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 27, 2013 -- Voices of African American Forestry now on YouTube
In partnership with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service and Forest Service, the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities recently launched an initiative to increase profitability and asset value of African American-owned forestland in order to help stem the tragic history of Black land loss. In January 2013, the Endowment interviewed some of those supporting African American forest owners in the Southeastern Black Belt. This short video, Voices of African American Forestry, captures insights and reflections on past and present issues as well as the future aspirations for African American forestry and land retention.
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.
September 13, 2013 -- "The State and Future of U.S. Forestry and the Forest Industry" Report Released
While raging wildfires in the western U.S. dominate the evening news and disrupt the daily routines of tens of thousands of Americans, a new report points to the need for more and better markets for low-value, dead, and dying wood as one of the only practical options for improving the health—and fire resiliency—of these forests. This issue and many others are explored in a report released today by the USDA Forest Service (USFS) and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (Endowment).
A full press release regarding the publication and creation of this report can be found here.
September 12, 2013 -- Endowment Joins Others in Project to Establish Efficiency Standards for Wood-Fired Boilers
The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment) and the West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund (WPPSEF) are collaborating with the Biomass Thermal Energy Council (BTEC) to fund development of the first-ever efficiency testing standards for commercial biomass boilers in the U.S.
“As informed consumers it is vitally important that we know how to compare one product against another to determine relative value,” says Endowment President Carlton Owen. “The standards that result from this project will give those who want to consider biomass commercial boilers, the same types of information that our European counterparts already have or the types of labels that allow a buyer to compare one type of heat pump for instance to another under the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) system.”
“In many parts of North America, modern biomass heating systems compare favorably in terms of cost, efficiency, emissions, and other criteria, with coal-, oil-, or other fuel-systems,” says Joseph Seymour, Executive Director of BTEC. “The lack of standardized efficiency standards developed by an independent third-party leave a gap that has disadvantaged the market expansion of biomass-fired systems.”
Joel Morrison, Executive Director of the WPPSEF, notes “We are especially pleased to be teaming up with the Endowment and BTEC to advance this important work. If we are to meet society’s growing energy needs we must have sound information upon which to base decisions regarding various fuels as well as conversion technologies.” Funding by the Endowment, WPPSEF, and BTEC members will be combined to support the year-long project that should be completed by fall 2014. Endowment funding in part comes through its Wood-to-Energy/Woody Biomass Joint Venture with the USDA Forest Service.
BTEC’s member-led Technical and Regulatory Affairs Committee will direct the initial drafting of the efficiency test protocol with the assistance of an independent standards consultant. In late 2013 and early 2014, BTEC will invite feedback on the draft protocol at regional Scoping Meetings, tentatively planned for the eastern-, mid-western-, and western-U.S. Feedback from those sessions will be considered in a revised draft that will undergo a national call-for-comments in spring 2014.
“We are grateful for supporters like the Endowment and WPPSEF that have recognized the impact of such an efficiency measure on the wider use of renewable biomass,” said Seymour.
August 26, 2013 -- SFI and U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities Spur Collaboration Among Water Utilities and Forest Landowners to Protect Watersheds
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Experts acknowledge the important role of forestlands in protecting our nation’s water quality. The U.S. Forest Service estimates that about two-thirds of our nation’s freshwater resources originate in forests. Water utilities are increasingly taking responsibility for the health of local watersheds as the best way to ensure a long-term supply of clean water for the community. A new project managed by the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment), and supported by a grant from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative ® (SFI®), will engage forest landowners and water utilities to support innovative ways to promote watershed protection and maintenance on privately owned forest lands.
To read more about the grant and project, click here for the full press release from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.
August 7, 2013 -- Endowment Releases Report from Canada/ U.S. Forest Health Summit II
The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment) today released the report and recommendations resulting from theCanada/U.S. Forest Health Summit II. The Summit, held March 26-27, 2013 in Ottawa, Canada, was attended by nearly 50 senior forestry officials from both the public and private sectors across Canada and the U.S. The meeting was designed to develop specific recommendations on ways that the two countries could enhance collaboration to address forest health on both sides of the border.
