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Posts Tagged: forestry

The smart harvest of Christmas trees leads to a healthier forest

Most California forests have too many trees, so carefully selecting pines, cedars or firs in natural areas to enjoy for the Christmas season is good for the mountain landscape.

“It's a great idea to cut down young trees for fire safety and vegetation management,” said Susie Kocher, UC Cooperative Extension forestryadvisor in the Central Sierra. “The earlier you do it, the less work it is to manage the trees in the long run.”

After 100 years of fire suppression, most California forests - like this one in the Stanislaus National Forest - have too many trees. (Photo: USDA)

Kocher lives and works in Lake Tahoe. Every year, she gathers her family and friends to find forest-fresh Christmas trees in the Lake Tahoe Management Area. Of the 18 national forests in California, 11 allow Christmas tree cutting with the purchase of a $10 permit. (See the list below.) People who own mountain cabins or other forestland may invite family and friends to help thin trees on their personal property, which can then be used for the holiday season. However, never harvest trees on public or private property without permission.

“We have a lot of small trees on public and private forest lands because of fire suppression,” Kocher said. “They're all competing with one another and many will ultimately die. A smart harvest of Christmas trees can improve the forest by helping with thinning.”

A group of friends and family gather in the forest to harvest Christmas trees. (Photo: Yolanda Tuckerman)

People with permits to cut down Christmas trees in national forests must follow strict guidelines. Follow the same guidelines on private land to ensure a smart harvest. Before chopping down the tree, be sure it is within 10 feet of another living tree, the trunk is no more than 6 inches in diameter and the stump left behind is no higher than 6 inches off the ground. Some national forests limit the harvest to certain tree species.

Despite committing to these guidelines when obtaining a permit, Kocher said she has seen some Christmas tree harvesters make ill-advised choices.

“Some people are too lazy to find a good tree and will cut the top off a large tree,” Kocher said. “You can be driving around and see what looks like a poor old Dr. Suess tree, which is what grows from the ugly remnant left behind in the forest.”

Such irresponsible Christmas tree cutting has led some forests to discontinue Christmas tree harvesting for personal use.

A child with a Christmas tree selected from the forest. (Photo: USDA)

There has been ongoing debate about whether a fake tree or real tree is more environmentally friendly, but for Kocher, there is no question.

“Fresh real trees are a renewable resource, fake trees are not,” she said. “It's an agricultural product. You can contribute to a local farmers' income or you can help thin the forest. Picking and bringing home a fresh tree, decorating it and smelling it defines the season for me. Without it, I don't think it would feel like Christmas.”

U.S. National Forests in California that allow Christmas tree cutting with a permit are:

Read more:

Purchasing real Christmas trees from tree lots in town or at choose-and-cut tree farms is a way to support farms and economies in rural areas and contribute to environmental sustainability.


Posted on Monday, December 4, 2017 at 9:34 AM
Tags: Christmas (1), forestry (7), Susie Kocher (1)

Graduate Students in Extension study key California concerns

In 2013, a group of graduate students in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM) at the University of California, Berkeley sought out faculty support and successfully collaborated with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) to launch the Program for Graduate Students in Extension (GSE). Participants receive up to a year of funding to conduct applied research and outreach to California communities, coordinate workshops and training events, and co-author materials with ANR academics. Over the course of the three-year pilot program, 14 students from across the College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley have participated.

“There's really no program quite like this, where students can gain hands-on, graduate-level training in extension and outreach,” says ESPM professor John Battles, who chaired the program's steering committee. He adds, “We're grateful to all the UC ANR advisors and specialists who have offered invaluable mentorship to student fellows.”

Image of a schoolyard garden. (Photo: Alana Siegner.)

Sustainable Food Systems and Climate Education

Alana Siegner (Energy and Resources Group, 2016–17 fellow) believes that to ensure the environmental sustainability of agricultural landscapes and to improve health outcomes for young people, it's important that students understand the scientific and social causes and consequences of climate change as it plays out in the U.S. food system. During her fellowship, she adapted existing climate change curricula to fit within farm-to-school programs, integrating food- and farming-specific examples into general lessons on climate adaptation and mitigation. The lessons, designed for students in grades 8 through 10, are hands-on, interdisciplinary, and solutions oriented, unfolding in both the classroom and the school-garden environments. Siegner piloted the curricula and other professional development resources with teachers at schools in Oakland and in Washington State's San Juan Islands. 

