Bah HumBUGs and disease are the problem in our forests

December 18, 2014
pine bark beetle

A pine bark beetle is the size of a grain of rice.

With milder winters, overstocked forests and past forest management practices, Washington’s forests are increasingly becoming a smorgasbord for tree-devouring insects.

The 2014 annual insect and disease aerial survey found that insects and disease killed more than 4 million trees on over 540,000 acres in Washington state.

About 143,000 acres of forestlands east of the Cascade Mountain Range showed especially high levels of pine tree death caused by pine bark beetles, an increase from the 107,000 acres reported in 2013.

You can now explore the latest aerial survey maps on the Department of Natural Resources’ interactive, web-based mapping site: Fire Prevention and Fuels Management Mapping. Click on the Forest Disturbance folder.

Aerial observers this year also identified nearly 740,000 trees across 30,000 eastern Washington acres that died as a result of 2012 wildfire damage or from the bark beetles that subsequently attacked damaged trees. Those numbers are well higher than typical.

Though damage from forest pests was down from historical norms in 2013 and 2014, the number of trees destroyed by insects in the last decade is unprecedented.

Widespread mortality caused by bark beetles and damage from defoliating insects is setting the stage for more wildfires. In some places, critical wildlife habitat is being destroyed.

Why? Read the rest of this entry »

Aspen: The “wow” tree of the mountains

December 17, 2014
aspen colors

There no shortage of vibrant color in fall where the aspen grows. Photo: Don Hanley.

Aspen (Populus tremuloides) is one of the most beautiful trees of the fall season in the West. Its bright yellow leaves and creamy white bark against a backdrop of blue sky makes walkers pause in their tracks. No other tree species casts its autumn spell as broadly as aspen. These distinctive trees can be found in almost every mountain vegetation zone across North America — from northern Canada and Alaska to the mountains of central Mexico. Worldwide, only the European aspen and Scotch pine have greater natural ranges.

But it’s not just about good looks: a healthy stand of aspen benefits wildlife, protects watersheds, and contributes to healthy forest ecosystems. Aspen leaves and buds are a favorite food for wildlife such as grouse and turkeys, particularly in the winter when insects and other food items are scarce. Aspen stands also are rich in forage for sheep and cattle — about ten times more forage than a similar-sized stand of conifer trees.

Learn more about the aspen and see great photos of these stunning trees in the latest issue of Forest Stewardship Notes, a free e-newsletter published online each quarter by DNR and Washington State University Forestry Extension.

Interested in getting an email alert when new issues of Forest Stewardship Notes are published? Sign up here. It’s free!

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Jobs open: Wildland firefighters needed

December 16, 2014
Crews mop up after the St. Mary's Mission Road Wildfire 2012.

Crews mop up after the St. Mary’s Mission Road Wildfire 2012. PHOTO Janet Pearce/DNR

DNR is looking for a few hundred people to help us protect 13 million acres of Washington state from wildfire this summer. Is that you? Someone you know?

Applications are being accepted for DNR’s summer “fire” jobs. Seasonal, temporary positions for these strenuous but rewarding and important jobs are open statewide. Training provided.

We’re recruiting for wildland firefighter crew members and helitack crew positions for the 2015 summer season. Being a member of a hand crew or helitack crew is an excellent opportunity for motivated individuals and students interested in a natural resource management career or to gain fundamental forestry experience through fire crew employment.

We are looking for individuals willing and capable of performing strenuous outdoor work safely and productively and of accepting direction and acting responsibly. The duration of these positions is generally three to four months. Work begins approximately mid-June and ends in mid-September. The experience and training gained as a wildland firefighter or a helitack crew member can form the foundation for a successful career in forestry and other natural resource professions. DNR will provide safety clothing needed for the job.

Visit the DNR Jobs Page where you can sign up for weekly emails of new job announcements.

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Is someone getting BBQ this holiday?

December 15, 2014

Yes – you are! BBQ Flats that is!

Meadow and spread out pine trees

Back Country Horsemen of Washington representatives say that spring and fall riding in the unique BBQ Flats landscape is a favorite for locals, people from across Washington, and visitors from nearby states,

If you ride horses near Ellensburg, it could be that we (and the state legislature) are making your Christmas wish come true this holiday.

DNR announced last week that BBQ Flats, in the Wenas, will be open to the public by July of 2015. Through a series of land trades and purchases, DNR is taking possession of a road that will serve as a public access to a new BBQ Flats recreation site.

If that announcement is the main dish, the sides aren’t bad either. As part of the deal DNR will also add toilets and a recreation site for parking, horse trailers, camping and cross-country horse riding and hiking.

