Ivlp miguel galante_US forests technical report_dez2011


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short report of the technical visit made to USA under the International Leadership Visitor Program - August 2011

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Ivlp miguel galante_US forests technical report_dez2011

  1. 1. Technical Report US Forests, a strong pillar for sustainable development Prepared by Miguel Galante (IVLP Portugal) December, 2011
  2. 2. Technical Report: US Forests, a strong pillar for sustainable development Contents: A short note about American Forests ..................................................................................................... 3 The visit – a global overview................................................................................................................... 4 10 key-findings on the visit technical assets: .......................................................................................... 4 1) Cohesive partnership and coordination, at the base of a system in constant development ............ 5 2) Sharing experiences and ideas as a driving-force for development ................................................ 5 3) Volunteering plays a important role for the community engagement ............................................ 6 4) Firewise communities - Raising community awareness for wildfires prevention............................. 6 5) Public participation - a relevant issue to regional forest planning and management ...................... 7 6) Stakeholders play a major role in decision making process ............................................................ 8 7) Prescribed burning in wide development as key-technique for large scale fuel management......... 8 8) America is facing changes in the landscape, new challenges in forestry and new trends for domestic and global markets ............................................................................................................... 9 9) Emerging challenges in forestry research ..................................................................................... 11 10) Building the future, educating the new generations for the importance of forest ........................ 12 Regarding Portugal ............................................................................................................................... 14 Conclusions and recommendations ...................................................................................................... 15 Acknowledgements .............................................................................................................................. 17 Useful Web links ................................................................................................................................... 17 2
  3. 3. Technical Report: US Forests, a strong pillar for sustainable development A short note about American Forests The area of American forests, 751 million acres covering about one-third of the US (8% of the world’s forests), has been stable over the past 30 years, accordingly to the 2010 National Report on Sustainable Forests by the USDA Forest Service, released in June 2011. There have been significant regional shifts in the area and composition of the US forests. Reversion of marginal farmland in the East, large scale planting in the South, and fire suppression have contributed to increases in forest area. On the other hand, urbanization development, conversion to agriculture, reservoir construction, and natural disasters have been major factors contributing to loss of forests. Most of the US forests are owned by family forest owners. Nearly ten million private individuals own about 422 million acres of forest and other wooded land, which are responsible for 91% of the US wood production. Federal lands cover 33% of America’s forests and state and municipal 9%. Eastern forests cover about 384 million acres and are predominantly broadleaf (74%), with the exception of extensive coniferous forests and plantations in the southern coastal region. These are largely in private ownership (83%). By contrast, about 363 million acres of western forests are predominantly coniferous (78%) and in public ownership (57%). There is a net growth in timber stocks, which currently exceeds harvest by a considerable extent in all regions of the U.S., yet demand remains constant, with the difference filled by imports. Forest products industry employment has fallen 15% since 1997 to 1.3 million employees. Source: USFS – FIA/Proportion of Forest Land (http://www.fia.fs.fed.us/) 3
  4. 4. Technical Report: US Forests, a strong pillar for sustainable development The visit – a global overview This IVLP consisted in a three week visit across the US, from 6th until 27th August 2011. The visit started in Washington, DC and covered several States and regions of the US: South East Texas, Southern California, Southern Idaho and Vermont in New England, This resulted in different cultural experiences and different technical objectives to achieve. From the Washington, DC “national and global” meetings to the Deep South East Texas pine woodlands, passing by the fire prone landscape of Southern California and the semi-desert drylands of Southern Idaho to the final stage in the sugar maple forests of Vermont, the visit was a lifetime journey! In the technical perspective, this IVLP aimed to promote a deeper and wider knowledge on forest related issues in the US, especially on Forest Planning and Wildfire Prevention and Combat System, Sustainable Forest Management, and trade and environmental policies and practices, including advances in scientific knowledge in some domains. US visit - Technical meetings and field visits (in italic) 10 key-findings on the visit technical assets: Cohesive partnership and a strong coordination, at the base of a system in constant development Sharing knowledge and ideas as a driving-force for improvement Volunteering plays a important role for the community engagement Firewise communities - Raising community awareness for wildfires protection Public participation - a relevant issue to regional forest planning and management Stakeholders play a major role in decision making process Prescribed burning in a wide development as key-technique for large scale fuel management America is facing changes in the landscape, new demands in forestry and new trends for domestic and global markets Emerging challenges for forestry research Build the future, educating new generations for the importance of forest to life on Earth 4
  5. 5. Technical Report: US Forests, a strong pillar for sustainable development 1) Cohesive1 partnership and coordination, at the base of a system in constant development Firstly, in the meeting hold at the DOI - Office of Wildland Fire Coordination in Washington, DC and later in the several meetings at the State level, the partnership cooperation among Federal Agencies (especially the USDA – Forest Service2) and the State Forest Service was notorious especially regarding wildfires planning, preparedness and combat. The most dramatic example came during the visit to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) placed in Boise, Idaho. Created in 1965, it aimed to set Federal Agencies working together to reduce the duplication of services and cut costs on wildfire operations. Actually, NIFC coordinates fire planning and combat operations resources at the National level. FEMA was the last governmental agency to join NIFC, in 2003. The State Forest Service are represented at the NIFC by the National State Foresters Association. Another interesting example in partnership, observed in a local scale, was the Prescribed Burning Action plan developed in Southern Idaho (70% Federal lands) within the USDA Forest Service, the DOI - Bureau of Land Management and the State of Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, to achieve air quality and smoke management control in the Montana air shed. 2) Sharing experiences and ideas as driving-force for development ICS – Incident Command System, the world-wide unified command system adopted for natural disaster incident management, was born in Southern California, 30 years ago at the USFS Pacific Southwest Research Station (Riverside) as the response for a demand on a more effective and strong coordination among the several agencies at the “operations stage” in wildfires. Also in California, the FIRESCOPE program designed to organize Firefighting Resources for Potential Emergencies, managed by CAL FIRE (California State Department of Forest and Fire Protection), is a good example of a cohesive strategy developed at the State level by a bureau of agencies, to address in a very effective solution for the management of resources on forest fire combat missions. This system is complementary to the action developed at the National level by NIFC. Taking into account the global warming future scenarios for Southern California (hot-spot for wildfires), continuing improvement of FIRESCOPE was a wise decision. In Southern Idaho, a corporative group exists for prescribed burn management among the USDA Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Idaho Department of Lands and the Idaho Division of Environmental Quality. 1 The National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy (http://www.forestsandrangelands.gov/) is a collaborative process with active involvement of all levels of government and non-governmental organizations, as well as the public, to seek national, all-lands solutions to wildland fire management issues. The Cohesive Strategy will address the nation’s wildfire problems by focusing on three key areas: Restore and Maintain Landscapes, Fire Adapted Communities and Response to Fire. 2 The Forest Service (www.fs.fed.us), an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), are the main pillar of the forest partnership programs. Over 30.000 employees, this agency is based in three branches: Research and Development; National Forest System and State and Private Forestry. The USFS are responsible for the management of 20% of the US forests. Their actual management priorities of the National Forests and grasslands are Multiple use and conservation, reintroducing prescribe burning in the forest ecosystem and Watershed conservation. The USFS also play an important role in the regulation of Congress Laws. 5
  6. 6. Technical Report: US Forests, a strong pillar for sustainable development 3) Volunteering plays a important role for the community engagement NGO and foundations have a major role in the partnership process. During the visit, there were found some good examples, such as the Texas Buckeye trail near Dallas that is maintained by the Texas Master Naturalist association (volunteers also promote actions for invasive plants control and collect tree seeds for further plantation) or the Nebraska Notch trail (a section of Vermont’s Long trail) maintained by the Green Mountains Club in partnership with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. Also, is remarkable the active involvement of several foundations at the Morley Nelson Birds of Prey – National Conservation Area (Southern Idaho) in public information and habitat restoration activities (e.g. plantation of sagebrush). In a different perspective, the American Forests Association3, which develops several programs for volunteers with the aim