What to do about Wildfires: Prevention vs. Combat

As the 2013 fire season continues, the costs of fighting wildfires have continued to increase. In 2012, fires consumed 40 percent of the Forest Service’s annual budget, compared to only 13 percent in 1991. Many factors have created these rising costs through the years, including worsened drought conditions, continued climate change, and an increased number of homes built near forested areas. These escalating expenses are proving to be so costly, that they are leaving less money for wildfire prevention.

 

Forest Fires

Drought conditions, climate change, and homes in traditionally forested areas have all contributed to the rising costs of fighting wildfires.

Due to these heightened factors, for fiscal 2014, the federal administration has proposed drastic spending cuts to hazardous fuels reduction, or clearing smaller trees and underbrush through controlled cutting and burns. The idea behind hazardous fuels reduction is that by removing this underbrush, fires will have less fuel to spread rapidly and can then be controlled faster. Donald Smurthwaite, spokesman for the National Interagency Fire Center states, “In a recent study by the Bureau of Land Management, when wildfires burned into fuels treatment areas, they were slowed or stopped about 90 percent of the time. With the decline in fuels funding, we’re worried that saving money today will mean larger and more destructive fires tomorrow.” Limited funding has decreased fire prevention for several years. In 2009, 4.5 million acres were treated to prevent wildfires, and under the proposed budgetary cuts, fewer than 2 million acres would be treated in 2014.While the proposed budget for fiscal 2014 would increase overall funding for wildfires, it would largely cut the hazardous fuels budgets for several agencies. In all, 41 percent of these budgets would fall, reducing the current funds of $502 million to $297 million.  This will be the third consecutive year the administration’s proposed budget includes spending cuts to forest treatment to prevent wildfires. Many of these cuts will greatly affect our tree partners — the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service.

As an organization of people that cares deeply about our nation’s forests and trees, the Arbor Day Foundation continues to challenge ourselves to better understand how to collaborate with our partners on the ground as they overcome these budgetary hurdles.  There simply isn’t funding available as there has been in decades past, and that is where our valued members, supporters, corporate donors and partners can help us to heighten our efforts to do more with less. They can help us to see new ways to partner with these groups, to create even more relevant programs, and to provide trees to those areas most in need. As we address each new challenge, we search for ways to better engage our loyal members and tree advocates to keep them involved in the good work our partners accomplish each year with our support.

With the help and generosity of our vast network of tree advocates, we will continue to foster our enduring 25-year partnership with the U.S. Forest Service. With their help, the Arbor Day Foundation will continue to bring new ideas surrounding education, conservation, and tree planting in wildfire-stricken areas.

Two ways you can take action now:
The Backyard Woods Program: Managing Forests Can Save Forests
Donate now to replant trees where they’re needed most

Data cited in this post sourced from NBC News.
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Abbie Eisenhart is a Community Tree Recovery Manager for the Arbor Day Foundation.

NASCAR sponsoring community tree planting as part of conservation effort

NASCAR is working with the Arbor Day Foundation this year on tree-planting in communities around the country.

As part of the sponsorship, NASCAR is appealing to teams, sponsors and fans to make donations, with every dollar planting one tree through the Foundation. We’re grateful that NASCAR chose to sponsor these projects, and hope their involvement continues in future years.

Through the sponsorship, $1 goes toward one tree in a high-need areas – many recovering from trees lost to natural disasters. NASCAR is also working with UPS, which has an existing partnership with the Foundation.

Some have asked whether NASCAR is supporting conservation and good stewardship outside of their work on tree-planting with the Foundation. NASCAR has, in fact, taken several steps toward increased conservation through alternative energy and innovative technologies, among other strategies.

First, NASCAR’s large-scale recycling program is preventing millions of pounds of electronics from entering the world’s landfills each year

Second, NASCAR is working with partners to recapture and recycle 200,000 gallons of race-used oil annually.

Third, NASCAR recently moved into an office facility with LEED certification, the signature designation for energy-conserving buildings.

Fourth, NASCAR’s Pocono Raceway installed a 3-megawatt solar farm to power all of the track’s energy needs, with 40,000 solar panels on 25 acres of land next to the track.

And fifth, New Hampshire Motor Speedway has protected more than 520 acres of land as open space throughout its 1,200-acre facility.

We’re glad NASCAR has sponsored the Foundation’s community forestry efforts as a part of its conservation program, and look forward to planting trees with the support of fans, team members and sponsors this year.

Foundation vice president weighs in on establishing successful corporate partnerships with non-profits

Dan Lambe, vice president of programs for the Arbor Day Foundation, offered his insight on forming successful corporate partnerships with non-profits in a recent article for the daily trade publication, Environmental Leader.

In this article, Lambe highlights several of the Arbor Day Foundation’s programs that are flourishing thanks to corporate partners and states that “corporations can further their environmental missions by forming strong and lasting conservation-oriented partnerships.”

He then outlines four key recommendations when forming conservation-oriented corporate partnerships.

Lambe’s first recommendation notes the critical importance of making a sustained commitment. He explains that, “companies assisting with replanting in national and state forests often pledge to support decades-long efforts as needs arise, rather than a one-time project that may result in less of a lasting impact”

Enterprise Rent-A-Car is a great example of a partner that has made a sustained commitment. Enterprise commemorated its 50th anniversary in 2007 by forming a long-term partnership with the Foundation to plant 50 million trees over the next 50 years, for a gift totaling more than $50 million dollars.So far, nearly seven million trees have been planted.

Lambe’s second recommendation for corporate partners is “to come to the table with ideas on a potential niche,” adding:

Many smaller partners, for instance, choose to support replanting in neighborhoods or state and national forests close to their headquarters. Many larger partners are interested in larger projects that command national attention.

Toyota, the sponsor of the Tree Campus USA program has a particular interest in engaging young people in sustainability, Lambe points out.

The essential support from Toyota for the Tree Campus USA program develops the connection between the college student niche and the environment through tree planting events and recognition on college and university campuses.

Corporate partners recognize the positive impact that playing an active role in conservation efforts has on their customer base. A corporation that does not make a strong effort to be socially responsible will ultimately have a harder time doing business in the future.

Lambe’s third recommendation puts forth the requirement that “effective partners bring local contacts and credibility to initiatives. For big events, employees and their networks can serve as a volunteer base,” says Lambe. “Most corporate partners also maintain strong relationships with the media and can open the door to new visibility.”

The fourth recommendation advocates that “tree planting is an ideal project because it is unifying,” with Lambe adding that “a tree-planting mission is able to rise above political conflicts and achieve significant outcomes for corporations and non profits alike.”

Read the entire article here.