DNR, landowners: Easing traffic jams for Washington fish

November 29, 2014
Before (left) and after photos show how a culvert replacement in Thurston County opened up this Black River tributary to more fish. Photo: DNR/DFW/RCO/Project Sponsors

Before (left) and after photos show how a culvert replacement in Thurston County opened up this Black River tributary to more fish. Photo: DNR/DFW/RCO/Project Sponsors

Think that holiday traffic is bad? Imagine trying to squeeze the family sedan through a crumpled circle of metal.

That’s the struggle many trout, salmon and other species of fish face as they make their way up Washington’s streams and rivers.

Since 2003, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has been working to clear aging structures that impede fish passage on private land with the Family Forest Fish Passage Program. Since its inception, the program, also known as FFFPP, has helped some 200 landowners replace more than 244 barriers that have opened up more than 524 miles of habitat to fish.

Blocked passages are replaced by bridges and bottomless culverts that provide fish an expressway through streams under roads on their way in and out of spawning grounds.

Because removing those blocked passages and building new, wider structures can be expensive, DNR is able to help small forest landowners foot the bill. A legislative appropriation for the FFFPP pays nearly all the costs of the replacement.

Watch our video about the Family Forest Fish Passage Program and learn how just applying to the program can help small forest landowners deal with regulatory burdens around the culvert removal requirements.
The program is administered by DNR’s Small Forest Landowner Office.

If you have a culvert on your property that may be impeding fish passage, you can apply online for funding help. By signing up for Family Forest Fish Passage Program (FFFPP) a landowner can have their culvert or other in-stream structure evaluated for eligibility.

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Sorry, no Christmas tree cutting on state trust lands, but we know where you can find a tree (cheap)

November 28, 2014
Webster Nursery

Sorry, no Christmas trees here. About 8 million of the seedlings—like these Douglas fir—raised last year at DNR’s Webster Forest Nursery (shown here) were used to replant state trust lands after timber harvests. Another 2 million were purchased by private landowners for replanting after harvests. Photo: DNR.

We know that for many of you, going out into the woods to cut your own Christmas tree is a grand tradition. And while there are many lovely trees in state trust forests, DNR does not allow them to be cut down for Christmas trees. We don’t want to be Scrooges, but the trust forests in DNR’s care are intended for sustainably managed habitat, clean water, and revenue to the beneficiaries of state trusts, such as public schools, state universities, and public services, such as libraries and emergency medical services, in many counties.

When we hold timber auctions, we seek the highest return to fund these many trust beneficiaries, which means waiting until the trees reach maturity.

Fortunately, there are many places on federal lands where you can legally cut your own Christmas tree for a small fee. Contact your local US Forest Service Office, or support your local private tree farm:

National Forests

Private tree farms

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8 reasons DNR is thankful for volunteers

November 27, 2014
volunteers building trails

Volunteers help keep DNR-managed recreation sites clean, safe, and healthy. Photo: DNR.

Each year, volunteers of all ages put in thousands of hours helping DNR.

Their dedicated efforts and skills help us maintain and improve recreational sites, trails, natural areas, and other outdoor volunteer opportunities on the state trust lands we manage.

Some volunteers devote time every month; others pitch in a few hours here and there. Either way, we’re happy to get the help.

At DNR, we’re thankful to all of those who:

  1. Spent countless hours battling blackberries and scotch broom to keep these invasive plants from overtaking trails and natural areas.
  2. Volunteered for the Forest Watch Program.
  3. Provided information and nature interpretation to school children and other forest visitors.
  4. Trekked out in the field to collect data or monitor plant species — providing valuable information to staff scientists.
  5. Helped us maintain and build recreational trails.
  6. Organized volunteer work parties.
  7. Helped DNR keep campgrounds open to the public by becoming a volunteer camp host.
  8. …. and the many, many other activities that rely on the efforts of volunteers.
Reiter

Rain or shine, DNR’s volunteers are always happy to show up and lend a hand. Photo by: DNR

To all of you, our sincere thanks! And a Happy Thanksgiving.

Got some time this winter? Plan to do some good for the DNR-managed lands you love! Check the DNR Volunteer Calendar to find opportunities to give back. http://bit.ly/DNRvolunteer

Pacific herring: In the middle seat of the Puget Sound family car

November 25, 2014

herring
Ask anyone who’s ever been stuck in the back seat of a long family road trip about the many trials of being in the middle.

While it doesn’t have to count license plates or tolerate bony elbows, the silvery Pacific herring does have a special spot in the middle of Puget Sound’s food web.

