Archive for the ‘Forests’ Category

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? (more…)

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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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. (more…)

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.

    (more…)

Look up, down, all around…how are your trees faring?

November 24, 2014
It's always a good idea to inspect your trees for any damaged from past storms.

It’s always a good idea to inspect your trees for any damage from past storms. Photo by: Guy Kramer

Trees provide many benefits but, like us, they may sustain injuries, become ill, or just get old and creaky. It’s a good idea to walk through your yard occasionally and take a peek at your trees from time to time to assess their condition.

Here’s a quick three-step process to inspect trees in your yard – think “up, down, and all around.”

  1. Look UP to the crown. Check for dead or hanging branches, limbs that lack bark, or show no signs of life. Dead or hanging branches may fall at any time, especially during winter winds. Do you see lots of fine twigs that have living buds? If not, that may indicate the entire tree is beginning to decline.
  2. Look DOWN to the roots. Visually inspect the root zone and the trunk flare (also called the root collar) just above the roots for damage. Look for peeling, cracking, or loose bark on the roots and lower trunk. If you see mushrooms growing out of the trunk or along the roots, these can be signs that a tree’s roots are decaying. Be alert to mounding or cracked soil that you haven’t noticed before, especially after heavy winds. This can be an indication that roots are broken and are not supporting the tree properly. If you see newly mounded or cracked soil, call a certified arborist as soon as possible to assess the tree for structural root damage.
  3. Look ALL AROUND the trunk. Inspect the trunk for wounds, cracks, or splits in the trunk, particularly where branches are attached. This could indicate decay or the potential for branches to fail. Look for decay pockets; if they extend over 1/3 the diameter of the trunk of the tree, that may indicate significant internal decay that compromises the strength of the trunk. Check for a lean greater than 40 percent, which may overbalance the tree if the root system is weak or damaged.

If this quick inspection of your trees raises questions about tree health or safety, contact a certified arborist to conduct a full inspection. This will give you peace of mind about whether your tree is okay, needs special care, or is approaching the end of its life.

If you’d like to learn more about assessing your trees, check out “How to Recognize and Prevent Tree Hazards” from the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture. The brochure contains explanations about warning signs to look for in trees along with great photos that illustrate those signs. You may also contact DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry Program for more information about caring for your trees properly to keep them healthy and safe.

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What could a $10,000 grant from DNR do for trees in your community?

November 19, 2014

bus bannerThanks to the U.S. Forest Service, DNR has grant funding that can help build your community forestry project. What could you do with $10,000?

Pierce County developed a campaign called ‘Trees are Amazing’ and it is over the top! Tree top, that is. It encourages proper tree planting and care that is easy and rewarding. And now they’re displaying tree banners on buses.

Thanks to a $10,000 grant through DNR’s Community Forestry Assistance Program, these banners will catch your eye and make you think about the importance of trees. Visit the Tacoma and Puyallup areas to see the new Pierce Transit bus banners that inspire and remind us of all the boundless things trees do for us.

Another great example of a project came from DNR’s grant to the Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia. After receiving a $10,000 community forestry grant, they created an outdoor classroom for children called the Naturalist Cabin.

This is a new outdoor classroom called the Naturalist Cabin at Hands On Children's Museum

This is a new outdoor classroom called the Naturalist Cabin at Hands On Children’s Museum

This cabin directly connects children with nature by providing a stimulating, open-ended learning environment. It’s designed to encourage young children to care for and learn in nature, to teach them how to be better observers, to increase understanding about the importance of trees, plants and water in the urban environment, and to raise awareness among families and school groups about the importance of outdoor play.

Another important goal of the Naturalist Cabin is to increase understanding about the important role trees play in storm water management and in keeping Puget Sound clean.

What will your next project be? Contact DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry Program. The Community Forestry Assistance grants provide financial assistance for the execution of amazing projects like these.

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Storm-damaged trees? 5 tips to stay safe and 5 more tips to ensure proper care

November 12, 2014
What a mess! Storms can wreak havoc on trees, especially when they're near homes. Photo DNR

What a mess! Storms can wreak havoc on trees, especially when they’re near homes. Photo DNR

The winds may have died down, but homeowners still have two good reasons for caution in 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; always report downed lines to your local utility company.
  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 the opposite side 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.

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 their lack of expertise or training, or 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!

You can always contact DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry Program for additional guidance.