to protect and restore American forests, is a good example of a nationwide action targeted for the community awareness and involvement. The “Global Releaf” for forest ecosystem restoration or the “Big tree program” and the “Famous & Historic trees program” are some of the initiative developed by this NGO. 4) Firewise communities - Raising community awareness for wildfires prevention The protection of houses and local communities facing the threat of wildfires, is a major concern in the US. Developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in a close partnership with the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the Firewise program (http://www.firewise.org/) is a national program to face this public safety issue. During the visit, there was the opportunity to meet with NFPA and IAFC in Washington, DC and, later, to achieve a deeper knowledge of its application at the State level in Texas, California and Idaho. Cosponsored by the USDA Forest Service, the US Department of the Interior and the National Association of State Foresters, the Firewise County Councils are being established all-over the US4. The Rural Volunteers Fire Departments, with the technical assistance from the State Forest Service5 and the IAFC, are developing an important level at the community level awareness actions. Unfortunately, insurance companies usually don´t take in consideration for the house premiums the efforts made by the Firewise communities to reduce fire hazard. 3 The American Forests Association is the oldest national nonprofit conservation organization in the US. This NGO advocates for the protection and expansion of America’s forests. 4 The Joint Fire Science program is funding an integrated national study to evaluate the most successful collaborative processes in developing and implementing Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPP) of communities located in the wildland-urban interface. Information on the results of this project can be accessed on the following link: http://jfsp.fortlewis.edu/ 5 Texas Forest Service is developing a web-based information tool to support the preparation of community/county fire protection plans. 6
  7. 7. Technical Report: US Forests, a strong pillar for sustainable development In California, the protection of homes and communities from wildfires is a major political and safety concern. In a recent survey conducted in this State6, almost 66% of the people living in the Wildland/Urban Interface (WUI) came from the city or from the urban fringe and 56% of the inquiries recognized high/extreme level of wildfire threat to their private property (78% had property insurance that covers loss from wildfire). CAL FIRE addresses a strong focus in this matter that led to the development of a specific assistance program: the Fire Safe Council initiative (www.firesafecouncil.org). This program acts at the County level and provides grants for Clearinghouse Projects, to establish defensible spaces management between houses and the wildland area that surrounds it, creating a buffer to slow or halt the spread of wildfire to a structure, as the State law demands (74% of the inquiries assumed to have defensible spaces). This is an important program in the Californian fire prone landscape, as there is little local community's perceived level of wildfire preparedness to make properties safer from wildfire (57,5%, accordingly to the survey). Demonstration Forest - Mountain Rim Fire Safe Council (San Bernardino National Forest, Southern California) 5) Public participation - a relevant issue to regional forest planning and management Seeking public participation in forest planning and management is an actual demand regarding Congress laws, especially towards environmental conservation. The balance between the needs of urban/countryside people for the National Forests management goals can be a major challenge for the interdisciplinary planning teams. Public participation is mainly a web-based process, complemented with public meetings at the County level to achieve the engagement of local communities in the process. In the visit to Lufkin (South East Texas), there was the opportunity to discuss this issue with the USFS officers regarding the Davy Crockett National Forest post-fire review process of the management action plan. In this particular process, a public meeting took place at the city hall to start the post-fire restoration process, regarding the ecosystem recovery project for habitat conservation for red-cockaded woodpecker (an forest endangered specie) with the plantation of the native Long-leaf pine (Pinus palustris), a frequent fires dependent tree. 6 Eriksen, C and Hankins, D (2011) Living with wildfire in California, Survey July 2011, University of Wollongong. Online survey of California residents' experiences of living and working with wildfire in the wildland-urban interface. The survey was conducted by the University of Wollongong, Australia in conjunction with California State University, Chico. The project aims to assist local, regional and state institutions to develop local knowledge into wildfire management procedures. 7
