News and Events
A comprehensive, open access book on smoke from wildland fires across the U.S. is now available. Wildland Fire Smoke in the United States: A Scientific Assessment synthesizes the physical, chemical, biological, social, and policy issues critical to mitigating the impacts of smoke from wildland fires.
Wood is infinitely useful. Look around, and you’ll find it in all sorts of places, from cardboard boxes to pianos. It is even used in some frames for bikes and cars. If you live in the U.S., wood was also likely used to build your home. All these wood-based items are valuable to people in their own way. They also help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by storing carbon.
Wildfires are projected to burn three times as much area on federal lands by the end of the century, as compared to previous decades. Furthermore, across all climate scenarios, median federal spending for wildfire suppression is projected nearly triple, translating into a $3.70 billion increase compared to historic spending over the same time frame.
Hurricanes have long-term impacts on forest markets and the welfare of landowners in areas hit the hardest. They also disrupt carbon storage processes in forests. USDA Forest Service scientist Jesse Henderson recently published a study in Forest Policy and Economics that showed replanting trees after disasters like Hurricane Michael is the best way to foster forest market recovery and counteract the release of carbon.
During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, prices of processed wood products, such as softwood lumber and plywood, nearly quadrupled. Wholesale prices for plywood increased from $400 to $1,500 per thousand square feet (roughly equivalent to retail prices of plywood increasing from about $12.80 to $48.00 per sheet).
People who own forested land may be able to sell the ecosystem services the land provides. Hunting leases are one example. For the years 2010-2019, payments for hunting leases, wildlife viewing fees, and other such services averaged $1.5 billion a year, as USDA Forest Service research economist Greg Frey and his colleagues estimate.
Since the 1980s, climate change has increased the impact of heatwaves. They arrive earlier, last longer, have higher temperatures, and cover wider areas. Their effects across the globe, however, vary by location and income level. USDA Forest Service scientist Jeffrey Prestemon contributed to a study, led by Mohammad Reza Alizadeh at McGill University, that shows people living in low-income countries are exposed to more heat than people in high-income countries.
Climate change threatens communities around the world with the promise of more floods, drought, extreme heat, hurricanes – and wildfire. As these events increase in frequency, they will add new pressures to the federal budget.
A new study found a steep decline in the development of forest and agricultural land from 2000 to 2015 compared to the previous two decades. This decline resulted in a broad shift towards denser development patterns throughout the U.S. Researchers from Oregon State University, Montana State University, and the USDA Forest Service found that falling gas prices and, to a lesser extent, rising income levels, drove land development from 1982 to 2000.
Family forests provide many valuable goods and services that extend beyond their boundaries, including clean air and water, wildlife habitat, and carbon sequestration. Although owners of forested land usually don’t get paid directly for those benefits, there are tax incentives that can be associated with management activities. Landowners often do not know that reforestation, timber sales, or loss due to disasters can affect their taxes. To help, Forest Service experts and their colleagues provide information about federal taxes through annual Timber Tax Tips.
Every state in the U.S. has a property tax program that lowers taxes for forest landowners. Greg Frey and Stephanie Snyder of the USDA Forest Service, with Justin Meier, Michael Kilgore, and Charlie Blinn of the University of Minnesota recently published two papers that build on their previous analysis of all fifty state property tax programs.
Depending on their timing and location, fires can destroy or restore, with little gray area in between. In the early fall of 2016, one specific fire event in Southern Appalachia was unlike any other in recent decades, leaving behind unprecedented devastation once the fire had ceased. From this disastrous fire season comes a recent report authored by USDA Forest Service scientists, led by Natasha James, offering a close analysis of wildfires on public lands in the Southern Appalachians.
American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is a plant of great value. Tens of thousands of pounds are harvested from the wild each year. But the average harvest amount has dwindled, while price has skyrocketed. “It’s pretty unusual that the more effort put towards producing something, the less is produced,” says USDA Forest Service researcher Greg Frey. “It indicates a backward-bending supply curve.”
Meet SRS scientist Karen Abt, a research economist with the Forest Economics and Policy unit in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. Her team studies the economics of forest disturbances, forest polices and tax programs, and forest product markets. Their research strives to improve the economic foundation for natural resource management and decision making.