Yet, it takes more than wishful thinking to get flat, open pine forests like this one available for you to enjoy. In this case it took the 2013 State Legislature – and $500,000 – to allow DNR the ability to make it happen.

And for those who ride horses in the backcountry, for whom this area has long been popular, the announcement is, well, good enough to eat.

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DNR advises caution in aftermath of wind storm

December 12, 2014
Saturated soils and strong winds toppled this big tree.

Saturated soils and strong winds toppled this big tree.

Does your yard resemble a ‘war zone’ of downed trees and limbs after the recent wind storms that swept across much of Washington?

High winds and rain-saturated soils can lead to damage to even the healthiest of trees. If you’re lucky, the storm removed the weakest limbs from your trees, and all you need to do now is prune and clean up debris.

If your tree suffered more than a little damage, you may need help. The Arbor Day Foundation has some excellent tree recovery tips.

Whatever you do, please don’t top your trees! There are much better ways to deal with damaged trees. Arborists and plant scientists agree that tree topping is bad tree management practice.

Topping is severely cutting and removing large branches in a mature tree. Trees cut back indiscriminately will respond by quickly growing multiple branch-like shoots that compete for dominance. The result is a bushy re-growth that will be the same size as the tree’s original height, but with weaker branches.

As shoots increase in weight, the branches of a topped tree become susceptible to breaking off during storms. They must be continually pruned to avoid potentially hazardous branch failures. Rather than creating a safer tree, topping can actually create a greater hazard.

The best answer is to consult a certified arborist for any tree care.

Certified arborists and other legitimate landscape professionals do not practice tree topping. If problems caused by a tree cannot be solved through acceptable management practices, the tree should be removed and replaced with a different tree or plant more appropriate for the site. Read the rest of this entry »

Petroglyph preserved thanks to fisherman’s keen eye

December 11, 2014
Fisherman Erik Wasankari of Gig Harbor, left, tells Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark about finding a centuries-old petroglyph while fishing along the Calawah River outside Forks. DNR Photo

Fisherman Erik Wasankari of Gig Harbor, left, tells Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark about finding a centuries-old petroglyph while fishing along the Calawah River outside Forks. DNR Photo

Father-and-son anglers Erik and Reid Wasankari had just sat down to have lunch while fishing on the Calawah River last December, when they noticed a large rock with unusual grooves and shapes.

“I knew it was something special. I knew it had to belong to the tribe,” Erik Wasankari said after a ceremony held by the tribe to recover the petroglyph Wednesday on the banks of the Calawah River.

What they saw, as has since been reported, was what officials with the Quileute Tribe believe to be the most important relic linking present-day members to an age-old legend of a battle between K’wati, a transformative figure in Quileute mythology, and a monstrous Red Lizard.

After spotting the petroglyph, Wasnankari took pictures and contacted the Quileute Tribe who called Washington Department of Natural Resources archaeologists to inspect and authenticate the petroglyph.

Also at Wednesday’s ceremony was Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark who hailed Wasankari for having that instinct.

“A lot of people, if they found a rock like that, might not have had that thought. This could have ended up in somebody’s front yard,” Commissioner Goldmark said.

Cultural resources – artifacts, remains of settlements, etc. – are an important part of the history and heritage of our state and tribal territories. Identifying and preserving them are important part of what DNR does for our shared lands.

If you believe you have discovered a cultural resource, avoid disturbing it and contact Forest Practices staff in the DNR region office where you saw the cultural resource.

To learn about the types of “cultural resources” found in the forest, this video presentation provides a useful overview. The presentation was made available by the Timber/Fish/Wildlife Cultural Resources Roundtable.

DNR’s Tribal Relations Manager coordinates these efforts for the agency.

‘Red Lizard’s Lair’ recovered by Quileute Tribe; authenticated by DNR

December 10, 2014

DNR archaeologist Maurice Major inspects the Calawah rock in October. DNR Photo.

A red cranky lizard once guarded the shortest path between the Sol Duc and Calawah rivers until K’Wati, the legendary figure who transformed the Quileute Tribe of Indians from wolves, vanquished the lizard and allowed safe passage on the path.

Quileute officials Wednesday recovered a newly-discovered petroglyph, hand-carved prior to contact with Europeans, that depicts that battle.

Elders and tribal leaders say the rock is the only known petroglyph depicting a Quileute legend on the tribe’s traditional territory.

“This is one of the most important finds in the history of our tribe,” Quileute Council Chairman Chaz Woodruff said.