  8. 8. Technical Report: US Forests, a strong pillar for sustainable development Although, the increasing importance of Federal and State forests for wildlife conservation, in those States, like Idaho, where most of the forest is placed in Federal lands, especially in National Forests managed by the USDA Forest Service, the demand for wood to supply the timber industry can lead to a conflict situation regarding the nature conservation management goals. The National Forests (also State Forests, too) are actually managed for multiple-uses, such as timber, habitat and endangered species conservation, air and water quality, recreation, hunting and fishing. Managers also take into consideration prescribed burning plans and road networking on the forest planning process. 6) Stakeholders play a major role in decision making process Texas was the most interesting State to evaluate the importance of stakeholders in the decision making process. In a State where over 90% of the forest land is private property, the Texas Forestry Association (TFA) develops a major role addressing the private forest owners concerns to the policy makers, both in Austin and in Washington, DC. A good example of the role played by the stakeholders can be achieved on the action developed by TFA on the US Forest Service cost share programs (e.g. the Southern Pine Beetle prevention program), on timber taxation information or with the “American Tree Farm System”. Sponsored by the American Forest Foundation, there are 2.200 Tree Farms in Texas that together encompass more than 700.000 acres. Actually, this system has 70.000 certified Tree Farmers that are managing 30 million acres of forest in the United States. Tree Farmers can provide important economic and conservation benefits to combat threats and keep forests healthy and productive. But, Washington, DC is the main stage for the work of stakeholders. Congressional Fire Services Institute, National Fire Protection Association, International Association of Fire Chiefs or the National Association of State Foresters develops an important “back-stage” work at the US Capitol, within the Congressman staff and the Committees. Education and review of the legislative initiatives are their main focus in this political action. 7) Prescribed burning in wide development as key-technique for large scale fuel management The general perception of fire in the forest lands has dramatically changed over the last century. After decades of highly successful efforts to suppress fire from the forest, a major change is driven to reintroduce fire in the forest, as part of the ecosystem dynamics. Actually, reducing hazardous fuels through prescribed fire is one of the key components of the National Fire Plan7. Nowadays, prescribed burning is a wide-spread tool for fuel management both in National and State Forests and also in private forests, like in South East Texas loblolly pine plantations (Pinus taeda). 7 After the record-breaking wildfire season of 2000, the President requested a national strategy for preventing the loss of life, natural resources, private property, and livelihoods in the wildland/urban interface. Working with Congress, the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior jointly developed the National Fire Plan (NFP) to respond to severe wildland fires, reduce their impacts on communities, and assure sufficient firefighting capabilities for the future. The NFP is structured in five key points: (1) firefighting preparedness, (2) rehabilitation and restoration of burned areas, (3) reduction of hazardous fuels, (4) community assistance, and (5) accountability. 8
  9. 9. Technical Report: US Forests, a strong pillar for sustainable development For instance, just in Texas 100.000 acres are annually prescribed burn in the National Forests for fuel management and wildlife habitat conservation purposes. Prescribed fires on federal lands must comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires extensive analysis of the environmental, economic, and social impacts of projects with public participation. Mature pure Loblolly pine stand treated with prescribed burn (Davy Crockett National Forest, TX) In Southern Idaho, a planning and reporting system was developed for prescribed burning operations, very comprehensive and achieves the demands for update information and post-fire effects assessment. Information about the status of prescribed fires during the spring and fall/winter burning seasons can be remotely accessed at www.rxfire.com Another important issue regarding the usage of this high-skilled forestry technique is training and qualifications for the planning and execution of prescribed burnings. The National Wildfire Coordinating Group at Washington, DC prepared the “Interagency Prescribed Fire Planning and Implementation Procedures Guide” and also the “Prescribed Fire Plan Template” to support a more effective usage of the prescribed burning technique. Planning and using “Rx fire” can only be made by certified personnel. Actually there are three levels of expertise to execute a prescribed burning, depending on the burn complexity. 8) America is facing changes in the landscape, new challenges in forestry and new trends for domestic and global markets Trees and forests are closely related to the history and development of the USA. Nowadays, forests represent 33% of the US land and are increasing since the last 50 years, especially due to the re-naturalization process of abandoned agricultural lands. Accordingly to the National Report on Sustainable Forests – 20108, Pests (e.g. Southern pine beetle (Texas) or bark beetles (Idaho)), large and mega-fires and forest fragmentation in the urban expanding areas are some of the main threats to the sustainability of US forests. 8 An update of the report is anticipated for 2015. 9
