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U.S. Forest Service report outlines plan for better protection of Native American sacred sites

Tribes say more meaningful collaboration needed

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A decision by the U.S. Forest Service to allow snowmaking with reclaimed water at the Arizona Snowbowl Ski Area soured the agency’s relationship with Native Americans

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — With more than 3,000 miles of contiguous border with American Indian and Alaska Native-owned lands, the U.S. Forest Service wants to work more closely with tribal governments in the protection, respectful interpretation and appropriate access to Indian sacred sites.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary John Vilsack this month released a new report recommending that the agency should take steps to strengthen the partnerships between the agency, tribal governments, and American Indian and Alaska Native communities to help preserve America’s rich native traditions.

According to the report, many tribes have historically managed their forests well and in ways the Forest Service hopes to emulate: “Tribal land management is a testament to the Tribal land ethic, an ethic rooted in traditions, stories, and cultures. Sacred sites … are important facets of that land ethic and a common bond between us,” the report states. The report and related documents are online at this Forest Service website. Continue reading

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Study: Global warming disrupts nitrogen cycle and stunts long-term plant growth in semi-arid ecosystems of Arizona

10-year research project show short-term warming boost, with subsequent degradation of ecosystem

Grassland ecosystems in Arizona could suffer under warming temperatures. PHOTO COURTESY U.S. FOREST SERVICE.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Global warming can boost short-term plant growth, but over time, warming temperatures disrupt the nitrogen cycle and quickly lead to the deterioration of dry grassland ecosystems, according to a 10-year study done by Northern Arizona University scientists.

The researchers subjected four grassland ecosystems to simulated climate change during the decade-long study. Plants grew more the first year in the global warming treatment, but this effect progressively diminished over the next nine years, and finally disappeared.

The grasslands studied were typical of those found in northern Arizona along elevation gradients from the San Francisco Peaks down to the great basin desert. Continue reading

Wildfires: Forest regeneration stymied by hot crown fires

Arizona research calculates wildfire carbon-balance impacts

Intense crown fires in ponderosa pines are stunting forest regeneration. PHOTO COURTESY U.S. FOREST SERVICE.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Wildfires that have burned across almost 750,000 acres in Arizona are doing more than turning forests into charred stumps.

Researchers with Northern Arizona University say the fires, burning in unnaturally dense stands of ponderosa pine, are turning the forests from carbon sinks into net carbon producers — and, the fires have burned so hot that they aren’t finding many signs of regeneration.

Mike Stoddard, a forest ecologist with NAU’s  Ecological Restoration Institute, has been looking for a sign, any sign, of ponderosa pine seedlings 15 years after the 1996 Hochderffer Fire, a crown fire that burned hot through 16,000 acres west of the San Francisco Peaks, near Flagstaff. Continue reading

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