In presenting the report to the respective Chiefs of the Canadian and USDA Forest Services on behalf of the team that developed the summit and drafted the report, Carlton Owen, President of the Endowment said, “Your strong commitment to the Summit process evidenced by your active participation has already sent positive signals throughout both agencies and their partners. While there has always been a solid foundation of collaboration between our two countries, and especially our forestry communities, the current threats to forest health combined with looming budget and demographic challenges emphasize the need to make that collaboration more strategic, continual, and effective.”
Summit II built on the spirit and concepts developed at the first-ever Canada/U.S. Forest Health Summit held in Washington, DC in mid-2012. The report submitted to the two agencies who served as session co-sponsors was accompanied by more than two dozen specific recommendations targeted at enhancing collaboration to more effectively deploy limited human and financial resources while speeding results to aid in forest health and protection.
The Endowment served as the convener for both of the Canada/U.S. Forest Health Summits and took the lead in drafting the final reports from each session.
July 26, 2013 -- Former Society of American Foresters Executive to Join Endowment
The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment) today announced that Michael Goergen, chief executive officer and executive vice-president of the Society of American Foresters (SAF) for the past 10 years, will be joining the Endowment effective September 15, 2013. Goergen announced his resignation July 15 to SAF membership where his tenure spans 17 years. The early announcement was designed to give ample time for transition and identification of a qualified replacement.
Mr. Goergen is leaving to lead a public/private partnership funded jointly by the Endowment and the USDA Forest Service. The new venture, housed at the Endowment, will pursue innovation in the forest products sector and tools to advance forest health. Details on the new initiative will be forthcoming in a few weeks.
“At the Endowment we are focused on increasing the value of forests across America. We go about that in ways designed to keep forests as forests while growing family-supporting jobs in forest-rich communities. Michael is the right choice to lead this one-of-a-kind public/private partnership because of his commitment to conservation, his passion for innovation and his collaborative approach to solutions,” said Carlton Owen, President of the Endowment.
In speaking about Goergen’s tenure at SAF, the Society’s President Joann Cox said, “Michael has brought a great deal to SAF. His passion for forest policy, commitment to bringing forest science to practice, and his visionary approach have helped lead SAF forward. We will miss the day to day leadership he provides. However, as a member and a person deeply committed to forest conservation, he will continue to be active in SAF, and we look forward to his future contributions.”
July 18, 2013 -- 100,000 Conservation Easements and Counting!
A milestone for private landowner contributions to natural resource conservation was reached this week with the addition of the 100,000th easement to the National Conservation Easement Database (Easement Database; www.conservationeasement.us). This unique collaboration is the only comprehensive system for managing and accessing information on publicly and privately held conservation easements. Reliable data about what lands are protected, and where, is essential to good planning and policy-making for conservation action, natural resource management, and responsible development.
“Much of the most vital wildlife habitat remaining in America is located on private lands, and voluntary partnerships with private landowners to establish easements are increasingly important to ensure that it is conserved for future generations,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “The National Conservation Easement Database will allow us to understand the scope of easements nationwide and help us to establish new partnerships for the benefit both of landowners and wildlife and other natural resources.”
“Until the Easement Database was created, it was impossible to see or access information on conservation easements on a national basis,” said Carlton Owen, President and CEO of the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment), who conceived the project. “With this milestone, data is now available on more than 19.5 million acres of privately and publicly held easements. And, this information is available to anyone, for free, in a user-friendly format,” he added.
The Easement Database is a voluntary and secure system. It was created through a collaboration that includes the Conservation Biology Institute, Defenders of Wildlife, Ducks Unlimited, NatureServe, and The Trust for Public Land. Landowner privacy is a priority and landowner names and other sensitive information are not available on the Easement Database. Quality control is also an important feature; all easements are thoroughly reviewed before being added to the database.
“Although 100,000 easements is a lot, much work remains to be done,” Owen said. “We estimate that about 55% of privately held easements and 79% of publicly-held easements are in the database. The Easement Database team is constantly working to find, review, and add new easements to the system.”
The Endowment is the project’s largest funder, which has also attracted financial support from the USDA Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Knobloch Family Foundation, and the Graham Foundation.
