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Forest research and outreach compiles forestry voices in new story map project

Napa County Forest Stewardship Workshop participants gather during the series’ in-person field day. Photo by Kim Ingram.

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For the past four years, Kim Ingram has been listening closely to the private forest landowners who participate in her Forest Stewardship Workshop series. During the workshops, landowners share their experiences clearing thickets of vegetation, replanting post-wildfire and tackling invasive species, and their concerns of who will take care of their forest when they're gone.

To alleviate their stress, Ingram–Forest Stewardship Education coordinator with University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources–turns to natural resource professionals from CAL FIRE, local Resource Conservation Districts, and the U.S Forest Service who can share knowledge and resources with participants. Recently, Ingram developed a story map that aims to provide landowners with a platform they can use to share their experiences and ways that they have been empowered to manage their land.

"It's not uncommon for small forest landowners to feel overwhelmed with their forest management responsibilities and uncertain over what steps to take first," said Ingram. "Through the Forest Stewardship Workshops and this story map project, we hope to show that there is an entire community of forest landowners in the same situation, learning from each other and moving forward towards their management goals."

The Forest Stewardship Story Map team used ArcGIS StoryMaps to design the project, with 15 participants providing interviews and visual content. StoryMaps provides a user-friendly interface where website visitors can either click on a county to view specific interviews or scroll to view the stories.

The forestry team plans to interview at least one landowner and natural resource professional in every forested county in California so private forest landowners have a local contact or can become inspired by a project in their area.

Theresa Ciafardoni, a forest landowner in Nevada County, said that the UC ANR Forest Stewardship Workshop helped her manage postfire restoration and long-term land use planning.

Sonoma County forest landowner Craig Hayes piles slash to burn, a typical forest management activity. Photo by Craig Hayes.

"It opened up so many options and possibilities," said Ciafardoni. "All the individuals who presented in the Forest Stewardship Workshop were open to phone calls for specific questions and provided invaluable technical assistance."

Involving landowners and forestry professionals with this project was an early decision made by Ingram, who believed it was important that the map held appeal beyond hosting stories. Now, the project functions as a networking tool for landowners seeking professional assistance, too.

Past Forest Stewardship Workshop presenters shared their contact information and the motivations behind their forest management work so that landowners could find assistance in their area. The professionals currently hosted on the map include Resource Conservation District managers, UC ANR forestry advisors and private contractors. 

"The most motivated landowners are invested not only economically, but their heart is into it," said Ryan Tompkins, UC Cooperative Extension forestry advisor for Plumas, Sierra and Lassen counties. "The natural world is full of uncertainty, but they're committed to continuing education and learning about how to be a good land steward. This takes a certain level of humility recognizing that our tenure as a steward on the land is a very short period of a forest's lifetime."

View from a Lake County Forest Stewardship field day. Photo by Kim Ingram.

Looking ahead, the team envisions the map as a working document that will eventually include interviews with indigenous tribal members who focus on traditional ecological knowledge projects, interviews and information from the UC ANR Postfire Forest Resilience Program, and a feature that will filter stories by topic (e.g. reforestation or prescribed burning).

"This isn't a project that could be completed by one person," explained Grace Dean, Forest Stewardship communications specialist. "The same way that Kim and other presenters explain forest management as a collaborative process holds true for this project."

The Forest Stewardship Workshop series gives participants the ability to start as beginners and build upon their knowledge and experiences. In the same vein, this story map provides the Forest Stewardship team a solid base of real stories to add on to over time. The hope is that it will grow into a multifaceted tool reaching new forest landowners, eventually enveloping their stories within the small forest landowner community.

To view the Forest Stewardship Story Map, visit: https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/bd062108d9894da7920d7aef06fe2c2c.

Posted on Friday, July 7, 2023 at 12:55 PM
Tags: environmental (2), fire (18), forestry (9), Ingram (1), July 2023 (1), Kim (1), landowners (1), map (1), stewards (2), story (1)
Focus Area Tags: Environment

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.

View of Lone Bobcat Woods during a Forest Stewardship Placer-Nevada County field day. Photo credit: Kim Ingram.

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

Burn pile at Blodgett Research Forest. Photo credit: Kim Ingram


 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

Prescribed fire, seen above, has historically been used as an indigenous land-management tool. Photo credit: Susie Kocher

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

UCCE Forest Stewardship Workshop participants measure a tree in Napa County. Photo credit: Kim Ingram

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

 

Posted on Friday, April 21, 2023 at 8:52 AM
Focus Area Tags: Environment

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?

 
Students review Project Learning Tree curriculum.

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.”

 
Jonelle Mason, Northern California PLT State Coordinator.

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.  

Project Learning Tree encourages using multiple senses to learn about forests. Here, students use their sense of smell.

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 jmason@ucanr.edu.

 

Posted on Tuesday, March 21, 2023 at 12:52 PM
Focus Area Tags: Environment

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.

A compass is one of the tools professional foresters use to establish plots when collecting data about a forest.

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

Posted on Thursday, January 21, 2021 at 10:52 AM
Focus Area Tags: Natural Resources

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.

School teachers visit a forest as part of the Forestry Institute for Teachers training. (Photo: Forestryinstitute.org)
Posted on Monday, August 5, 2019 at 9:31 AM
Focus Area Tags: Environment

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