Category Archives: Policy

Government and Industry Policy Discussion

Ongoing Work to Protect Bernheim Forest in Bullitt County

From the Kentucky Resources Council August 2019 newsletter

The defense of the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest continues in Bullitt County. KRC’s Environmental and Community Defense team is gearing up its legal defense of Bernheim-owned tracts that are under a double-threat of taking by LG&E and of a future by-pass corridor. It is working alongside additional counsel to protect one of our state’s ecologically diverse  conservation corridors. The proposed pipeline threatens conservation efforts at Bernheim, and is the first known effort of a Kentucky electric utility to interfere with a conservation easement in order to locate an intrastate pipeline, and proposes to run gas service through the easement and across a number of private properties and waterways in order to serve populations other than those across whose property it will impact.

January 2020 Update – KRC continues its representation of the Isaac Bernheim Foundation in opposing the effort of Louisville Gas and Electric Company to condemn an easement across two properties acquired by Bernheim for a conservation corridor.  KRC has filed and briefed a motion to dismiss the condemnation petition for failure to have named and negotiated with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which owns an interest in the properties conferring on it the right to allow or refuse to allow such easements.

For more information about how this matter has unfolded…

Contact the Corps of Engineers and Fish & Wildlife

KRC is working hard to represent Bernheim in this ongoing issue, and your voice can make a difference, too. If you’re interested in getting involved, please consider contacting the Corps of Engineers and the Fish and Wildlife Service using the information below. As LG&E seeks approval for a pipeline corridor that its own consultant recommended avoiding, now is the time to demand that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers consider not merely the water crossings and wetland loss, but also the impacts on terrestrial rare and endangered species and public and private lands, and that the Corps demand an individual 404 permit application and a complete terrestrial and aquatic biological assessment along the chosen route, as well as full consideration of alternatives.

Contact

Louisville District of the Corps of Engineers
Louisville District Regulatory Division Office, South Branch
502-315-6675

Kentucky Field Station of the US Fish and Wildlife Service Office
502-695-0468 | kentuckyes@fws.org

Mapping microbial symbioses in forests

Data collected from over 1 million forest plots reveals patterns of where plant roots form symbiotic relationships with fungi and bacteria.

 

In and around the tangled roots of the forest floor, fungi and bacteria grow with trees, exchanging nutrients for carbon in a vast, global marketplace. A new effort to map the most abundant of these symbiotic relationships – involving more than 1.1 million forest sites and 28,000 tree species – has revealed factors that determine where different types of symbionts will flourish.

The work could help scientists understand how symbiotic partnerships structure the world’s forests and how they could be affected by a warming climate.

Stanford University researchers worked alongside a team of over 200 scientists to generate these maps, published May 15 in Nature.

The group used their map to predict how symbioses might change by 2070 if carbon emissions continue unabated. This scenario resulted in a 10 percent reduction in the biomass of tree species that associate with a type of fungi found primarily in cooler regions.

The data behind this map represents real trees from more than 70 countries and collaboration between hundreds of researchers who speak different languages, study different ecosystems and confront different challenges.

“There are more than 1.1 million forest plots in the dataset and every one of those was measured by a person on the ground. In many cases, as part of these measurements, they essentially gave the tree a hug,” said Brian Steidinger, a Stanford University researcher. “So much effort – hikes, sweat, ticks, long days – is in that map.”

Encouraging results in invasive species managment approaches

Removal of invasive shrubs has exceeded expectations for regeneration of native plants according to recent Penn State University research. Native shrubs that are mixed with invasive shrubs can recolonize on their own when invasives are removed. Read more…

Where eradication of invasive plants is not feasible, reducing their density and abundance to a level which allows native species to thrive through an integrated pest management approach is a viable alternative. Read more…

Stop deforestation and restore forests to solve biodiversity and climate change crises

Andrew Deutz from The Nature Conservancy regarding the new United Nations report on biodiversity:

One of the cheapest, most readily available and cost-effective things that we can do to both solve the biodiversity crisis and the climate crisis is, first, stop deforestation and, second, restore forests and then, third, change our agricultural practices to increase soil carbon and soil health.

Source: What Can Be Done To Prevent Mass Extinctions

May 12, 2019 on NPR Weekend Edition Sunday

State Foresters concerned about Administration’s desire to reduce funding for state and private forestry programs

March 19, 2019 press release from the National Association of State Foresters

The president’s budget request for FY20 “would eliminate or cut all but one Forest Service State and Private Forestry program and reduce investments in state and family forests to just 2.5 percent of the overall Forest Service budget,” said Lisa Allen, NASF president and Missouri state forester.

Per the president’s budget request for FY20, funding for the Forest Stewardship program, the Forest Health Management Program on Cooperative Lands, and the State and Volunteer Fire Assistance programs would be cut by a combined $29.65 million from FY19 enacted levels. Funding for the Landscape Scale Restoration, Forest Legacy, and Urban and Community Forestry programs would be eliminated.

