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Forest Service releases 'common-sense climate change' guide

Tiffany Stecker, E&E reporter
Published: Tuesday, May 29, 2012

To help simplify the complexity of climate change adaptation, the U.S. Forest Service has published a series of questions for land managers working to manage land on a changing landscape.

The 21-page report is the first effort by a land management agency to assess climate projections in a way that is accessible for land managers and agency partner organizations.

For years, forest managers have relied on existing climate models to make planning decisions. But heavier rainfall, more intense droughts and greater vulnerability to pest attacks mean foresters will need to change their behavior. But careless change in policy could prove to be an expensive one, said David Cleaves, climate change adviser to the Forest Service chief.

"We're trying to do common-sense climate change," Cleaves said.

Culverts, concrete pipes that carry streams under roads, will need to be replaced with bigger models as they age, for example. Replanting a fire-scorched landscape with a native species of trees may not be the best decision, Cleaves said. A drought-tolerant type may be a better choice.

But instituting blanket changes on a forest's infrastructure or ecosystem in the name of climate change could be more expensive -- and less worthwhile -- in some forests than in others. The report will guide managers in their decisionmaking.

"It's about balancing the cost of overprotection and underprotection," Cleaves said.

Cleaves added that the Forest Service has received as many requests for information on the report from outside land management agencies as from the Forest Service itself.

Reprinted from ClimateWire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. 202-628-6500


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