Sunday, February 25, 2007

Forestry and Winter Driving

After the Valentine's Day storm in Pennsylvania there has been much criticism of PennDOT, the State Police, and PEMA (PA Emergency Mgt. Agency) over the blockage and closing of all of Interstate 78 and parts of Interstate 80 and 81. Some motorists were left stranded 12 or more hours.

Although the plowing and storm management operations should be evaluated, I think we should also look at how forest vegetation can be used to manage snow build-up on highways. By planting long rows of trees across open areas snow drifts can be prevented. This diagram comes from a Univ. of Minnesota report that explains how big a living snow fence should be to have the maximum benefit. ( ) If less snow accumulates, then plowing is quicker, easier, and more effective.

If forests are too close to, or overhang, a road the shading effect can favor ice buildup, which leads to the problems we had in PA after the Valentine's Day storm. Rights of way have to be cleared of trees and shrubs to let the sun in.

Even in the age of the automobile, it's better to let Mother Nature take care of our road maintenance as much as possible.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Allegheny SAF Meeting

With this week's big winter storm (at least big by mid-atlantic standards) I didn't make it to the first day of the Society of American Foresters Allegheny meeting in Hagerstown, MD. But there were some very interesting talks on Thursday morning (2-15) that made the trip worthwhile.

David Curson, the director of bird conservation for the MD/DE Audubon Society of talked about the Important Bird Areas Program (IBA). This is an attempt to identify critical habitat for endangered bird species. The program has been successful by working with the federally mandated State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAP). This voluntary program actually favors active forest management, since there are many species of birds requiring the whole range of habitats from clearcuts to older growth forests.

Dan Heddrick, of the Maryland DNR Forest Service, described a research project in western MD to study timber harvesting on small plots (1 to 10 acres). The logger is using a four-wheeler and a chain saw. The study will examine the economic feasibility and social acceptability of the work.

With land fragmentation becoming a critical problem, landowners of small lots (ten acres or less) need help with what to do on their properties. Jonathan Kays of the the Maryland Cooperative Extension Service described a new manual/workbook for these landowners, titled The Woods in Your Backyard. The workbook has been audience tested and should help landowners who are tired of moving their lawns and want to bring a little nature back.

Al Todd of the Forest Service gave a summary of the recent report The State of Chesapeake Forests from the Conservation Fund. The report was presented to the governors of the states draining into the Chesapeake who are all members of the Chesapeake Bay Program. Forest fragmentation and development are causing deforestation, soil erosion, and loss of habitat that are having a dire effect on the bay. We risk losing all the environmental services that the forests and the bay provides. According to the report, we are close to the point of no return, where decisive action needs to be taken.

The director of the Maryland Forest Service, Steve Koehn, gave the final word. According to Steve, the problems of development, ownership fragmentation, and deforestation, are affecting all natual resources uses and industries. Foresters need to become politically active to influence the situation. We have to show how these problems affect people's lives, health, and pocketbooks to get the decision makers (politicians) to take action.

Only the Penn State University Park students made it to the meeting. So instead of a quiz bowl, they had an old-timers vs. students quiz bowl. Next year Mont Alto and the other schools will all be there for a real competition.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Flatbush Gardener: Be an NYC Tree Guardian

Flatbush Gardener: Be an NYC Tree Guardian

Here's an interesting entry from the Flatbush Gardener about ways citizens can protect street trees in New York City. Most people don't realize that New York City has a very extensive forested park system. It also has thousands of street trees. These trees grow in a very stressful environment. Without the active support of the people of New York, they wouldn't survive at all.

That's an important lesson for forester. Trees and forests won't prosper, let alone survive, in today's world unless people think they should. Foresters need to work as much with people as with the forests.