Small land transfer brings needed funds for Skamania County public services

June 30, 2014
Southwestern Washington State

Circled in red are two parcels (totally 42.5 acres) of forestland whose transfer into conservation status will provide $327,000 to Skamania County. Colored sections indicate other state trust lands managed by DNR. CLICK on PHOTO to see larger image.

How can changing a few words on the deed for a couple of small parcels of remote forestland provide welcomed relief to a struggling rural county? Thanks to a legislatively funded program, an additional $327,000 will be available for public services in Skamania County. The land in question is two parcels of forestland — 42.5 acres in all — that DNR manages for revenue to support public services in Skamania County. However, with that state-owned parcel encumbered by federal endangered species restrictions, it was unlikely that timber or other forest products would ever be harvested there.

A solution  Read the rest of this entry »

It’s National Lightning Safety Awareness Week — be careful out there

June 26, 2014

Lightning strikeWith summer officially here and the weather turning warmer (two events that do not always march in lockstep here in Washington State), there will be many more opportunities to get outside. Just remember that if you hear thunder, lightning is likely within striking distance. Did you know that lightning threats can extend 10 miles from the storm?

June 22-28 is National Lightning Safety Awareness Week.

Even if it means you have to take a break from playing or working outside, play it safe by remembering this little phrase: When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors! The National Weather Service advises waiting 30 minutes after the last sound of thunder before going back outside.

Learn more about lightning safety, myths, facts, science and more from the National Weather Service.

 

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You say ‘tsunami’ I say ‘tidal wave’ Who’s right?

June 23, 2014

If you say ‘tsunami’ to describe those immense swells of water that can reach 100 feet in height, travel at more than 500 mph, and are capable of causing widespread destruction, then you are correct. This short video from the TED-Ed series explains tsunamis and how they work.

A tidal wave, by the way, is simply what happens when the tide comes in from a body of water. Because they are caused by gravitational interactions between the Sun, Moon, and Earth, tidal waves are predictable events. Check out the Department of Ecology’s description of Puget Sound tides.

Tsunamis, on the other hand, are unpredictable, and frequently caused by powerful earthquakes under the ocean floor. This type of earthquake pushes a large volume of water to the surface, creating waves that become the tsunami. The waves may be small in the deep, open ocean, but get much bigger and more dangerous as they approach shallower coastal waters. A tsunami also can be triggered by a volcanic eruption, landslide, or other movements of the Earth’s surface.

We cannot prevent tsunamis (or tidal waves, for that matter) but we can take precautions — and we should because the Cascadia Subduction Zone, where two large tectonic plates are rubbing together, lies just off our coast

DNR and its Division of Geology and Earth Resources work closely with the Washington Emergency Management Division, federal agencies, and local governments to prepare maps of recommended tsunami evacuation routes for many coastal Washington communities. Local and state emergency officials rely on maps of earthquake faults, tsunami inundation zones, and other information to plan their responses to earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters.

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DNR Website Maintenance

June 21, 2014

June 21

Staff will be upgrading some of DNR’s online systems June 21.

The website and web based programs may not be available for use. In the meantime, please stay connected on our “Ear to the Ground” blog and/or other social media tools.

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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    Read the rest of this entry »

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.       Read the rest of this entry »

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.       Read the rest of this entry »

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.    Read the rest of this entry »

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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Come see aquatic critters and celebrate our shoreline

June 12, 2014
Maury Island beach and Pt. Robinson

Maury Island beach and Pt. Robinson Lighthouse


June 14 at the Low Tide Celebration at Maury Island State Aquatic Reserve

It’s family fun that’s free, local, educational and 100% natural! Come fete Puget Sound at the ninth annual Vashon-Maury Island Low Tide Celebration.

Saturday, June 14, 2014
10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Point Robinson on Maury Island

Explore, discover and appreciate the panorama of marine life on our shoreline. The summer low tide of minus 3.3 feet exposes beach and tide pools we rarely see—and you can ask Vashon Beach Naturalists about all that is revealed.

Welcome Skipper Mike Evans and the Blue Heron Canoe Family with a traditional Salish welcoming song as they paddle their way to the Point to honor the celebration. Learn about traditional native uses of shoreline resources from Odin Lonning, Tlingit artist and cultural educator. Tour the Point Robinson Lighthouse and hear its history from Captain Joe Wubbold, the Head Keeper. The beautiful Maury Island Aquatic Reserve and learn the many ways you can help protect this valuable natural resource.

A shuttle bus will run along Point Robinson Road to transport people between their parked cars and the festivities. Refreshments, native crafts and Low Tide t-shirts also will be available for sale on site.

Broad community support

The Vashon-Maury Island Low Tide Celebration is sponsored by: Vashon Beach Naturalists, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Washington Scuba Alliance, Vashon Park District, Vashon-Maury Island Audubon Society, King County, Vashon College, Keepers of Point Robinson, Washington Environmental Council, and Vashon Watersports.

State aquatic reserve

For the people of Washington, the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is steward of more than 2.6 million acres of aquatic lands—the lands under Puget Sound and the coast, navigable lakes and rivers, and many tideland beaches—including those at Maury Island Aquatic Reserve, where the Low Tide Celebration is being held. State aquatic lands are home to fish and wildlife, and support commerce and navigation, and access for all the people of the state.

 

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