A “Forests at Risk Symposium” will be held later this month to explore public-private options to address issues surrounding forest health.
Organized by the Aspen Center For Environmental Studies (ACES), the symposium will convene experts from the private sector, senior government policy makers, scientists and leaders from conservation organizations at the Aspen Institute on June 24-25.
The symposium is being held in partnership with the Aspen Environment Forum — a program of the Aspen Institute — and in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service. The title of the symposium is “Forests at Risk: Conservation & Collaboration in a Changing World.”
“The one question this symposium will definitively answer is how the collaboration between the private sector and the public sector will address forest health challenges and work together on solutions,” said Chris Lane, CEO of the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies at a press conference Thursday.
The event opens Sunday evening, June 24, at the Aspen Institute’s Doerr-Hosier Center with a video presentation by James Balog titled “A Changing Climate — What Do Dying Forests and Melting Glaciers Share in Common?” This will be followed by presentations by Maggie Fox, president of the Climate Reality Project, and David Orr, chair of environmental studies at Oberlin College.
As the symposium explores the intersection of forest ecosystems and human activity, it will address the kinds of responses that are available.
“This is a solution-oriented symposium that will examine policy responses and adaptive management strategies for the changing landscapes of the West,” John Bennett, who is organizing the ACES event, said in statement. “This year’s symposium will explore solutions with federal agencies like the U.S. Forest Service, private sector CEOs from the Aspen Skiing Co. and Snowbird Resort, and two utilities, Denver Water and Southern California Edison.”
Under Secretary of Agriculture Harris Sherman, whose office oversees the U.S. Forest Service, is the first keynote speaker on Monday.
“This is an impressive program of speakers with a strong agenda,” Sherman said in a press release. “It’s extremely relevant to the forest conservation challenges we face as a nation — the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies is asking exactly the right questions.”
Other speakers include Bill Possiel, president of the National Forest Foundation; Frank Lowenstein, climate adaptation strategy leader for The Nature Conservancy; Craig Allen, research ecologist for the U.S. Geological Survey; Ethan Aumack, director of restoration programs at the Grand Canyon Trust, and other leaders and scientists.
The symposium’s goals include informing the public about the threats to forest health from a warming climate, helping the U.S. Forest Service identify adaptive management strategies to increase forest resiliency, and exploring public-private collaboration.
The symposium will overlap the last day of the Aspen Environment Forum (AEF) sponsored by the Aspen Institute and National Geographic. AEF, which is themed “Living in the New Normal,” will review strategies for coping with climate change and its environmental consequences. AEF participants will be able to attend FAR sessions.
Some scientists are forecasting significant, and in some cases, dire outcomes for western forests as a result of climate change. Their predictions include more frequent mega-fires, along with new insect and disease epidemics. Two-thirds of Colorado’s aspen trees are expected to die off by 2060 if current trends continue, and most of the whitebark pine forests in Wyoming and Montana, critical habitat for grizzly bears, are expected to disappear, according to ACES.
“Over the last 20 years, our wildfire season has grown by 78 days,” Bennett said in a statement. “It’s clear that climate change is having a drastic affect on our landscape and we need to develop adaptive management solutions to address the changing ecosystem.”