Archive for the ‘Forests’ Category

Cultural heritage is all around us in the forest

September 15, 2014
Cedar tree used for bark harvest

Cedar tree used by Native Americans for a bark harvest. Note the scarring at the top of the photo. Photo: DNR

Woodlands provide a home for plants and animals, but they’re also home to the remains of past uses. Whether it’s an old well, homestead, railroad or a Tribal site, these cultural and historical resources on the land tell the story of our past – a tangible link to the people and events that shaped our shared history, communities and ourselves.

Most small landowners are willing to identify and protect cultural resources, but may not know how to go about doing so. They may also lack the financial resources to develop an organized and consistent approach to identifying and protecting the sites.

Both DNR’s stewardship foresters and Washington State University (WSU) Extension foresters can help private woodland owners develop forest stewardship plans that include steps to protect these resources. Addressing these resources in a stewardship plan also helps ensure that the plan meets state and federal laws that protect our cultural and historic resources. To find out more, go to the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation or contact the office by phone at (360) 586-3065. For more information on the state’s Forest Practices Rules and to find out which Tribes are in your area, contact your closest DNR Region Office.

Two helpful resources about protecting cultural resources in the forest come from the 2012 Cultural Resources Workshop sponsored by the Quinault Indian Nation and Washington Forest Protection Association, and from the American Tree Farm Systems webinar Archeology in Your Woods.

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Make plans for planting trees; it’s healthier in the long run

September 8, 2014
This beautiful tree may not have a chance to grow healthy because it's close by and under an evergreen tree.

This fall add some color to your yard and be sure to plant your tree in a good location.

Have you started planning for fall planting? If you blinked, you may have missed summer, but now that fall is coming soon, it’s the perfect time to plan for any trees you intend to plant.

Whether you plant a tree for aesthetics, to increase your property value, to save energy by providing shade, or to watch birds while lounging in a hammock, it is important to plan ahead. Start by thinking about site selection.

For trees to grow to maturity and provide the many benefits we expect from them, they must be well matched to site conditions. Take a look at these important site conditions: above- and below-ground conflicts (such as buried utilities), expected site modifications, and how much maintenance and care the tree will require.

You also want to evaluate the site to make sure it’s a good place for a tree so you can pick the best species for that site. List the tree attributes you are looking for that fit the limitations of the site. Attributes may include crown shape or flower color. You might also consider whether the tree can tolerate a lot of shade from nearby trees or buildings. Is the soil often damp? Will there be room for the tree when it reaches its mature height?

Consider a species appropriate for your area of the state, too. Look to see if your city or county has a list of appropriate community trees.

Now comes the fun part for ‘tree geeks.’ Pull out the nursery catalogs or search the web for tree availability to find the perfect tree for your site.

Ed Gilman of the University of Florida Agricultural Sciences has created a site evaluation form that can guide you through the evaluation process. To find a great volume of information about tree selection, planting, care, maintenance, and management, visit Gilman’s website.

The U.S. Forest Service has a checklist of points to consider before, during and after planting your tree.

Visit DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry Program webpage for additional information.

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Have you watered your trees lately?

August 21, 2014

The dog days of summer are still upon us. It’s a good thing we have trees to help keep us cool! Summer is a great time to kick back, relax, and enjoy the nice weather. But this month and next can be hard on trees, and they can use our help. Don’t be fooled by cooler weather. Cooler weather does not necessarily mean moisture.

In Washington, most of the annual accumulation of moisture comes in three seasons, fall, winter and spring. Summer is typically very dry. This weather pattern is great for vacatioTreens and back yard barbecues, but difficult for trees – particularly newly planted trees.

When we do get moisture, it may not be enough for our leafy friends, especially those planted within the last year or two. Even if you are watering your lawn on a regular basis, your trees might not be getting enough to drink. Grass roots, after all, only grow to a depth of several inches. In contrast, trees roots are deeper, from about 18” to 24” deep.

Long, slow watering under the drip-line of a tree with a soaker hose or even a bucket with small holes drilled into will ensure that moisture seeps down into the root zone.

