NE Inventory and Monitoring Newsletter
What’s Happening in FIA and FHM in the Northeast
Fall, 2000


Greetings from the Program Manager
Recent Developments in NE FIA Phase 1 Inventory
First Published Annual FIA Results
New FIA Websites
Recent Personnel Changes
Hiring Early Alerts
Regional FIA Cooperators' Meeting
FHM Update
FIA Update

  • Greetings from the Program Manager

    I am very pleased with all the things we have accomplished this year. We started our second state using the annual survey approach. Pennsylvania also gave us the funding to reduce the cycle from 7 to 5 years. All plots taken this year used the new plot design and were on the new grid. We now have 37% of the forest area in the northeast under the annual inventory system. The Maine Forest Service (with some help from us) released the first set of annual results from any state just in time for their forestry referendum.
    We fully integrated Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) and Forest Health Monitoring (FHM) in Pennsylvania by having a combined 4-person crew, including a botanist for the Vegetation survey pilot study. We had data recorders operating in all our states (Maine, Pennsylvania and West Virginia). As you will see from the story below, we have made significant strides in developing satellite imagery classification to replace photointerpretation.

    As for future plans, our proposed schedule for implementing the annual survey is:

    Year State(s)
    2001 OH
    2002 NY, VT, NH, MA, CT, RI
    2003 NJ, DE, MD, WV
    This is contingent upon full funding. Congress appropriated $5 million of the $8 million needed in 2001. NE was allocated $1.363 of the $5 million for adding OH and getting to full 7-year funding in ME and PA. Plans for meeting the $3 million shortfall are being worked out. But, we in NE-FIA are going full steam ahead. Adding OH will increase the percentage of forest area under the annual inventory system in the northeast to 46% in 2001. At the same time we will finish WV, our last periodic state.

    I hope you enjoy the newsletter. As always, we welcome your feedback (we were encouraged by the feedback on our first one).

    Chip Scott

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  • Recent Developments in NE FIA Phase 1 Inventory

    The NE research station is evaluating the use of satellite imagery to stratify FIA ground plots. The new FIA inventory design requires that the ground plots be stratified at least every five years, more than twice as often as before. Satellite imagery is much cheaper than aerial photos per unit area and are acquired at much more frequent intervals. The computer based “classification” of digital imagery is more automated than manual photo “interpretation” and is faster in most cases. And the classified satellite image provides a continuous forest cover map versus the “photo plot” array technique of one - 1ac plot per 250 acres. Given these advantages, what is there to evaluate?! The monoscopic, low-resolution (30m pixel) satellite view does not yield as high an interpretation accuracy as the aerial photo (½ m pixel) viewed in 3-D. The questions are: What image classification techniques provide the highest map accuracy? Can these maps be used to adequately reduce the variance of ground plot estimates of forest area and volume?

    The NE-FIA techniques development group has explored these questions using several approaches. New classification techniques were compared with more standard methods in terms of map accuracy assessment and plot stratification. Included in the comparison were maps produced by the MRLC and the GAP analysis programs, with each 30m pixel classified as forest or nonforest.
    [view table of classification techniques].

    We also investigated a stratification technique based on the homogeneity of a 3x3 pixel array surrounding the plot, rather than on individual pixels. The addition of mixed strata resulted in the lowest sampling error using Landsat TM imagery: 2.97% SE.
    [view graphic of pixel array].

    This effort is part of a national effort that will determine the best approach (or combination of approaches) by early 2002. Stay tuned.

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  • First Published Annual FIA Results

    Taken from FIA News, which can be viewed at

    The State of Maine, in collaboration with the Northeastern FIA unit, has analyzed and published the first publicly available results based on annual FIA data.  The analysis, available at ...
    ... provides an update of the previous 1995 Maine inventory and shows no evidence of any crises existing within the forests of Maine.  This analysis was based on a remeasurement of the first complete Maine FIA panel (20% of the base grid of plots, or 646 plots) measured in 1999.  The State of Maine contributes both field crews for data collection as well as a State biometrician who worked with the Northeastern FIA unit to produce the analysis.  Maine plans to continue publishing annual updates of their inventory data, and the USDA Forest Service will produce a full analysis at five-year intervals. 

    Other states for which initial reports based on annual FIA data are in preparation include Missouri, Minnesota, Indiana, Iowa, and Georgia.   As we are just now beginning our third year of implementation of the Strategic Plan for FIA, which calls for the switch to an annual inventory approach, it is encouraging to see that results are already being published.  As Maine State Forester Tom Doak says in the press release: "The benefit of this annual inventory system is that it will offer timely, up-to-date information on Maine's forests every year ... This should allow us to identify and address potential issues."

