March 10, 2014 -- Symposium Highlights Watershed Protection Benefits
Protecting and managing forested watersheds to help ensure water supplies and to reduce drinking water treatment and storage costs is the theme of an upcoming symposium at the American Water Works Association’s 2014 Sustainable Water Management Conference, to be held March 29 – April 2 in Denver, Colorado. The Symposium is being organized by the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment).
“About two-thirds of the fresh water in the U.S. originates in a forested watershed,” notes Carlton Owen, the Endowment’s President and CEO. “Healthy, well-managed forests produce clean water. Increasing evidence suggests that clean water costs less to treat and store. It’s therefore in the best economic interests of water consumers to ensure that their forested watersheds are protected and well-managed.”
Presentations at the symposium will provide first-hand examples of forested watershed protection benefits around the country. Todd Gartner, Senior Associate & Natural Infrastructure for Water Manager at the World Resources Institute, will speak on the economic benefits of forested watershed protection and management. Gartner recently co-authored Natural Infrastructure – Investing in Forested Landscapes for Source Water Protection in the United States, the most comprehensive review of the subject to date. Jeff Hughes, Director of the Environmental Finance Center at the School of Government, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will describe watershed finance partnerships in the Upper Neuse River of North Carolina, which provides water to Raleigh. Raleigh recently created a small watershed protection fee that supports watershed protection efforts. Tracy Mehan, a Principal at The Cadmus Group, Inc., and a watershed protection consultant to the Endowment, will review national efforts to develop funding sources for source water protection and talk about “beneficiary pays” approaches to watershed protection and management. Adam Carpenter, Regulatory Analyst with the American Water Works Association, will moderate the symposium.
The water sector is facing a progressive period in which water management is being completely re-examined. New technologies and management approaches are allowing water utilities to diversify their water portfolios as never before. This year, the Sustainable Water Management Conference will present solutions for a variety of issues and challenges facing the water sector, including direct potable reuse, managing stormwater in the urban environment, integrated watershed management planning, balancing water conservation with revenue needs, green infrastructure, and more.
The Endowment’s “Healthy Watersheds through Healthy Forests” Initiative focuses on supporting community-driven efforts to protect their forested watersheds. Through a partnership with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service it co-funded the Raleigh effort that resulted in creation of a watershed protection fee. The Endowment is also partnering with the American Water Works Association and others to advance watershed protection within the water community.
February 28, 2014 -- Endowment and Partners Announce Pilot Program in South Carolina Designed to Aid Timber Harvesters and Haulers
The most under-appreciated and yet critically-important link in the forest products industry value chain – from tree grower to end consumer -- is comprised of nearly 10,000 small, independent business contractors – America’s timber harvesters and haulers (a.k.a. “loggers”). The folks who harvest mature trees and transport them to a converting mill.
“Since our earliest days as an entity dedicated to keeping forests as forests and working to advance family-supporting jobs in rural forest-rich communities, we’ve sought ways to aid the nation’s hard working timber producers,” said U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities President Carlton Owen. “We think we’ve landed on one of the most direct and impactful ways to do that by partnering with the Southern Loggers Cooperative (SLC), the South Carolina Timber Producers Association (SCTPA) and the Natural Capital Investment Fund (NCIF) to extend the reach of SLC’s system of fuel depots.”
February 12, 2014 -- The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities Releases 2013 Annual Report
“Our 7th Annual Report reflects the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities’ (the Endowment) unique “playbook” for supporting the North American forest industry by adding value to forests,” notes President Carlton Owen. “Like a successful sports team, the Endowment’s game plan hones-in on well-defined outcomes, team play, and taking calculated risks. Winning for us means systemic, transformative, and sustainable change to improve the health of America’s forests and the communities and millions of people that depend upon them.”
Highlights from the Endowment’s 2013 successes that are featured in the Annual Report include: Planting the first American chestnut genetically modified to be disease and blight resistant; embarking on the next frontier for the forest industry and green products—nanotechnology; seeking new ways to help minority landowners enhance stewardship of their forests; hosting the second Canada/U.S. Forest Health Summit to enhance strategic collaboration for the citizens and forests of both countries, and; joining the Southern Loggers Cooperative to invest in diesel depots to improve timber harvester’s economic viability.