Or build a low ring of dirt about 1 foot from the trunk of the tree to create a soil dam. With your hose turned on to a slow trickle, fill the tree ring with water (this will take about 30 minutes). Keeping the hose on a trickle will allow the water to soak in rather than run off, while the dam will keep the water directly over the roots of the tree.

Remember that a 2-4 inch thick layer of bark mulch around the base of a tree will maintain soil moisture and help control weeds, (but keep the bark about a hands-width away from the trunk).

There are many factors involved when considered how much and how long to water. Check out this article by Oregon State University Extension (OSUE) about watering trees and shrubs the right way, and how watering needs differ depending on soil texture.

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More than just pretty to look at: trees remove pollution, help human health

August 4, 2014
Urban trees-bank parking lot

Image: Washington State Department of Natural Resources

We’ve said time and time again in this blog and that, “Trees are good!” Now we have more proof, thanks to a recently published study by the U.S. Forest Service.

Trees are saving more than 850 human lives each year and preventing 670,000 cases of acute respiratory symptoms in the U.S., according to the study — “Tree and Forest Effects on Air Quality and Human Health in the United States” — the first broad-scale estimate of air pollution removal by trees.

Looking at four common air pollutants — nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter with a diameter less than 2.5 microns — researchers valued the human health benefits of the reduced air pollution at nearly $7 billion annually. While trees’ pollution removal equated to an average air quality improvement of less than 1 percent, the impacts of that improvement are substantial. As expected, the pollution removal effect is substantially higher in rural areas (more trees) than in urban areas (fewer trees); however the effects on human health are substantially greater in urban areas because of the greater amounts of air-borne pollution and numbers of people affected.

Housed at DNR, the Washington Urban and Community Forestry Program promotes the economic, environmental, psychological, and aesthetic benefits of trees and helps local governments, citizen groups, and volunteers plant and sustain healthy trees where people live and work.

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Tree trouble from the wind storm in eastern Washington? 10 tips to keep you and your family safe

July 25, 2014
Wind storm topples trees in Spokane area. Photo by Garth Davis

Wind storm topples trees in Spokane area. Photo by Garth Davis

On the evening of July 23, 2014, thunderstorms packing high winds and hail pummeled Spokane and many other areas in eastern Washington. In its wake, the storm toppled thousands of trees and damaged many more.

Here are two things homeowners may experience the days and weeks following a tree-damaging storm: residual hazards from storm-damaged trees and roving “tree cutters” who may not have the best interests of you and your trees in mind.

5 tips to stay safe around storm-damaged trees

  1. Never touch or attempt to remove fallen limbs from downed or sagging power lines.
  2. Keep away from areas where uprooted trees may have damaged underground utilities.
  3. Avoid walking underneath trees that have broken limbs dangling.
  4. If you feel the need to inspect a tree after a storm, do not walk underneath its suspended branches or leaning trunk. Approach a leaning tree from 180 degrees opposite of the direction it is leaning. Binoculars are great for inspecting trees from a safe distance.
  5. Refrain from doing tree work yourself. Pruning large limbs or removing trees is dangerous business that requires specialized equipment and training.

No matter what, always report downed lines to your local utility company.

After storms that cause heavy damage to trees, expect to see scores of poorly trained “tree cutters” come out of the woodwork, so-to-speak. These individuals may pressure homeowners into costly and unnecessary work, cause additional property damage due to lack of expertise or training, and put homeowners at risk by operating without proper licensing or insurance coverage.

5 more tips to ensure that you, your property, and your trees are cared for properly

  1. Hire a company that is licensed, bonded and insured. Look to see if it is certified by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA).
  2. Seek at least three estimates; ask for copies of the estimates in writing.
  3. Never put down a deposit for work without a signed contract that includes the company’s refund policy.
  4. Ask for references, and check them.
  5. Reject any company that recommends “topping” your tree. Don’t top trees!
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Look up! It’s the forest canopy (Part 2)

June 20, 2014
Forest canopy at Deception Pass

Forest canopy at Deception Pass. Photo: Ken Bevis/DNR.

