Archive for the ‘Forest Health’ Category

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…)

Climate change and the Northwest’s trees

June 9, 2014

Can we predict how future climatic changes will affect the growth of important Northwest tree species?

Parts of a Douglas fir

Photo: Nancy Charbonneau/DNR

Mathematical models developed by area researchers show great promise in predicting how future climate changes will affect the timing of the budding and flowering of coniferous trees here. That’s important knowledge because conifers, such as Douglas fir, are important to Washington State’s economy and environment.

DNR’s Meridian Seed Orchard, southeast of Olympia, is a major source of tree seeds for state forestlands and small family forestland owners. Owned and operated by DNR, the orchard produces seed for western red cedar, noble fir, Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, western larch, western white pine, and other coniferous tree species used to replant after timber harvests around the state.

Meridian Seed Orchard also is an efficient and reliable resource for collecting data to develop climate models because the seeds it gathers and grows come from many different areas and elevations in Washington. DNR’s self-funded Webster Forest Nursery uses seed from Meridian to produce between 8 million and 10 million seedlings annually to plant after timber harvests on state trust lands and small, privately-owned woodlands. The secret to successful planting is matching tree seedlings to meet the many different weather and soil zones around the state.    (more…)

DNR-run cost share program helps reduce wildfire risks, improve forest health

March 20, 2014
Forest before and after thinning.

Removing the smaller, weaker trees from this Eastern Washington forest (left) produced a more natural and healthier stand (right) that will be more resilient to wildfire and insect infestations. Photos: Glenn Kohler/DNR.

The ‘official’ start of the 2014 fire season in Washington State is in April, but DNR is already helping private landowners to reduce wildfire risks. One effort likely to pay off starting this year is our drive to improve forest health conditions, a big problem in many of the state’s drier eastside forests.

A federally funded cost-share program, administered by DNR in Washington State, pays for up to half of a landowner’s cost to thin and prune trees and remove forest slash. The program is available to forestland owners in portions of Ferry, Klickitat, Okanogan, and Yakima counties where a Forest Health Hazard Warning was declared last fall by DNR and the U.S. Forest Service, which is funding the program.

Getting the word out

Last year, DNR mailed more than 10,500 informational notices to landowners in the designated forest health hazard warning areas describing how to assess forest conditions and reduce disease, insect, and wildfire risks. DNR also established a toll-free telephone number, launched a web page, conducted extensive media outreach, and held 16 workshops to spread the word about DNR’s various assistance programs.

During 2013, DNR foresters responded to technical assistance requests from more than 500 landowners who manage over 97,000 acres. The federal funding for sharing forest thinning and slash disposal costs with landowners aims to improve forest conditions and dramatically reduce wildfire risks by protecting healthier trees through the removal of small, weak trees and disposing of the resulting limbs and brush.

This year, DNR continues to focus on forest health concerns. Thinning today’s overgrown forests can encourage the growth of more ponderosa pine and western larch —trees better adapted to the area’s historic pattern of smaller, but more frequent, naturally caused fires.

Forest landowners may apply for cost-share funding online.

To learn more about the Forest Health Hazard Warning, visit http://www.dnr.wa.gov/foresthealth

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Cost-share available to improve your forest’s health and reduce wildfire risks

March 10, 2014
Thinning and pruning trees helps to create a healthier forest and reduce wildfire risks. PHOTO: DNR.

Thinning and pruning trees helps to create a healthier forest and reduce wildfire risks. PHOTO: DNR.

If you have forestland in Chelan, Kittitas, Klickitat or Yakima counties, you may be eligible to receive federal help for some of the costs to reduce wildfire risks on your properties.

The cost-share program, administered by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), pays for up to half of a landowner’s cost to thin and prune trees and remove forest slash.

Many forest stands in the four-county area have grown too dense, producing weaker trees that are more susceptible to damage from pine bark beetles, western spruce budworm, and other harmful insects and diseases. Dense, overcrowded forest stands also pose wildfire risks.

Forest landowners may apply for cost-share funding online at: www.surveymonkey.com/s/dnrcostshare.

DNR foresters are available to meet with interested landowners, assess the health of their forests, and recommend forest management options. Landowners interested in discussing the cost-share program with a forester should contact:

Chuck Wytko
Southeast Region Landowner Assistance District Manager
Washington State Department of Natural Resources
509-925-0963
Charles.Wytko@dnr.wa.gov

Federally funded by the U.S. Forest Service, this program is available to forestland owners in portions of Chelan, Kittitas, Klickitat and Yakima counties where DNR has declared a Forest Health Hazard Warning. To learn more, visit: www.dnr.wa.gov/foresthealth.

