Institute of Forest Resources Announces Funding for Six Research Projects

This spring, the Institute of Forest Resources (IFR) awarded funding to six new research projects in Washington, ranging from the feasibility of a wolf economy, to restoring fire-prone forest ecosystems.

Wolf StudyLed by Dean Emeritus Bruce Bare of the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS), IFR’s mission is to explore research covering forestry and other emerging issues related to forest and environmental sciences. The institute’s primary scope involves issues affecting Washington State’s rural and urban forest ecosystems, and how to sustain the multiple products and services derived from these resources.

Housed within SEFS, and borrowing from the wealth of internal expertise and connections at affiliated institutions, IFR promotes a uniquely interdisciplinary perspective. None of its research is carried out in isolation or on strictly theoretical grounds. These projects rely on the natural laboratory of people interacting with their physical environment—wildlife and agriculture, climate change and forest management, forest policy and economic markets, watersheds and water quality. The goal is to deliver practical solutions and policies that promote a sustainable balance between ecological and economic interests.

Funding has been finalized for four of the six proposals, and is pending final approval from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture for the remaining two. The six projects for 2013-14 include:

1. “Defining Desired Future Conditions for Restoration of Fire-Prone Forest Ecosystems: Lessons from the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program.” (Charles B. Halpern, Lauren S. Urgenson, Clare M. Ryan, Ernesto Alvarado and Jonathan D. Bakker).
Restoration of frequent- and mixed-fire regime forest ecosystems is a pressing natural resource issue in Washington State, as in much of the West. In 2009, the U.S. Forest Service established the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) to facilitate forest restoration at a landscape scale. The program engages stakeholders from diverse groups—with differing goals and perspectives—in the design and implementation of large-scale forest restoration projects. This project has two overarching goals: first, to understand how CFLRP collaboratives in the inland Northwest (and beyond) achieve consensus in defining desired future conditions; and second, to distill this understanding as a set of “best practices” that can assist forest managers and collaborative-group members in this process.

Trade Policy2. “Assessing the Impact of Trade Policies on the Competitiveness of Wood Exports from Washington State.” (Ivan Eastin and Indroneil Ganguly).
Recently, a large number of new laws, regulations, policies and programs have been adopted around the Pacific Rim that could significantly affect the specification, use and trade of wood products from Washington State. This study will implement a program of research and extension activities designed to assist small and medium-sized wood products companies and Native American tribal enterprises to understand and adapt to these changing market conditions.

3. “Finding Common Ground Toward the Resolution of a Forest Management Dispute.” (Stanley T. Asah and E. David Ford).
Management of the Olympic Experimental State Forest (OESF) is important to a range of interested parties. This project will implement a research program to better understand and inform the resolution of the dispute about how the OESF is currently managed, and to outline key areas of consensus and disagreement about how the forest should be managed in the future. In light of the Olympic Natural Resources Center’s role as a neutral forum for addressing management challenges, the aim of this study is to facilitate the management of the OESF in ways that are not only ecologically sound but are also culturally, politically and socio‐economically acceptable across the key stakeholder groups.

Biofuels4. “Climate Change and Washington State Biofuels Industry: Impacts and Critical Technical Innovations.” (Renata Bura, Richard Gustafson, Susan Bolton, Josh Lawler and Luke Rogers.)
Hardwood plantations are being established in the Pacific Northwest to provide feedstock for the production of fuels and chemicals. However, water demand and water availability for the production of biofuels may be substantial, and water issues need to be investigated further before a commercial system is built out and formalized. The study will use an interdisciplinary approach to develop new technologies, and perform impact assessments for attaining sustainable biofuel production.

5. “Feasibility of a Wolf Economy for Washington.” (John Marzluff, Stanley Asah and Aaron Wirsing).
This project will engage stakeholders in the recovery of wolf numbers in Washington State to determine the feasibility, both social and economic, of developing a market that values a sustainable wolf population. Researchers will build on existing examples and citizen input to test two major components of a viable wolf economy: protecting rancher investments, and developing new markets that reward and compensate ranchers who coexist with wolves.