July 15, 2013 -- Endowment and NCIF Invest to Enhance Viability of Nation's Timber Harvesters
America’s forest landowners and forest products industries rely heavily on a cadre of small businesses for the harvesting and transporting of trees. If those small businesses don’t thrive, forest landowners and converting mills suffer.
The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment) and the Natural Capital Investment Fund (NCIF) today announced a joint investment in South Carolina’s only cooperative-owned diesel fuel depot to help ensure more sustainable businesses and a brighter future for all associated with America’s forests. The depot, located at the entrance to International Paper Company’s Georgetown, SC, paper mill, is one of twenty facilities developed by the Southern Loggers Cooperative (SLC) since its inception in 2004. Timber harvesting companies that are members save on each gallon of diesel fuel they purchase at a SLC depot, and then share in any profits at the close of each year.
“The Endowment is founded on and committed to supporting the needs of North America’s forest industry,” notes Endowment President Carlton Owen. “Timber harvesters are the most fragmented and perhaps least appreciated link in the forest-to-consumer value chain. Our investment with NCIF will help not only loggers in the Low Country of South Carolina, but we hope that it spurs SLC and others across the nation to turn attention to ways to help these small businessmen and women become more sustainable.”
June 26, 2013-- Footage from Jefferson County Expo now on YouTube
On April 27, 2013, the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities hosted the Jefferson Opportunity Expo in Louisville, GA. Presenters included several national and regional experts about programs that encourage saving toward home ownership, education, and entrepreneurship as a pathway out of poverty and three women who succeeded in those programs. Their presentations are informative, influential, and compelling.
June 20, 2013--Department of Defense Grant Protects Florida's Forests
More than 20,000 acres of longleaf pine and other forests near Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, will be permanently protected through one of two grants announced for the 2013 Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative Challenge (REPI) Challenge Program. The Eglin easement is the largest land transaction in the REPI program’s history. It adds to the Northwest Florida Greenway/Flyway and protects F-35 Joint Strike Fighter flight routes and access to the eastern Eglin Range.
The second grant will help protect and enhance management on more than 2,000 acres of critical prairie habitat near Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State. The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment) helped administer the Department of Defense’s 2013 REPI Challenge Program as a service to the Department of Defense.
“The REPI team achieved an extraordinary outcome for military readiness, natural resource conservation, and forests,” noted Peter Stangel, Senior Vice President at the Endowment. “They took $5 million and used it to attract an additional $25.75 million in other public and private funding for these two projects. That’s better than a 5:1 return on investment. It’s a terrific example of stretching public funding for maximum impact while also providing tremendous value for all the parties involved with these projects.”
The REPI Challenge Program, part of the larger REPI program, awards up to $5 million in one or two grants. It seeks to incentivize new business practices that preserve compatible land uses and conserve natural landscapes in support of military readiness. The REPI Challenge puts a premium on harnessing the creativity of the private sector to access and leverage unconventional sources of funding, attract philanthropic support, and take advantage of market-based approaches to land and resource conservation. Since 2003, the REPI program has protected 264,000 acres of buffer land at 66 locations in 24 states across the country.
Eglin Air Force Base is the Air Force’s largest installation at more than 463,000 acres. The funded project is a collaboration that includes the State of Florida, The Trust for Public Land, and a private landowner. A $1.75 million award from the REPI Challenge Program was leveraged 10:1 to purchase an easement on land valued at $19.5 million. The property provides habitat for the gopher tortoise, a species of concern. The new property and relocation efforts for this species may help preclude the need for listing the tortoise as threatened, benefitting Eglin as well as other property owners across the southeast range of the animal. The project also protects more than two dozen jobs related to natural resources management.
The project at Joint Base Lewis-McChord is the culmination of years of collaboration between The Center for Natural Lands Management, the U.S.D.A. Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Thurston County, the State of Washington, and private landowners. A REPI award of $3.5 million is being leveraged nearly 2.5:1 to conserve vanishing prairie habitat and to establish a stewardship endowment fund.
The REPI program is an excellent example of collaborative partnerships that work to protect forests and other lands that serve nearby communities. The program’s ideals align with those of the Endowment and showcase the ecological, social, and economic benefit of the collaborative, cost-sharing partnership investment model.