“America’s forests and the thousands of products they produce have driven our country’s growth and prosperity for centuries,” Owen said. “The Endowment seeks to continue sustainable use of our forests by “doing what other’s can’t or won’t.” We are not afraid to tackle the toughest issues faced by our forests and the forest industry. In collaboration with a wide-range of public and private teammates, we are working for a brighter future for our most important natural resource.”
The 2013 Annual Report is available as a PDF here.
January 29, 2014 -- Report Notes New Investment in Research and Development Necessary If Forest Industry to Have Bright Future
In tough times companies and governments look to cut costs. Unfortunately, those cuts may come at the expense of future opportunities, such as new product development. A new report released today finds that the forest products manufacturing industry invests less than one-seventh as much as the average U.S. manufacturing sector, seriously undermining the industry’s capacity to remain viable in the face of intense, global competition. The report, A New Model for Forest Sector Research and Development in the United States, was released by the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment).
“In an age when more and more consumers are looking to use green, sustainable products, the forest products industry has the potential to be among the nation’s biggest growth sectors,” said Endowment President Carlton Owen. “But, this isn’t likely to happen without a more strategic and collaborative investment in research and development for state-of-the-art science such as green-building and wood-based nanotechnology.”
“America has for decades been the world’s leader in innovation in the forest products sector,” Owen continued. “That leadership is rooted in on-going research and development. Without a new commitment to research and development, and a new model for harnessing the power of public-private partnerships, the outlook for the forest products sector is uncertain at best.”
“In a post-recession economy where literally hundreds of sawmills have closed and more than 40% of the nation’s pulp and paper mills have been permanently shuttered just since 1990, this report should serve as a wake-up call for the forest industry and the broader U.S.-based forestry sector,” said report author Dr. Robert Kellison, Professor Emeritus at North Carolina State University. “If we are to have a bright future we must develop new, more sustainable models to re-light the fires of innovation,” he continued.
The report reveals that some of America’s strongest international competitors sustain a vibrant research and development initiative through public-private partnerships where industry and government collaborate. Kellison notes that current work led by the Endowment and the USDA Forest Service could serve as a model for building an approach that fits the U.S. system. Their collaboration focuses on forest biotechnology to address burgeoning forest health issues and more recently, a commitment to look at wood-based nanotechnology.
January 27, 2014 -- Results of New Study Suggests Ways to Enhance Payment for Energy Value When Harvesting, Hauling, and Selling Woody Biomass for Fuel
Wood is the oldest form of raw material used to generate energy. Yet, the fact that trees have low energy density relative to other fuels and that in its natural state wood is usually one-half water by weight, challenges its competitive value in many places.
Results of a new study – “Balancing Biomass Harvesting and Drying Tactics with Delivered Payment Practice” - released today by the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment) suggest that some relatively low tech approaches enhanced by modern measurement systems could help change that. “We asked scientists at North Carolina State University to explore ways to lower the cost of transporting waste wood for energy and to consider better ways to link energy value to purchase price,” said Endowment President Carlton Owen.
The NC State team looked at ways to lower moisture content in the woody material before it was delivered to a buyer. The team quickly abandoned “in transit” drying whereby moisture content would be reduced in the vans hauling chipped materials and instead turned to low-tech but very effective approaches to just leaving the material in the forest for a period of time and letting Mother Nature do the job. “Working with the natural drying processes proved to be the most efficient means,” said Owen.
January 10, 2014 -- Endowment, USDA Forest Service Sign Master MOU to Enhance Long-Term Partnership
Carlton Owen, President and CEO of the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (Endowment), today signed a master agreement with USDA Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. The Endowment and the Forest Service have collaborated on numerous projects since the Endowment’s creation in 2006. This new master agreement reflects the importance of this partnership and opens the door for expanded collaboration on a range of initiatives that are critical for the future of working forests.
"This agreement affirms the Endowment’s value as a trusted ally to the Forest Service. We complement each other’s mission, operations, and staff, and we both benefit in many ways from the partnership. By leveraging each other’s resources, we deliver more cost-effective, higher impact results to America’s forests and the millions of people who depend upon them,” said Owen.
