you can clamp on to and leverage out.”
-Sacha, Humboldt County
6. Newsletters: Sometimes reading about what other landowners are doing can help you find inspiration for management activities. The Forestland Steward newsletter, which covers general forest management news and events, would be a good place for a new landowner to begin. Additionally, subscribing to newsletters that cater to your region and management goals is a simple way to find applicable management recommendations.
“I subscribe to a bunch of email newsletters, and those are constantly talking about…like, what upcoming events are going on? What are educational conferences going on? I'm constantly getting research articles, casual writings, webinars…For me, I'm personally interested in good fire, so I subscribe to a lot of resources that are focused on using fire as a land management tool.”
-Sacha, Humboldt County
7. Record keeping: Come tax season, you will thank yourself for investing time in keeping records of your management activities. If you find yourself receiving funding in the form of grants, conservation easements or other programs, having a trusted tax advisor or accountant should be a consideration. A close collaborator with the Forest Stewardship Program, Larry Camp, (Registered Professional Forester, forest landowner and retired IRS agent) notes, “Treating your forestland as a business or investment is an important step forward in efficiently managing your forest and can lead to incentives and deductions that will legally reduce your tax burden.”
8. Land History: For many forest landowners, learning about indigenous history is not only fascinating, but a thoughtful reminder of the original caretakers of California forestland. Investigate your land and delve into Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), which may inspire new projects.
“When we're talking about land and access to land, I think it's always good to be thinking about tribal sovereignty, and what are actions we can do to support that. Historically, this [land] was an oak woodland…we're playing catch up over 150 years of fire suppression policies. I'm working towards oak woodland restoration, and part of that is that tie-in to responsibility to tribal access.”
-Sacha, Humboldt County
9. Management education resources: Though we at UCCE have our own Forest Stewardship Workshop series, there are often informational webinars and videos offered through regional organizations. The California Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force website has a list of educational resources for landowners, found here.
“I'm big on education, and when you're participating in that educational group, they [program participants] might throw out a different name, or a different agency you can use. It's really about being involved and taking up the suggestions that people give you.”
-Laura, Nevada County
10. Community: Getting connected with organizations like your local Resource Conservation District (RCD), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), CAL FIRE, or UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) office can be a big help to new landowners. These organizations house experts such as Registered Professional Foresters (RPFs) who can provide technical assistance and assist in applying for permits or drafting a management plan. Devote time looking into region-specific organizations such as the Foothill Conservancy and My Sierra Woods that service multiple counties. Peer networks are a plus as well. Community ties were continuously cited by the forest landowners we spoke to as being a valuable resource.
“Try to figure out what organizations are around you that are doing stuff. Around here, there's the Mid-Klamath Watershed Council, and they'll have invasive plant removal days, and you can go and volunteer. Doing something like that, where you're hands-on and connecting with other people is what I'd suggest.”
-Sacha, Humboldt County
“My community…is definitely close knit, because it's tough! It's a lot of work. And, you know, if I'm renting a chipper and it's up at my property and someone else wants to use it, they can. It's very, very helpful to be close with your neighbors and learn from them.”
-Laura, Nevada County
Project Learning Tree: Shaping the future of California forests
On this International Day of Forests, we at UC Cooperative Extension Forest Research and Outreach invite you to celebrate the future of California's trees with us. Considering the recent news coverage regarding tree mortality in California, we want to instead view this subject through a lens of hope. For it's not just the news outlets witnessing the extent of forest die-off: children, especially those in forested communities, are seeing the effects of drought, wildfire, and fire suppression policies in real time.
Project Learning Tree is a national education program leading the next generation to witness and then act on these changes. Children are the future of our forests, and we think the efforts of Project Learning Tree are a cause for celebration, don't you?
Last month, Californians may have noticed a marked uptick in the news coverage of the state's forests. Local, state and national news outlets all reported on the startling approximation of 36 million trees that perished between 2021 and 2022. This number, gleaned from USDA Forest Service data, is a startling jump from the 9.5 million trees that perished the year before. The future of California's forests does not have to look like this, with large fluctuations and ever-rising numbers of dying trees. Right now, it's not easy being a tree. In 10 or 20 years? We're hopeful that the situation is different.