June 19, 2013-- Sustainable Finance Strategies for Watershed Protection
Nearly 100 years ago the leaders of a sleepy southern textile town took unprecedented steps to ensure that its citizens would have secure and readily available drinking water for decades to come. There was only one problem – those decades did come and so did lots more people. Today, Greenville, South Carolina, home to the “best tasting water in North America” according to a national survey, can no longer rest on the actions of those visionary leaders from a past century if it is to have plentiful and safe drinking water for the future.
June 18, 2013-- Agriculture Secretary cites Endowment Partnership
On Monday, June 17, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack participated in his very first Google+ Hangout to discuss opportunities available through USDA’s StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity. In the last five minutes of the Hangout, the Endowment-led Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention Program was cited as an exemplary partnership (see clip above).
The collaborative $1.2 million grant program is a joint venture of the Endowment, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the USDA Forest Service to help stem the loss of African American owned forests. The program consists of pilot projects in two multi-county regions in the Carolinas aimed at restoring and conserving threatened, African American forestland in the southern U. S. by increasing forest-owner income and land asset value.
Loss of historic Black family land is endemic in the regions where past discrimination and economic factors have diminished the value and productivity of Black-owned forests. The project introduces new forestry technologies, creates trusted, comprehensive, and replicable systems of landowner outreach and support, and develops income streams by connecting forest owners to traditional and emerging forest products markets.
May 23, 2013-- 2013 Interns Join Endowment Team
Anne-Marie Melief and George Flowers, two recent graduates of Furman University, Greenville, SC, are the new interns at the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment). Both will work with the Endowment for a year.
Melief graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Earth and Environmental Sciences. She also worked for three years at the David E. Shi Center for Sustainability where she focused on sustainability assessment. Through the Shi Center she conducted two Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventories and supervised the completion of a third, including the development of a methodological framework for conducting an inventory for the University. Additionally, Melief completed the biennial Sustainability Tracking and Assessment Rating System (STARS) report that helps the University track its progress towards its sustainability goals.
When asked about her interest in the Endowment Melief responded with, “My work at the Shi Center taught me the effectiveness of cooperative policy making and how it can lead to lasting environmental, economic, and social benefits for all parties involved. Working with the Endowment will allow me to continue exploring cooperative initiative development in the form of forestry investment, and to first hand see the sustainable results of such investments.”
Flowers has a Bachelor of Science degree in Sustainability Science and Political Science. During his time at Furman, Flowers worked on seven farms, including one that he started himself, on three continents: North America, Europe, and Africa. He has completed three projects that compare farming practices and policies across cultural and geographical contexts.
About his work with the Endowment, Flowers said, “I am very grateful to have this opportunity. My educational and hands-on experiences in the fields of sustainability, agriculture, and policy have taught me that a sustainable reality for the future and productivity of our global environment will be possible only when differing communities make strong efforts toward genuine collaboration. The Endowment’s work personifies this lesson. I look forward to applying my knowledge and experiences in merging policy, sustainability, and agriculture to the Endowment’s focus on sustainable forestry.”
“Anne-Marie and George bring a diversity of experiences and expertise to the Endowment,” said Senior Vice President Peter Stangel. “They add a unique perspective to the Endowment’s function, and their respective backgrounds in sustainability and agriculture are a real plus for the Endowment. We are delighted to have them with us."
Since the Endowment’s inception in late 2006 a formal internship program has played a vital role in retaining a lean staff model on one hand, while offering hands-on experience to newly-minted professionals on the other. Furman University has been the source of the largest number of interns to date.
May 2, 2013-- New Report Assesses Appoaches to Expand Community-Scale Clusters of Wood-to-Energy Facilities to Enhance Renewable energy and Forest Health
The production of energy using a renewable material such as wood can have positive impacts on all three legs of the sustainability stool - society, the economy, and the environment. So finds a report released today by the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (Endowment). The report, “Financing Woody Biomass Clusters: Barriers, Opportunities, and Potential Models for the Western U.S.” looks specifically at how community-scale wood-fueled facilities could aid in addressing burgeoning forest health issues and expanding losses due to wildfires.