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  • New FIA Websites

    The national FIA web site can now be accessed at:
    Our NE-FIA site has also been greatly improved and updated. Please visit us at:
    You will find out more about what we are up to, see the previous newsletter, find out the status of our field work, and view the list of our staff and how to reach us. Please give us feedback on it so that we can ensure that it meets your needs.

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  • Recent Personnel Changes

    In July, Rob Mangold was selected to serve as the national director of Forest Health Protection with State & Private Forestry. Ken Stolte is the acting FHM Program Director and is working with others on revising the position description. We hope that Rob's replacement will be in place by the end of 2001. Rob has been great to work with during the merger of the plot component of FHM with FIA.

    Kurt Riitters is now Deputy National Manager for FHM. Kurt is located at the Research Triangle Park lab in NC. Kurt comes to FHM through USGS and TVA, and was involved in FHM during the formative years. When not overseeing the administration of the Program, Kurt plans to apply his background in landscape ecology to FHM data. Glad to have Kurt on board.

    Brett Butler started work Nov. 6 to head up the analysis of forestland ownership regionally and will serve as the coordinator for the national forest landowner survey. Brett comes to us from Oregon State University where he recently passed his prelims as a Ph.D. candidate. He received his B.S. in renewable natural resources from the University of Connecticut. Brett has hit the ground running attending two meetings prior to his arrival, plus presenting a poster at the Society of American Foresters National Convention just 10 days after his arrival. We are excited to have Brett on board. When you see some of the things he has in mind, we think you will be excited too.

    Stan Arner, the previous Section Head for techniques development, retired in December. Stan started with NE as one of the Station biometricians. For the last 10 years or so, he has been working with FIA on statistical issues, including an evaluation of plot mapping methods, a simulation study of annual inventory alternatives, and his current work on Phase 1 alternatives. Stan headed up the national team to update, standardize, and document the stocking, forest type, and stand size routines. He will be greatly missed. Mike Hoppus, our remote sensing specialist, is the new Section Head.

    Vickie Sharon, our Administrative Assistant, moved (on and up) into a position with Northeastern Area State & Private Forestry. We already miss her energy and out-going personality.

    Barb O'Connell has agreed to serve as the Band Conductor for FIA's four national bands (plus the statistics crossband). She will foster communication between Bands and accountability within Bands. She will also take the lead on organizing the annual crossband meeting planned for March. Barb will continue to spend the other 50% of her time on processing Phase 3 (FHM) data. Those of you who know Barb know that she will do an excellent job

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  • Hiring Early Alerts

    We plan to fill many positions this year:

    • We have 16 positions to fill on our field staff as we move into Ohio: 3 term GS-5/7 positions and 13 permanent GS-5/7/9 crew leader and Quality Assurance positions.

    • We have advertised for a GS-7/9 Program Coordinator to assist the Program Manager with budgets and administrative matters.

    • We plan to fill a new position that we call the FHM research analyst. This research position will focus on: 1) developing methods to detect problem areas using the Phase 3 (FHM) and detection survey data; 2) developing relationships between Phases 2 (FIA) and Phase 3; 3) coordinate/conduct research on problems which can only be resolved using intensive site ecosystem monitoring (ISEM); and, 4) conduct research on improved monitoring techniques. Ideally, we will be looking for candidates with a Ph.D. and a strong forest ecology and quantitative background. Let us know if you or someone else you know would be interested so that we can be sure he/she gets the announcement.

    • We plan to fill another new position a computer specialist/programmer. This position will work in our Information Management section on a variety of programming and database projects. Ideally, we are looking for someone with a natural resources background who can program in C, Fortran, Basic, and/or Visual Basic and who knows Oracle. Let us know if you or someone else you know would be interested so that we can be sure he/she gets the announcement.

    Note: Only U.S. citizens can apply.

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  • Regional FIA Cooperators' Meeting

    The New Hampshire Div. of Forests & Lands hosted a meeting of our FHM and FIA state cooperators in Portsmouth, NH on July 19-20, 2000. Dave Heinzen, MN, helped lead us through the development of a team focused on the Northeastern FIA/FHM program. The group accomplished the following:

    1. Agreed to form a Northeast FIA Coordination Group.
    2. User Group includes FIA and FHM state contacts.
    3. Decided to include FHM Off-Plot reps in the NE FIA Coordination Group.
    4. Tom Hall (PA) and Sloan Crawford (NY) volunteered to serve as co-Chairs of the group. These positions will be rotated.
    5. Next meeting will be in March 6-7, 2001. (Still planning to hold fall debriefing meetings and spring FHM planning to discuss logistics and training.)
    6. Meeting locations will be rotated.

