Judge says Forest Service violated FOIA in controversial Wolf Creek land exchange


A federal court has ordered the U.S. Forest Service to release more documents related to a controversial land trade and development proposal at Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado.

Sloppy search for records related to proposed Colorado resort development put agency in the hot seat

By Bob Berwyn

Conservation advocates battling against plans for a massive resort development at Wolf Creek Pass, in southwestern Colorado, won a partial victory in federal court this week, as a judge ruled that the U.S. Forest Service violated the Freedom of Information Act and must release more documents related to the approval of a controversial land trade.

The land trade was approved earlier this year by Rio Grande Forest Supervisor Dan Dallas. It would give the developer, Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture, a way to access a parcel of private land that’s nearly surrounded by public national forest lands by swapping 205 federal acres for 177 acres of private land. If it stands, the trade would enable construction of a resort village for up to 8,000 people. Continue reading

Forests and CO2 — It’s complicated!

One of the few lodgepole seedlings to survive the industrial clearcutting on the north shore of the Frisco Peninsula.

Climate models may be overestimating the carbon-capturing capacity of forests. @bberwyn photo.

Loss of nitrogen a key factor in forest equation

Staff Report

Forests may grow faster as atmospheric CO2 increases, but that doesn’t mean they’ll absorb more of the heat-trapping gas. Instead, a shortage of nitrogen means plants won’t be able to fix as much carbon as projected by some climate models.

“Forests take up carbon from the atmosphere, but in order for the plants to fix the carbon, it requires a certain amount of nitrogen,” said researchers Prasanth  who took a close look at the chemistry of secondary forests that are regrowing after deforestation, wood harvest and fires.

“If that ratio of carbon to nitrogen isn’t right, even if you add many times more carbon than it gets currently, the forests cannot absorb the extra carbon,” Meiyappan said. Continue reading

Scientists slam Congress for once again considering misguided forest management bills

The magenta-flowered fireweed, which springs up after a burn, dominates a landscape once covered in black spruce in Alaskas Yukon Flats. Credit: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The magenta-flowered fireweed, which springs up after a burn, dominates a landscape once covered in black spruce in Alaskas Yukon Flats. Credit: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

‘Fire is not destroying our forests, rather, it is restoring these ecosystems …’

Staff Report

A group of scientists has weighed in on the political tug-of-war over forest policies by writing a letter to the U.S. Senate and President Obama, warning that two bills currently on the table would be destructive to forest ecosystems and wildlife

At issue are House Resolution 2647 and Senate Bill 1691, both proposed in response to ongoing concerns about forest fires. But the measures won’t improve forest health or reduce fire risks, the scientists said. Instead, the laws are aimed at short-cutting environmental studies, reducing public involvement and preventing courts from enforcing environmental laws.

The role of the timber industry in federal forest management would also unfairly increase under the deceptive guise of promoting decision-making by “collaborative” groups, the scientists wrote.

Continue reading

Global summit highlights crucial role of forests in climate change, economic development efforts

Slowing deforestation requires integration of forest planning with other sectors like water and agriculture


Global forests are a key resource that require more attention, experts said at the UN’s forest congress in Durban, South Africa. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Management of the world’s forests must be integrated with other land use planning efforts in order to address the root causes of deforestation, and forests should be recognized as “more than trees,” experts concluded at last week’s World Forestry Congress in Durban, South Africa.

With good management, forests have great potential to help end hunger, increasing wealth and improving livelihoods in developing countries, as well as in slowing climate change, the delegates from around the world said in the session-ending Durban Declaration.

Continue reading

UN report says global deforestation is slowing down


Scientists say forest conservation and restoration efforts should be stepped up. @bberwyn photo.

Tropical forests in poor countries still taking the biggest hit

Staff Report

Global forest conservation efforts are improving, but the world is still losing trees at an unsustainable rate — especially in the tropics, according to the UN’s latest Global Forest Resources Assessment.

Since 1990, total forest area has decreased by about 3 percent, an area about the size of South Africa. The report shows that, while the pace of forest loss has slowed, the damage over the past 25 years has been considerable.

Continue reading

Will Congress act on wildfire funding?

Budget ‘borrowing’ reaches $700 million as political gridlock prevents meaningful budget reform


A wildfire in Yellowstone National Park. Photo via National Park Service.

Staff Report

With wildfires still raging across the West, the U.S. Forest Service has already used up its firefighting budget for the year. This week, the agency notified Congress that another $250 million will be needed to cover the spiraling costs.

Subsequently, top cabinet officials sent a formal letter asking Congress to change the way the nation pays for firefighting so that the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management can invest in forest and rangeland restoration, and make lands less vulnerable to catastrophic wildfire.

Continue reading

Forest Service maps development boom in fire-prone exurbs

Budgets aren’t keeping up with wildfire risks


Red zone development boom eats up firefighting budgets.

Staff Report

Sprawling exurban development across the U.S. has put more homes than ever at risk of catastrophic wildfires, according to a new U.S. Forest Service report that maps recent expansion of the so-called wildland-urban interface.

The incredible spurt in home building in that fire-prone zone has  direct implications for the cost of wildfire fighting. Increasing densities of people and infrastructure in the WUI makes wildfire management more complex and requires more firefighting assets to ensure an appropriate, safe and effective response, Forest Service officials said as they released new report. Continue reading


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