The Forest Service and the Endowment have partnered on a number of projects over the years including forest health, plumbing the potential of biotechnology to address America’s burgeoning forest health challenges, bringing together the Canadian and U.S. forest sectors for international collaboration, reaching out to underserved landowners, wood-to-energy, conservation easements, and much more. In fact, the MOU comes within days of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s announcement of the latest collaboration between the two organizations – the establishment of a broad-ranging public/private partnership to advance creation and adoption of Earth-friendly nanomaterials produced from wood.
When commenting on outcomes of joint efforts Owen stated, “Our track record shows what can happen when federal efforts and dollars are matched from the private and NGO sectors.” He continued, “To keep our nation’s forests as forests and to keep them healthy we need robust markets, creative thinking and sustained collaborative efforts to tend these important resources. Our joint work brings new perspectives and funding to the Forest Service that will help us grow our economy, grow jobs in rural America, and ultimately, grow more and healthier forests.”
“The mission of the Endowment is to work collaboratively with a wide-range of partners in the public and private sectors to advance systemic, transformative, and sustainable change for the health and vitality of the nation’s working forests and forest-reliant communities,” said Owen. “Agreements like this one help us bring change through the entire forest sector and make for a brighter future for our forests and all of us who depend upon them.”
December 11, 2013 -- Endowment Endorses Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack's Plans to Advance Cellulosic Nanomaterial
Carlton Owen, President and CEO of the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (Endowment), praised Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s announcement of the public-private partnership between the Endowment and the USDA Forest Service aimed at rapid commercialization of cellulosic nanomaterial. The Partnership’s primary goal over the next three years is to advance the development of the first U.S. commercial facility producing cellulosic nanomaterial at scale. This work is designed to showcase the potential of these materials in a variety of Earth-friendly products and applications in ways that advance the economy while enhancing forest health and assuring appropriate human health and environmental safety.
“We are very excited to be a part of this new chapter in cutting-edge research. Our plan is to bring supplemental funding from the private sector to strengthen the research efforts of one of the most comprehensive forestry research organizations in the world,” said Owen. “In these times of fiscal belt-tightening, we need to leverage government investments at all levels with private funds to support a research agenda that leads to commercialization of brilliant ideas.”
December 10, 2013 -- New Partnership Ensures Future for North America's Premier Database of Wood-to-Energy Producing/Consuming Facilities
The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (Endowment) today announced a new partnership with three associations representing various segments of the wood-to-energy sector. Under terms of the agreement, Biomass Power Association (BPA), Biomass Thermal Energy Council (BTEC), and the Pellet Fuels Institute (PFI) will join the Endowment and its foundational partner -- the USDA Forest Service -- in supporting continuation of www.Wood2Energy.org. The database is the most comprehensive accounting of wood-to-energy producing and consuming facilities across North America.
“Wood was the first energy source harnessed to meet human needs,” noted Endowment President & CEO Carlton Owen. “With significant advances in both efficiency and its environmental footprint wood will continue to play an important role in renewable, sustainable and forest-friendly energy needs for generations to come. Using a portion of wood leftover from forest management or removing smaller or defective trees for energy is a great way to enhance forest health, reduce wildfire hazard and improve productivity for private and public forest owners.”
November 22, 2013 -- Report Highlights Many Values of Coastal Forests to Gulf Ecosystems and Economy
A new report summarizes the many values that freshwater forested wetlands and other forest types provide to the coastal ecology and economy of states bordering the Gulf of Mexico. Dominated by bald cypress-water tupelo swamps and hardwood wetlands, these forests provide numerous ecological, economic, and human benefits. Most notably, these forests: reduce the amount of nutrients and sediments in surface water that ultimately flows into the Gulf; provide wildlife habitat; protect coastal urban areas from storm surge; retain storm water; recharge groundwater; support timber, fish, fur, and alligator harvests; offer opportunities for recreation; and sequester carbon.
The report authors note that Costanza et al. (1997) determined that swamps and floodplains had the second highest economic value for ecosystem services worldwide ($7,927 per acre per year), trailing only coastal estuaries ($9,248 per acre per year). The Coastal Forests report was prepared by Dr. John W. Day, Jr., and Dr. Rachael G. Hunter, of Baton Rouge, LA, and may be found on the Endowment’s website, here.