6. “Assessing the Status of Washington’s Hardwood Resource.” (B. Bruce Bare, John Perez-Garcia and Luke Rogers).
This study aims to calculate how much hardwood growing stock currently exists in Washington State; the age (or size) class structure and location of the inventory; the ownerships currently managing the growing stock; and the volume under riparian management regulations.

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During a two-year period, total funding for the six projects is roughly $1.5 million, including federal funds provided by the McIntire-Stennis cooperative research program, and matching funds provided by project collaborators.

As these projects take shape, IFR will work to communicate research findings to the public through meetings, workshops, websites and social media—and in clear, accessible language that resonates widely. So stay tuned!

For more information about IFR and its research, contact Bruce Bare.

Photos © Institute of Forest Resources.

Grad Student Spotlight: Carol Bogezi

Field work for graduate wildlife students often involves a great deal of patience. You might spend days tracking wolves or grizzlies before you catch a glimpse, or even have to wait months trying to spy your first lynx.

Carol Bogezi

Bogezi and her “big kitty.”

Not so for Carol Bogezi, a first-year Ph.D. student at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS). She struck pay dirt on her first time out, capturing a full-grown, 150-pound male cougar in the North Fork Creek drainage of the Marckworth State Forest, east of Duvall, Wash. She had set out to the study site with Dr. Brian Kertson, a SEFS alumnus and cougar expert who now works with the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, when they came across the treed cat.

“When you see one in a tree, you think it’s just a big kitty,” she says. “But when you have it down and are measuring it in your hands, it’s really big!”

Bogezi grew up outside of Kampala, Uganda, and moved to Seattle this past September to begin graduate work with Professor John Marzluff. Back home, she had most recently been studying the habitat and distribution of crocodiles in Kidepo Valley National Park, and she had done similar work with elephants and lions. What drew her to the University of Washington was the chance to study in a totally new environment, and also to focus on the human dimensions of wildlife interactions and management. Studying cougars in western Washington was a perfect fit.

She’s still fine-tuning her research question, but Bogezi is especially interested in investigating how wildlife responds to human activities, such as logging or hiking, in natural areas. Also, as in the case with cougars, how do you mitigate conflicts—especially within her study area, which extends up to the Seattle suburbs and the Interstate 90 corridor? Or, in cases where perception can be more damaging than reality, can you change human attitudes toward wildlife and facilitate greater community understanding and tolerance of local species?

Beginning later this spring, she’ll get another opportunity to explore some of those questions in a separate joint research project with Marzluff and Professors Stanley Asah and Aaron Wirsing. The study, recently awarded funding by the Institute of Forest Resources at SEFS, will approach the management of wolves in eastern Washington—specifically, whether it’s possible, via rancher compensation or other economic incentive programs, to support a healthy and sustainable wolf presence in the state.

Carol Bogezi and Croc

Bogezi captures a crocodile during one of her research projects back in Uganda’s Kidepo Valley National Park.

Bogezi says the challenge with wolves is similar to situations she experienced in Uganda involving elephants damaging crops, or lions taking livestock. She recalls showing up to heated meetings with farmers who had lost animals, or who had their fields trampled, and sometimes they’d even come waving spears. “If it’s touching their livelihoods, that’s where there’s conflict,” she says.

But the issue with wolves could be more emotional than practical—in part, Bogezi believes, because we’re raised on stories like “Little Red Riding Hood” that teach kids to fear and even hate wolves. Whatever the root causes or potential solutions, though, Bogezi is excited to get out and learn firsthand what’s driving perceptions. “I want to find out what people really think about the wolves,” she says, “and get ideas from the ranchers themselves about how to manage this conflict.”

When she completes her graduate work, Bogezi hopes to return to Uganda and, if possible, continue working there with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). She would love to replicate her research here back home, and to help mitigate wildlife conflicts in other geographical areas around Uganda and Africa.

By then, she’ll be thoroughly field-tested, having handled crocodiles, held a full-grown cougar in her lap, and stared down spears in the line of research. Certainly makes you wonder what kind of challenge she’ll take on next!

Photos courtesy of Carol Bogezi.