The Forestry Source - December 2012 - (Page 1)
News for forest resource professionals published by the Society of American Foresters
December 2012 • Vol. 17, No. 12
T H I S
I S S U E
2012 SAF National Convention Coverage More than 1,500 forestry and natural-resources professionals and students traveled to Spokane for the SAF 2012 National Convention, which took place October 24–28. The event offered a wide variety of presentations, scientific and technical sessions, workshops, and field tours designed around the theme of forest resilience. Coverage begins on this page. Forestry around the world: Taiwan seeks to balance forest conservation, forest carbon sinks, and wood production Taiwan, an island nation in the western Pacific near China, has rich and diverse forest resources. Although the government of Taiwan tries to spread the conception that forests play a very important role in soil and water conservation as well as in natural disaster mitigation, the abuse and spoilage of forests is common and serious. Page 9. GIS for foresters: Using ArcPy to automate making thematic map books: two cases Esri introduced ArcPy in ArcGIS 10 as a facility for integrating Python programming-language scripts into Arc GIS Desktop. However, not every Arc Map user is an experienced Python programmer. In this article, we offer an introduction to using ArcPy to automate the making of two kinds of thematic map books. Page 10. Field Tech: Nikon improves its forestry pro laser rangefinder A look at this much-improved version of the Forestry 550, reviewed in June 2009. Page 13. “Superstorm” Sandy hits East Coast, destroying homes and damaging forests Hurricane Sandy’s winds slowed to post-tropical cyclone speeds as it made landfall on October 29, but winds and flooding from the so-called superstorm devastated communities along the coasts of several Eastern states, especially New Jersey and New York. Page 16.
Seeing through the Smoke: Land Managers and Ecologists Urge Public Acceptance of Prescribed Fires
By Rachel White ire makes a good servant, but a bad boss. In the spring or fall when conditions are easier to control, small, prescribed fires can be an effective tool for restoring natural processes and functions on forests in the western United States. It’s the very large, uncontrollable fires that are responsible for serious ecological and property damage and that account for astronomical expenditures on suppression. They also drive fire policy and public opinion. These large fires are relatively rare. As Stephen Pyne wrote in Fire in America, “Under both managed and natural conditions, the vast proportion of burned acreages and damages comes from a small number of fires. Nationally, more than 95 percent of the annual area burned results from 2 to 3 percent of the total number of fires.” Forest Service landscape ecologist Paul Hessburg explains why this is a problem. “Big fires lead to more big fires,” he said. “Because landscapes have memory.” In other words, fire patterns exert an extraordinary influence on the subsequent arrangement of vegetation patterns across a landscape, and the reverse is also true: vegetation patterns influence future fires. Historically, dry forests were not dense with extremely flammable, “flashy” fuels, and, consequently, fire didn’t do as much
Members of the Plumas Hot Shots keep watch on the Peavine Fire, one of more than 100 fires in the Wenatchee Complex that were ignited by an early-September lightning storm. The fires had burned about 56,500 acres by mid-October.
damage. Fires were self-limiting. As a fire crept through the path of least resistance, it created a mosaic of burned and unburned land, driven by topography and vegetation patterns. “The next time fire strikes, it ‘reads’ this pattern and doesn’t gobble up the whole landscape,” explains Hessburg. “It throttles back. And mosaic leads to mosaic as the pattern of past fires constrains the patterns of future fires. In this way, the landscape becomes self-organized.”
Hessburg studies landscapes from the US Forest Service’s Wenatchee Forestry Sciences Lab in Washington State. He explores how landscapes change, how patterns and processes interact, and the current and potential future dynamics of fire, insect, and disease disturbance regimes. He asks big questions like, “What did premanagement-era forests look like? How (See “Smoke” page 3)
Resilient Forests the Focus of 2012 National Convention
D E PA R T M E N T S
2 9 10 12 13 14 Editor’s Notebook Forestry around the World GIS for Foresters Science and Tech Field Tech Classifieds
pokane, Washington, is an appropriate location for an SAF National Convention with “resilient forests” as a theme, since the city lies just west of the area burned just over a century ago by the Great Fires of 1910, said US Representative Cathy McMorris-Rodgers in remarks delivered at the beginning of Plenary Session 1. McMorris-Rodgers is a native of northeastern Washington and the highest-ranking Republican woman in the US Congress. The Big Blowup, or the Big Burn, as many refer to the fires, is an event “that I hope we will not repeat,” she said. More than 1,500 forestry and naturalresources professionals and students traveled to Spokane for the SAF 2012 National Convention, which took place October 24–28. The event offered a wide variety of presentations, scientific and technical sessions, workshops, and field tours designed around the forest resilience theme. (For more coverage of the convention, see pages 5–8.) Although the roughly three million acres blackened in the Big Blowup are now green again, McMorris-Rodgers expressed concern that forests throughout the western United States are not adequately resilient in the face of significant forest-health challenges and are at risk of large, destructive fires.
Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers addressed more than 1,500 attendees at the 2012 SAF National Convention in Spokane, Washington.
“Today when I look at our national forests, nearly two hundred million acres across this country where [trees on] one out of three acres are disease- and bug-
infested or dead. I think that’s just unacceptable. I think most Americans imagine our forests as being green and healthy stands of trees, and they would really be outraged to know that over 73 million acres of Forest Service land are at an elevated risk of catastrophic wildfires or insect and disease outbreaks. Just this year alone, nine million acres have burned,” said McMorris-Rodgers. Government should be a good steward, both of the land and of the interests of the people who live in the surrounding communities, McMorris-Rodgers said. “Our federal forests are sick, and the communities that depend on them have struggled for decades due to inaction,” she said. “Some of the counties that I represent here in eastern Washington are 70, 80, even 85 percent publicly owned. Those counties have a limited tax base, and communities in those counties are very dependent on what is happening on the public lands.” As an example, McMorris-Rodgers cited Vaagen Brothers Lumber, the area’s largest employer based in Colville, an eastern Washington town of about 5,000 people. The company’s two sawmills employ about 175 people and contribute more than (See “Spokane” page 5)
Kari Greer/US Forest Service
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Forestry Source - December 2012
The Forestry Source - December 2012
2012 SAF National Convention Coverage
Forestry Around the World: Taiwan Seeks to Balance Forest Conservation, Forest Carbon Sinks, and Wood Production
Forestry Around the World
GIS for Foresters: Using ArcPy to Automate Making Thematic Map Books: Two Cases
GIS for Foresters
Science and Tech
Field Tech: Nikon Improves Its Forestry Pro Laser Rangefinder
“Superstorm” Sandy Hits East Coast, Destroying Homes and Damaging Forests
The Forestry Source - December 2012