Aerial Assessments

Aerial Assessments

The USDA Forest Service manages a division tasked with monitoring forest health via aerial survey. The Forest Health Protection (FHP) staff is responsible for pest detection, reporting and forest management on federal, state and private lands. The FHP aviation program surveys forested land for insects and pests, performs aerial photography and conducts aerial applications, when necessary. Their efforts assist federal and state partners and public stakeholders in achieving forest health goals. The current and future health of forests as well as public health and safety are founding principles of this arm of the Forest Service.

The Forest Health Protection (FHP) staff is responsible for pest detection, reporting and forest management on federal, state and private lands

USDA FHP staff using small, lightweight aircraft to conduct a forest health aerial survey.

FHP aviation implements effective and efficient operations using state of the art tools and technology. Their philosophy endorses the use of sound risk management throughout their mission and operations. Annual aerial surveys are conducted for the detection of insect and disease presence affecting forested areas. Aerial detection teams utilize a variety of light, fixed-wing and rotor-wing aircraft.

US Forest Service in cooperation with other federal partner agencies, state and local colleagues work together to complete overview surveys to map current forest conditions. Data collected through these surveys has assisted in the early detection and mapping of invasive species allowing agencies to respond rapidly. Compilation of aerial survey data regarding pest outbreaks has aided national and local land managers in decision making when it comes to conservation, funding, best management practices and natural resources management.

This aerial photography survey aided in the detection of a spruce beetle infestation in the San Juan National Forest located just east of Lake Cristobal in Colorado.

This aerial photography survey aided in the detection of a spruce beetle infestation in the San Juan National Forest located just east of Lake Cristobal in Colorado.

Data collected via aerial surveys, ground surveys and remote sensing are gathered from all forest service regions each fall. GIS data is parsed, codes get translated and data are merged from all of the various systems and are then presented on this site: http://foresthealth.fs.usda.gov/portal#article/id/81 for public access and use. The “Annual Conditions Report” published by the Washington Office of Forest Health Protection, also utilizes these data.

The Forest Health Technology Enterprise Team (FHTET), comprised of the FHP and an entrepreneurial component, has recently completed the 2013-2027 National Disease and Risk Map which is “a nationwide strategic assessment and database of the potential hazard for tree mortality due to major forest insects and diseases” (http://www.fs.fed.us/foresthealth/technology/pdfs/2012_RiskMap_Report_web.pdf). This is an effort to assess potential insect and disease activity at the landscape level and attempt to prepare for control and management presently and in the future.