(Photo: Kripa Akila Jagannathan)

Climate-Resilient Agriculture

Despite several advances in modeling techniques, climate projections are not widely used in agricultural decision-making. Kripa Akila Jagannathan (ERG, 2015–16 fellow) wanted to bridge this gap between climate science and decision-making needs by improving the understanding of what farmers consider relevant climate information. She interviewed almond growers in California about how they'd previously used climate information, what climatic variables were most relevant to them, and the content and communication methods that could make information on future climate more usable. Jagannathan's interviews showed that almond growers have experienced changes in climate over the past few decades that have affected plant growth. She hopes that providing growers with appropriate information on past trends and future projections can help them to make decisions that are better adapted to future climate.

(Photo: Stella Cousins)

Forestry and Ecosystem Education

Stella Cousins (ESPM, 2014–15 fellow) collaborated with the Forestry Institute for Teachers, a free program that provides K–12 teachers in California with knowledge and tools for teaching their students about ecosystem science and forest resource management. In addition to presenting current research to participating educators, she shared do-it-yourself miniature microscopes that can help learners of all ages explore seeds, cells, fur, and other tiny wonders. Magnifying tree-core samples from the Sierra Nevada as an example, she demonstrated how a lesson in dendrochronology can facilitate classroom learning on the ways forests grow and are shaped by climate. Cousins says, “I hope that this project will support existing efforts to make sound and sustainable ecosystem-management choices, and also help foster lifelong curiosity in California's youth about the natural world.”

Cattle easement.

Conservation and Land Easements

Conservation easements are currently one of the primary channels for protecting private land. Since easements restrict development for both current and future owners, resale value is presumably diminished, and landowners are typically compensated with a one-time payment from a conservation group. Reid Johnsen (Agricultural and Resource Economics, 2016–17 fellow) wanted to explore the relationship between rancher identity, community, and potential preferences for alternative payment structures. He surveyed landowners in Marin and Sonoma counties to gauge their support for different options, including leases and annual payments for ecosystem services. He also constructed an economic model of stakeholder behavior to help assess which payment structure delivers the greatest combined welfare to landowners, conservation groups, and the public.

(Photo: Luke Macaulay)

Hunting and Conservation

Luke Macaulay (ESPM, 2014–15 fellow) surveyed private landowners and land managers in California to determine how recreational hunting may influence decisions regarding land-use and conservation practices. He regularly spoke on his survey findings and ran a workshop in Montana to encourage cooperative conservation efforts between hunters and environmentalists. “The feedback from the advisors on my mentorship team was invaluable in improving the quality of my research,” he reflects. The experience also had an impact on his career: In 2016, Macaulay was hired by CNR as a Cooperative Extension specialist in rangeland planning and policy.

Posted on Tuesday, May 23, 2017 at 9:27 AM

Fire and California Forests: California Agriculture reports on the present crisis

Fire suppression and changing societal priorities have led to the predicament California faces today: Forests are overly dense and prone to catastrophic fire, the changing climate is likely to make both problems worse and forest managers have few tools to work with. Ironically, the hundreds of thousands of severely burned areas in the state's forests offer an opportunity to regrow a different type of forest. In the current issue of California Agriculture, the peer-reviewed journal of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), UC Cooperative Extension advisor Susan Kocher presents new approaches to forest restoration that acknowledge current realities and anticipate the changing climate.

Outlook: Californians must learn from the past and work together to meet the forest and fire challenges of the next century

The latest issue of California Agriculture is devoted entirely to forestry, starting with the editorial on 100 years of forestry at UC Berkeley by College of Natural Resources Dean Keith Gilless. Other articles are listed below.

Research news:

Fewer trees, more water, safer forests: The Sierra Nevada Watershed Ecosystem Enhancement Project is investigating how tree thinning — which is needed urgently in much of the Sierra Nevada due to long-term fire suppression — may increase the water yield from forested watersheds by as much as 10 percent. Monetizing this increased water yield, as well as other benefits from healthier forest ecosystems, could help fund forest management.

Forest thinning may increase water yield from the Sierra Nevada

Protecting oak woodlands: On California's North Coast, grassy oak woodlands are being invaded by stands of Douglas fir at an alarming rate. A UC ANR–led research team is working to understand the reasons why and guide efforts to reverse the trend.

Conifer encroachment study will inform efforts to preserve and restore North Coast oak woodlands

Peer-reviewed Research

Remote sensing: The powerful mapping capabilities of Lidar soon may be widely available to California forest managers as costs fall and the technology improves.