The canopy layer in the forest—the interacting tree crowns that create a remarkable maze of three-dimensional spaces between and on the branches—is a habitat niche with specialized functions for many species of wildlife. The surfaces of these branches and leaves provide shelter and food for a wide variety of arboreal (forest canopy inhabiting) mammals, birds and insects.

Arboreal mammals

Truly arboreal mammals are not as numerous as bird species, but are important members of the forest wildlife ecosystem. Our native conifer squirrels are the Douglas and red squirrels (members of the genus Tamiasciurus), locally known as chickarees. These two species are actually very similar, but occupy different habitat regions. Douglas squirrels are associated with wetter, westside type forests dominated by Douglas fir and hemlock. Red squirrels live on the drier and colder east side, as well as in Rocky Mountain forest types we have in Northeast Washington. Both are common and important mammal species directly tied to the forest canopy as conifer specialists, actively harvesting and caching cones each year. Who among us woods walkers hasn’t been scolded by one of these little dervishes?

Fungi (mushrooms), which help trees grow by adding root absorptive surface to trees, is food for squirrels. The squirrels spread spores throughout the forest through their feces. Flying squirrels occupy a similar niche, but work the night shift, often foraging on the ground for mushrooms to cache. For this reason, flying, Douglas and red squirrels can be considered keystone species in forest ecosystems, e.g., species whose presence has far-reaching impacts. These squirrels need canopy to provide hiding places and food, but also need down logs for cache sites, and woody cavities in snags for denning. Habitat for these squirrels also includes low branches for resting and eating cones dropped to the ground.

Caring for the Canopy    (more…)

Look up! It’s the forest canopy (Part 1)

June 19, 2014
Mature forest canopy, Upper Skagit River

Mature forest canopy, Upper Skagit River drainage. Ken Bevis/DNR

When we walk in the forest, we are dazzled and soothed by the leaves and needles of the trees above and around us. These surfaces — the photosynthetic factory of the forest — gather sunlight and pull carbon from the air to build themselves and all of the organisms that depend on trees.

When trees reach into the sky to form a canopy layer in the forest, the interacting crowns create a remarkable maze of three-dimensional spaces between and on the branches. The surfaces of these branches and leaves, known as the canopy, can be considered a habitat niche with specialized functions for many species of wildlife. Animals that live in trees — “arboreal” species — feed on the cones and seeds that trees produce. The surfaces of needles and branches also are home for insects, and hunting grounds for their predators. This complex habitat contains varying opportunities for wildlife to make a living by hunting insects, eating lichens, gathering seeds, or other taking specialized actions.

Birds in the canopy

Birds are the most obvious species to utilize this habitat niche, with rich varieties showing up at different times of the year. Some are resident, remaining in the same, or nearby, habitats year around, while others are migratory. Many of our migratory birds come back from the neo-tropics (that is, Central America and even South America) for breeding season, and return south in the fall.       (more…)

What good is a cottonwood tree anyway? (Part 2)

June 17, 2014
Black cottonwood

Black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) is the largest of the American poplars and the largest hardwood tree in western North America. Photo: University of Washington

Today, we conclude yesterday’s blog, “What good is a cottonwood tree?”

What good is a cottonwood tree?There can be many reasons to dislike cottonwoods — low timber value, low BTUs of energy for firewood  use, and they can crowd out and shade new conifer plantations. But there are many reasons that these large poplars can be worthy additions to the landscape.

For starters it seems like every browsing and gnawing animal thrives on young cottonwood twigs, bark, cambium, and leaves. This includes a host of insects as well as the predatory birds and mammals that feed on them. Obviously, the water-loving cottonwood does well in riparian environments and, consequently, so do beaver, which use cottonwood for food, dam, and lodge building.

Being a deciduous species, cottonwood will root and stump-sprout when felled. Rabbits and hares feed extensively on cottonwood shoots and small stems; deer, elk, and moose are particularly fond of them as well. Ruffed grouse and poplar trees go hand-in-hand. Cottonwoods have large naked terminal buds that develop and persist through the winter months. During high snow events, grouse literally survive in those trees, roosting at night and feeding on these highly nutritious buds during the day.

