Forest Focus: Audio Podcast

Forest Focus

Forest Focus is an audio program about the National Forests in California. Episodes focus on issues such as ecological restoration, fire, recreation, law enforcement, tribal relations and much more.

The show features specialists that work for the U.S. Forest Service and guests who provide other points of view on Forest Service issues.

Episode 47: For the Frogs - Restoration

This is the second installment of a miniseries about amphibian conservation and determination called For the Frogs. In each episode, we will meet to one native amphibian that can be found in California's national forests. These creatures are important to ecological health and can deepen our connections with public lands, but they are also in a state of decline. Fortunately, a village of specialists are devoted to conserving these species. The stories of their resolute conservation efforts, pursued through obstacles and setbacks, provides portraits of determination that we can pocket and apply to our own personal experiences with adversity. This time, we meet the Cascades frog and learn about a collaborative effort that led to the restoration of an important meadow. 

Episode 46: For the Frogs - Translocation

This is the first installment of a miniseries about amphibian conservation and determination. We're calling the miniseries For the Frogs. In each episode, we will meet to one native amphibian that can be found in California's national forests. These creatures are important to ecological health, and once we get to know them, they can deepen our connections with public lands. But each of these species is in a state of decline due to overlapping threats, including pathogens, introduced predators, habitat loss, drought and wildfire. Fortunately, there is a village of specialists devoted to conserving these species despite the colossal challenge of the threat supergroup. The stories of their resolute conservation efforts, pursued through obstacles and setbacks, provides portraits of determination that we can pocket and apply to our own personal experiences with adversity.

Episode 45: Snow Groomer: A Recreation Technician's Artistry

In this episode, we ride along with a Recreation Technician from the Shasta-Trinity National Forest while he grooms 55 miles of trails for snowmobilers and ask him more about his work throughout the year, how does he make that corduroy pattern, what is that big red button for, and other hard snowball hitting questions. Then, we get behind the wheel. How hard can it be?

Episode 44: Crawling in Caves

There are portals within many national forests that offer entry into realms of the most curious forms of biodiversity. These underground chambers and hallways are called lava tubes or caves. In these landscapes below the ground, tiny creatures creep in the shadows in costumes of faded hues. Their pallor is paired with neighboring life forms that sparkle when hit by a flashlight, as if dusted with glitter. And these subterranean spaces are also archives that contain records of our Paleolithic and climatic past. To explore within, a readiness for crawling will be required. Fortunately, we have an experienced caver to show us the way. 

Episode 43: Wandering after Wolves

The gray wolf (Canis lupus) became extirpated, or locally extinct, in California in the 1920s. But this large member of the dog family was once a native species in California that ranged widely here and throughout much of the United States. In recent years, gray wolves have been returning to California. Their slow comeback is a natural progression of population growth happening in others western states. Wildlife specialists with the USDA Forest Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are working together to monitor and conserve this recovering species by looking for signs of their whereabouts with boots on the ground, satellite collars, and DNA analysis.

Episode 42: Pacific Southwest Research Station 101

The Pacific Southwest Research Station is part of the Forest Service's research and development organization. R&D employs more than 500 scientists as well as several hundred technical and support personnel located at 67 sites throughout the U.S. In this episode, we focus on three employees to share who they are and what they do at the station.

Episode 41: Tree Mortality with a Bird's-Eye View

When it comes to getting perspective on forest health, sky-high observations are a big help in California. With over 30 million acres of forested land throughout the state, there is a lot of ground to cover. So, each summer, Forest Service aerial tree survey specialists spend several weeks in the aircraft gathering observations on tree mortality in lands of all ownerships.

Episode 40: Frog Fridays

[Croak. Ribbit. Croak. Ribbit.] This is the anthem of Frog Fridays. This May-time wildlife survey is held within a stream on the Tahoe National Forest, where foothill yellow-legged frogs lay their eggs. Each outing is part training exercise, part data collection for future habitat restoration and part protection mission. And it is where we will literally get our feet wet in wildlife conservation.

Episode 39: Finding Fishers

Species are designated as endangered when their population is in significant decline, which often means documentation of these species in their natural habitat is increasingly challenging. Perhaps as difficult as landing on a conclusive verbal description of how they look. But knowing where endangered species like the fisher are in the landscape and how many of them are there, is essential for their conservation and recovery.