  10. 10. Technical Report: US Forests, a strong pillar for sustainable development Urban Forestry is a 21st century challenge for foresters. The Texas Forest Service (TFS) is developing a State-wide Urban and Community Forestry program in a strict collaboration with the counties authorities. The recovery of the Great Trinity Forest and the Trinity River Corridor Project, in the fast growing Dallas city, are appointed as the top projects of that ambitious program. At the Dallas city hall meeting, it was also presented the TFS initiative on the county tree ordinance elaboration, as a requirement for to get recognition for the Tree City USA Program and apply for federal grants. Another threat is silently emerging for the US forests: the old ageing of tree farmers and the decrease of pulp & paper and lumber industry activity in the US most forested States. The certification of Sustainable Forest Management is, therefore, challenging for the access of timber to the lumber market. The American Tree Farm program can play an important role to address that goal, especially through the Sustainable Forestry Initiative – a timber certification system developed by the industry and recognized by the PEFC international. The announcement made by the Secretary of Agriculture regarding wood’s inherent properties – as a sustainable, natural, and renewable resource for Green Building procurement at the 2011 – International Year of Forests celebration ceremony is good news for the lumber industry and also for the forest owners that will meet a growing demand for certified timber. Despite this important political sign, there is an emerging issue to be evaluated in the future: the consequence of trading forest ownership from the Timber and Pulp & Paper companies to investor’s funds. This concern was addressed both by the Texas Forestry Association and Intermountain-orient Inc. For the Intermountain-orient Inc, a forest products supplier, considers this change of ownership as an effect of globalization: from timber production (manufactures) to a “selling logs” activity by Timberland Investment Management Organizations – TIMOs and Real Estate Investment Trusts REITs), to supply the demand for logs in China, Japan and South Korea. Source: Texas Statewide Assessment of Forest Resources (2009) Beside the recognized importance of sustainable forest management certification, the trends in the global market keep an increasing demand for wood based products, especially from planted forests in response to the crescent urbanization of the population. Although, firstly it is necessary to overcome the 2008-2009 US housing construction crisis, which is the main driver for the recovery of global crisis in the timber market. Also, its important to take into consideration the role of “new global forest players”: Chile, Uruguay and New Zealand (ex. Pinus radiata). 10
  11. 11. Technical Report: US Forests, a strong pillar for sustainable development Another issue to be addressed, both in the US (Lacey Act, amended by 2008 Farm Bill) and Europe (EU timber regulation), is the mandatory regulation for traceability to control illegal logging in the tropical forests. The actions developed by the World Bank (Technical assistance to improve REDD at a country level) and Rainforest Alliance (“Trees program” for sustainable forestry at the local community level) are examples of global efforts to control illegal logging. Biomass energy is, probably, the most recent challenge to the forest sector, especially regarding the increasing global demand for pellets. The meeting held at the Biomass Energy Resources Center (Montpelier, VT) was clear on the large potential of this green energy solution, especially at the community/local level. There are other challenges that are getting started and need to be more developed in the future in the perspective of valuing the ecosystem services. Water quality protection for watershed management (WRI -Portland-Maine project), the habitat and endangered species conservation (USFS) and Carbon stocks by forest ecosystem (Forests and forest products in the United States capture and store 12 percent of carbon emissions) are some of the new challenges for future, especially regarding research projects at Universities. Forest health and invasive species monitoring are two issues that demand for a more close involvement from the Federal and State Forest Agencies. 9) Emerging challenges in forestry research During the visit, there was opportunity to meet with researchers at Texas A&M University (College Station, TX) and at the USFS Pacific Southwest Research Station (Riverside, CA). At the Texas A&M University (TAMU), meetings covered the new challenges for forest biomass, facing the efficiency of small plants (1-2 MW) for energy production to ammonia/urea production from gasified wood biomass, the new usages of GIS9 and LIDAR technology in forestry, especially in high accurate forest inventories, biomass estimations and assessing fuels for modeling fire behavior. In Riverside, at the USFS Pacific Southwest Research Station, there is a different perspective for research – basic applied research to provide knowledge and tools development for managers. Just to point some cases, the ICS, FARSITE and more recently the model for wildfire decision making based in economic assets (under development by Armando Gonzalo-Caban) are examples of targeted research to support fire planning policies. Nowadays, the USFS Research Stations10 are more focuses in technology transfer, with a longer research funding cycle – 10 years programs. The Joint Fire Science program created by a Congress decision in 1998, is managed at the NIFC with Federal funds from DOI and USDA. The JFSP develops science-based knowledge and tools in several areas, such as: Fuel inventory and mapping; Fuel treatment planning, scheduling, and risk 9 Regarding GIS technology, it’s important to underline the project under development by the Texas Forest Service in collaboration with professors and researchers of the TAMU Spatial Science Laboratory regarding the development of a webbased GIS “Texas Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal” (http://www.texaswildfirerisk.com/) for public information and support to forest fires prevention and mitigation. 10 There are seven USFS Research Stations (head-quarters in Berkley), that work as a neural system. The Pacific Southwest Research Station is actually organized in five research units: Fire and Fuel; Conservation; Urban Ecosystem Dynamics and Ecology and Biodiversity. 11