“This report emphasizes that forests are an important part of the solution for Gulf restoration and resiliency,” said Carlton Owen, President and CEO of the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, which commissioned the report, along with the USDA Forest Service. “From water quality to wildlife habitat to storm protection, healthy forests can deliver many of the results desired by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council and others responsible for implementing projects associated with the Deepwater Horizon settlement,” he added.
The report focuses on the Coastal Management Zone Area plus 25 miles, as described in the RESTORE Act. Baldcypress-water tupelo swamps and bottomland hardwood wetlands predominate in this area, but wet pine savannah and pine flatwoods are also prevalent in the Gulf States. Many of these forests are threatened by changes in hydrology, urbanization, rising sea levels, saltwater intrusion, invasive species, improper management, and fire suppression.
Lead author John W. Day, Ph.D., notes that “Coastal forests provide many benefits to the Gulf and its residents and visitors. To maintain and enhance these benefits, it will be critical to protect these forests from urban sprawl and fragmentation, implement forest management plans and Best Management Practices, and remove invasive species and impediments to surface water flow.”
In addition to summarizing the ecosystem services and other benefits provided by coastal forests, the report provides state-by-state characterizations and recommendations.
November 12, 2013 -- 2014 Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program Challenge Request for Pre-Proposals Available
The U.S. Department of Defense today announced that it is accepting pre-proposals for the 2014 Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program Challenge. The 2014 Challenge Request for Pre-Proposals and the downloadable PDF pre-proposal form are now available on the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Community’s (the Endowment) webpage. This information is also available by contacting Peter@usendowment.org. The deadline for submissions is 8 p.m. EST, Friday, December 6, 2013. Up to $5 million is available for the 2014 REPI Challenge.
“The 2014 REPI Challenge highlights the concept of Sentinel Landscapes,” notes Peter Stangel, Senior Vice President at the Endowment. “Sentinel Landscapes capitalize on the linkage between national defense, conservation, and working lands, including ranching, agriculture, and forestry. The Sentinel Landscapes Partnership includes the Department of Defense, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of the Interior.”
In particular, the 2014 REPI Challenge seeks to harness the creativity of the private sector to merge the mutual interests of the Departments of Defense, Agriculture, and Interior, to access and leverage unconventional sources of funding, attract additional philanthropic sources, and take advantage of market-based approaches to secure the most land at the least cost.
Last year’s 2013 REPI Challenge supported a collaboration that included the White House Rural Council, the Departments of Defense, the Interior, and Agriculture to kick-off the Sentinel Landscape Partnership with a pilot project in the South Puget Sound region of Washington State. Home to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, an important troop training facility, this region has some of the last remaining native prairie habitat in the state.
As a result of the 2013 REPI Challenge, the Department of Defense (DOD), USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and partner organizations are investing more than $12.6 million to restore and protect more than 2,600 acres of important prairie habitat on both public and private lands, allowing training activities at the Joint Base to move forward with more flexibility. Left unaddressed, decreasing habitat in and around Joint Base Lewis-McChord could otherwise restrict testing and training on military installations, areas to which many species flee when displaced by development.
The creation of long-term or permanent easements will protect nearby agricultural and private lands from development and help preserve farms and rural culture. Wildlife habitat can be created and managed to benefit species as well as agricultural production and military readiness.
Building on the successes of USDA’s Working Lands for Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will provide regulatory predictability under the Endangered Species Act to private landowners who implement conservation practices in the pilot landscape, and is pursuing the possibility of granting ecosystem credits to DOD from the federal conservation investments.
November 11, 2013 -- Endowment Elects New Members and New Officers
The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment) this past week welcomed the addition of two new members to its Board of Directors. Judith Stockdale of Chicago, Illinois and Colin Moseley of Seattle, Washington were elected at the fall meeting of the Endowment board.
The Endowment also announced the election of new officers for 2014: John Weaver, Chairman; Tamar Datan, Vice Chair; and Jon Voigtman, Treasurer.