Episode 38: Seeing Our Forests With Sound

National Forests are locations where we can listen to a concert of wildlife sounds. The caws, croaks, howls, growls and squeaks we might hear are gems of information about wildlife and their habitat. The USDA Forest Service and partners work together to conserve and restore land that wildlife species need to survive but to avoid unintended negative impacts on wildlife, it is essential to know what species are in a forest and where they are located.

Episode 37: Cone Camp

This is the audio version of our first Videocast from one of the four Cone Camps held in 2023. The camps are built around a day in the classroom and a day in the field. Participants network and learn from industry experts from American Forests, USDA Forest Service, CAL FIRE, and the California Cone Corps. On the agenda: cone phenology, monitoring and collection techniques, seed needs, cone collection planning, contracting and coordinating with agencies, reporting crop sightings, field logistics, safety and more. [Video version]

Episode 36: Being Beavers

In this episode we learn the valuable connection between beavers and meadows. In a meadow, the squish of mud and splash of a slightly flooded landscape are signs of health. It can be easy to overlook meadows within national forests, perhaps simply because our attention is more often drawn to things that fill a space - a lake, a mountain, a grove of trees - rather than what appears to be merely open space.

Episode 35: Bark Beetles: The Science of Scents

Have you ever wondered why some trees — in certain locations, a lot of trees — are brown and dying? The connection between bark beetles, drought and tree mortality is a topic of this episode and how researchers are looking into making trees less attractive...to bark beetles, not tree huggers.

Episode 34: Planting Trees for Tomorrow's Climate

In this episode, we'll meet Forest Service conservation geneticist Dr. Jessica Wright within a post-fire landscape on the Plumas National Forest. In collaboration with others out there with her, Jessica is planting three very different tree species ponderosa pine, incense cedar and valley oak within an experimental plot as part of a study on assisted migration. With this climate adaptation option, seeds are collected from a warmer habitat taken to a nursery for analysis or to grow into seedlings and then planted in a cooler habitat.

Episode 33: Reforesting Sequoias with a Silviculturist

Springtime is defined as an early or flourishing stage of development, and after a wildfire damages the landscape, we sometimes see teams of people replanting trees within the burn scar during the early part of the year. Jamie Hinrichs helps explain reforestation efforts in a very special place in the forest. 

Episode 32: Nature's Benefits: Carbon

In this episode, we return once again to our series on Nature's Benefits. Today, we will focus on a benefit you can't see. Well, you can see the effects of it... it's a bit hard to explain. Luckily for me, we have Lara Buluc back to handle the reins, along with experts to talk about: Carbon. 

Episode 31: Observing Tree Diseases with a Stump Buster

In this episode, we learn about tree disease and how it affects forest health from Jamie Hinrichs. Jamie was featured in Episode 29 - Trails and Transformation when she took us to the Inyo National Forest backcountry to hear from a California Conservation Corps trail crew. Expect to hear more from Jamie and her adventures into the forest in future episodes in what we will start calling an occasional series, Echoes from the Understory. 

Episode 30: Nature's Benefits: Recreation

In the episode, we focus on another nature's benefits: recreation. This continues our series on the many benefits forests provide so let's take a long hike and chat about how we understand outdoor activities. The diverse landscapes and climates in California’s 18 National Forests provide many outdoor recreation opportunities to nearly 24 million people annually including: hiking, camping, picnicking, water activities, winter sports, horseback riding, motorized activities, and green space for gathering, practicing cultural traditions, or solitude. From primitive, unconfined solitude to formalized group activities and the broad spectrum of activities in between these outdoor experiences, these recreation opportunities help people connect to nature and strengthen their bonds with each other. 

Episode 29: Trails in Transformation

In this episode, we meet up with a backcountry trail crew on the Inyo National Forest. California Conservation Corps members and the United States Forest Service staff tell us what it takes to live and work on the trail. As we shall soon learn, the combination of partnership, funding from the Great American Outdoors Act, and true grit brings transformation for the trail and the crew. 

Episode 28: Placerville Nursery - From Seed to Reforestation and Restoration

In this episode, we focus on how reforestation and restoration projects begin. It all starts with a seed. What happens when a national forest in California needs to replant trees after the damage of a wildfire, insects or other harmful activity that has scarred the landscape? What they need are seedlings adapted to grow in specific elevations and climates. What they need to do is call the seed specialists at the Placerville Nursery, located in Camino on the Eldorado National Forest.

