Forest Service Associate Chief Mary Wagner Tours Key Research Projects

Forest Service Associate Chief Mary Wagner discusses a lab experiment with North Carolina State University student Britne Hackett. Photo by Perdita Spriggs.

U.S Forest Service Associate Chief Mary Wagner  recently toured several Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) experimental forests and collaborative projects in North Carolina. 

While in Asheville, North Carolina, Associate Chief Wagner visited the Bent Creek Experimental Forest, headquarters for the SRS Upland Hardwood Ecology and Management unitThe tour highlighted collaborative studies with the National Forests of North Carolina (NFNC) related to ecosystem restoration.  Scientists discussed a new study of the “femelschlag” forestry method that promotes biological and structural diversity of forests, American chestnut restoration, and the effects of prescribed fire on hardwood forests and wildlife.

Applied research at Bent Creek is used by forest managers, and a Demonstration Forest there serves to illustrate science-based forest management and restoration to students, natural resource professionals, and the public. The proximity of the experimental forest to a large urban and high tourist area presents unique opportunities to study the pressures of forest recreation needs in relation to research and to convey findings to the general public.

On an unseasonably cold and snowy day, the Associate Chief and other senior leaders toured the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory. The 5,400-acre experimental forest was established in 1934 to study how forests affect the streams that flow through them.  The group stopped at the weir on watershed 14 to discuss over 30 years of research on the effects of prescribed and wild fire on forest dynamics and water quality. Most of this research has been done in cooperation with the Forest Service Southern Region. The tour concluded with a visit to the eddy covariance tower to present results of Coweetas climate change research. In the summer, Coweeta is the site for innumerable tours, where groups ranging from school children to scientists learn about how forests clean water and how changes in management practices and weather affect that capacity.

The same day, Associate Chief Wagner visited the Biltmore Estate, the second most visited location in North Carolina and the home of the first professionally managed forest in the United States. This visit focused on the agencys partnership on a bioenergy feasibility project, a showcase to demonstrate to private landowners additional economic reasons to keep their lands in forest. Tour members also learned about the resurrection of the Biltmore Forestry School as an umbrella to couch several educational programs that the National Forest System, Biltmore, and SRS are jointly involved in such as the woodland series and restoration projects—and will be used to inform the more than 1.1 million and 40,000 annual visitors to Biltmore and the Cradle of Forestry respectively.

Wagner concluded her visit the next day in Raleigh, where she spent an afternoon with SRS Raleigh-based partners at the Nature Research Center, the new wing of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. The most visited location in North Carolina, the museum is committed to showing diverse groups of children and adults that science can be fun, and to growing the next generations of scientists who will chart the future of our natural resources. Wagner learned more about current and future Station collaborative efforts with North Carolina State University, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, and the museum, all uniquely poised to expand awareness and understanding of SRS research efforts. During her visit, key Eastern Threat Center projects were highlighted, including the Template for Assessing Climate Change Impacts and Management Options and ForWarn, the Centers forest disturbance monitoring tool that is gaining wide adoption among natural resource managers as a way to detect forest damage from disturbances ranging from hurricanes to insects early.

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