UCCE Humboldt - Del Norte Counties
University of California
UCCE Humboldt - Del Norte Counties


More forest research needed to understand best management strategies

A coniferous forest along Tenaya Creek in the Sierra Nevada. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) forestry expert Bill Stewart joined U.S. Representatives Bruce Westerman (R-Arkansas) and Tom McClintock (R-California), and an environmentalist in a one-hour discussion about the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015 with Michael Krasny on KQED Forum. The act was recently passed by the House and is now awaiting action by the Senate.

During the program, Stewart said there is a need for more research to study different approaches to forestry management.

“Chad (Hanson, the environmentalist) and the representative (McClintock) feel they figured it all out, but there are some big questions worth exploring,” Stewart said.

Hanson is the director of the John Muir Project of Earth Island Institute

At the beginning of the discussion, Westerman and Hanson outlined their visions of proper management of federal forests. Westerman said the bill would make forests more healthy and sustainable.

"We're going to have fire," he said. "In California, a lot of resources are being spent on fire suppression. With the Resilient Forests Act we are creating more fire prevention, scientifically. Salvage logging is a part of that. Also, thinning and reducing fuel load."

Hanson said Westerman's points were untrue. He said current efforts to suppress fires and post-fire logging lead to more intense fire in the future and damage wildlife habitat.

Stewart said salvage logging need not be a yes-or-no question.

"It depends how you design that," he said. "Snags (standing dead trees) are important. Do we leave 500 snags per acre, 50, 5 or zero. We can try all four approaches and see."

Stewart pointed out that the Resilient Forestry Act, if passed, would require environmental assessment of active forest management vs. following a hands-off policy.

Posted on Tuesday, August 4, 2015 at 11:25 AM
Tags: Bill Stewart (3), wildfire (59)

Firescaping can protect homes during wildfire season

The landscape adjacent to the house is non-combustible.
Landscape + fire-prone area x protect = firescaping. The newly coined word offers hope to people who love living in wildland areas but fear a wildfire could wipe out their homes and belongings, reported Suzanne Sproul in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. The article also appeared in the Long Beach Press Telegram, the Daily Breeze and the LA Daily News.

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) experts says its impossible to eliminate the risk, but firescaping can lessen the danger.

"I know people want to avoid moonscapes in their yards, but there are plenty of choices out there," said UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist Tom Scott.

The article suggests homeowners

  • Trim overgrown plants
  • Replace highly flammable plants and trees - such as eucalyptus and palms - with less flammable plants - such as ocotillo and Calla lilies
  • Use creative hardscapes, such as non-combustible fencing and inorganic mulches

The article included a link to UC ANR Cooperative Extension's information on fire safe landscaping.

Posted on Monday, August 3, 2015 at 1:54 PM
Tags: Tom Scott (5), wildfire (59)

Bird flu in the Midwest causing egg prices to rise

Eggs are getting more expensive because of bird flu in the Midwest.
An outbreak of bird flu in the Midwest is forcing farmers to euthanize many sick chickens, causing egg prices to rise dramatically, reported Jonathan Bloom on ABC News 7 in San Francisco. Bloom spoke with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension poultry specialist Maurice Pitesky via Skype. He said the disease, highly contagious in chickens and turkeys, is being spread by migrating geese.

"And they're not, for the most part, affected by the disease, but they can be carriers of it," Pitesky said. "It means we're euthanizing those flocks that are affected."

The story said 40 million laying hens, one-eighth of the country's laying population, had to be euthanized, dramatically reducing the egg supply. Turkeys are still more susceptible to the condition.

“Turkey prices are going up also, and we're still not sure how that will affect turkey prices around Thanksgiving," Pitesky said.

California chickens haven't been hit by bird flu, but they are producing fewer eggs because new laws went into effect this year requiring more room for hens to move around, reducing some farms' capacity.

Posted on Friday, July 24, 2015 at 11:02 AM
Tags: eggs (20), Maurice Pitesky (1)

Glenda Humiston named vice president of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources

Glenda Humiston
Longtime Sonoma County resident Glenda Humiston has been named vice president of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, reported Angela Hart in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. Humiston was appointed by UC President Janet Napolitano and confirmed by the UC Board of Regents. Her first day in her new post is Aug. 3.

"I'm excited beyond belief," Humiston told the Press Democrat. "This is such an opportunity to make a difference on many levels."

Humiston succeeds Barbara Allen-Diaz, who retired June 29.

The new vice president grew up raising cattle in Colorado and credits her participation in 4-H as a child with developing her interest in farmland preservation and environmental sustainability. She served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tunisia, was deputy undersecretary for the USDA during the Clinton administration, and her most recent position has been California state director of USDA Rural Development.

“I've spent my whole life trying to bridge agriculture and environmental issues,” Humiston said. “What people don't realize is it's a natural bridge. When people get past the fighting, they often realize we have 80 percent in common.”

Stephanie Larson, UC ANR Cooperative Extension advisor and director of the Sonoma County office, called the appointment of the Sonoma County resident "exciting."

“If you think about Sonoma County, we have a half-million acres that can function as some form of working landscape — like forest lands, croplands and water," Larson said. "Everything has an opportunity and these are going to be key to address drought and climate change.”

Posted on Thursday, July 23, 2015 at 3:39 PM

Media reaches out to UC ANR for drought news

UC ANR experts provide perspective on drought in landscapes, orchards and wildfires.
As the California drought wears on, media have reached out this week to UC Agriculture and Natural Resources advisors about consequences in agricultural cropland, urban landscapes and fire-prone wildland.

Agricultural cropland

NPR's Valley Public Radio ran a story about salt buildup in almond orchards. Without rainfall to move salts below almond trees' rootzone, harmful levels of salinity are building up in the soil. “We've been seeing this increasing problem over the past couple years, due to the lack of winter rain, of sodium burn or salt burn on leaves," said UC ANR Cooperative Extension farm advisor David Doll. “Rain will do it (leach salts) naturally for us, but if we don't get rain we've been encouraging farmers to actually fill the profile with irrigation water, whatever they can by December. And then hopefully whatever rain we do get will help aid with the flushing of the root system of the tree.”

KCOY,KEYT andKKFX TV in Santa Maria ran a story on new technologies being used by a local strawberry farmer to irrigate efficiently. The farmer installed microsprinklers and moisture sensors on his strawberry field to monitor water and fertilizer inputs. Mark Gaskell, UC ANR Cooperative Extension farm advisor, developed the technology. "By identifying and carefully documenting how much water or nutrients are lost or how much variation there is, a grower can modify their management so that they can be more efficient when applying water," Gaskell said.

Urban landscapes

KQED Science posted an eight-minute interview with UCANR Cooperative Extension urban forestry advisor Igor Laćan. He explained how to irrigate young and mature trees so they won't die during the drought. Why protect trees, even as lawns are turning brown? Laćan says they boost property values, provide shade, filter the air and makes cities more “livable.”

Fire-prone wildland

Scientific American ran a story about the wildfire that swept across I-15 in Southern California last week, setting dozens of vehicles on fire. Firefighters were puzzled by the rapid spread of the fire. “There are two factors that help fires spread - winds and topography,” explained Scott L. Stephens, a professor of fire science in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. “The thing about wind is, it can change so quickly and the fire will change with it — it can happen in 15 seconds,” Stephens said. A fire can also race up a slope very rapidly, he added.

Posted on Wednesday, July 22, 2015 at 3:40 PM
Tags: David Doll (15), drought (109), Igor Lacan (1), Mark Gaskell (9), Scott Stephens (5)

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