GOAP strives to assist agriculture enterprises in becoming self-sustaining

Warren Beeler, Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy, informed members that poultry is the number two industry after forestry in Kentucky. Consequently, GOAP is prioritizing loans to farmers ages 19-26 who want to get into the poultry business.

Warren Beeler, Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy, discusses the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund with meeting participants. Photo by Greg Kuhns

Beeler said he is also looking to invest beyond the traditional crops and utilizes the Kentucky Agricultural Finance Corporation that supports higher risk loans. Its mission is to strengthen Kentucky agriculture by providing access to low-interest loan programs through joint partnerships with local lending institutions. KAFC assists beginning farmers, farm families, and agribusinesses obtain the necessary capital to establish, maintain or expand their agricultural operation.

As agriculture becomes more technologically sophisticated the program seeks to support investments in equipment such as robotic dairy milkers and computer tags for dairy cows. The programs also supports water quality monitoring on the Ohio, Kentucky and Wabash Rivers for nutrients, a mentoring program for queen beekeepers and sheep and goat operations that could be compatible with woodlands.

Beeler stressed that the GOAP Board is interested in capital projects, not in paying people not to farm. Its assistance is seed money with the expectation that the enterprise will use those funds to become self-maintaining. He mentioned

Beeler queried KWOA members at their 2019 annual meeting for ideas that should be included in the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund that would assist woodlands.

Members were not shy in responding. Suggestions included incubator tree farms (Beeler thought demonstration farms would qualify), easements that would remove development rights to keep properties in woodlands, and cooperation with related agriculture industries. Beeler opined that KWOA needs a state-level executive position.

Sustainable Forestry Initiative helps legacy of African American Landowners

Following the Civil War properties passed down by African American families became “heirs’ property,” and lacked clear title of ownership. This resulted in many heirs selling off their interest in the properties or failing to appropriately mange forestlands to reach their full potential.    Read more…

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative has partnered on projects in Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia to help reverse this trend by providing sustainable forestry education, access to timber market opportunities, and legal support.

California fires spark debate over forest management

Can most of the blame for California’s devastating wildfires be attributed to the state’s forest management? Fire scientists recognize a larger effect from climate change in promoting abnormally dry conditions and dead trees. The first nine months of 2018 have been the fourth-warmest on record for California. This past summer was the second-hottest on record in the state. An additional factor is the encroachment of urban development on wildlands.

Most of California’s forests are under federal or private control. US agriculture and interior secretaries Perdue and Zinke are pressing for farm bill authorizations in the current House version of the bill (Forestry Title of H.R. 2) which includes amendments mandating a controversial expansion of “categorical exclusions,” which allow land managers to fast track forest management projects and largely bypass environmental review. Read the transcript for a National Public Radio interview with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who oversees the U.S. Forest Service.

Leading experts in forest ecology management think the Forest Title in the House version of the Farm Bill  does not properly address science-based prevention programs such as controlled burning and fuel reduction in wildland urban interface areas as well as the critical role of climate change. Instead it focuses on accelerated commercial logging and road building which generally exacerbate fire risk. The House bill’s forestry provisions also expand post-fire “salvage” logging which they contend contributes to ecological recovery in the disturbed area. New “categorical exclusions” limit input from state wildlife agencies among others. Read more 

Greg Aplet, science director for the Wilderness Society in Denver, takes the view of many wildfire behavior scientists: If the goal is to protect communities and lives from fire, the emphasis first needs to be on clearing out those dried out fine fuels, the understory, from the forest floor, not the green live trees. “The Forest Service often lacks the personnel and the resources to do the types of landscape-scale restoration work that needs to be done,” says Nick Smith, executive director of Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities, a non-profit forestry group. Read more

According to Dr. Chad Hanson, director and principal ecologist for the California-based John Muir Project, logging, including many projects deceptively promoted as forest “thinning,” removes fire-resistant trees, reduces the cooling shade of the forest canopy and leaves behind highly combustible twigs and branches. Read more:… The California fires took place in some of the most heavily logged areas of the Sierra Nevada range.

A study by Hanson and others of whether increased forest protection corresponds to higher severity in frequent-fire forests of the western US found that forests with higher levels of protection had lower severity values even though they are generally identified as having the highest overall levels of biomass and fuel loading. Some of these researchers have hypothesized that as forests mature, the overstory canopy results in cooling shade that allows surface fuels to stay moister longer into fire season. This effect may also lead to a reduction in pyrogenic native shrubs and other understory vegetation that can carry fire, due to insufficient sunlight reaching the understory.

In general, their findings—that forests with the highest levels of protection from logging tend to burn least severely—suggest a need for managers and policymakers to rethink current forest and fire management direction, particularly proposals that seek to weaken forest protections or suspend environmental laws ostensibly to facilitate a more extensive and industrial forest–fire management regime.