 

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A creepy crawly tree killer wants to head west

October 31, 2014
An unwanted visitor, the Asian longhorned beetle. Photo: United States Department of Agriculture

An unwanted visitor, the Asian longhorned beetle. Photo: United States Department of Agriculture

The Asian longhorned beetle is one truly scary insect, and it’s looking to hitch a ride on your campfire wood.

This beetle poses a threat to America’s hardwood trees, recreation and forestry. Maple and many popular urban street trees are at the top of its dinner menu, and it can even kill healthy trees. With no current cure, early identification and eradication are critical to its control.

The beetle most likely travels to the U.S. inside solid wood packing materials from China. It’s been intercepted at ports and found in warehouses throughout the country. Although this unpleasant pest is not yet found in western states, there are currently infestations in New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Massachusetts.

Another source of the threat is through firewood being moved from infested areas. Never take firewood with you when you head out for adventure, and here’s why.

Learn more from our experts. DNR’s Forest Health Program provides technical assistance on tree and forest health care for a variety of public and private landowners.

Overcome your fear of bugs and help trees survive:

  • Conduct annual tree check
  • Report beetles or signs of damage
  • Allow officials access to survey
  • Purchase firewood where you will burn it
  • Diversify the trees you plant

You also can learn more about pesky, hungry pests at http://www.hungrypests.com/.

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We all want to live in Tree City, USA; Communities can now apply for Tree City status

October 30, 2014
Apply now to be a Tree City USA! You don't want to miss out on the fall color. Photo Janet Pearce/DNR

Apply now to be a Tree City USA! You don’t want to miss out on the fall color. Photo: Janet Pearce/DNR

Is your city or town a Tree City? Tree City USA communities bring recognized benefits to their citizens because trees and forests, when well cared for, help boost community health, safety, and character.

Tree City USA helps cities and towns build a foundation for effective, well-organized tree care programs. Cities and towns that pursue the designation recognize that good stewardship of natural resources is a reliable investment in the future of their community. In addition to the many benefits that trees provide, communities earning the Tree City USA award may also position themselves to receive financial support from DNR for projects that enhance community livability.

Communities can achieve Tree City USA status by meeting four core standards: dedicating a citizen tree board or city staff to address tree-related issues; having a community tree ordinance, tracking tree-related expenditures and activities; and by celebrating Arbor Day.

Sunny, fall colors. Photo by Guy Kramer

Sunny, fall colors. Photo: Guy Kramer

Approximately 30 percent of Washington residents live in a Tree City USA and currently, there are 84 designated Tree City USA communities in Washington state. See if your city is one of them.

Tree City USA is an inclusive program. Any incorporated city or town can participate, regardless of size, location, climate, or economic factors. Find out how your city can become a Tree City USA. Be sure to plan ahead, because the deadline for applying is December 15.

If you have questions or need help to promote the program in your community, contact DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry Program.

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Do you have bark beetles? How do you know? There’s a workshop for that

October 20, 2014
This tiny bark beetle is expanding to places it's never been before.

This tiny bark beetle is expanding to places it’s never been before.

Now is the time to take advantage of the season when beetles go dormant. Join experts at a free workshop in the to learn the best way to prune and thin pine trees and to reduce risks of bark beetle infestations.

The workshop will address the continued outbreak of Ips bark beetles in the Columbia River Gorge area.

When: Thursday, October 30, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Where: White Salmon Library
77 NE Wauna Avenue
White Salmon, WA

State foresters and entomologists from both Oregon and Washington will provide expert advice and answer questions about bark beetles and pine tree health. The Underwood Conservation District will promote cost-share programs to assist in beetle-killed tree removal.

For the first time ever in 2010, the California fivespined Ips was recorded in the Underwood area of Washington state. This species was unknown to occur at damaging population levels in eastern Oregon until then. The range of this Ips beetle had recently been documented to extend throughout the Willamette Valley. Now experts have found the beetle as far north as Fort Lewis, Washington in Thurston County and as far east as Goldendale, Washington and The Dalles, Oregon. The California fivespined Ips only feeds on pine trees and can affect ornamental trees as well as those in the forest.

To learn more, WSU Extension has developed a factsheet, Pest Watch: California Fivespined Ips – A pine engraver new to Washington State which can be downloaded for free at: http://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/CEPublications/FS085E/FS085E.pdf.

For more information about the workshop, please contact Todd Murray (tmurray@wsu.edu, 509-427-3931) at the WSU Extension office or Dan Richardson (dan@ucdwa.org, 509-493-1936) at the Underwood Conservation District.

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