Project Learning Tree (PLT), stretches across the nation to connect students to forests, even if they live miles away from one. Jonelle Mason, the PLT coordinator for Northern California region, provided more insight into the program's purpose through a sentiment many may be familiar with: “To quote Jane Goodall, ‘Only if we understand, will we care. Only if we care, we will help.'” Project Learning Tree is one piece in the future of forest stewardship, and as Jonelle sees it, “Forming forest-education generations creates passionate advocates. People can't save what they don't know about.”
A point touched on by nearly all news outlets covering tree mortality was the centuries of fire suppression practices and its ripple effects that amplify drought and wildfire damage. Students in California are aware of natural disasters affecting forests and forested communities, but not necessarily the causes.Mason posits that in closing that knowledge gap, PLT can “cultivate environmental defenders [who] will ultimately push us in the right direction.”
A crucial aspect of Project Learning Tree is that it exists as a continuing education program, meant to follow students from kindergarten to senior year of high school. Each year of learning builds upon the last, yet the topics are given nuance and depth even at the elementary school level. For instance, PLT's flagship K-8 curriculum gives second grade teachers the tools to communicate ecosystem services, plant structure and natural resource cultivation. High school teachers following the “Focus on Forests” education guide will find avenues to introduce concepts like environmental policy, and will help students understand the difficult decisions that many forest landowners face.
It does indeed give us a reason to celebrate the future. Young people are more active in the conversations surrounding the environment and climate change, and are aware that something must be done to protect the natural resources they have left. It's vital to translate that passion and interest into true learning, where a classroom can become the space for developing ideas for what can be done about our state's forests. Mason is quick to point out the core tenant of PLT that makes it unique: “Teaching students how to think, not what to think, about environmental concerns.”
Project Learning Tree presents concepts to students and gives them the tools to think critically through the many fields that touch forests, from the natural sciences to philosophy. California's youth has a vested interest in protecting and managing their forests, and programs like PLT give us hope that the interest can truly be translated to action.
If you are interested in bringing Project Learning Tree to your school or home, you can contact Mason at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New videos demonstrate techniques and tools to survey forestland trees
Forestland owners can learn how to survey the trees on their property from four new videos produced by UC Cooperative Extension, setting them on a course for sustainable management of their forestland. The videos are available on the UC ANR YouTube channel (http://youtube.com/UCANR).
Learning the tools and techniques used for centuries by professional foresters and research scientists allows private forest owners to collect data that paints a picture of the land and trees' current condition.
“Whether it's managing to reduce wildfire, control invasive species, protect the nature beauty or maximize timber harvest, you need to know what you have so you can select the right actions to achieve your goals,” said Kimberly Ingram, UC Cooperative Extension forest stewardship education academic coordinator.
While about two-thirds of California's 33 million acres of forests are public lands held by state and federal government agencies, the rest is in private hands. In 2019, with funds from CAL FIRE, UCCE launched a program to reach out to the 87,000 private landowners who manage portions of California's forests.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, three-day field workshops were offered to groups of forest owners to help them develop a plan to improve and protect their forestlands in an ecologically and economically sustainable manner. Because of the pandemic, alternative approaches are being used, including video training, online workshops and limited outdoor field days in locations where social distancing is feasible.
“We're using the flipped classroom method,” Ingram said. “The learner reads and watches videos beforehand and then, when they come to the online classroom and field day sessions, we're delving into real-world examples.”
Kestrel Grevatt, a member of the Grizzly Corps, an AmeriCorps program developed by UC Berkeley that addresses community needs related to climate change, was enlisted to create videos that demonstrate forest measurement practices.
The videos are for landowners who participate in the workshop series and for other forest owners who wish to begin collecting data on their own.
Susie Kocher, UCCE forestry and natural resources advisor in the Central Sierra Cooperative Extension office, narrates and conducts demonstrations in each of the videos. They cover the following topics:
Tree measurement tools
Learn the basics of forest inventory and what measurements you need to quantitatively represent your forest. It covers the usage of a diameter tape, Spencer logger's tape and Biltmore stick (or CA tree stick).
Using a clinometer to measure tree height
A clinometer is a simple tool which can be used to measure heights. In this video, you will learn how to use a clinometer to accurately measure tree height as part of a forest inventory.
Plot establishment tools
Learn how to use a compass, reel fiberglass tape and cruise vest to establish plots. The video covers how to think about your own inventory system and what you will want to take with you when you head into the woods.