  12. 12. Technical Report: US Forests, a strong pillar for sustainable development assessment; Fire effects and fire behavior; Restoration of fire-adapted ecosystems; Post-fire stabilization and rehabilitation and Remote sensing. This program can play a major role bringing applied research to the local through the development and integration of research information with local land managers. 10) Building the future, educating the new generations for the importance of forest Educating is an important issue to gather better public participation and especially to achieve a better understanding of the importance of forests to our society and to the environment. Despite this recognized importance, in times of severe budget cuts, all the past efforts can be affected, as the results of the effectiveness of the actions developed today can only be achieved in a medium/long term perspective. The International Year of Forests 2011, declared by the United Nations, is a good opportunity to “Celebrate Forests. Celebrate Life.” (http://www.celebrateforests.com/), the official campaign coordinated by the National Association of State Forests (NASF) in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service. The U.S. celebration11 aimed to elevate awareness and understanding of the value of America’s forests and showcase the connections between healthy forests, people, ecosystems and economies. During the visit there was the opportunity to know more about the actions developed by the 67 years-old Smokey bear program for forest fires prevention (http://www.smokeybear.com/), which has a special focus on children awareness for forest fires prevention. Actually, the Smokey bear awareness campaigns result from the partnership of the US Forest Service with the NASF and Ad Council. Smokey bear campaign outdoor 11 A 2011 voter poll, commissioned by the National Association of State Foresters, showed that two-thirds (67 percent) of voters live within 10 miles of a forest or wooded area and say they visit them or recreate in them frequently. Significant majorities of voters indicate that forests play a "very important" role in providing clean air (92 percent), providing filtration to keep water clean (91 percent), providing places for wildlife to live (86 percent), supplying products like wood and paper (73 percent), providing a place for recreation (71 percent) and providing good jobs (73 percent). 12
  13. 13. Technical Report: US Forests, a strong pillar for sustainable development Recently, the US Forest Service12 in collaboration with Ad Council, launched the website “Discover the forest” to inspire tweens (aged 8-12) and their parents to re-connect with nature, experiencing it first-hand. This campaign brings to life the joy and excitement kids have when they discover the wonders of nature, helping create interest in their environment and a lifelong relationship with it. Another revelation initiative in this domains is the new high school curriculum from Project Learning Tree, the environmental education program of the American Forest Foundation, teaches students www.discovertheforests.org about forest health, fresh water supply, climate change, who owns America’s forests, and more. Exploring Environmental Issues: Focus on Forests features hands-on classroom lessons and field investigations to help students develop an understanding and appreciation for stewardship and informed decision-making on issues that affect forests. During the visit, the most interesting and original case regarding education for the importance of forests to the community came from the Idaho Forest Products Commission (IFPC). Created in 1992 by an act of the Idaho Legislature, with the purpose of promote the economic and environmental welfare of the state by providing a means for the collection and dissemination of information regarding the management of the state's public and private forest lands and the forest products industry, IPFC provides a wide range of statewide communications activities, educational programs and informational materials for educators and students as well as for the general public about the forest sector (http://www.idahoforests.org/). In my opinion, this specific project could evolve for a Science Center for Forests13, like the ECHO Center for the Lake Champlain information in Burlington, VT. In Idaho, there is another original initiative to promote awareness for forest protection: Purchase an Idaho forest license plate and a portion of the fee will go to help reforestation and education projects in that northwestern State. 12 The US Forest Service Conservation Education program (http://www.fs.usda.gov/conservationeducation) helps people of all ages understand and appreciate America’s natural resources and how to conserve those resources for future generations. 13 In Portugal, there is a Science Center for Forests (Centro Ciencia Viva para a Floresta - http://ccvfloresta.com/), located in a small town in the countryside (Proença-a-Nova, Central Portugal) which has been a recognized case of success in forest education and could be a good example for IFPC for further development. 13