    Our thanks go to the new group. We look forward to working together to fully implement integrated FIA/FHM annual surveys across the Northeast. In the coming year or so, we hope to form an NE-FIA/FHM Users' Group that will include a wider range of FIA/FHM customers.

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  • FHM Update

    With the splitting of the northern FHM program between the Northeastern and North Central Research Stations, another position was needed on the FHM Management Team. Charlie Burnham of Massachusetts volunteered to serve. He attended his first Mgt. Team meeting in October. Glad to have you, Charlie.

    The FHM Management Team has met twice since our first newsletter. At the October meeting in Denver, the group discussed a new conceptual model showing the relationship between the components of FIA and the components of FHM. Phases 1-3 of FIA are components of FHM, along with the other components: surveys, Evaluation Monitoring (EM), research on monitoring techniques (ROMT), and intensive site ecosystem monitoring (ISEM). FIA manages the FIA program, FHM manages the other components of FHM, and integration is achieved by virtue of the large number of individuals who have both FIA and FHM duties, and by management teams who support the unique and combined functions of both programs. The FIA program is composed of Phase 1 (satellite image classification), Phase 2 (FIA plots), then Phase 3 (the FHM subsample of FIA plots).
    [view graphic of conceptual FHM Program].

    The FHM Mgt. Team has been easing out of plot issues and focusing more on the detection survey, evaluation monitoring, intensive site ecosystem monitoring, and research on monitoring techniques. Indicator Leads are now referred to as Indicator Advisors reflecting their more integrated role in Phase 3. The Soils Indicator Advisor position is now split between Mike Amacher from the Rocky Mtn. Research Station in Logan, UT and a new soil scientist to be hired by the North Central Research Station in Grand Rapids, MN. Karen Waddell of the Pacific Northwest Research Station is the new Down Woody Debris advisor. PNW is hiring the new Understory Vegetation advisor to be located in Anchorage, AK. Advisors will serve as ex officio members of each Band.

    The role of ozone is evolving to reflect its uniqueness. The current plan is to focus less on linking ozone plots directly to P3 plots and more on ensuring that each state has a network of ozone plots to cover forested areas with emphasis on high ozone areas. FHM has agreed to take the lead for ozone back from FIA (along with the funding to do it), thus it will be treated more like the detection survey than plot work. No changes are anticipated for the 2001 field season, except in new states.

    There is $1.725K of new money for Evaluation Monitoring of fire effects. The funds cannot be used for research only for applying existing knowledge/expertise/methods to bear on the question (such as identified in Detection Monitoring). More later.

    The Understory Vegetation survey pilot will phase into a transition year in 2001 with plans for full implementation in annual states in 2002. NC plans to collect vegetation data in all of its states as part of a fuel assessment study that was funded out of the new fire research money. Other regions plan to do the Vegetation survey in a few states. Currently we are focusing on doing PA again this year.

    Due to the high costs of analyzing soils, the current plan is to cut back from 3 pits per plot to one in 2001-more on this later.

    The FHM Directory will be updated to include FIA folks and will be posted on the web. We will let you know when that becomes available.

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  • FIA Update

    The FIA Mgt. Team also met twice since the last newsletter. At our October meeting, we decided that FIA should look closely at the possibility of using MRLC (Multi-Resolution Land Classification) for Phase 1 of FIA, but that more information is needed before a decision can be made. This would be a multi-agency effort to classify the entire US on a regular basis using multiple-date satellite imagery.

    The Development Team (D-Team) is assigned with the task of developing a common system to process FIA data. The D-Team has been hampered by lack of personnel support. The Mgt. Team agreed to provide the equivalent of 1 full-time person per year per FIA region. They also agreed with the D-Team proposal to contract for an Oracle designer/mentor to periodically assist the team.

    The Data Acquisition Band will clean up a few problems in version 1.4 of the field manual and will fully integrate the FHM manual and release it as version 1.5 early in 2001. The next major revision will be available by October 2002 as version 2.0. Version 1.4 is available via the web.

    The National FIA newsletter is now available on the FIA website:

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