Episode 27: Chinese Heritage Sites on California National Forests

National Forests are loved by many people for many things beyond the recreational benefit they provide. We will tie in Episode 22: Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month with another amazing benefit carved into the national forest landscape: History. Historical markers can be found throughout California's forests, parks, cities and towns that speak towards the Native American tribes that lived off the land, to the pioneers who surveyed and explored, and to those who shaped what California is today.

Episode 26: National Invasive Plant, Pest and Disease Awareness Month

In this episode, we focus on National Invasive Plant, Pest and Disease Awareness Month. With the U.S. Forest Service under the Department of Agriculture there is certainly a connection between these harmful invaders and the threat they pose to our nation's food security, backyard gardens and natural resources.

Episode 25: California Climate Investments Grant Awards Projects

In this episode we focus on our collaboration with the State of California and particularly CAL FIRE. Since 2015, the U.S. Forest Service and our partners have received roughly $209 million in grants funding for work on and around National Forest System lands. This funding is managed by CAL FIRE’s Forest Health and Fire Prevention grant programs, which are both part of California Climate Investments, funded with proceeds from California’s Cap-and-Trade auction revenues. We talk about how this funding assists us to increase the pace and scale of our ecological restoration and speak about successes from the past several years.

Episode 24: Native American Heritage Month

In this episode, we focus on National Native American Heritage Month and speak with a former Modoc National Forest employee about his career, his Choctaw heritage and his chance of a lifetime to work with Bison and the Modoc Nation.

Episode 23: Bats

In this episode, Ted Weller, an ecologist with the Pacific Southwest Research Station, helps us go batty for bats. Each year, Bat Week is observed the week before Halloween and is used by bat enthusiasts, scientists, conservation groups and others to educate the public, dispel myths and bring attention to the struggles they face. The beneficial impact these amazing creatures have on our ecosystem should be celebrated far beyond the season of spooky ghosts, skeletons and vampires.

Episode 22: Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

In this episode, we focus on Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month by speaking with three employees about their childhood, how they got involved in the Forest Service and more. So join us in welcoming a hydrologist, a shared stewardship coordinator, and the acting National Forest Stewardship Program manager in Incorporative Forestry.

Episode 21: Nature's Benefits 101—Part 2

We learned in Episode 19 about Ecosystem Services or Nature's Benefits in an introduction-type show. This show, we dive back in with Part 2 of that series with our first forest benefit spotlight shining on - Water. A research associate with the Public Policy Institute of California Water Policy Center joins us to talk about this critical need.

Episode 20: This Is Who We Are—Working During The Pandemic

In this episode we speak with Sarah LaPlante, a Forest Service employee, about her challenges of working as a District Ranger on the Stanislaus National Forest during the COVID-19 pandemic and balancing her workload with her new role as a mother.

Episode 19: Nature's Benefits 101—Part 1

Millions of us understand what the benefit of being outdoors has on our mind, body and spirit. But what other benefits does the natural world provide on your national forests? Well, this episode we explore how nature benefits our daily lives with an introduction into ecosystem services, otherwise known as nature's benefits.

Episode 18: National Greening Fire Team—Recycling At Fire Incidents

The focus of this episode is recycling. What happens when a large wildfire requires the creation of a fire camp or incident command post, where hundreds or even thousands of personnel support the firefighting effort? The amount of trash that accumulates could match that of a small town. We speak with the National Greening Fire Team, ambassadors, and recycling vendors who work to lessen this environmental impact.

Episode 17: Pack Stock Center of Excellence

In this episode of Forest Focus, we explore backcountry and wilderness packing with the Pacific Southwest Region's Pack Stock Center of Excellence. Have a listen to a tradition, one covered in over a hundred years of trail dust, that is still critical and relevant today in supporting fire management, ecosystems and forest management.

Episode 16: NEPA's 50th Anniversary

In this episode of Forest Focus, Steve Dunsky, a videographer and historian of the Forest Service for more than 30 years, speaks with Char Miller about the 50th anniversary of NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act. Char Miller is Director of the Environmental Analysis Program and W.M. Keck Professor of Environmental Analysis at Pomona College in Claremont, California. Dr. Miller is the author of many books, articles and blog posts on environmental history and politics. He has consulted on, and appeared in many documentaries including The Greatest Good, a history of the U.S. Forest Service.

