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An Important Action to Take: Check Your Trees!

Did you know that USDA has declared August as Tree Check Month? That’s because August is the peak time of year to spot the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB)—an invasive wood-boring beetle that attacks 12 types of hardwood trees in North America, such as maples, elms, horse chestnuts, birches and willows. Checking trees for the beetle and the damage it causes is one way residents can protect their own trees and help USDA’s efforts to eliminate this pest from the United States.

After a Blight, the Trees that Survived Need Your Help

Humans adores trees. But humans also migrate and trade, habits that led to the accidental introduction of insects and diseases that harm trees and alter the landscape. Examples are easy to find and may be outside your front door: American elms that once dotted streets across America succumbed to Dutch elm disease. Now all colors of ash species – black, green, white, pumpkin, and blue – are threatened by emerald ash borer. The already uncommon butternut tree, also known as white walnut, faces the possibility of extinction from a mysterious attacker.

Tree Rings Tell the History of Fire and Forest Health

Why are Rocky Mountain Research Station scientists sampling tree rings in the Pinaleño Mountains of southeast Arizona? Because tree ring samples reveal the history of fire. When fire scorches a tree, the tree floods its wound with sap, which protects the wound from wood rot decay for hundreds of years, as long as fires keep burning at a low intensity.

Selecting Trees to Grow in Cities: Database Captures Urban Tree Sizes, Growth Rates Across US

In the cramped environs of U.S. cities every inch counts, especially if attempting to make space for nature. But now city planners and urban foresters have a resource to more precisely select tree species whose growth will be a landscaping dream instead of a maintenance nightmare.

The U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station recently published a technical manual and launched the most extensive database available cataloging urban trees with their projected growth tailored to specific geographic regions.

Shaping Forests from the Bottom Up: It's All About Root Disease

The old proverb: “You can’t see the forest for the trees” should have continued with a line saying that it’s even harder to see below the trees. Because seeing under trees, their root system to be exact, is how scientists understand and appreciate the things that will determine what we all see in our future forests. A new publication just released by the US Forest Service seeks to help forest managers recognize important root diseases and provide the best management strategies.

Ordinarily, we depend on decay organisms to break down wood to recycle enormous amounts of above ground materials such as leaves, limbs, and tree trunks. Without these subterranean decomposers, we would find ourselves buried in forest debris. But what makes beneficial decay organisms go bad and attack the root systems of living trees?  In a word, disease.

USDA is a Boon to Business in Boonville, NY; Higher Exports Thanks, in part, to Rural Development Program

Focusing on international markets, renewable energy and a community’s inherent assets, rural businesses find dynamic paths to prosperity.  To see this in action, I headed to Boonville, New York.

Mark Bourgeois was born and raised in Boonville and today is President of CJ Logging Equipment and 3B Timber.  A stable employer in the region, 3B Timer processes softwood trees on-site into utility poles. 3B Timber utilized Rural Development’s Business & Industry (B&I) loan guarantee to expand their operations.  As Mark explained, his company now exports 80% of its poles to Canada, expanding international trade and supporting job creation in the region and state.

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.”

The Wonders of Wood Buildings

Trees do plenty of work to sequester carbon on their own, but many forests are not as healthy as they should be due to fire suppression and climate change. This can leave trees vulnerable to large scale insect damage, fire or drought, and much of the carbon stored by forests is lost to the atmosphere as trees die.

The U.S. Forest Service is committed to the storage of carbon using wood products through the green building and wood products strategy. This strategy involves putting people to work in rural communities, enhancing resiliency of our ecosystems, and sequestering carbon by promoting the use of wood products in large building construction.