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Future Forests Webinar Series

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Logo for the Future Forest Webinar Series

Future Forests Webinar Series

The Future Forests Webinar Series facilitated dialogue between scientists and managers about the challenges and opportunities created by the mountain pine beetle (MPB) epidemic. The series consisted of six webinar facilitated by the USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station, the Northern and Rocky Mountain Regions, and the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute. The series ran from October 2011 to December 2012 and covered a variety of topics related to the MPB epidemic: potential fire risk and behavior, current and future vegetation conditions, wildlife habitats and populations, social and economic considerations, ecosystem- and watershed-level changes, and management responses.

Scientific findings and lessons learned about managing forests after the MPB epidemic are summarized in the proceedings from the Future Forests Webinar Series.

The mountain pine beetle epidemic resulted in extensive mortality in pine forests, but species like aspen are responding favorably to more open forest conditions (photo by Kenny Regan).
The mountain pine beetle epidemic resulted in extensive mortality in pine forests, but species like aspen are responding favorably to more open forest conditions (photo by Kenny Regan).

Dates: 
October 18, 2011 to December 12, 2013

Sessions

Post-epidemic fire risk and behavior (Oct. 18, 2011)

Red needles of a mountain pine beetle attacked tree contain 10 times less water than those of a similar healthy green tree, causing the red foliage to ignite quickly and easily.
Red needles of a mountain pine beetle attacked tree contain 10 times less water than those of a similar healthy green tree, causing the red foliage to ignite quickly and easily.
Citizens, government officials, and natural resource managers are greatly concerned about potential impacts of the mountain pine beetle (MPB) epidemic on fire hazards and risk. Researchers and managers are working together to understand the interaction between MPB outbreaks and wildfires and to develop the appropriate responses.

Webinar presenters covered (1) limitations of operational fire models at predicting post-epidemic fire behavior, (2) changes in pine needle flammability during and after a MPB outbreak, and (3) the potential of physics-based models for understanding the impacts of beetle outbreaks on forest fuels and fire behavior.


Speakers


Paul Langowski
Paul Langowski

As Branch Chief for Fuels and Fire Ecology, Paul has program leadership responsibility for fuels management and fire use programs on National Forests and Grasslands lands in Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.

Paul is a 1977 graduate of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, where he received a B.S. in Resources Management.  His Forest Service career began in 1977 as a seasonal employee with the White River National Forest in Colorado.  Since then, he has served as a resource technician on the Helena National Forest, in Montana, District Silviculturist and Timber Staff on the Kaibab National Forest in Arizona, Forest Silviculturist on the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico and Zone Timber and Fire Management Staff on the Arapaho Roosevelt National Forest in Colorado.

Paul is currently the Forest Service Representative to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) Fuels Management Committee and Fire Use Sub-committee. He is also currently vice-chair of the Governing Board for the Joint Fire Science Program.

Paul was a certified silviculturist and a graduate of Technical Fire Management.  Paul is actively involved with integrating fire management issues into the land management planning process, in the development of processes and procedures for the analysis of the effects of fuels treatments and increasing the effectiveness of science delivery.

He spends his off time telemark skiing, biking, hiking and running.


Russ Parsons
Russ Parsons

Dr. Russ Parsons received his B.S. in Forestry from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1992, his M.S. in Forestry from the University of Idaho in 1999, and his Ph.D. in Forestry from the University of Montana in 2007. Russ Parsons has worked in fire and resource management since 1992 in a variety of positions and with different agencies. Since 2000, Russ has worked at the Fire Sciences Lab, in Missoula, Montana, specializing in simulation modeling and spatial analysis. His current research integrates field work, laboratory experiments and simulation modeling to quantify fuel characteristics and improve our understanding of how fuels influence fire behavior.


