Archive for September, 2014

Congress Spotlight #28: American Indian forestry: blending science and tradition

American Indian forestry: blending science and tradition

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Prescribed fire used by the Tribes for centuries (Flathead Indian Reservation managed by the Confederated Tribes of the Salish and Kootenai Tribes). Photo by IFMAT-III

Prescribed fire used by the Tribes for centuries (Flathead Indian Reservation managed by the Confederated Tribes of the Salish and Kootenai Tribes). Photo by IFMAT-III

For thousands of years, American Indians have been managing the forests in which they live.

Today, with trained professionals who are tribal members, their forests are managed with modern tools and methods; include manufacturing facilities and address global forest issues such as climate change, forest certification, carbon sequestration and a changing work force.

But the way in which American Indians manage their forests often differs from the philosophies and methods of non-native forest organizations that have been in North America for only a few hundred years.

And, those philosophical and operational differences – which will be elaborated on in less than two weeks at the IUFRO World Congress in Salt Lake City – leave American Indian forestry facing three major challenges, says Don Motanic, technical specialist with the U.S. Intertribal Timber Council.

One challenge to tribal forests is from fire or other forest health hazards that can spread from adjacent federal lands where forests are often allowed to age without being thinned or using prescribed burns, says Mr. Motanic.

Prescribed burns are relatively small-scale controlled burns, he explains, and are widely used on tribal lands as a management tool. The fire removes dead and dying trees as well as other combustible materials from the forest floor and, by reducing these potential fuels, limits the occurrence and scope of wildfire; diminishes the danger from insect and disease infestations; and opens up space to allow sunlight in to promote grass and shrubbery growth that increases biodiversity and provides browse, berries and other foods for deer, elk, bears and other wildlife.

A second challenge is funding. Tribes, he says, receive only 30% of the funding that goes to other federal forests.

The third challenge is the gap between a science-only forest management philosophy and the tribes’ approach that uses scientific knowledge, but connects it to traditional knowledge, culture and values.

As an example of the different perspectives, Mr. Motanic notes that non-tribal forest organizations may name a forest for a single person. But many tribal people take their identity from the forest, from landforms, animals and other aspects of nature. They see themselves as part of a natural, holistic continuum.

Restored forest after timber harvest, thinning and fire (Flathead Indian Reservation managed by the Confederated Tribes of the Salish and Kootenai Tribes). Photo by IFMAT-III

Restored forest after timber harvest, thinning and fire (Flathead Indian Reservation managed by the Confederated Tribes of the Salish and Kootenai Tribes). Photo by IFMAT-III

They view nature, and their relationship with it, as an infinite event. So, naming a forest after one person is a reference to only one lifetime – a finite unit – and, from the American Indian perspective, doesn’t make sense, he says.

Mr. Motanic says the IUFRO World Congress will give American Indians an opportunity to show the rest of the world what the tribes are doing in terms of forest management and, once those people are aware, the hope is they will want to learn more.

They will see, he says, that American Indian forest stewardship supports thriving, fully empowered communities that share success in exercising sovereign decision-making, creating sustainable economies for communities and implementing strategies that perpetuate forest health for future generations.

The world will learn that the tribes are sovereign nations dealing with the United States on a government-to-government basis, unique to each of the 565 tribes in the country. They will also learn that the values for each tribe may differ and in each case their forest management is guided by culture and tradition absorbed over thousands of years.

This Congress session, entitled “American Indian Forestry” will also illustrate how the tribes have developed a balance among social, economic and environmental issues in terms of their forest management, Mr. Motanic says, and will show how a growing workforce of tribal technicians, professionals and researchers is guiding their forest management.


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Related Links

IUFRO Spotlight main page,


IUFRO Spotlight is an initiative of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations. Its aim is to introduce, in a timely fashion, significant findings in forest research from IUFRO officeholders and member organizations to a worldwide network of decision makers, policy makers and researchers.

IUFRO Spotlight issues up to October 2014 will primarily focus on the IUFRO World Congress that will take place on 5-11 October 2014 in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. The topics of individual Congress sessions will be highlighted in order to draw attention to the wide variety of themes that will be addressed at the Congress and their importance on a regional and global scale. Find the IUFRO 2014 World Congress Scientific Program at:


Spotlight #27 – Genes the means to screen future forest scene

Genes the means to screen future forest scene

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Women caring for tree seedlings in a nursery in Niger. Credit: Bioversity International/L. Snook

Women caring for tree seedlings in a nursery in Niger. Credit: Bioversity International/L. Snook

Forest ecosystem restoration is a critical component in tackling climate change, combatting biodiversity loss and desertification, and for providing products and services that support livelihoods at a local level.

For those reasons, restoring and rehabilitating forests and degraded lands will be one of the major environmental challenges of this century.

But, as a recent thematic study coordinated by Bioversity International, a IUFRO Member Organization, for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – Genetic Considerations in Ecosystem Restoration Using Native Tree Species – notes, there is more to forest restoration than simply planting trees.

It requires careful, knowledge-based planning that includes consideration of genetic aspects – among them, suitability of germplasm to the site, quality/quantity of the genetic pool used, and regeneration potential.

The study highlights the breadth and depth of genetic aspects that need to be considered in ecosystem restoration using native tree species. And it offers recommendations for researchers, policy makers and restoration practitioners to better address deficiencies that could compromise the success of some restoration efforts.

It brings together the existing knowledge on genetic issues in ecosystem restoration, identifying knowledge gaps and areas needing further research and development efforts.

The study’s editors – nine of them, from six different organizations – point out that the adoption of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity for 2011-2020 calls for 15% of all degraded lands to be restored by 2020. That’s 150 million ha of degraded land to be restored.

That makes it extremely important that such massive restoration initiatives be carried out using the best available information to increase the probability of success and cost-effectiveness.

The impact of planting genetic materials that are mismatched to the site conditions may become obvious within a year or so, but the negative effects of restoration based on insufficient diversity will be seen only after many years, they add.

Underlining the importance of planning, they note numerous past restoration projects that – undertaken without due diligence – never achieved their expected goals. spotlight27-biodiversity-publication-cover

Among the study’s recommendations:

For research:
— Evaluate the impact of different restoration methods on the genetic diversity of restored tree populations.
— Develop protocols and practical indicators to monitor and evaluate the genetic diversity of tree populations in restoration efforts as an indicator of the viability and resilience of ecosystems.

For practitioners:
— Give priority to native tree species in restoration projects.
— Given the uncertainty of future climate, promote resilience by maximizing species and genetic diversity from sources that are similar to the site conditions, encouraging gene flow and generational turnover and facilitating species migration to allow for natural selection.

For policy-makers:
— Put in place supportive regulatory frameworks that guide the production and supply of propagation material of native tree species and the use of adequately diverse material of appropriate origin in restoration efforts.
— Broaden education and training curricula to promote understanding of the importance of using native species and genetically diverse and appropriate propagation material, as well as appropriate approaches in restoration projects.

The thematic study was coordinated by Bioversity International as an input to the FAO report on The State of the World’s Forest Genetic Resources and is an important step in the implementation of the FAO Global Plan of Action for the Conservation, Sustainable Use and Development of Forest Genetic Resources.

The full study can be found through Bioversity: or through the FAO:


Media Contact Gerda Wolfrum: +43 1 877 0151 17 or wolfrum(at)


Related Links
Bioversity International:
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO):
IUFRO Spotlights main page,