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Volunteers Experience the Power of Service and Healing in the Rainforest

In September 2017, Hurricane Maria, a deadly category 5 hurricane devastated Dominica, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Amidst the devastation was the El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rainforest among the USDA Forest Service’s 193 million acres. Reliably lush and green, the forest was left denuded and nearly unrecognizable.

New Science Framework Provides Basis for Conservation and Restoration of Sagebrush

“Resilience” is the ability to recover from change, or when you think about landscapes, the ability to recover from disturbances like wildfires. A new model takes the idea of resilience and applies it to the natural environment, specifically, to sagebrush. This resilience model is one of the core elements of the new Science Framework for Conservation and Restoration of the Sagebrush Biome (Part 2).

Devastating Fire Season Inspires Restoration Collaboration in the Spirit of Shared Stewardship

The summer of 2015 was exceptionally hot and dry in northern Idaho. Fuel moistures had dropped to alarming levels, and when a series of lightning storms moved across the region in early August, hundreds of fires flared up. A group of fast-moving and intense fires, which eventually became known as the Clearwater Complex, destroyed 62 homes and damaged another 211 structures. Overall, the fire encompassed more than 47,000 acres of both public and private land.

Looking to the Future and Learning from the Past in our National Forests

Forests are changing in ways they’ve never experienced before because today’s growing conditions are different from anything in the past. The climate is changing at an unprecedented rate, exotic diseases and pests are present, and landscapes are fragmented by human activity often occurring at the same time and place.

The current drought in California serves as a reminder and example that forests of the 21st century may not resemble those from the 20th century. When replanting a forest after disturbances, does it make sense to try to reestablish what was there before? Or, should we find re-plant material that might be more appropriate to current and future conditions of a changing environment?

Gulf of Mexico Communities Depend on a Healthy Gulf

The Gulf Coast ecosystem is vital to our nation and our economy, providing valuable energy resources, abundant seafood, extraordinary recreational activities and a rich cultural heritage.  This ecosystem was significantly injured by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill—the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history—and has also suffered from harm caused by hurricanes, subsidence and other human actions and naturally-occurring events.

With the historic settlement of the litigation with BP, there will be up to $16 billion available for ecosystem restoration in watersheds across Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas through the RESTORE Act, the Natural Resource Damages Assessment process and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Getting a New Perspective on the Great Lakes' Water Quality

The Great Lakes cover over 95,000 square miles and contain trillions of gallons of water. These vestiges of the last Ice Age define immense. But their greatness makes water quality monitoring difficult.

In 2010, Titus Seilheimer, a US Forest Service research ecologist at the time, led a project funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative that parsed the vastness of the Great Lakes to estimate water quality in different basins. This information can identify which areas are likely to receive high nutrient inputs – which can cause harmful algae blooms and dead zones – and where resource managers should invest in restoration efforts.

5 Ways Landowners Give Shell-ter to the Gopher Tortoise

The gopher tortoise earned its name for good reason – because it likes to dig and spends much of its time underground. The gopher tortoise, the Southeast’s only land-dwelling tortoise, burrows in the sandy soils below longleaf pine forests where it can escape heat and danger.

Its burrows are popular. About 360 other species, from rattlesnakes to rabbits, toads, and northern bobwhite take advantage of the underground real estate provided by the tortoise, what biologists call a keystone species because other species depend on it.

FAS Capacity-Building Efforts in Central America Yield Benefits There and at Home

Pablo Chacón, a young Guatemalan farmer who is studying agroforestry at the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE) in Turrialba, Costa Rica, can now show the people in his home community how livestock grazing and hardwood forests can co-exist and prosper. Earlier this month, he told me and other Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) visitors to CATIE that the education he gained from his FAS-funded scholarship to CATIE has equipped him to be a change maker.

“CATIE’s research in the tropics shows that degraded lands can be restored using combined forest and pastoral production systems,” Chacón said. “The benefits of trees in pastures are clear: The shade helps reduce stress in animals during the dry season, keeps moisture in the soil and retains the strength of pastures during the dry season.”

Wildlife after Wildfire in Southern Appalachia

It was my first prescribed burn. After weeks of training and months of anticipation, I was finally on the ground – drip torch in hand – ready to apply fire to restore the mixed pine-hardwood forests at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains on the Pisgah National Forest.

Joining the U.S Forest Service only two months earlier, my knowledge of fire’s effect on plant and wildlife communities was limited. But as the coordinator for the Grandfather Restoration Project, part of the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration program, I had to quickly come up to speed with the on-the-ground reality of prescribed fire use.

Climate Smart Restoration of Appalachian Forests

As the climate changes, and our forests are affected, the need to reclaim impacted areas and restore native species becomes more important than ever. The U.S. Forest Service’s Monongahela National Forest is at the forefront of not only forest restoration, but also helping those landscapes adapt to climate change.

The red spruce forests of the Appalachian highlands are an integral part of the regional biodiversity, providing habitat and food for the northern flying squirrel and the Cheat Mountain Salamander, and the ecosystem supports 240 rare species in West Virginia alone. Additionally, the forests blanket the headwaters of five major river systems upstream of millions of people living and working in the Charleston, West Virginia; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. regions.