Matt Jolly
Matt Jolly

Dr. W. Matt Jolly is a Research Ecologist in the Fire, Fuel and Smoke Science Program of the US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory in Missoula, MT.  Upon graduation from high school in Ronda in 1990, North Carolina, Matt served six years in the United States Air Force as a Satellite Communications Technician.  After his military service, he attended the University of Virginia where he received a BA with high distinction in Environmental Science in 2000.  He later moved to Missoula, MT where he earned a PhD in Forestry from the University of Montana in 2004. His main research interests focus on linking plant physiological processes with combustion and fire behavior characteristics and understanding the roles that live fuels play in current, operational fire behavior prediction systems that are used throughout the world.


Forests in transition: Post-epidemic vegetation conditions (Jan. 10, 2012)

MPB-caused mortality of lodgepole pine at elevation >10,000 feet. Although outbreaks are thought to be unusual at this elevation, there is evidence and documentation of events from the early 20th Century. Photo by J.D. Shaw.
MPB-caused mortality of lodgepole pine at elevation >10,000 feet. Although outbreaks are thought to be unusual at this elevation, there is evidence and documentation of events from the early 20th Century. Photo by J.D. Shaw.
More than 23 million acres of lodgepole pine forests across the western U.S. have experienced overstory mortality following the recent mountain pine beetle (MPB) epidemic. Unknowns regarding the immediate and long-term consequences of the epidemic challenge the ability of managers to make informed decisions aimed at sustaining forest health and delivery of ecosystem services.

Webinar presenters covered (1) research on tree regeneration after overstory mortality from the MPB epidemic, (2) impacts of post-outbreak salvage logging on tree regeneration and species composition, and (3) long-term dynamics of fuel loads after the MPB epidemic.


Speakers


Jim Thinnes

Jim has been the Regional Silviculturist for the Rocky Mountain Region of the Forest Service since 2005. He has 30 years of experience with the Forest Service in environmental planning, silviculture, timber management, hydrology, and wildland fire suppression. He is an SAF Certified Forester and received his degree in natural resource management from Ohio State University. He has much on-the-ground experience with the MPB outbreak owing to his time on the Pike & San Isabel National Forest and the White River National Forest.


Tom Martin

Tom has worked with the Forest Service for over 35 years in timber management, silviculture, environmental analysis, and forest planning. He has dedicated most of his career to developing forest conditions that meet resource objectives, including the use of timber harvests as a tool to meet resource, social, and economic needs. In his current position, Tom oversees development and support for the Northern Region’s timber sale program. He graduated in 1978 with a B.S. in Forest Management, and he is a Certified Silviculturist.


Chuck Rhoades

Chuck has been a watershed researcher with the Rocky Mountain Research Station since 2003.  He received his PhD in Forest Biogeochemistry and Soil Ecology from the University of Georgia. Chuck’s research centers on the biogeochemical processes that regulate delivery of clean water and that sustain productive soils and forests. Much of his current research relates to the long-term effects of extensive pine bark beetle outbreaks and associated forest management activities.


Mike Battaglia

Mike has worked with the Rocky Mountain Research Station since 2007 after graduating with his PhD in Forest Sciences from Colorado State University. He served as a Postdoctoral Ecologist with the Station before becoming a Research Forester and Scientist in Charge of the Black Hills Experimental Forest. Mike focuses his research on developing and implementing innovative management strategies that address forest restoration, fuels mitigation, and forest resilience across multiple spatial scales.


Jeff Underhill

Jeff has five years of experience addressing the effects of the mountain pine beetle epidemic through his work on the Pike & San Isabel National Forests and previously on the Sulphur Ranger District of the Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests. Prior to coming to Colorado, he worked for the Forest Service on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in Oregon and the Ashley National Forest in northeastern Utah and Wyoming. Jeff received his M.S. in Forestry from the University of Tennessee and his B.A. in History from Virginia Tech.


Mark Westfahl

Mark has worked in timber management for the Forest Service for over 25 years, spending three seasons on the Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests before starting on the Parks Ranger District of the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests. In his current position, he oversees timber management administration and sale preparation. He is a Certified Silviculturist and graduated from the University of Montana with a B.S. is Forest Resource Management.