The older large cottonwoods make excellent nest platforms for a variety of predatory birds. Eagles and ospreys commonly select large branches or broken-top cottonwoods as platforms for nest construction. Eagles frequently use cottonwoods for night roosts and for hunting perches. Great horned owls will commandeer other bird and squirrel nest platforms in cottonwoods and use them as their nest sites, as will red-tailed hawks.

In drier environments, cottonwoods will be relegated to stream bottoms and are often the only large tree for long distances. In these environments, turkeys (in particular the Rio Grande subspecies) select cottonwoods for night roosts. Without suitable night roosts some flocks of turkeys would likely disappear.       (more…)

What good is a cottonwood tree anyway? (part 1)

June 16, 2014
Black cottonwood

Black cottonwood tree (also called western cottonwood). Photo: David Powerll/U.S. Forest Service. bugwood.org

Here at DNR we often talk about trees in terms of their value for habitat as well as for revenue to state trust land beneficiaries, such as public schools, state universities, many counties, and others. Then there are the trees whose main value is for habitat and beauty. Cottonwoods fall squarely into this latter category.

Cottonwoods aren’t worth much on the timber market, they can crowd out and shade new conifer plantations, and they don’t have many BTUs of energy for firewood use. They sprout when and where they aren’t wanted and form impenetrable stands. They can clog septic drain fields. They are notorious for breaking apart during minor storms and, among other annoying habits, their billowing cottony seeds can clog water intake structures and screens. Yet, they are one of the most widespread and important wildlife trees in the western United States and Canada.

Cottonwoods belong to genus Populus. There are at least four primary species of Populus in North America: eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides), balsam poplar (P. tacamahacca), black or western cottonwood (P. trichocarpa), and quaking or trembling aspen (P. tremuloides). Two of these–western cottonwood (also called black cottonwood) and quaking aspen–are found on appropriate sites across Washington.

Balsam poplar occurs throughout the intermountain west and is most prevalent in northern Canada and Alaska while aspen, the most widespread native poplar throughout the northern hemisphere, is unique enough for an article of its own. In this article, we will focus on the black or western cottonwood.    (more…)

Communities: Deadline fast approaching for Urban Forestry Restoration Project

June 13, 2014
Travis Johnsey scatters mulch around tree trunks. PHOTO: Janet Pearce/DNR

Travis Johnsey scatters mulch around tree trunks.
PHOTO: Janet Pearce/DNR

Is your city located in the Puget Sound Basin? Could you use a hand maintaining public trees, green spaces, and natural areas that make up your urban forest? If you answered yes to both of those questions, read on:

The Urban Forestry Restoration Project (UFRP) provides Puget SoundCorps crews to assist communities with urban forestry maintenance and restoration tasks. The UFRP and its crews who do the hard work are back for another year of invasive plant removal, structural tree pruning, mulching, and planting. These crews have made big impacts to urban forestry maintenance in Puget Basin cities such as Burien, Covington, Edgewood, Kent, Kirkland, Lake Forest Park, Puyallup, Redmond, and Renton—the list goes on! You can’t afford not to take advantage of this sweet opportunity. While DNR is working to secure funding for future years of UFRP assistance, there are no guarantees that the program will continue beyond 2015.

Greg Dunbar and Kasey Lambert shovel mulch for young trees in Puyallup to reduce competition from weeds. PHOTO: Janet Pearce/DNR

Greg Dunbar and Kasey Lambert shovel mulch for young trees in Puyallup to reduce competition from weeds.
PHOTO: Janet Pearce/DNR

Your applications and participation in the program help to demonstrate the demand for these much-needed services, which provide not only meaningful work experiences for crew members, but also on-the-job training that directly impacts transitions to full-time employment. Crew members learn valuable skills while working hard to improve the health, vibrancy, and sustainability of our urban forests in the greater Puget Sound region. One-third of crew members from last year’s crews have entered tree-related careers, ranging from climbing arborist to production nursery work to studying for an urban forestry degree. Five crew members will be sitting for their Certified Arborist examination this fall during the 2014 Pacific Northwest Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture Annual Training Conference.

Local project proposals for the 2014-2015 year will be accepted through June 30, 2014. Learn more about the UFRP. Look online to find application forms and other materials about UFRP.

 

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