News and Events
People may refer to them as wild leeks or ramps, but the pungent smelling native plant’s scientific name is Allium tricoccum. Ramps have been described as a cross between a green onion and garlic and have been a culturally important flavoring for food for centuries. According to Michelle Baumflek, research biologist for the Forest Service’s Southern Research Station in Asheville, ramps are sought after by chefs all over the United States.
In 2012, the USDA Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service partnered with a number of nonprofit organizations to create an award-winning program to help landowners address heirs’ property, land retention, and natural resource justice issues.
Children often inherit their parents’ homes and land. But what if there is no will or estate plan? In such cases, state laws determine how real estate and other assets are divided. In most cases, property is passed to heirs in split shares. “Without a will, property is typically passed to heirs with a clouded title,” said USDA Forest Service scientist Cassandra Johnson Gaither. “Because each heir owns a proportional stake in the property, all heirs must agree on major decisions affecting the land. And with every generation, the number of heirs can grow.”
Disasters can be catalysts for change. As wildfires become more common, an emerging objective is to make communities fire-adapted, where ecological benefits of fire can be realized while minimizing threats to life and property. Yet questions remain as to when and how such community change takes place.
“The Southern Research Station is working with a number of Native American tribes to promote forest ecosystem restoration and sustainability,” says Monica Schwalbach, USDA Forest Service assistant director. The projects focus on sustainability of botanical species that are important to indigenous communities.
A partnership between the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) and the USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station has led to the development of a new educational module for Cherokee youth. The module is centered on seven significant trees of the Eastern Cherokee and connects these trees to Cherokee culture and forest management.
A USDA Forest Service publication on heirs’ property ownership across the southern U.S. highlights a kind of land ownership prevalent among lower wealth, African Americans in the Black Belt South, central Appalachian whites, and Hispanic Americans in U.S. southwest colonia communities. A meeting co-hosted by the Southern Research Station and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta in July 2017 addressed heirs’ property challenges in the South.
At the national level, bioenergy is seen as a crucial component of a secure and renewable energy plan. Many people view southern forests as prime resources to support the hopeful bioenergy industry. But how is the national agenda for bioenergy received by communities in the South?
Cool temperatures enjoyed by hikers might rise enough that people decide to stay inside instead. The culprit – climate change – will cause higher temperatures and uneven intensification of both drought and rainfall. As a result, outdoor recreation trends could change markedly.
A study by University of Georgia postdoctoral research associate Ashley Askew and USDA Forest Service social scientist J. Michael Bowker examined this relationship. The study looked at how climate change could impact outdoor recreation participation. Their findings were published in The Journal of Park and Recreation Administration.
Through the Kids in the Woods program in Gainesville, FL, middle school students learn about birds, creek erosion and urban trees through hands-on outdoor science studies on the school campus and in a nearby nature park.
Urban-rural connections are quite important for land and forest management in the South. From the early 1900s to about 1970, many African Americans migrated from southern farms to industrializing northern cities, and since then many have returned to their homelands.
The lot is overgrown, crowded with unruly shrubs, vines, and waist-high weeds. It is littered with old tires and garbage and is now home to a rusted Toyota Tercel. The air is heavy and buzzing with mosquitoes.
This is the Lower 9th Ward, where U.S. Forest Service research forester Wayne Zipperer studied the vegetation on abandoned lots after Hurricane Katrina. The Category 3 struck New Orleans in 2005.
Urban green spaces like parks, urban forests, and greenways are often not equally available to everyone.
“My research focuses on the nexus between urban nature, social justice, and health as it relates to factors such as income, race, and socioeconomic status,” says U.S. Forest service biological scientist Viniece Jennings.
Raindrops that land on trees may never hit the ground. “Trees intercept a significant amount of rain,” says U.S. Forest Service science delivery specialist Eric Kuehler.
Children often inherit their parents’ homes and land. But what happens when there is no will or title? For many people, this is not an abstract question.
“Heirs’ property is inherited land that two or more people own,” says U.S. Forest Service scientist Cassandra Johnson Gaither. “The property is typically passed to heirs without a will or with a clouded title.”
The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service launched a six-year program in 2012 to test the potential of sustainable forestry practices to help stabilize African-American land ownership, increase forest health, and build economic assets in the southern Black Belt.
See the August 2017 edition of Urban Forestry South’s Leaves of Change newsletter!
Since 1999, West Nile virus has spread throughout the U.S., frequently sickening and occasionally killing people. The virus has killed at least one person in every state in the conterminous U.S. “There are many risk factors for infection with West Nile virus,” says U.S. Forest Service research forester Wayne Zipperer. “However, risk factors are complicated and not well understood.”
We’ve read a lot lately about the innumerable human health benefits provided by urban trees and forests. Urban forest systems can also function as part of a city’s stormwater control system by intercepting rainfall and regulating the flow of water to and through the soil. Forests efficiently store stormwater, return water to the atmosphere, and filter pollutants from runoff.
In the U.S., about a third of all greenhouse gas emissions are related to travel. Many of these trips are short – perhaps a 10 minute drive to work, or a 15 minute trek to the grocery store. Using public transit, walking, or biking to these destinations could help limit carbon dioxide emissions.
After the Civil War, former African American slaves were deeded or bought property across the South, but in subsequent years often lacked the money for — or were denied access to – the legal resources needed to establish title to the land. As a result, much of this land was passed down through following generations without title and is now “heirs’ property,” which means it’s held in common by all heirs, regardless of whether they live on the land or pay taxes.
In late July, USDA Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the four recipients of the 2016 USDA Forest Service’s National Urban and Community Forestry Challenge grants. One of the four, the winning proposal from Georgia State University (GSU), investigates the impact of natural environments such as urban and community forests on symptom expression in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
See the July 2016 edition of Urban Forestry South’s Leaves of Change newsletter!
Although the benefits of urban forests, gardens, parks, and other green spaces have been documented, the nuances of this relationship continue to be explored. For example, the role of green spaces in the social aspects of public health are often overlooked.
After the Civil War, African Americans were deeded or bought property across the South, but at that time they often lacked the money for — or were denied access to — legal resources. As a result, much of this land was passed down through the generations without the benefit of a written will or title and is now “heirs’ property,” which means it’s held in common by all heirs, whether they live on the land, pay taxes, or have never set foot on the land.
According to the 2010 census, almost 81 percent of the U.S. population lives in urban areas. As the U.S. loses more of its forests and natural resources to the expansion of urban areas, it is important to provide information about the benefits of trees, forests, and natural areas to city planners and the engineers who design our cities. Quantifying these environmental services can help these professionals better understand their value in urban areas.
Scientists and managers are concerned about the future of trout in the southern Appalachian Mountains, but what about anglers?
There’s growing evidence that spending time in forests, gardens, or parks may improve physical and mental health. Many environmental scientists have embraced the concept of ecosystem services as a framework for understanding how nature contributes to human well-being. However, the term is still unfamiliar to some professionals outside the environmental field.
For more than 30 years, researchers have known that poor communities and people of color in the U.S. are more likely to be affected by environmental threats such as landfills and toxic waste sites. “Are these socially vulnerable communities also exposed to more smoke from wildfires and prescribed fires?” says U.S. Forest Service scientist Cassandra Johnson Gaither. Very few studies have examined the relationship between social vulnerability and exposure to wildfires or prescribed fires.