Ecological consequences of the mountain pine beetle epidemic for wildlife habitats and populations (March 6, 2012)

Approximately 7.6 million ponderosa pine trees have been killed in the Black Hills by MPBs from 1985 through 2014.
Approximately 7.6 million ponderosa pine trees have been killed in the Black Hills by MPBs from 1985 through 2014.
Wildlife biologists must balance a diverse array of ecological and social considerations in managing species and habitats. The challenges of managing species and habitats in dynamic landscapes are influenced by diverse factors, including natural disturbances, vegetation development, and anthropogenic-mediated changes, such as climate change, management activities, and land use. Mountain pine beetles (MPBs) can be viewed as an ecosystem engineer—a species that both directly and indirectly shapes landscapes by altering the composition, structure, and function of ecosystems.

Webinar presenters used a case study approach to describe the ecological consequences of the MPB epidemic for wildlife habitats and species. They presented different methods for comparing spatial and temporal patterns of bird diversity, reproduction, habitat use, persistence, and foraging in relation to the MPB epidemic. They also covered the interactions between climate change and MPB outbreaks, and they discussed modeling techniques for investigating wildlife responses to large-scale disturbance.


Speakers


Betty Hahn

Beth is the Regional Wildlife Ecologist for the Northern Region of the Forest Service stationed in Missoula, MT. She works on a variety of multi-scale inventory/monitoring programs, habitat analyses, and plan revision and amendments.


Vicki Saab

Vicki is a Research Wildlife Biologist with the Rocky Mountain Research Station of the Forest Service out of Bozeman, MT. Her research interests include disturbance ecology and avian ecology, with a focus on cavity-nesting birds and other small landbirds. Her research focuses on avian distributions and demographics in relation to wildfires, beetle epidemics, and forest restoration activities. 


Barbara Bentz

Since 1991 Barbara has served as a Research Entomologist with the Rocky Mountain Research Station out of Logan, UT. Barbara’s research interests include the biology, ecology, and management of bark beetles. Her recent research has focused on modeling climate change influences on bark beetle populations and the interactions between fire and bark beetles.


Rachel Loehman

Rachel is a Research Ecologist with the Rocky Mountain Research Station at the Missoula Fire Sciences Lab. Rachel’s research includes spatial modeling of climate change effects on ecosystem processes, climate drivers of wildfire, and disturbance ecology.


Bob Keane

Bob Keane is a Research Ecologist with the Rocky Mountain Research Station at the Missoula Fire Sciences Lab. Bob’s most recent research includes 1) developing ecological computer simulation models for the exploring landscape, fire, and climate dynamics, and 2) investigating the ecology and restoration of whitebark pine.


Beetles among us: Social and economic impacts of the mountain pine beetle epidemic (Aug. 28, 2012)

Mountain pine beetle are extremely small yet can shape an entire forest landscape.
Mountain pine beetle are extremely small yet can shape an entire forest landscape.
Healthy forest ecosystems provide many goods and services that are vital to human well-being. When forest ecosystems are impacted by disturbances, such as the widespread mountain pine beetle (MPB) epidemic, the services provided by these ecosystems are also affected.

Research highlighted in this webinar focused on the social and economic effects of the MPB epidemic., including (1) opportunities and challenges for utilizing beetle-killed trees for woody biomass, (2) impacts of insect pests on non-market values, and (3) public perceptions of forest management following the MPB epidemic. Land managers from Bitterroot National Forest in Montana and the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest in Colorado also provided thoughts and insights about socio-economic impacts of the MPB.


Speakers


Krista Gebert

Krista Gebert is the Regional Economist for the Northern Region of the US Forest Service.  She accepted the position as Regional Economist in July of 2010, after nearly 15 years as a researcher with the USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula.  From 1999 to 2001, she worked for the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana. Krista has authored or co-authored more than 30 topics on topics including timber sale economics; rural development; economic dependency on forest-related industries; and the economics of wildland fire management. Krista is a native Montanan, growing up in Dillon and obtaining her bachelor and graduate degrees in economics from the University of Montana. 