Plot layout and inventory system
Learn what it looks like to collect plot data. This video includes a review of plot layout, the measurements and observations to note, and how sample data can represent your entire forest.
Three more forest stewardship workshops have been scheduled:
Feb. 2 - April 13, tribal-focused stewardship workshop: Online and at the Big Sandy Rancheria. Registration now open.
March 22 - May 27, online and in Humboldt County. Registration now open.
April 21 - June 16, online and in San Bernardino County. Registration opening soon.
Workshop registration is $60. Breakfast and lunches are provided for in-person field days. Register at http://ucanr.edu/forestryworskhopregistration.
For more information on forest management and forest stewardship workshops visit the Forest Research and Outreach website at http://ucanr.edu/forestry.
Teachers learn about forestry during summer vacation
School teachers take a week each summer for a deep dive into the world of forestry courtesy of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, reported the Times-Standard. Teachers explore redwoods, endangered species and water quality during the Forestry Institute for Teachers training, equipping them to share information with their students on the relationship of forest ecosystems and human use of natural resources.
During the Humboldt County training session, the president of Humboldt State University, Tom Jackson, Jr., joined the teachers when they toured a lumber mill in Scotia.
UC Cooperative Extension forestry advisor Yana Valchovic conducts the program in Humboldt County in partnership with Humboldt State University. The annual program is also offered in Plumas, Shasta and Tuloumne counties.
The cross-curriculum training - which includes math, language arts, science and history - follows curriculum standards required in California schools while examining current forestry issues.
The class is offered free to all California teachers. For more information and the application, see ForestryInstitute.org.
The smart harvest of Christmas trees leads to a healthier forest
Most California forests have too many trees, so carefully selecting pines, cedars or firs in natural areas to enjoy for the Christmas season is good for the mountain landscape.
“It's a great idea to cut down young trees for fire safety and vegetation management,” said Susie Kocher, UC Cooperative Extension forestryadvisor in the Central Sierra. “The earlier you do it, the less work it is to manage the trees in the long run.”
Kocher lives and works in Lake Tahoe. Every year, she gathers her family and friends to find forest-fresh Christmas trees in the Lake Tahoe Management Area. Of the 18 national forests in California, 11 allow Christmas tree cutting with the purchase of a $10 permit. (See the list below.) People who own mountain cabins or other forestland may invite family and friends to help thin trees on their personal property, which can then be used for the holiday season. However, never harvest trees on public or private property without permission.
“We have a lot of small trees on public and private forest lands because of fire suppression,” Kocher said. “They're all competing with one another and many will ultimately die. A smart harvest of Christmas trees can improve the forest by helping with thinning.”
People with permits to cut down Christmas trees in national forests must follow strict guidelines. Follow the same guidelines on private land to ensure a smart harvest. Before chopping down the tree, be sure it is within 10 feet of another living tree, the trunk is no more than 6 inches in diameter and the stump left behind is no higher than 6 inches off the ground. Some national forests limit the harvest to certain tree species.
Despite committing to these guidelines when obtaining a permit, Kocher said she has seen some Christmas tree harvesters make ill-advised choices.
“Some people are too lazy to find a good tree and will cut the top off a large tree,” Kocher said. “You can be driving around and see what looks like a poor old Dr. Suess tree, which is what grows from the ugly remnant left behind in the forest.”
Such irresponsible Christmas tree cutting has led some forests to discontinue Christmas tree harvesting for personal use.
There has been ongoing debate about whether a fake tree or real tree is more environmentally friendly, but for Kocher, there is no question.
“Fresh real trees are a renewable resource, fake trees are not,” she said. “It's an agricultural product. You can contribute to a local farmers' income or you can help thin the forest. Picking and bringing home a fresh tree, decorating it and smelling it defines the season for me. Without it, I don't think it would feel like Christmas.”
U.S. National Forests in California that allow Christmas tree cutting with a permit are:
- Inyo National Forest
- Eldorado National Forest
- Klamath National Forest
- Lake Tahoe Basin Management Area
- Lassen National Forest
- Mendocino National Forest
- Modoc National Forest
- Plumas National Forest
- Shasta-Trinity National Forest
- Six Rivers National Forest
- Tahoe National Forest
Purchasing real Christmas trees from tree lots in town or at choose-and-cut tree farms is a way to support farms and economies in rural areas and contribute to environmental sustainability.