“Biomass energy development has the potential to foster economic development, address wildfires and associated risks and costs, and reduce dependence on fossil fuels,” says Jeff Howe, President of Dovetail Partners and a report contributing author. “There are critical strategic, organizational, and financial issues that need to be addressed in order to realize the considerable potential of biomass energy. First and foremost, biomass energy needs to become an attractive and financially viable investment alternative. This can be aided by strategically applying a wide array of market-based, as well as incentive- and grant-based financial tools.”
The report is part of a series of works produced by the Endowment in a collaborative effort with the USDA Forest Service to assess the potential of markets for low-value wood to enhance forest health while advancing energy security.
April 25, 2013-- Wood For Energy Use in Schools, Hospitals and Other Facilities Growing
The State of Institutional Woody Biomass Facilities in the United States, a report just released by the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment), is available at www.usendowment.org. This report, based on research by Katie Premo, Endowment intern, and Kate MacFarland, USDA Forest Service (USFS) staff, fills the gap and points to the growth in use of woody biomass for energy in community facilities, such as schools, hospitals and more.
When the right technology is matched with the right setting, woody biomass can offset the costs of other fuel sources, especially fuel oil and propane. As of January 2013, 297 institutional facilities have been identified as operational. Since concluding the study the number of systems has continued to grow reflecting the dynamic changes occurring in this arena. More than two-thirds are in the Northeastern U.S. Fifty-nine percent are secondary schools. The remaining facilities are predominantly higher education buildings.
“Wood was the first energy fuel used by mankind,” says Endowment President Carlton Owen. “Still more than one-half of the people on Earth depend on wood for their basic heating and cooking needs. Yet, in developed economies wood isn’t just for subsistence, advanced wood combustion systems are part of stabilizing and even saving on energy costs while doing so using a locally-sourced, renewable fuel.”
The report is another result of the Woody Biomass Joint-Venture, a partnership between the Endowment and the USDA Forest Service. Information generated is being added to the most comprehensive wood-to-energy database in North America – www.Wood2Energy.org – which is also a product of the joint venture. Users of the database are asked to submit additions to keep it current.
April 15, 2013 -- New Chief Financial Officer Joins Endowment
The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment) today announced the addition of Signe Cann as Chief Financial Officer (CFO). “We are indeed fortunate to find someone with such rich experience, but perhaps more importantly, one who shares the passion for our mission as well,” said Endowment President Carlton Owen.
In her role with the Endowment, Cann will be responsible for the Endowment’s finances and organizational efficiency. Cann has served in various CFO and financial consulting roles. Prior to joining in the full-time capacity she had been conducting a short-term consulting project on ways to enhance the Endowment's financial systems when she accepted the call to step in as Interim CFO in early January. She brings wide-ranging experience and commitment to non-profits –especially those working with natural resources.
Cann holds a Masters in Accountancy from the University of South Carolina as well as a B.A. in English Literature from Duke University. She begins her tenure with the Endowment immediately.
April 5, 2013 -- Woody Biomass Energy Database Upgraded and Expanded
In 2010, the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (Endowment) announced creation of a one-of-a-kind database of industrial and selected community-scale users of wood-to-energy facilities across North America. Today the Endowment is unveiling major improvements in the database. The site -- www.wood2energy.org -- is a searchable database open to anyone with interest in the state of wood-to-energy conversion at a national, state/provincial or local operating level.
Through the Woody Biomass Joint Venture– a partnership between the USDA Forest Service and the Endowment – recent updates to the Wood2Energy database ensure that it serves as the most comprehensive and up-to-date source of users and processors of wood for energy, e.g., electric facilities, thermal installations, pellet mills, etc.
Partners though out the biomass industry as well as state and federal agencies have worked to improve the usability and accuracy of the database and recently began including thermal installations, such as schools and government offices.
The University of Tennessee Office of Bioenergy Programs created and currently houses the system with original funding from the Endowment, US Forest Service, American Forest and Paper Association, Canadian Forest Service of Natural Resources Canada, Forest Products Association of Canada, and many others.