New research by the USDA Forest Service explores how law enforcement efforts might impact future incidents of arson. “We found very little documented research on whether arrests, as a distinct measure of law enforcement efforts, are linked to reductions in the occurrence of intentional fires or whether such efforts have broader impacts across space and time,” says Jeff Prestemon, the study’s lead author and project leader for the Forest Economics and Policy research unit.
Wood is used for an abundance of everyday items — furniture, buildings, paper — so much so that it would be difficult to find a space completely without wood-based products. However, a competing use is emerging: many studies predict that more wood will be used for bioenergy in the future, which could affect that industry and the conventional wood products industry on many levels.
Long hours, lots of reading, and collaborating with fellow scientists around the world is some of what goes into overseeing a chapter for the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4). SRS senior research ecologist James Vose was a federal coordinating lead author and chapter lead for Chapter 6 – Forests of the NCA4. SRS senior economist Jeffrey Prestemon served as a chapter author.
Every state in the U.S. offers tax breaks to forest landowners. But the details vary significantly – which makes it hard for policymakers to compare the programs, as a team of researchers from the USDA Forest Service and the University of Minnesota has shown.
Hurricane Michael roared through Florida, Alabama, and Georgia on October 10 and delivered a hard hit to timberland owners and timber markets.
“Lumber and economic growth are tightly connected,” says USDA Forest Service scientist Jeffrey Prestemon. “At a certain rate of GDP growth, you get a certain path of lumber consumption.”
Two recent USDA Forest Service publications focus on agroforestry practices. The national report Agroforestry: Enhancing resiliency in U.S. agricultural landscapes under changing conditions reviews five widely recognized categories of agroforestry: silvopasture, alley cropping, forest farming (or multistory cropping), windbreaks, and riparian forest buffers. The report includes an overview of the potential role of agroforestry in each region across the U.S.
Tax tips for forest landowners for the 2017 tax year are now available online. Linda Wang, the U.S. Forest Service national timber tax specialist, prepares the tips each year.
What if we lose tree species we know, love, and need? It has happened before.
“Look at what happened to the American chestnut,” says U.S. Forest Service research forester Thomas Holmes. “Look at what’s happening right now to hemlock, redbay, and ash trees.” All three species, as well as many more, are threatened by non-native insects or pathogens.
Meet Cara (Meghan) Downes a research economist who recently joined the Southern Research Station Economics and Policy unit at the Forestry Sciences Laboratory, Research Triangle Park, NC. Downes received her doctorate in Environmental and Resource Economics from the University of New Mexico. Prior to coming to work for the FS, Downes was the Associate Professor of Economics at New Mexico State University (NMSU).
Family forest owners may use consulting foresters or state extension foresters for advice on the technical details of land management, but many owners shy away from seeking help with how best to pass their forest land on to the next generation. Poor estate planning — or no planning at all — can result in the next generation inheriting a tax bill that requires selling timber or the forest land itself, which in turn can lead to subdivision and development.
A new study by U.S. Forest Service scientists and collaborators projects a four percent increase overall in acres burned by wildfire in the Southeast by 2060, but with substantial uncertainties and large variations by state and ecoregion, including a 34 percent increase in acres burned due to lightning-caused fires.
Fires set by people are a real problem for wildland fire managers on all types of land ownerships, including tribal lands. Because they usually occur closer to valued property and resources, human-set fires also tend to be more damaging than fires ignited naturally. Human-ignited wildfires fall into two categories – incendiary, or intentionally set fires, and those started accidentally.
In 1964, Congress protected areas where, according to the Wilderness Act, “the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Wilderness areas now cover approximately 5 percent of the United States – over 100 million acres.
Family forest owners may use consulting foresters or state extension foresters for advice on the technical details of land management, but many owners shy away from seeking help with how best to pass their forest land on to the next generation. Poor estate planning — or no planning at all — can result in the next generation inheriting a tax bill that requires selling timber or forest land, which in turn can lead to subdivision and development.
Tax tips for forest landowners for the 2015 tax year are now available online. Prepared by Linda Wang, U.S. Forest Service national timber tax specialist. The information was updated on February 3, 2016. The second page contains an important change on Depreciation and Sec. 179 Expensing.