Nearly all of the tribe’s art from pre-contact days was lost in an 1889 fire that destroyed its village at La Push. To prevent this important relic from being stolen or vandalized, the tribe relocated it to the Quileute reservation.

Last December, a fisherman who had grown up in the area noticed the rock while fishing for winter steelhead in the state-owned shorelands along the Calawah River. Calawah (pronounced Ka’ law wah) means “middle river” in Quileute.

He took pictures and contacted the Quileute Tribe who called Washington Department of Natural Resources archaeologists to inspect the petroglyph.

Read the rest of this entry »

Is a natural tree or an artificial tree more eco-friendly?

December 9, 2014
Christmas tree farm

WSU Extension agent Jim Freed (left) and a Christmas tree grower examine a noble fir. Photo: WSU Extension .

Every holiday season, there are debates about which is the more environmentally conscious choice: a real Christmas tree or an artificial Christmas tree. Let’s attempt to dispel some common myths about real trees.

Myth 1: Real trees are cut down from forests. Yes, the US Forest Service issues a small number of permits to cut wild trees but most of the Christmas and other types of holiday trees you purchase are grown on farms just like any other agricultural crop.

Myth 2: You save forests by using a fake tree. Because real Christmas trees are usually grown as a crop – they even call them ‘Christmas tree farms’ – you are buying a harvested product grown for this purpose.

Myth 3: Real trees aggravate allergies. Pine tree allergy is relatively uncommon, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Myth 4: Fake trees are better because you can re-use them. At some point, a fake tree wears out and ends up in a landfill where it is not biodegradable.

    Read the rest of this entry »

The annual Discover Pass is the gift that keeps on giving (fun, fresh air, exercise, and much more)

December 8, 2014
Discover Pass

Buy your loved one a gift that will last the whole year, an annual Discover Pass! Now you can choose the start date at the time of purchase.

Not sure what to give your friends and loved ones this holiday season? How about an Annual Discover Pass? For only $35 (if purchased online) it’s the perfect gift that keeps on giving… all year long!

Another reason it makes a great gift…

You can choose the date you want the new Discover Pass to begin – December 25? January 1? June1? – any day you want within the next year. Choose the activation date during purchase – activation must start within 365 days of your date of purchase. When purchasing online, you must allow 10 days for mailing when you select a future start date.

mountain bikers riding a snowy trail

Photo: Randy Warnock/DNR

The best part?

With your holiday shopping out of the way you can spend those remaining shopping days doing what you really want to do… enjoying yourself at state-managed recreation sites.

Ordering is quick and easy!

Just click here to easily order as many Discover Passes as you want from the comfort of your home! You should receive the Discover Pass(es) in the mail within 10 days.

A great gift for any occasion…

Already have your holiday gift list done? Not to worry: the Annual Discover Pass makes a great gift any time of year for birthdays, anniversaries, Father’s Day, graduations, weddings… the list goes on and on!

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Geology map app adds more of what’s under your feet

December 5, 2014
The composition of the Miocene-era rock under Spokane's Riverfront Park is one of the detailed reports you can get with a mouse click thanks to new updates to the Washington Geologic Information Portal. Photo/DNR

The composition of the Miocene-era rock under Spokane’s Riverfront Park is one of the detailed reports you can get with a mouse click thanks to new updates to the Washington Geologic Information Portal. Photo/DNR

Sure, the skating rink, garbage-eating goat and big red wagon are obvious attractions. But what’s under Spokane’s Riverfront Park?

Thanks to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources Division of Geology and Earth Sciences, you can take an online look at the Miocene lava deposits under Charles I. D. Looff’s 105-year-old carousel in the park.

The Washington Geologic Information Portal now contains thousands of new reports that can be easily viewed on an interactive map. What’s in the ground and what’s under it can all be viewed in greater detail than ever before.

Data from published literature have been compiled over the past several years to provide the public an easy way to learn about the geology around them.

New additions include:

  • Geologic mapping at 1:24,000 scale
  • Compiled reports on the chemical composition of rocks
  • Over 5,000 radiometric age estimates of rocks and deposits
  • Location, water chemistry, temperature, and imagery of thermal and mineral springs
  • Improved and expanded subsurface database with the locations, lithologic information, and reports for thousands of geotechnical boreholes
  • Revised and expanded geothermal information including resource potential and favorability, geothermal well data, and locations of open- and closed-loop geothermal systems.

For more information about the Geologic Information Portal, go to: http://www.dnr.wa.gov/Publications/ger_fs2_portal.pdf

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