Greg Jones

Greg Jones is a Research Forester with the Human Dimensions Science Program, Rocky Mountain Research Station, US Forest Service, located in Missoula.  His Ph.D. is in Forest Economics from Iowa State University.  Current research includes forest fuel treatment economics, biomass supply from forest treatments, and utilization of forest treatment residues.


Chuck Oliver

Chuck Oliver has worked with the US Forest Service for 22 years, starting as range con. on the Butte District of the Deerlodge National Forest. Other positions held include Operations Research Analyst for planning in the Supervisors Office for the Deerlodge, Range Staff on the Reserve Ranger District of the Gila National Forest, and District Ranger on the Parks District of the Medicine Bow / Routt National Forest. For the past 7 years he has served as the District Ranger on the Darby District of the Bitterroot National Forest in Montana.


Paul E. Cruz

Paul E. Cruz has worked for the U.S. Forest Service as the Forest Recreation Program Manager for the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland at the Forest Supervisor's office in Fort Collins, CO since 2002.  Other positions held with the agency include Forest Travel Rule Implementation Team Leader, Acting Recreation Fee and Business Systems Program Manager, Acting District Ranger, and District Recreation Staff Officer. Since 1998, he has served on the R2 Recreation Fee Board, and prior to his 1990 transfer to the Forest Service, Paul was a Soil Conservationist with the USDA Soil Conservation Service.


Patty Champ

Patty is an economist with the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Fort Collins, CO.  She has been with the station for 18 years.  Her broad interest is in understanding public preferences related to land management issues.  She is an expert on nonmarket valuation methods, and also conducts research on wildfire risk and homeowners in the wildland urban interface. 


Mike Czaja

Mike Czaja is a retired lieutenant colonel in the US Army and doctoral candidate at Colorado State University. He is interested in wildland fire-related social science research. In addition to being a volunteer wildland fire fighter and public information officer trainee with the Larimer County Sheriff's Office, he is a fire prevention volunteer with the Canyon Lakes Ranger District of the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest.


Jessica Clement

Jessica Clement has conducted human dimensions in natural resources research in Colorado, Wyoming and Montanta and has taught natural resource and human dimensions subjects at Colorado State University and elsewhere for the last twenty years.  Trained as an ecologist as well as a social scientist, Jessica has worked as Co-Director of the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute at Colorado State University and currently leads the Collaborative Leadership Program at the Ruckelshaus Institute at the University of Wyoming.  Having designed and facilitated collaborative natural resource decision-making processes at various scales for the last 15 years, she is now working on enhancing collaborative capacity in the State of Wyoming.


Small bugs with large-scale impacts: Ecosystem and watershed-level responses to the mountain pine beetle epidemic (Oct. 30, 2012)

Mountain pine beetle damage
Mountain pine beetle damage
Mountain pine beetle (MPB) outbreaks have the potential for prolonged impacts on the delivery of clean water from infested subalpine watersheds throughout the West. Sixty-five percent of the West’s water supply originates on forested land, much of which has been affected by an unprecedented MPB epidemic over the past decade.

Webinar presenters covered research on MPB-induced changes in energy and water balances, tree physiology, and nutrient cycling. These processes influence stream flow and nutrient and sediment export from affected watersheds.


Speakers


Kelly Elder

Kelly has worked as a Research Hydrologist with the Rocky Mountain Research Station since 2000. He received his PhD in physical geography and hydrology statistics from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Kelly’s research examines consequences of bark beetle outbreaks and management on watershed processes, with a particular focus on water balance of subalpine forest systems.


Polly Hays

Polly has worked since 2000 as the Water Program Manager for the 5 state Rocky Mountain Region of the Forest Service. She has regional level responsibilities for a broad set of programs including watershed management and restoration, water quality, and water rights. She has a master’s in Geosciences from the University of Arizona.


