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Quilts Construe Future of Hoosier National Forest

This LANDIS quilt shows the dominant tree species over a 150 year time period for four different management scenarios. Columbia, MO, April 10, 2006 - The Hoosier National Forest recently presented USDA Forest Service -North Central Research Station scientists with a unique recognition -- quilts, depicting a sustainable future for these public lands in Indiana. This unusual recognition was inspired by the colorful maps produced by the researchers’ computer model called LANDIS.

LANDIS is a spatially explicit model that simulates ecological dynamics such as forest succession, seed dispersal, and natural disturbances, such as wind events and fire. For nine months, the USDA Forest Service scientists worked with the Hoosier National Forest planners as they developed the Forest’s land management plan. A dozen scientists created projections of what future forests will look like under different management alternatives.  The model also showed how the forest has changed over time.

The end result was a series of maps depicting the long-term effects on forest vegetation in the Hoosier National Forest in terms of the proposed management alternatives.  With different variables put in place, scientists were able to get an idea of how the land would change and how species would be affected. 

Someone mentioned that these model outputs looked like quilts and the idea was born to make quilts to honor the time and effort put into this work.  Nine quilts were made to replicate the pattern of the forest maps.  These quilts have been presented to members of the planning team as a non-monetary award for the laudable service given throughout this project.

According to Stephen Shifley, lead researcher on this project, an award of this kind is the first he has ever seen.

"We were thrilled to be able to collaborate with the folks at the Hoosier National Forest and apply the latest science to some of the forest management issues they face, Shifley said.  “It was a great partnership. The quilts were a real surprise and a unique blending of art, craft, and science into instant heirlooms.   No matter how long and hard I had looked at those maps, I never would have been able to envision them as a quilts.  The quilt project demonstrated the creativity that can result when people with different experiences and different perspectives work together."

The task of converting the LANDIS models into quilts was given to Janet Farless.  An artist herself, Farless consulted Frances Myers, expert in quilting.  They designed the quilts to honor those who worked on making long -range forecasts of the effects of management choices on the future forest.

Forest Service research develops new technologies that help forest managers. The research and development arm of the USDA Forest Service works at the forefront of science to improve the health and use of our Nation’s forests and grasslands. Research has been part of the Forest Service mission since its inception in 1905. Today, some 500-plus researchers work in a range of biological, physical, and social science fields to promote sustainable management of the Nation’s diverse forests and grasslands. Their research includes programs in all 50 states, U.S. territories, and commonwealths. The researchers work independently and with a range of partners, including other agencies, academia, nonprofit groups, and industry. The information and technology produced through basic and applied science programs are available to the public for its benefit and use.

The U.S. Forest Service is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a mission of sustaining the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The mission of the Forest Service's Northern Research Station is to improve people’s lives and help sustain the natural resources in the Northeast and Midwest through leading-edge science and effective information delivery.

The U.S. Forest Service manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live. For more information, visit


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Last modified: April 10, 2006