Mapping forests with Lidar provides flexible, accurate data with many uses

Maggi Kelly and Stefania Di Tommaso


Forest carbon: Private forests that are harvested and regenerated yield approximately 30 percent more carbon sequestration benefits than if they are left to grow.

Carbon calculator tracks the climate benefits of managed private forests

William C. Stewart and Benktesh D. Sharma


Forest management: A long-term study in the Sierra Nevada confirms the negative consequences of preferentially removing large trees.

Large-tree removal in a mixed-conifer forest halves productivity and increases white fir

Robert A. York


Post-fire ecology: Nearly 30 years after a burn at two sites in northeastern California, sagebrush had recovered fully and invasive grasses had diminished.

Post-fire vegetation dynamics of a sagebrush steppe community change significantly over time

Sara K. Hanna and Kenneth O. Fulgham


Community engagement: All sides of the Sierra Nevada forest management debate have learned from SNAMP. Can stakeholders help ensure research results are part of future management?

UC plays a crucial facilitating role in the Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Project

Adriana Sulak, Lynn Huntsinger and Susan D. Kocher


Ecosystem Restoration: A cooperative meadow restoration plan that successfully engaged a diverse group of stakeholders is a model for future projects.

Cooperative, cross-boundary management facilitates large-scale ecosystem restoration efforts

Erin Kelly and Jonathan Kusel


Community Fire Safety: The collaborative partnership has improved fire safety at the urban-wildland interface in fire-prone communities of Plumas, Butte and Yuba counties and stopped major wildfires.

UC Cooperative Extension works with fire safe councils to reduce wildfires

Glenn A. Nader and Michael De Lasaux


The entire California Agriculture issue can be downloaded at http://californiaagriculture.ucanr.edu.

California Agriculture is a peer-reviewed journal of research in agricultural, human and natural resources published by the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. For a free subscription, visit http://californiaagriculture.ucanr.edu, or write to calag@ucanr.edu.


Posted on Friday, May 1, 2015 at 2:55 PM

Local agencies, landowners team up to stop SOD spread in Humboldt County

From left, UCCE staff research associate Chris Lee, NRCS forester David Casey and Yana Valachovic inspect the treated area for signs of sudden oak death.
University of California Cooperative Extension employees, who coordinate most of the sudden oak death-related research and monitoring in Northern California, got a surprise in the spring of 2010, when samples from a monitoring station near the mouth of Redwood Creek near Orick in Humboldt County tested positive for the pathogen. This meant that trees were infected somewhere in the 200,000-acre watershed – more than 50 miles from the nearest known infestation, and farther north than the pathogen had ever been detected in California.

Federal and state agencies, including the USDA Forest Service, CAL FIRE and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, joined forces with UC Cooperative Extension and quickly mobilized resources to control the pathogen in Redwood Valley and halt its spread to neighboring forests. Local landowners have also played a key role.

Yana Valachovic pulls leaf samples to test for SOD.Yana Valachovic, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Humboldt County and forestry expert, explained that she and her agency partners had been preparing for this moment.

“We’ve been closely monitoring the disease for years and anticipating a scenario like Redwood Valley, so we were ready to take action and respond quickly,” Valachovic said.

The UCCE staff leads an extensive sudden oak death monitoring program on the North Coast, and one of their detection strategies involves "leaf-baiting" in streams. Using this technique, they “bait” Phytophthora ramorum, the non-native pathogen that causes sudden oak death, by placing susceptible leaves in strategic locations in North Coast streams. If the leaf baits become infected with SOD, the scientists know that the pathogen is present in the watershed without having to comb the landscape for symptoms.

After they detected the pathogen in Redwood Creek, UCCE acted quickly to pinpoint the source of the waterborne spores, scouring the watershed for the very inconspicuous symptoms of SOD with the help and permission of public and private landowners. By November 2010, the scientists had narrowed the location to Redwood Valley, where they found dead tanoaks and several other infected host plants.

Tanoak tree with reddish sap weeping from its bark.Given its proximity to extensive public, private and tribal lands, the infestation in Redwood Valley was a serious concern. The disease, which was discovered in the Bay Area in the mid-1990s, is found in 14 coastal counties in California, from Monterey to Humboldt, and has infested 10 percent of the at-risk areas in the state. P. ramorum thrives in the coastal climate, and has killed over 5 million tanoaks and true oaks over the past 15 years. It’s still not clear how the pathogen got to Redwood Valley, but it could threaten the dense tanoak forests of the surrounding area, resulting in widespread tree mortality and increased fire hazard.

