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September 20, 2012 Previous day Next day

Mohonk Lake
A new report entitled “Changing Climate, Changing Forests: The Impacts of Climate Change on Forests of the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada,” concludes that the Northeastern U.S. could be a different place by the end of the 21st century, as our forests, wildlife, insects and society adapt to a changing climate. By consolidating the research of 38 scientists from the U.S. and Canada into one report, the authors hope it will provide a foundation on which future research can be built.

For thousands of years, composition of tree species of Northeast forests have slowly shifted in response to climate, but human-caused climate change has accelerated the process. Human activities, such as fossil fuel combustion and suburban sprawl, cause increases of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which trap heat and alter the Earth’s climate. In 2011, the average concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 387 parts per million, which is the highest level in the last 800,000 years. Even slight changes in climate can seriously impact our forests and how we live.

Here are some of the report’s findings regarding forest health:

  • Research shows climate change is underway in the Northeast and is changing more rapidly than expected. It is predicted that our region will become not only warmer and wetter, but more prone to drought. Northeast temperatures are expected to rise 5 to 9.5 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century. Annual precipitation has increased by 3.7 inches (9%) over the last century, occurring mostly during the spring and fall, with precipitation falling as rain not snow. Scientists have also observed an increase in extreme precipitation events over the last century.
  • Although precipitation has increased, the Northeast is experiencing longer periods without rainfall and longer growing seasons, due to higher temperatures and a decrease in snowpack depth. There has been an increase of winter precipitation, occurring as rain rather than snow, and a
    nine day reduction in snow-covered days. Longer growing seasons and warmer winters will increase water use by forests, resulting in increased periods of drought.
  • These conditions could reduce forest health. Trees will become more susceptible to insects, such as tent caterpillars, Asian longhorned beetle and hemlock woolly adelgid, and diseases like Blister rust and Dutch elm disease.
  • Competition with invasive species will increase. Invasive plants can adapt more easily to climate change and are already reducing tree regeneration. Japanese barberry, European honeysuckle and oriental bittersweet are a few of the shrubs currently impacting native understory species in the Northeast.

How will changing forest conditions affect wildfire risk for residents of the Northeast?

An increase in extreme weather events could result in significant blow downs, adding to fuel loads on the forest floor, which could cause more severe fire behavior if a wildfire ignites. Spring fire season will likely occur earlier in the Northeast, due to a reduction in snow pack and warmer winters.

Residents living in fire-prone areas may experience more wildfires during the summer if intervals of drought occur.  Drier conditions could also increase the frequency of wildfires in certain forest types of the Northeast, such as northern hardwoods, where historically fires rarely occur.

As evidence of climate change and its impact on our forests continues to mount, it is essential that communities in the wildland/urban interface areas of the Northeast consider implementing Firewise practices to reduce their risk to wildfire through the Firewise Community/USA Recognition Program.

Has your community been implementing safety mitigation practices? Share your thoughts with us and other communities. Learning from each other and sharing best practices are powerful tools as we continue to work toward lessening our risk for damage and loss due to wildfire. 

View the complete report now! 

FireBreak0912The September 2012 issue of Fire Break, NFPA’s wildland fire newsletter, is now available for viewing. In this issue, you’ll find:

  • Fall “How To” newsletter focuses on greater commitment to wildfire safety
  • Firewise renewal time: neighbors helping neighbors
  • Wildfire organizations learn first-hand success of fire adapted communities
  • NFPA's Fire Prevention Week – the Super Bowl of fire safety

Sign up today to receive Fire Break each month via e-mail. It's free and will keep you up to date on the latest news and information on mitigating your wildfire risk to take back to your communities, organization or fire house.

Rist Canyon Festival Day

This past June, the High Park Fire in Colorado impacted residents of the Rist Canyon VFD, Glacier View FPD, Poudre Canyon FPD and Poudre Fire Authority. The fire destroyed 259 homes over 87,200 acres and is the most destructive fire in the history of Larimer County. Although supported by surrounding fire agencies, state and federal assistance when called upon, Rist Canyon has an all volunteer fire department including the fire chief, firefighters, administration (Board of Directors) and others. Rist Canyon VFD is not a fire protection district, does not receive tax funds and does not charge for any emergency responses.

So it brings to question, where does the Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department receive its funding for their resources and equipment. This close-knit community comes together and makes individual donations and holds a special fund raising event, the RCVFD Mountain Festival and Richard Schmid Fine Art Auction (made possible by the generosity of many artists), the Sunday before Labor Day weekend. The festival becomes a gathering place for all ages with lots of activities including the auction, where this year they raised $110,000 up from $40,000 last year. Although the
auction is the highlight of the festival, the residents are very creative as well to raise additional funds. One couple whose husband is a firefighter, were among those that found themselves sifting through the ruins of their home. All they found were remnants of the husband’s woodcarvings and stubble of a rhubarb plant. The couple nurtured that plant until there was enough stalk to make a pie. That pie was auctioned off and raised $1,000 at the festival. Two young children donated over $250 in tip money from working a food stand and other couple raised $5,000 by having a band play in their backyard. The list goes on in the creative ways this community supports its all volunteer fire department and will go a long way to support the firefighters and help to rebuild one of their fire stations lost during the High Park Fire.

The Oklahoma State Agricultural Extension service as a part
of their Master Gardener program recently published three Firewise® YouTube™ movie clips.  This three part Firewise series includes:

  1. Firewise landscaping
  2. Firewise foundation plantings
  3. Landscape maintenance to reduce fire load

In the third segment Oklahoma Gardening host Kim Toscano visits with Dr. Dwayne Elmore, Associate Professor of Natural Resource Ecology and Management at Oklahoma State University to early spring cleanup, from cutting back ornamental grasses to raking up the leaves and foliage.  A lot of these tips are not only applicable to early spring, but can also be applied to your late fall clean-up
activities.  More gardening tips can be found on the Oklahoma Gardening YouTube™ webpage


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