Climate: Forest Service Announces Effort

Bradenton Herald (Bradenton, Florida)
Nov. 07, 2008

Forest Service unveils effort to tackle climate change, preserve woodlands
By TOM KNUDSON – McClatchy Newspapers

RENO, Nev. – U.S. Forest Service Chief Gail
Kimbell Friday unveiled a new agencywide effort
to tackle the problem of climate change, saying
it poses the greatest danger yet to the nation’s
woodlands.

“This issue is so big,” Kimbell said in an
interview at the national convention of the
Society of American Foresters in Reno, Nev. “The
health and resilience of America’s forests affect
everyone.”

The goal is to respond to climate change broadly,
she said, from helping forests adapt to warmer,
drier conditions to reducing the agency’s carbon
footprint by stepping up its purchase of
alternative fuel vehicles.

Though short on specifics, the agency’s plan –
unveiled at the convention on Friday – comes
against a backdrop of declining forest health and
increasing environmental damage from wildfires
across the Sierra Nevada and the mountain West,
Kimbell said.

“We’ve been seeing bigger fires, wilder fires,
more intense fires,” she said. “Fire seasons that
start in January in the southern United States
end in December in California – and then start
all over again.

“We believe it’s tied to … climate change,” Kimbell added.

Insects, too, take advantage of warmer conditions
to wreak havoc on conifer stands in the northern
Rockies, she said.

The Society of American Foresters is the nation’s
leading scientific and educational organization
for the forestry profession. Its Reno conference,
entitled “Forestry in a Climate of Change,”
brought together forestry professionals and
academics.

“The problem is not climate change,” said
conference-goer John Helms, past president of the
society and a retired University of California at
Berkeley forestry professor. “The problem is the
rate of climate change. We are increasing the
rate of change faster than normal evolutionary
processes.”

One cornerstone of the Forest Service plan –
which the agency calls a “Strategic Framework for
Climate Change” – relies heavily on science to
shape agency decisions. Another calls for
developing strategies to help forests soak up and
store more carbon dioxide, the atmospheric gas
most responsible for global warming.

“This is a much different issue than we or other
agencies have grappled with,” said David Cleaves,
the Forest Service’s associate deputy chief for
research and development. “We need to do it
right.”

© 2008 Bradenton.com and wire service sources.
All Rights Reserved. http://www.bradenton.com

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