  14. 14. Technical Report: US Forests, a strong pillar for sustainable development The Texas Native Forest Boardwalk at the Forth Worth Botanical Garden is another example of a different strategy to promote education. Settled as living outdoor classroom — an elevated boardwalk with viewing platforms and thirteen interactive educational stations addressing forest ecology designed to engage both children and parents/grandparents. Its purpose is to stimulate interest in the native forest and to encourage visitors to use what they discover about stewardship and conservation in their own home environment. Also, on the stay in East Texas, there was also the opportunity to visit the Texas Forestry Museum (http://www.treetexas.com/), in Lufkin. Managed by the Texas Forestry Association, it’s a small museum, but with a rich and comprehensive set of information regarding the history of forestry and forest industry in South East Texas. The Texas Forestry Museum has about 11.000 visitors/year, especially young students. Regarding Portugal Cork and cork oak14 open forests from southern Portugal were one of the most common questions regarding the Portuguese forest during this visit. Cork is in the base of a sector where Portugal is the world leader in production and transformation (the US market is the 2nd most important destination for Cork products exporting – cork stoppers, construction material (e.g. flooring) and car industry). Cork oak stand (“montado” – open forest) About 40 percent of Portugal mainland is covered by forests (3.45 million hectares). Portugal has a GDP equivalent to Kentucky and the forest sector is responsible for 3percent of that value. The Portuguese forest industry is very dynamic and actually is the 3rd most important exporting cluster (11% of Portuguese exportations) and with a increasing trend, especially in paper products (the Pulp & Paper industry in Portugal is based in Eucalyptus globulus wood supply). Maritime pine (Pinus pinaster) is the main forest specie in Portugal. 14 The Portuguese Parliament recognized the cork oak tree (Quercus suber) as the “National Tree of Portugal” on December 2011. 14
  15. 15. Technical Report: US Forests, a strong pillar for sustainable development Conclusions and recommendations USA is a large country, with wide landscapes, rich in diversity and an important land of forests (300 million hectares – the 4th most important forest country in the world). Forests can play an important role for the development of US economy and territory. The actual balanced partnership among Governmental Agencies, State Forest Service and private stakeholders towards forest health and conservation goals (cost share programs) is a good platform to keep achieve that goal. Sustainable Forest Management is an emerging issue, especially for the US Forest Service, which are responsible for the management of 20% of American forests (National Forests). There is a strong need for the certification of SFM at the USFS managed National Forests in the West region, where the National Forests are the major wood supplier. This aspect gets especial importance due to the actual demand for certified timber for the lumber industry. In this domain, the American forest certification scheme – Sustainable Forestry Initiative since 1994 already has more than 183 million acres of forest area certified in North America and this certification scheme can play a important role for the certification of those private forests in the “American Tree Farm System”. A key-aspect for the future sustainability of American forests is the development and implementation of the strategies and programs in every state and territory's Forest Action Plan. These Action Plans are critical for budget allocation decisions for Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act programs. The housing crisis is a major concern for the US productive forests. Even though, the forecast for the next two years is moderately positive. Sustainable Forest Development Strenghts Weaknesses A strong leader in the forest sector regulation, information and research: USDA Forest Service Cohesive strategies and strong stewardship among Federal and State Agencies with private stakeholders Weak domestic wood demand due to Housing crisis Low forest certification in National Forests Small dimension of private forests Decrease of competitiveness of forest-based industry Private stakeholders have an effective lobbying action Recognized domestic forest certification scheme (SFI) Fair forest taxation regulation, that promotes active forest management Strong organization at National and State level for wildfire suppression and preparedness Increase of mega-fires in the most fire prone areas Spread of pests, diseases and invasive plants Threats Leak of competitiveness of the American forest based industry Increase of forests owned by Timberland Investment Management Organizations and Real Estate Investment Trusts Opportunities USDA policy for green building State and Territory’s Action Forest Plans “Integrated Management Units” to gather higher operations scale among small private forest Forest education programs for communities and youth Environmental pressure on timber harvesting in federal and state forests Federal deficit reduction funds for the USDA Farm Bill conservation forests programs Climate Change policies (eg. Green Energy/Forest Biomass) Climate change - Invasive plants and pests and more frequent and severe droughts like in Texas 2011 Revenue of Forest Ecosystem Services Review insurance regulation for wildfire house protection, scoring firewise communities Urban development pressures 15