Much of the on-the-ground effort has been completed by contractors and CAL FIRE handcrews, who have created 100-meter buffers around infected trees by removing California bay laurel (pepperwood) and tanoak, the two hosts that most readily support P. ramorum spore production and spread. Infected plant material has been trucked offsite and donated to the nearby DG Fairhaven Power Company, piled and burned, or lopped and scattered onsite.

Funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the USDA Forest Service and NRCS enabled the swift response in Redwood Valley. UCCE used ARRA funds, also known as federal stimulus funds, to hire four people to work on the project, lending stability to the effort.

Landowner support has been critical to the success of the project, according to Valachovic. More than 20 landowners in the valley have allowed monitoring and treatment activities on their properties, recognizing that their cooperation may keep the disease from spreading to other areas.

“We couldn’t just stand back and let the disease roll through the forests that we manage, and the landowners understood that,” said Dan Cohoon, who works for Eureka-based Able Forestry, which manages many of the private forestlands in the watershed.

Brandon LaPorte, manager of Cookson Ranch and one of the key landowner collaborators in Redwood Valley, has supported the project from the beginning. LaPorte explained, “We’ve learned a lot about the disease through this project, and we certainly don’t want it getting worse here on the ranch or spreading beyond the valley.”

The first phase of treatment is currently wrapping up, and UCCE is beginning to monitor project efficacy and watch for spread of the pathogen beyond project boundaries. The Yurok and Hoopa tribes will be paying close attention to this effort, as they are only a ridge away from the infestation.

Ron Reed, a Yurok tribal forester, commented, “Oaks are an important part of our culture and history, and we will do what we can to keep sudden oak death out of our forests.”

The Redwood Valley project highlights the value of stream monitoring as a detection tool for SOD, but it also demonstrates the ability of agencies and landowners to collaborate swiftly and effectively to protect the region’s forest resources. Maybe most important – regardless of the future course that sudden oak death takes in the North Coast – is what the project shows about the ability of proactive communities concerned about the health of their landscapes to come together, attract the support of state and national authorities, and work to make things better.

The community collaboration is being honored with the Two Chiefs’ Award. The award, which is given jointly by the NRCS and the Forest Service, highlights projects from across the country each year, recognizing exemplary partners who have worked collaboratively to support conservation and forest stewardship. Kathleen Merrigan, USDA deputy secretary, will present the award and Valachovic will accept the award on behalf of the federal, state, tribal and private partners involved the project at an event in Davis on Wednesday, May 16.

For more information about sudden oak death disease, visit the California Oak Mortality Task Force website at www.suddenoakdeath.org.  

Workshops for landowners passing forests to the next generation

October 4, 2011

The University of California is hosting a two-part workshop series, “Ties to the Land,” to help forest landowners pass their land and its legacy on to the next generation.

The first workshop is being offered at 11 locations throughout California. All workshops will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“Family forests create many benefits through their stewardship actions, but the legacy can fall prey to the confusing details of land titles, permits, and inheritance if families have not crafted a succession plan,” said Bill Stewart, UC Cooperative Extension forestry specialist and organizer of the series. “This is especially true for owners who do not live in the county where their forest is. Their heirs have probably spent little time on the land and the lack of shared goals can become a problem.”

During the first workshop, participants will learn the steps needed to plan for passing land along to their heirs. An important first step in this process is clarifying the current owners’ goals and values for their family forest or ranch. This allows landowners to start the discussion with heirs about their long-term vision for the property. Participants will also learn about the financial impacts of ownership transfers across generations.

This first round of identical workshops is being held before the holidays, to allow time for families to get together during the winter holidays and discuss their goals. Locations and dates for the first workshop are as follows:

The second workshop will be held after the holidays and will cover the financial and legal approaches and tools such as trusts, limited liability companies, and easements used in succession planning as well as specific planning approaches used to manage land and resources. Dates and times of the second workshop will be announced later.

Registration for the workshop is $25 per family to cover costs of the family workbook and DVD. Multiple members of each family are encouraged to attend both workshops and can attend the workshop location nearest to them as the curriculum will be the same.

To register for the workshop or for more information on locations or the workshop series, please see the University of California Forest Research and Outreach website http://ucanr.org/tiestotheland.

Posted on Wednesday, October 19, 2011 at 9:34 AM
  • Posted By: Brenda Dawson
  • Written by: Pam Kan-Rice, (530) 754-3912, pskanrice@ucdavis.edu and Tong Wu, (510) 643-5429, Tongwu@berkeley.edu
Tags: Bill Stewart (1), forestry (7), forests (1), landowners (1), succession (1), Wong Tu (2)

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