Episode 15: Black-backed Woodpeckers and Fire

In this episode of Forest Focus, Diana Craig and Rodney Siegel discuss the black-backed woodpecker and its relationship to fire. They are working on an effort to assess the habitat needs of these birds which appear to thrive in recently burned forests. Diana Craig is a wildlife biologist and the Deputy Director of Ecosystem Management for the Pacific Southwest Region of the Forest Service. Rodney Siegel is the Executive Director of the Institute for Bird Populations in Pt. Reyes Station, California.

Episode 14: Travel Analysis

In this episode of Forest Focus, Ann Dunsky of the Pacific Southwest Region Public Affairs Staff interviews Deputy Regional Forester Ron Ketter, who explains Travel Analysis and the importance of the National Forest road system in California.

Episode 13: Capitol Christmas Tree

In this episode of Forest Focus, John Heil of Pacific Southwest Region Public Affairs interviews those who assisted with the logistics of this year's Capitol Christmas Tree for Washington D.C. The tree is coming from the Stanislaus National Forest — the first time the tree has come from California since 1995.

Episode 12: Green Fire

In this episode of Forest Focus, John Heil of Pacific Southwest Region Public Affairs talks about the film Green Fire with filmmakers Steve Dunsky, Ann Dunsky and Dave Steinke.

Episode 11: Ecological Restoration Using an All-Lands Approach

In this episode of Forest Focus, Steve Dunsky and John Heil of the Pacific Southwest Region Public Affairs Staff speak with various experts on ecological restoration.

Episode 10: Fire Investigations

In this episode of Forest Focus, John Heil and Steve Dunsky of the Pacific Southwest Region Public Affairs Staff interview experts on fire investigation.

Episode 9: Urban Forestry

In this episode of Forest Focus, Steve Dunsky of Pacific Southwest Region Public Affairs talks with Greg McPherson, a Research Forester at the Center for Urban Forest Research in Davis, California, about the work of the Center and his own interest in the trees that make cities and suburbs more livable.

Episode 8: Tribal Relations

In this episode of Forest Focus, Steve Dunsky and John Heil of Pacific Southwest Region Public Affairs interview Forest Service Regional Tribal Relations Manager Merv George and Michelle Hoaglin, Executive Director of the California Indian Basketweavers Association, about various topics of importance to Native Americans in California, and in particular the relationship between Tribal Governments and the Forest Service.

Episode 7: ARRA

In this episode of Forest Focus, Ann Dunsky, Steve Dunsky and John Heil of Pacific Southwest Region Public Affairs interview various people involved in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Regional Forester Randy Moore, ARRA Program Manager Milt Wingert, Forest Service Civil Engineer Barrett McMurtry, Job Corps Carpentry Instructor Shaun Cushman, Civil Engineering Technician Herman Wendell and others offer a variety of perspectives.

Episode 6: Quincy Library Group

In this episode of Forest Focus, John Heil of the Pacific Southwest Region Public Affairs Staff interviews experts about a program known as the Herger–Feinstein Quincy Library Group (QLG). The QLG is being implemented over approximately 1.5 million acres across the Lassen and Plumas National Forest and the Sierraville District of the Tahoe National Forest.

Episode 5: Marijuana

In this episode of Forest Focus, John Heil of the Pacific Southwest Region Public Affairs Staff investigates the issue of marijuana cultivation and eradication on the National Forests in California by interviewing experts in the field from various agencies.

Episode 4: Water

In this episode of Forest Focus, John Heil and Steve Dunsky of the Pacific Southwest Region Public Affairs Staff explore the value of watersheds on the National Forests in California.

Episode 3: Recreation

In this episode of Forest Focus, John Heil and Steve Dunsky of Pacific Southwest Region Public Affairs explore recreation on the National Forests in California.

Episode 2: Fire Season 2009

In the second episode of Forest Focus, John Heil and John Miller of Pacific Southwest Region Public Affairs explore the subject of fire on the National Forests in California.

Episode 1: Ecological Restoration

In this inaugural episode, John Heil and Steve Dunsky of the R5 Public Affairs staff explore the subject of ecological restoration on the National Forests in California.