Staff at the office of the Southern Regional Extension Forestry (SREF) office, a cooperative organization serving as a liaison between the US Forest Service and the Extension units in the Southern US, recently launched two initiatives focused on forest health and the economic impact of forestry as a resource for the forestry community in Georgia and across the Southeast.
Through partnerships with the Southern Group of State Foresters (SGSF), the U.S. Forest Service, the D.B. Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, and others, SREF coordinated the development and implementation of these initiatives due to the dual importance of forest health and the impact of forest-based economies to the south.
Bill Hubbard, Regional Forester with SREF was excited to assist with the coordination of these multi-state, multi-agency initiatives. “While these two opportunities to assist the collective forestry community in the South came up separately, it is easy to see how important the health of our forests are to the economic and social well-being of our populace.”
An Online Forest Health Resource
The Forest Health and Invasive Species Outreach and Education Program (FHIS), an initiative of SREF, the US Forest Service, and the University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, launched southernforesthealth.net to provide a centralized source of information on forest health and invasive species in the southeastern US.
The site contains fact sheets, videos, and other materials for use by forestry and Extension professionals for professional development and for outreach and education on southern forest health. The initiative is currently focused on non-native plants, insects, and pathogens, and pine stand management for the mitigation of potential insect and disease issues in the 13 southeastern states.
According to Dr. David Coyle, Extension Associate at SREF and FHIS Coordinator,“This program provides critical information and resources regarding native and invasive forest pests and other forest health issues across the southeastern U.S. and helps deliver a consistent education and information message so that forest health professionals can do their job effectively and communicate with their constituents”
Website features include contact information for forest health professionals throughout the Southeast, a calendar of forest health related events, and links to additional forest health resources, all of which can be shared among educators and specialists for use with the general public. In the future, the site’s scope will expand to include Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
As a companion to the website, FHIS hosts a live monthly webinar dedicated to relevant and essential forest health-related subjects and featuring experts in the field. The webinars are available to view live or on-demand and offer professional certification credits.
Promoting the Economic Impacts of Forestry in the South
In addition to their efforts focused on forest health, SREF, in partnership with the Southern Group of State Foresters (SGSF), also launched a one-stop website devoted to offering the most recent state and regional level data on forest economic impacts in the Southeast.
Forestryimpacts.net provides easy access to economic impact reports for each of the 13 states in the Southern Region and links to other relevant forest economic resources on the web. SREF and its partners created the site to respond to the need of educators, policy makers, community leaders, and the general public for comprehensive and convenient forest economic information.
“The site is the result of a tremendous amount of work by those within the state forestry and university system in the Southern Region,” added Bill Hubbard. “SREF Extension Associates Steven Weaver and Leslie Boby are to be commended for shepherding such a powerful resource into existence.”
Other partners on the effort include the Association of Southern Region Extension Directors (ASRED), and the State and Private Forestry (S&PF) Unit of the USDA Forest Service (USFS) Southern Region.
Among other projects, SREF staff is currently completing work on a redesign of the website for the southeastern branch of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Strategy to be housed at southernwildfire.net. That site, which provides extensive resources for forestry and fire professionals as well as the general public, is expected to go live by the middle of May, 2016.
To learn more about SREF and to access other tools and initiatives, visit www.sref.info.