Wood2Energy Project Manager Mladen Grbovic, commented, “We now have reviewed and updated for accuracy more than half of the existing U.S. facilities. The systems will only get better as people share information and their experience with accessing the system.”
Carlton Owen, the Endowment President, noted, “This type of information is vital to making sound planning and business decisions for expansion of wood as an energy source while protecting sustainability of North America’s rich forested estate.”
Biomass consultant, Eric Kingsley of Innovative Natural Resource Solutions in Maine, worked with the University of Tennessee team to improve the accessibility of the site and the quality and accuracy of information across fourteen northeastern states. He added, “The new user interface is much easier to work with.”
March 28, 2013 -- Partners Launch the Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention Program
Two sites in the Carolinas have been selected as pilots for the launch of a collaborative $1.2 million grant program to help stem the loss of African American owned forests. The program is a joint venture of the U. S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the USDA Forest Service (Forest Service).
During a March 26, 2013 speech at Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack called on the nation’s foundations “to invest a percentage of their portfolio in rural businesses to enlarge social capital.” As an example, Vilsack pointed to the partnership between USDA and the Endowment by saying, “The U.S. Endowment challenged us last year. They pledged $1 million to help African Americans to maintain sustainable forestry practices. The folks at NRCS and our U.S. Forest Service are assisting with $100,000 each to help African American forest owners develop sustainable practices and make sure they can hang on to forest areas. This is the kind of partnership you are going to see more of.”
Vilsack painted a vivid picture of rural America and why it can no longer be ignored and forgotten if America is to be an economic success going forward. The Endowment is answering the call to action. “Rural America is the place where most of our food and water comes from to make us a food secure nation. It is the place where most of our power, electricity and fuel come from – including the bio fuels of the future. It is the place where families send a disproportionate number of children to the military. It is a place often ignored, while battling persistent poverty,” said Vilsack.
The Secretary used his South Carolina visit to announce the expansion of USDA’s Strike Force Program to South Carolina, North Carolina and eight other states. Strike Force targets USDA resources to rural persistent poverty counties. South Carolina 6th District South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn joined Secretary Vilsack in emphasizing the importance of restoring a healthy rural economy. “Our poor, rural areas pose a national problem,” cautioned Clyburn. “We must make sure that rural communities are treated with equity – not equally, but according to needs.”
The Endowment-led Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention Program announced by Secretary Vilsack willrestore and conserve threatened, African American forestland in the southern U. S. by increasing forest-owner income and land asset value. Loss of historic Black family land is endemic in the region where past discrimination and economic factors have diminished the value and productivity of Black-owned forests. The project will introduce new forestry technologies, create trusted, comprehensive, and replicable systems of landowner outreach and support, and develop income streams by connecting forest owners to traditional and emerging forest products markets.
Recipients and project leads are the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation in Charleston, South Carolina and the Roanoke Electrical Cooperative/Roanoke Center in Ahoskie, North Carolina. Each project will receive direct grants totaling $425,000 over thirty (30) months and significant technical and program support from NRCS and Forest Service field staff. Additional funds will be raised locally and regionally to support each project. Separate grants will support baseline research on the conditions and income potential of African American-owned forests and specialized forestry services for landowners.
In responding to the grant announcement, Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation Executive Director Jennie Stephens said, “This Sustainable Forestry Program will allow the Center to further its mission by establishing a network of partners who will provide the tools for these landowners to generate income from their land while maintaining ownership for many generations to come.”
On March 27th in Ahoskie, NC, First District North Carolina Congressman G. K. Butterfield, NRCS Eastern Regional Conservationist Leonard Jordan, the Forest Service’s Outreach Liaison Amadou Diop, and the Endowment’s Senior Vice President Peter Stangel, announced the grant to the Roanoke Electrical Cooperative.
As a long-time champion of efforts to stop the loss of rural family land, Congressman Butterfield was particularly qualified to announce the North Carolina project. Congressman Butterfield said, “As the CEO of the Roanoke Cooperative, Curtis Wynn and his staff are a leading force for economic development in the region. Through this partnership with the Endowment, NRCS, and the Forest Service, we will invest in a stronger economy and healthy forests in the region. By doing so, we will make it easier for families to hang on to their land.”