Rob Hubbard

Rob is celebrating his 7th year as a Research Ecologist with the Rocky Mountain Research Station. He previously worked as a Research Ecologist for the Coweeta Hydrologic Lab in North Carolina after graduating with his PhD in forest ecology from Colorado State University. Rob’s research explores how forests respond to disturbances and the role that plants play in regulating hydrologic processes.


Chuck Rhoades

Chuck has been a Research Biogeochemist with the Rocky Mountain Research Station since 2003. He received his PhD in forest biogeochemistry and soil ecology from the University of Georgia. Chuck’s research examines the atmospheric, terrestrial, and aquatic processes that regulate soil and water quality and that sustain forest productivity.


Bruce Sims

Bruce has worked as the Regional Hydrologist for the Northern Region of the Forest Service since 2000. He received his master’s of education in geography and master’s of science in watershed management from the University of Arizona. Bruce has done research on the effects of prescribed fire on water quality, and he was a co-authors for a General Technical Report looking at the effectiveness of post-fire hillslope treatments.


Moving forward: Responding to and mitigating effects of the mountain pine beetle epidemic (Dec. 11, 2012)

Ecological consequences of the mountain pine beetle epidemic for wildlife habitats and populations (March 6, 2012)
Ecological consequences of the mountain pine beetle epidemic for wildlife habitats and populations (March 6, 2012)
The final webinar in the Future Forest Webinar Series provided an example of how managers utilized available science to address questions about post-epidemic forest conditions on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. Assessments of current conditions and projected trends, and how these compare with historical patterns, provide important information for land management planning. Large-scale disturbance events, such as the MPB epidemic, can change future vegetation conditions, disturbances and disturbance interactions, and habitat for wildlife species.


Speakers


Claudia Regan

Claudia is the Regional Ecologist with the Rocky Mountain Region of the Forest Service. She has her B.S. and M.S. in Forest Science from Southern Illinois University and a PhD in Ecology from Colorado State University. Claudia has worked with the agency as a full-time employee for 18 years and in temporary or seasonal capacities for 6 years. In her current capacity as the Regional Ecologist, she provides vegetation, ecosystem, and landscape ecology expertise to resource specialists on the forests and districts in the Rocky Mountain Region, and works closely with the Regional Forester and Regional Leadership Team. Regional Ecologists serve a unique position in the agency as applied scientists who bridge scientific research with resource management issues and work toward information synthesis, delivery, and application.


Barry Bollenbacher

Barry Bollenbacher is celebrating his 40th year with the Forest Service, over which time he has held various positions related to silviculture in the Northern Region. Barry has been a certified silviculturist since 1979, and has worked in his current position as Regional Silviculturist since 1992. Barry works closely with researchers from the Rocky Mountain Research Station and other organizations to help incorporate science into silviculture prescriptions, forest plans, and regional training programs. He played an instrumental role in implementing the Landscape Simulation Model SIMPPLE for landscape assessments in the Northern Region, and over the last year he led an effort to develop an Adaptive Management Research Framework with the Rocky Mountain Research Station. Barry graduated from Michigan State University in 1975 with a BS in Forestry with a Forest Ecology emphasis.


Mike Hillis

Mike Hillis worked as a wildlife biologist for the Forest Service for 34 years, primarily in the Northern and Pacific Northwest Regions.  He retired in 2003 and has since worked as a wildlife biologist for Ecosystem Research Group. Mike specializes in long-term, broad-scale modeling for species potentially at risk in the northern and central Rockies. He graduated from Oregon State University in 1970 with a B.S. in wildlife Biology.  He has published papers on elk security and conducted numerous region-wide assessments on the current status of various species.


Rob Gump

Rob Gump is the Forest Silviculturist and Ecologist for the Beaverhead-Deerlodge, a position he’s held since 2008 as well as previously from 1990 to 1996. Rob has worked for the Forest Service for 27 years in the Northern and Pacific Northwest Regions. Rob was certified as a silviculturist in 1994, and he has been active with the fire and fuels management community for almost 30 years.