“This transition is bitter-sweet for the Endowment as we move from our inaugural Board of Directors who helped root the organization to those who will see us grow into the future. We can’t say enough about the dedication and caliber of people – past and present -- who have agreed to volunteer their time to guide our important work,” said Endowment President & CEO Carlton Owen.
Stockdale joined the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation (GDDF) in 1994 and retired at the end of 2012. Prior to GDDF she served as the first executive director of the Great Lakes Protection Fund. She is also a director of the Nuveen Funds, is on the boards of Donors Forum and Friends of Ryerson Woods, and has served on a number of nonprofit boards and government advisory commissions.
Moseley is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Simpson Investment Company, Green Diamond Resource Company, and Simpson Paper Company. He served as Chairman of American Forest & Paper Association Inc. where he continues to serves as a Board member.
Weaver, of Augusta, Georgia, is the former Chairman of AbitibiBowater and served as the first Canadian liaison to the Endowment Board.
Datan, of Leesburg, Virginia, is a consultant specializing in non-profit management and governance. She served as Executive Vice President of the Amazon Conservation Team and as a former staff member of The Nature Conservancy and the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Voigtman, of New York City, is Managing Director and Head of Portfolio Investments with RBC Capital Markets.
The Endowment bids farewell to three of its charter Board members Karl Stauber of Danville, Virginia; Mil Duncan of New Castle, New Hampshire; and David Dodson of Durham, North Carolina.
October 2, 2013 -- Studies Shows Reforestation of Flood-prone Agricultural Lands Reduces Surface Water Runoff and Associated Soil Erosion
A new modeling study conducted by the USDA Forest Service Center for Bottomland Hardwoods Research highlights the role reforestation plays in reducing flooding and the volume of farmland-derived sediments in waterways in the Lower Mississippi River Alluvial Valley. The study has been accepted for publication in the journal Ecological Engineering. Project leads Ying Ouyang, Ted Leininger, and Matt Moran found that as the area of flood-prone agricultural land converted to forest increased, the total volume of water and the mass of sediment flowing from those areas into watersheds decreased. Sediments from agricultural lands are often associated with fertilizers and pesticides, which contribute to hypoxia (the “dead zone” caused by low oxygen levels) in the Gulf of Mexico. Reforestation would therefore tend to help reduce the volume of the nutrients flowing into rivers. The project was commissioned by the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment) and co-funded by the Forest Service, State & Private Forestry.
“This study provides further evidence of the key role forests play in flood control and in reducing sediment flow from agricultural lands into our watersheds,” noted Carlton Owen, President & CEO of the Endowment. “The findings are particularly timely given the ecological enhancement efforts in the Gulf of Mexico’s watersheds associated with Deepwater Horizon oil spill restoration. Growing forests on frequently-flooded agricultural lands, even just the portion of farmlands nearest streams, significantly reduces the potential for fertilizers –a key contributor to hypoxia--to reach streams and rivers, and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico. Accelerating reforestation in the Gulf’s watersheds, where feasible and desired, could reduce hypoxia and the many economic and environmental challenges it creates.”
Because forest restoration doesn’t require as much fertilizer as does row-crop agriculture, nutrient volumes are lower on the same landscapes. Slower runoff of water from forest lands also allows sediments and associated nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus that contribute to hypoxia, to “settle out” before reaching the Gulf. An added economic and human safety benefit would result from the new forests reducing the velocity and severity of river flooding in the Lower Mississippi region, such as occurred during the recent Great Flood of 2011. The new forest areas would also provide regional economic benefits for landowners and local economies, along with improved wildlife habitat, recreation opportunities, and many other values.
The modeling study was conducted to investigate the impacts of reforestation (conversion of certain frequently-flooded agricultural land into forests near the streams being modeled) on water outflow attenuation and sediment load reduction. Two Lower Mississippi River Alluvial Valley watersheds were chosen for the study, the Lower Yazoo River Watershed in the southern part of the Yazoo River Basin, and the Peters Creek Watershed from the Yocona Sub-basin. Each offered the availability of field observed data that are necessary for model calibration and validation. The U.S. EPA’s BASIN-HSPF model was used for predicting the water outflow and sediment load. A summary of the study can be found here.