The two grantee organizations will lead networks of private and public agencies to deliver comprehensive services to forest owners. The networks include state and federal agencies, academic institutions, nonprofits, legal services organizations, loan funds, forestry consultants, and forest products companies.
“For complex historical and economic reasons, minority-owned forests in the South are often not managed for optimum forest health and income,” said Endowment President, Carlton Owen. “However, recent policy and program focus within USDA and state forestry agencies along with growing interest by minority landowners, creates opportunity to support landowners by accelerating sound forestry practices, increased forestry income, and retention of historic family land.”
March 8, 2013-- Floodplain Forest's Contribution to Gulf Water Quality to be Studied: New Research Seeks to Quantify Impacts in the Mississippi River Basin
The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment) has awarded a $42,000 grant to two USDA Forest Service scientists to synthesize existing research about the impacts of floodplain reforestation and forest management practices on water quality and flood attenuation. Dr. Ying Ouyang, a research hydrologist for the USDA Center for Bottomland Hardwoods Research at Mississippi State University, and Dr. Theodor Leininger, project leader of the USDA Center for Bottomland Hardwoods Research in Stoneville, MS, received the award. Their research will address two key subject areas:
The impact of forest management practices and reforestation programs on the addition of nutrients and sediment to watersheds; and,
The effect of forest management practices and reforestation programs on flood attenuation.
The focus of the review is the Mississippi River and rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico.
“Forests have multiple impacts on water quality and flood attenuation in headwaters, floodplains, and coastal zones” said Carlton Owen, President & CEO of the Endowment. “It is widely believed that forests play an important role in reducing agricultural nutrients and run-off from reaching rivers. This research is an important step in better documenting and quantifying those impacts, particularly for reforestation and other forest management practices in watersheds connected to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico.”
The Ouyang-Leininger team will conduct a literature review regarding the relationship between forests and soils with a focus on erosion control, sediment dynamics, nutrient fluxes, and soil biogeochemistry. They will summarize what is known and identify knowledge gaps to be answered with new research. They will also do some modeling to evaluate the functions of future reforestation on reducing water yields and mitigating nutrient and sediment loads into streams and rivers and ultimately the Gulf. One desirable outcome from the research would be a metric or “predictor” that can be used by state natural resource agencies, counties, and communities to estimate potential water quality improvements or flood attenuation impacts from future reforestation and forest management efforts such as the conversion of frequently flooded cropland to bottomland hardwood forests.
Information and analysis from this project is likely to have a substantial impact on current reforestation and forestry Best Management Practices efforts for mitigating water resource risks and enhancing flood attenuation in the Mississippi River Basin and adjacent Gulf of Mexico Watersheds.
March 7, 2013-- Endowment Partner Pursues Phone App to Track Forest Health Threats
The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment) today made its first foray into engaging citizen scientists by putting its support behind a planned mobile phone application, developed by the Institute of Forest Biotechnology, designed to aid scientist in tracking forest disease and pest outbreaks around the globe.
“For more than three years the Endowment has been working with the USDA Forest Service, Duke Energy and a host of others to explore the potential of modern biotechnology to address burgeoning forest health challenges being driven by globalization and climate change,” said Endowment President Carlton Owen. “The Institute of Forest Biotechnology has been among our core partners in that important work. When they announced plans to ‘crowdsource’ funds for a first-of-its-kind smartphone application to aid scientists in identifying the rapid spread of pests and diseases, we knew that we wanted to participate.”
TreeTaggrTM will use the camera and geolocation functions of a smartphone to “tag” unhealthy trees. The app is the first tool to leverage the availability and connectivity of smartphones for forest health data collection.
The first version of TreeTaggr for an Android device will cost about $20,000. Funding is being sought by another technological and social innovation – crowdfunding (where individuals and organizations pledge to support the capital needs of an initiative via the Internet). To learn more and to make a tax-deductible contribution to the project one need only visit TreeTaggr.org/go.
More than 60 million acres – an area equal to all of the forests in the State of Georgia – are experiencing impacts from pests and diseases that fall outside of historical norms. The pace of impact in the U.S. is accelerating, with a three-fold increase over the last decade.