Redwood National Park fog in the forest

Real vs. Fake Forests

What makes a forest a forest? This simple question becomes much more complicated, depending on who you ask. Thankfully, Dr. Dominick DellaSala, President and Chief Scientist of the Geos Institute, helps us explore this question and settle the debate in a chapter on “Fake” vs “Real” forests that will be published in The World’s Biomes, scheduled to be released in 2020. Topics that will be explored include:

  • Does planting trees compensate for cutting down a forest?
  • Can we truly see a forest for more than just the trees?

Redwood National Park fog in the forestIf a tree grows in a forest, does that make it a forest?Industry classifies forests as “an area at minimum 120 ft wide, 1 acre minimum wide, with at least 10% forest cover.” Does that sound like a forest to you?

The US Forest Service is an arm of the USDA. The department of agriculture’s focus is growing crops. Stated plainly, that means the Forest Service sees trees as crops. This typically means tree plantations are planted in dense rows like corn to be thinned, sprayed with chemicals, and fertilized for the fastest growing cycle for logging and the highest “return on investment.”

green new deal 350dotorg

The Green New Deal: Finally climate policy informed by science

The proposal from Democrats is the most comprehensive response yet to the scientists’ warnings, to implement it would be realism, not radicalism

By William J. Ripple, Dominick A. DellaSala and Franz Baumann

green new deal 350dotorgOur nation has a long history of scientific innovation that has produced the computers that run our businesses, new discoveries in medicines that can extend our lives, and the rockets that take us to distant worlds in search of other life. Photo: Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and senator Ed Markey present their Green New Deal resolution to reporters (Credit: 350.org)

In short, science is our best hope to enable informed choices about our future. Big ideas like president Roosevelt’s New Deal also gave our nation hope for reversing the downward economic spiral of the 1930s with government programmes that still benefit us today. However, when it comes to a safe climate, science and policy have operated in a vacuum.

The Green New Deal in Congress provides an opportunity for bringing both science and policy together in shaping a sustainable future for our nation that avoids a pending crisis to the planet’s life support systems if we do not act boldly and promptly.

Don’t Be Fooled by “Fake Forests”

There is no substitute for a real old-growth forestby Dominick A. DellaSala, Ph. D, Chief Scientist, Geos Institute

Originally posted on the Oregon Wild website

If a tree grows in a forest, does that make it a forest? Does planting trees compensate for cutting down a forest? How do we know we are in a forest or an unreasonable facsimile (“fake”) there of?

A new publication “The World’s Biomes” is set for release in libraries globally in 2020. It will feature my chapter on fake vs. real forests. Contact me at dominick@geosinstitute.org for an advanced copy of this chapter.

In the meantime, here’s a sneak preview of what’s inside a real vs. fake forest.

The Paradise fire: Could it happen to us?

By Dominick DellaSala and Dennis Odion
Originally published on December 23, 2018 in the Medford Mail Tribune

Smoke from wildfires is gone for now, but this year’s tragic California fires are a stark reminder of what could happen here. There are many take-aways that can help us prepare.

The Camp Fire of Paradise Valley, which took the lives of 88 people and destroyed thousands of structures, had nothing to do with whether the forest was thinned. It was a structure-to-structure fire. Startling images from GoogleEarth reveal surrounding trees untouched while homes burned to the ground. Blown by high winds, embers advanced miles ahead of the flame front, landing on unprepared homes and taking them out in a domino-like fashion.

In Southern California, tornado-force winds are known to spread fire rapidly through shrublands that at one time supported diverse wildlife habitat, but are now sprawling developments. Wildlands were gobbled up by developers during a mid-20th century climate-cool down that made fire suppression effective and created a false sense of security.

California now has unbridled traffic jams and global warming-related fires that destroy entire towns with no end in sight, as over 1 million new homes are planned in harm’s way by 2050. Insurance companies also have taken notice, anticipating increased wildfires related to global warming that will impact everybody’s bottom line.

So, what have we learned that can be applied in the Rogue Valley?

Firefighters working to contain the 2016 Soberanes Fire in Los Padres National Forest in California. U.S. Forest Service -- Los Padres National Forest/Facebook

Are feds over-fighting fires? Critics point to this blaze

By Adam Aton, E&E News reporter, originally published Thursday, December 13, 2018

Firefighters working to contain the 2016 Soberanes Fire in Los Padres National Forest in California. U.S. Forest Service -- Los Padres National Forest/Facebook

Firefighters saved the homes. Then they went into the woods.

California’s 2016 Soberanes Fire broke records for costing the most money to fight a wildfire — much of it in a national forest near Big Sur. That’s the kind of place where experts say fire is good; the ecosystem depends on it, and the flames don’t threaten people or property.

(Photo: Firefighters working to contain the 2016 Soberanes Fire in Los Padres National Forest in California. U.S. Forest Service — Los Padres National Forest/Facebook)

Instead of letting it burn, the Forest Service unleashed an air show. By the end, 3.5 million gallons of flame retardant blanketed the area. Bulldozers cut through 60 miles of woodland, costing the Forest Service as much as $1 million a day to repair, according to a new report.

That lesson threatens to be lost in the whiplash pace of fighting fires.

Fire Seasons Without End (KBOO Interview)

Aired Monday November 2, 2018

The wildfires in Northern and Southern California this month are a grisly foreshadowing of a world in the fiery grip of climate chaos. It is apparent – unless you’re a climate denier – that climate change is upon us and that fire seasons without end are a stark indication of how much human activity and fossil fuels have intensified wildfire regimes as well as catastrophic weather events.

On this episode of Locus Focus, host Barbara Bernstein talks with fire and forest ecologist Dominick DellaSala, with the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon, about what we need to be learning from California’s escalating problems with destructive wildfires, driven by a warming, drying climate, and a massive expansion of housing in the wildland–urban interface.

Get more information or listen to the recording at the KBOO website.

Trump’s Great American Forest Liquidation Sale

Published November 20, 2018 (Part one of a series)

By Paul Koberstein and Jessica Applegate

Starting in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, the Trump administration is proposing to eliminate long-standing rules protecting 50 million acres of ancient forests across the country from logging and roadbuilding, raising new alarms about the president’s disregard for the climate and wildlife.

Taxpayers, already spending billions to keep Alaska’s timber industry afloat, could end up paying even more. If Trump strips roadless protection from the Tongass, no National Forest is safe.

Keep reading at Cascadia Times

Why California Can’t Chainsaw Its Way Out Of A Raging Inferno

By Peter Aldhous, BuzzFeed News Reporter (Posted on November 20, 2018, at 4:36 p.m. ET)

Some of the news photos from the devastation in Paradise, California, show a surprising scene: Green, living trees stand near homes that have been reduced to ashes.

They reveal that wildfire is a capricious enemy, but also indicate that there’s more to preventing catastrophic loss of lives and property than the prescriptions offered by the president of the United States — whose tweets and public statements suggest that what California needs to do is hoard water, cut down trees to prevent fires spreading, and get busy raking.

While thinning forests might work in some areas, studies indicate that it’s unlikely to be an effective remedy for California or the West as a whole — and it would have done little to curb the state’s most destructive recent fires.

As BuzzFeed News reported in July, California’s escalating problems with destructive wildfires have been driven by a warming, drying climate, and a massive expansion of housing in what experts call the wildland–urban interface. This has not only put people in the line of fire but has also increased the chances of a conflagration — because power lines and other human infrastructure and activity are the main sources of ignition.

Keep reading at BuzzFeedNews.com

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