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US Forest Service supports launch of i-Tree in Columbia

Two partners measuring a tree in a city park
Technical specialists collecting data for i-Tree Eco Colombia in Medellin. Photo courtesy of USFS.

Scientific studies indicate that increased tree cover in cities, accompanied by an appropriate design and management of urban forests, can improve environmental quality, and hence the well-being of the population. The urban forest influences air quality, removes atmospheric pollutants, regulates temperature, reduces solar radiation, affects wind speed and direction, and impacts biodiversity. At the international level, urban forest ecosystem services have been estimated and valued in different cities in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. However, in Colombia, there were very few tools that estimate and value these ecosystem services.

Since 2017, the U.S. Forest Service International Programs has been working with the Northern Research Station and Colombian partners to adapt a U.S. Forest Service tool, i-Tree Eco, to the Colombian reality. i-Tree Eco Colombia was officially launched in late October 2019. i-Tree Eco Colombia can be used to determine the ecosystem services in Colombia and help in designing strategies for conservation and sustainable management of urban green areas. Hence, it will contribute to the mitigation of the risks associated with climate change and air pollution and will contribute to improve the quality of life of the urban population.

Wildland Training Specialist Provides Capacity Building Support in the Wake of Devastating Fires in Ethiopia

Billy Phillips (left) and Brendan Manning (center) pose with a local counterpart during their recent training session on wildland fire response at Bale Mountain National Park in Ethiopia.  Photo courtesy of Billy Phillips, USFS
Billy Phillips (left) and Brendan Manning (center) pose with a local counterpart during their recent training session on wildland fire response at Bale Mountain National Park in Ethiopia. Photo courtesy of Billy Phillips, USFS

This past April, devastating wildfires in several of Ethiopia’s National Parks highlighted the need for capacity building support for local firefighting crews to help them address wildland fire.  The Simien fire was complex and burned 343 hectares over a week due to drought, high fuel loads, flammable species, and steep topography of the area.  Since the area does not typically burn, firefighters (Rangers and community members) were not prepared for this incident.  To support the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA) in preparation for future wildfires, the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy – Addis Ababa’s hosted two specialists from the USDA Forest Service for a week-long engagement in late September. The trip was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Speaker Series program.

The Forest Service team included Billy Phillips, a Wildland Fire Training Specialist from the Northern Rockies Training Center in Missoula, MT and Brendan Manning, a Disaster Management Advisor with International Programs, who is based in Ethiopia. They delivered a series of sessions and presentations on community engagement in fire management around protected areas, fire coordination, and overall response. They also provided recommendations to the international donor community for fire management support to the Government of Ethiopia. Further, the team facilitated a full-day training on best practices in safety, the Incident Command System, Fire Management Planning, and community engagement for protected area rangers and local leaders. Through working-level meeting with EWCA staff Manning and Phillips learned about current level of preparedness within the agency; they also shared an overview of the Incident Command System and US Forest Services’ Fire Management Planning practices.

Following the visit, Phillips and Manning provided an assessment report detailing their observations and recommendations to improve the wildfire response capacity within the country. The report will be shared with the Government of Ethiopia and the international donor community to inform future planning and funding efforts. As a result of this engagement, the Forest Service was able to share valuable technical expertise and support to the Government of Ethiopia’s efforts to enhance their capacity to respond to future wildland fires.

International Seminar on Planning and Managing Tourism

The seminar participants, who represented 18 different countries, really enjoyed meeting Smokey Bear! Photo by Kyle Horton, USFS.
The seminar participants, who represented 18 different countries, really enjoyed meeting Smokey Bear! Photo by Kyle Horton, USFS.

USDA Forest Service International Programs office hosted a Seminar on Planning and Managing Tourism that took place three weeks this September, concluding on the 22nd. This year, they hosted 28 participants from 18 countries, and throughout the trip visited 4 states: Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. The topics included zoning, management plans, carrying capacity, over-tourism, marketing and promotion, stakeholder involvement, and destination planning, as well as the implications of climate change for tourism in protected areas. They observed these topics through their visits to protected areas, public lands, and tourist locations across the Western U.S. Participants also observed and discussed the role of different government actors and levels of government, local communities, landowners, academia, businesses, NGOs, indigenous people, universities, industry associations, user groups, volunteers, and concessionaires, along with other public-private partnerships. The seminar focused on guided and self-guided interpretation, visitor centers, night programs, wayside exhibits, publications, the role of guides and outfitters, online information, and the importance of using visitation to build public support for conservation.

The main attraction for many participants was the visit to Black Hills National Forest in Custer, South Dakota. Here, participants met with Deputy Forest Supervisor Dr. Jerry Krueger, Hell Canyon District Ranger Tracy Anderson, and their staff. The group learned about the challenges involved in achieving balance within the agency’s multiple-use mission. They also participated in a focused discussion on recreation, visitation, and tourism to USFS managed lands. Black Hills National Forest staff provided an overview of their work in recreation, accessibility, rangeland management, mining, fire management and suppression, and timber. They even had a lunchtime visit with Smokey Bear!

From this seminar, the participants gained valuable knowledge both from the site visits here in the US, but also from each other and their professional experiences in their own home countries.