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Dr. R. James Cook, longtime researcher with WSU, receives high honor from Washington State Senate

February 5, 2014
Commissioner Peter Goldmark, Dr. R. James Cook, and Dr. Robert Edmonds present at a senate hearing.  PHOTO: Diana Lofflin

Commissioner Peter Goldmark, Dr. R. James Cook, and Dr. Robert Edmonds present at a senate hearing.
PHOTO: Diana Lofflin

Yesterday, Dr. R. James Cook of Washington State University was honored by the Washington State Senate for his distinguished research career as a plant pathologist.

Senate Resolution 8677, sponsored by Senator Jim Hargrove, outlines Dr. Cook’s multifaceted career from his time as Chief Scientist with the US Department of Agriculture to his 40-year career at Washington State University, where he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dr. Cook spent his career pursuing cutting-edge research in plant pathology and crop and soil science, revolutionizing how agriculture approaches crop productivity and disease management.

Most recently, Dr. Cook headed a study to better understand root rot diseases that threaten Douglas fir, which is a vital economic and ecological resource in Washington. Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark requested the study from the Academy of Sciences because very little is understood about laminated root rot. The disease can reduce timber yield in forests by 5-15 percent, which translates to more than $10 million in losses over a 2-year period.

In addition to some 200 peer-reviewed journal papers and book chapters, Dr. Cook has co-authored two books: Biological Control of Plant Pathogens and Wheat Health Management. In 1988, he led the team of researchers at Washington State University that made the first field test of a genetically modified organism in the Pacific Northwest, which was a microorganism for root disease control on wheat.

Among many other honors Dr. Cook has received over the course of his career, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and continues to support the agricultural sciences through this organization.

Dr. Cook is most admired for his commitment in sharing scientific knowledge with everyone – students, farmers, policy makers, and the general public.

Check out the photos on DNR’s Flickr site.

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DNR weekend reading: Land-use policies & wildfire risk, time-lapse of controlled forest burn, and more

October 12, 2013
Kennedy Creek  Natural Area Preserve

The Kennedy Creek Natural Area Preserve managed by DNR, as seen in late September 2013 from the Highway 101 overlook outside of Olympia, Washington. Photo: Maurice Major/DNR

Here are links to articles about recent research, discoveries and other news about forests, climate, energy and other science topics gathered by DNR for your weekend reading:

Science Daily: Rural Land Use Policies Curb Wildfire Risks — To a Point
Using Montana’s fast-growing Flathead County as a template, a Washington State University researcher has found that moderately restrictive land-use policies can significantly curb the potential damage of rural wildfires. However, highly restrictive planning laws will not do much more

Conservancy Talk (The Nature Conservancy): How Fire Can Restore a Forest (TIME LAPSE VIDEO)
Time lapse photography reveals the regrowth of a fire-managed forest after a controlled burn.

Harvard University: Unregulated, agricultural ammonia threatens national parks’ ecology
Nitrogen compounds carried on the wind are disrupting pristine, protected environments, including 38 U.S. national parks where such “accidental fertilization” is at or above a critical threshold for ecological damage, according to Harvard University researchers.

University of Colorado, Boulder: Massive Spruce Beetle Outbreak in Colorado Tied to Drought
A new study shows that drought is a better predictor of spruce beetle outbreaks in northern Colorado than temperature alone. With more drought years likely ahead for the region, this finding increases concern about the impact that spruce beetle outbreaks may have on headwater streams that are important for water resources.

Argonne National Laboratory: Scientists push closer to understanding mystery of deep earthquakes
The construction of a one-of-a-kind X-ray facility helps scientists gain a better understanding of deep earthquakes (more than 30 miles below the surface), which occur as older and colder areas of the oceanic plate are pushed into the earth’s mantle.

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Working forests, working double-time

September 3, 2013
Many forested areas offer more than just economic value to communities. Photo: DNR.

Many forested areas offer more than just economic value to communities. Photo: DNR.

Most people know about the monetary benefits of harvesting trees from forest lands, but what people may not know are the other services forests provide. For instance:

• Forests are effective pollution filters, protecting the water we drink and the air we breathe
• Forests provide fertile and productive soil
• Forests protect against floods from large storms
• Forests reduce climate change impacts by sequestering carbon

Well, now there may be a way to better recognize the many ways that forests provide public health and safety benefits and, perhaps, compensate land managers who manage their land in a way that provides these benefits to communities.

View of Mount Loop Highway in Snohomish County. Photo: DNR.

View of Mount Loop Highway in Snohomish County. Photo: DNR.

In 2011, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) received funding for a demonstration project to test whether public water utilities could provide payments to upstream private forest landowners who are committed to protecting watershed functions related to their mission.

DNR worked with ecosystem scientists and watershed resource managers in the Nisqually and Snohomish watersheds to explore payment systems for ecosystem services.

DNR just submitted a report to the Department of Ecology on their findings. In addition to this report, the demonstration turned from a project into a long-term solution in the following instances:

 • Partners in a demonstration project in the Nisqually watershed are discussing forested properties that could help protect the City of Olympia’s new drinking water source, the McAllister Wellfield.

