We think of forests as full of tall, soaring trees. But newly engineered dwarf trees might actually do a better job revitalizing our woodlands. Researchers say that smaller engineered trees can provide more wood, better drought protection, and more greenhouse mitigation. Steven Strauss, a biologist at the University of Oregon says: “We think dwarf trees will tend to use less water, and take resources from the environment more efficiently due to larger roots relative to shoots.”
Researchers modified plant hormones that influence several aspects of growth and development. The researchers say that depending on the genes selected, they could modify trees to be almost any height. Dwarf trees have a bigger root mass to height ratio, making them ideal for cleaning up an area after a spill, or securing soils from blowing away. And shorter, thicker, and straighter trunks might create higher-value wood products in many tree species, as well as saving on water in drought-stricken regions.
The Salt Lake Tribune
Utha’s water and other national resource policies do not prepare the state for the impacts of climate change, according to a new report by the environmental group Utah Rivers Council. The state is putting at risk its vital water supply, its farms and ranches and the well-being of its urban population.
The report is an update and a call to action, which takes the Utah Division of Water Resources to task for failing to account for the impacts if global warming and changing precipitation patterns. The group proposes stronger conservation plans, both statewide and in communities such as those in Washington County. It also calls for farmland protections and changes in Utah’s tax system so that property taxes no longer subsidize water use.
As factors outside the market change, such as the severity and frequency of wildfire induced by climate change, the institutional structure must also change to accommodate new conditions. This summer’s wildfires provide a clear, and frightening, example of how climate change might alter the conditions in which our market activities occur. As demonstrated by the wildfire studies, contemporary wildfire patterns represent two related things: uncertainty, and the sudden requirement that homeowners and communities bear the costs of everyone’s climate-altering behavior. The future of wildfire, and its effects on Idaho, is uncertain because our existing patterns of behavior, including our institutional and regulatory structures, emerged over a period in which both wildfire risk and human settlement patterns and expectations were substantially different. And the increased wildfire risk — and actual damage to homes and livelihoods — forces homeowners and residents to bear the costs of climate-affecting behaviors without the legal protections that generally accompany changes in the rights and responsibilities associated with land ownership.
More than 1,300 fires burned about 600,000 acres across Wyoming this season. The fires started earlier than normal, ended later and in some areas burned hotter and more erratically. State, federal and local agencies spent roughly $90 million fighting them. The Arapaho Fire consumed about 90 buildings and cost more than $16 million. With no trees or shrubs to hold down the soil, rain caused walls of mud and silt to fill creek beds, culverts and ditches. And the size and severity of the Arapaho Fire may be a harbinger of things to come. Overgrown and fire-prone forests, rising temperatures and more people on the landscape mean Wyoming may not only see more fires, but more catastrophic ones.
The Aspen Times
People have an extra month to comment on a federal study aimed at cutting nearly in half the acreage in the White River National Forest that is readily available for gas leasing.
Forest officials have given the public until Nov. 30 (instead of Oct. 30) to submit comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), a 622-page document aimed at directing oil and gas drilling on the forest for the next 15 to 20 years.
The proposed action is one of four alternatives being considered in the DEIS process, ranging from leaving the leasing program as it is to ending all new leasing on WRNF lands. The agency, in its proposed action described in Alternative C, strikes a middle ground by reducing the WRNF acreage that is readily available for leasing from the current level of 417,000 acres to 260,000 acres.