  16. 16. Technical Report: US Forests, a strong pillar for sustainable development The 2011 - International Year of Forests celebration, was a unique opportunity to promote forests and educate the society about its importance. The awareness effort must carry on 2012, bringing a wider information on the forest vital role to the society for students and the community. As Mr. Jay Farrel, executive director of the National Association of State Foresters, stressed on the lessons from 2011 - the Year of Forests “we must not weaken our resolve to focus on forests, protect them from devastating fires, insects and disease and uphold their vital place in our lives”. So, in the future, will be GREEN the new Red, White and Blue? In a different perspective, after the visit I concluded that Portugal has a still a long way to go to achieve the level of organization in the Forest Service, partnership with private stakeholders (industry, production, research and society organizations) and forest regulation (eg. Forest taxation). Large wildfires and mega-fires are a major concern to the sustainability of the Portuguese forests and consequently to our national forest industry, especially taking in consideration the future scenarios of global warming to Southern Europe. Therefore, in my opinion, a mission of Portuguese selected wildfire commanders to the NIFC – Boise could dramatically contribute to improve ICS in Portugal. The Prescribed Burning technique is another issue that Portugal needs to develop in a more structural basis in a short term, due to the high accumulation of fuels in the Portuguese forests, especially in maritime pine stands and in shrublands on the mountainous areas. In 2006, a mission of five USFS Rx fire experts went to Portugal and some important improvements were made then. Although, there is still the need for the development of a National Program for Prescribed Burning, that also take into consideration a multi-level skill training scheme, like in the US. There is also a need to improve the professional accreditation system (certified foresters program), as actually in use by the Society of American Foresters. A “National Firewise Program” is another key-issue that Portugal needs to develop. Supported by the Governmental and Municipal funds, this cost-share program could use of the Municipal Forest Offices network to promote planning and awareness campaigns in the most fire prone wildland/urban Interface zones. In my opinion, there is an opportunity to establish a stronger technical interaction with the USDA Forest Service or with State Forest Agencies, like CALFIRE or the Texas Forest Service. Portugal could support the development of some policies or actions in the US, such as: - A National Forest Volunteering Action Program as a solution to involve young people in forest awareness and protection (Portugal has this program since 2005); - The establishment of a pilot area for Integrated Management of small private forest owners; - The development of a high technological solution to disseminate public information on the fire danger rating (automated fire danger information system). Lisboa, 31.12.2011 Miguel Galante (Forester, Former advisor to the Portuguese State Secretary of Forests and Rural Development) 16
  17. 17. Technical Report: US Forests, a strong pillar for sustainable development Acknowledgements US Embassy at Lisbon for the invitation and especially to Mr. John Jacobs (Political and Economic Affairs Officer) and Ms. Madalena Veloso (Cultural Assistant) for the preparation of the visit outlines and all the necessary administrative arrangements. US Department of State, Ms. Noami Feigenbaum for the establishment of this IVLP and Meridian International Center15 (MIC), Mr. Frank Justice and Mr. Micah Winograd, who made an excellent work in the global coordination within the local agencies to achieve the full success of the IVLP visit. The ELO, Mr. John Zins, who developed a very professional support during the visit and had a key-role play for its success, both in the “back-stage”, providing the final arrangements for the local programs and also in the “front-line”, regarding the logistical aspects and especially the cultural part of the visit. USDA Forest Service personnel and all the people that shared their experience and knowledge during the visit, both in technical meetings and in the field visits. To finish, a special word of gratitude to my friends Art Torrez (USFS, Riverside CA) and Mark Beighley (USFS Retired, Consultant, Boise ID) for their hospitality and support in the meetings and guided visits. Useful Web links 2010 National Report on Sustainable Forests - http://www.fs.fed.us/research/sustain/ American Forests Association - http://www.americanforests.org/ American Forest Foundation - http://www.forestfoundation.org/aboutus American Tree Farm System - http://www.treefarmsystem.org/ CALFIRE Firescope Program - http://www.firescope.org/ National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) – http://www.nifc.gov/ FIRESCOPE program - http://www.firescope.org/ Firewise program - http://www.firewise.org/ Fire Safe Council initiative - www.firesafecouncil.org Idaho Forest Products Commission - http://www.idahoforests.org Joint Fire Science program - http://www.firescience.gov/ National Association of State Foresters – http://www.stateforesters.org National Interagency Fire Center – http://www.nifc.gov National Wildfire Coordination Group - http://www.nwcg.gov/ Society of American Foresters - http://www.safnet.org/ Sustainable Forestry Initiative – http://www.sfiprogram.org/ Texas Forestry Association - http://www.texasforestry.org/ Texas Forestry Museum - http://www.treetexas.com/ United States Forest Service - http://www.fs.fed.us 15 The lecture on the USA political system provided by Professor Eric Langenbacher at MIC offices in Washington, DC, revealed to be very useful for a deeper and better understanding of the relations among the forest & wildfire policies and programs at the Federal, State and County level. 17