• The demonstration project in Snohomish County is contributing to the Snohomish Basin Protection Plan.

Special thanks to all involved in this important study which may help preserve both forest land cover and economic vitality in Washington State.

For more information on this project, please visit DNR’s Forest Watershed Services Transactions Page.

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No, DNR does not release yellow jackets – we don’t like ‘em either

August 28, 2013
Yellow Jackets are plentiful this year

Yellow Jackets are plentiful this year

Every few years, a persistent rumor circulates, especially in northeastern Washington, that DNR is intentionally releasing yellow jackets as biological control agents to kill forest pests. So, let’s set the record straight: DNR does not release yellow jackets or similar insects.

Many years ago, an entomologist with DNR went on the radio to tell people in Colville, “DNR does not release yellow jackets. No one releases yellow jackets.” But the rumor is back and DNR’s Northeast Region Office is receiving calls from the public about it.

The last time that forest pest control insects were intentionally released in eastern Washington was in the 1960s. Tiny parasitic wasps (Agathis pumila and Chrysocharis laricinellae) were released to combat a non-native insect, the “larch casebearer” (Coleophora laricella http://www.fs.fed.us/outernet/r6/nr/fid/fidls/fidl-96.pdf), a tiny caterpillar that defoliates western larch trees. The tiny wasps that prey on the casebearers are quite a bit smaller than fruit flies and do not sting humans. That release some 50 years ago proved successful as larch trees are now much less vulnerable to casebearer caterpillar outbreaks but we haven’t released any yellow jackets or similar insects since then.

Why so many yellow jackets this year

(more…)

Trees just now showing effects of last summer’s drought

June 10, 2013
Drought tree

Trees in several parts of Washington State are just now showing the damage caused by a stress reaction to dry conditions last summer and this spring. Photo: DNR.

DNR has received many calls from the public in recent weeks about trees whose leaves or needles are turning red or, even, dying.

Glenn Kohler, a DNR forest entomologist, has been investigating and says that Douglas-fir trees between 5 and 15 years old appear to be the ones most affected, but some larger trees are showing symptoms, too. Symptoms include entirely red crowns, red tops and red branches, he says.

“In a typical year, this type of damage may have many causes, but this year it is primarily the result of an extended period with little to no rain during August and September 2012 and a drier-than-normal spring in 2013.”

Most of the trees that Kohler and his colleagues at DNR have examined show no indication of being killed by pathogens, insects, or other animals. Although some trees have been attacked by one of three different species of bark beetles, all signs are that these beetles moved into the trees after they were killed by the dry conditions, Kohler points out.

The damage has been most severe in areas with rocky soils, such as in glacial outwash around the Puget Sound. Fortunately, even in the hardest-hit stands, most trees have had adequate water and are unaffected. Landowners may see an increase in the number of red trees as the weather heats up this summer. If green trees have put out a flush of new expanding bright needles on their branch tips this spring, they are likely to survive, Kohler adds.

Additional information can be found in a report by the Oregon Department of Forestry on the symptoms of water stress injuries to Douglas-fir and other conifers. A longer article on drought effects will be in the next issue of Forest Stewardship Notes, a quarterly publication of DNR and the Washington State University Extension.

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Opportunities to learn about trees, forestry and forest health

April 17, 2013
Douglas fir killed as a result of beetle attack. Beetle populations increase following fire, blowdown, or harvest as a supply of inner bark becomes more available. Under such circumstances, beetle populations can increase to the point where otherwise healthy trees can be killed. Photo: Robert Van Pelt/DNR.

Douglas fir killed as a result of beetle attack. Beetle populations increase following fire, blowdown, or harvest as a supply of inner bark becomes more available. Under such circumstances, beetle populations can increase to the point where otherwise healthy trees can be killed. Photo: Robert Van Pelt/DNR.

Do you own forestland? Hope to own a small parcel of it someday? Or just want to learn what goes into owning and caring for a wood lot of your own? DNR and the Washington State University Extension team up next month for a ‘Hands-On Forest Health Workshop’ in Glenwood. The Saturday, May 11, workshop will teach you the indicators of forest health and how to assess your forest’s health risks. You’ll even get out in the woods (rain or shine) for some learning in the field… or woods, to be precise. Course instructors will include entomologists from DNR and WSU, and a DNR forest health specialist. Hurry. These workshops fill up quickly. (Glenwood, Washington is 25 miles northwest of Goldendale, or 32 miles northeast of White Salmon)

Prefer to get your education online? WSU Extension’s ‘Forest Stewardship University’ offers online learning modules designed for forest owners in the Pacific Northwest. The courses are low-cost and you can try out a few free sample modules before purchasing to see if online learning is for you.

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