Growing on a diet of the many tiny planktonic crustaceans that float through Washington’s marine waters, as much as 70 percent of Puget Sound herring are, in turn, feed for numerous marine animals, such as seabirds, marine mammals, and other fishes.

Pacific herring live in 18 distinct zones in Puget Sound. One of those critical spots is Quartermaster Harbor between Vashon and Maury islands.

As part of an ongoing commitment to ensure the state’s busiest waterway remains suitable habitat for the many species that rely on it, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) plans to remove old 170 creosote-saturated pilings and debris from seven sites around Vashon and Maury islands.

Nestled on eelgrass and marine algae on the sea floor, Pacific herring eggs are delicate. They have an especially high mortality rate when exposed to creosote, a mix of some 300 chemicals that leach into marine waters as pilings age and break up.
Less eggs means less herring, which means less food for the salmon and shorebirds that find them so delicious.

Read the rest of this entry »

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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Road to recovery from burn scars could take years

November 21, 2014
Reseeding the burn scars of the Carlton Complex Fire  PHOTO Dale Danell

Reseeding the burn scars of the Carlton Complex Fire PHOTO Dale Danell/DNR

The Carlton Complex fire last summer was especially devastating, burning thousands of acres of private, state and federal lands. To recover the homes, cattle, orchards, grazing lands, and fencing destroyed in the fire will be a herculean task that will take years of effort.

The fire’s impact affected many people in many different ways. For example, those who raise cattle and depend on those lands for their herds’ summer forage must find other grazing lands, not only for this year, but likely for several years to come.

Blue and wheat grass seed is loaded into the plane to be spread over thousands of acres. PHOTO Dan Danell

Blue and wheat grass seed is loaded into the plane to be spread over thousands of acres. PHOTO Dale Danell/DNR

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources, which had thousands of acres damaged in the fire, has sown thousands of pounds of grass seed in recent weeks. Our goal is to get new growth started quickly. After laying dormant over the winter, the seeds will be in position to start new sprouts as soon as the rising temperatures of spring melt off the snow cover. The new growth also will help to reduce sediment runoff and fend off noxious and invasive weeds from taking over these prime grazing lands.

So far, DNR has sprinkled blue and wheat grass seeds — about 130,000 pounds — on more than 9,000 acres. The re-seeding efforts are intended to restore grazing lands in several areas, including Frasier Creek, Cow Creek and French Creek. DNR is working with its more than two dozen grazing lessees and seeking grants from FEMA and other sources to help with the costs of restoring the related infrastructure, such as fencing, that was destroyed in the Carlton Complex fire.

See the related stories from the Capital Press and KREM TV News in Spokane.

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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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GIS Day: Experts meeting today at State Capitol to show off high-tech mapping

November 19, 2014
GIS layers

Geospatial information systems (GIS) technologies compile multiple layers of information about a specific area on a map. GIS can be used to map crime, show land use, track wildfires, and more. Image: NOAA

Today (November 19) is GIS Day, an opportunity to salute the many dedicated technicians who use geographic information systems (GIS) technology to help us see the world around us in new ways.

Dozens of GIS users and experts from DNR, Ecology, Washington State Department of Transportation, Washington Military Department, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. and several other agencies are gathered today in the John L. O’Brien Building on the Sate Capitol Campus to share their uses of GIS in the public’s interest. DNR, for example, uses GIS to reveal geologic formations and hazards as well as map forest roads, streams, trails and other features. The technology also can be used to track the spread of invasive species, map marine vegetation, or plan land uses.

To see a real-world application of GIS data, visit DNR’s Washington Geological Information Portal where you can toggle multi-layered maps to find locations of major earthquake faults, lahar and tsunami evacuation zones, underground geologic formations, and more.

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State trust lands: 125 years of building public schools for you

November 18, 2014
Ellensburg High School

Opened in 2005, the new Ellensburg High School was built partly with funds produced from state trust lands.

Last Tuesday, November 11, was the 125th anniversary of Washington statehood. Part of the legacy of gaining recognition as a state in 1889 is the three million acres of trust lands that the federal government transferred to Washington state. It’s a gift that continues to give back to Washington residents every day.

Providing gifts of land to support institutions dates to the Middle Ages in Europe. In the United States, as far back as 1785, Section 16 of each township was reserved as a “school section” to provide funding and a central location for schools, so no child would have to travel too far to school. (In the U.S. Public Land Survey System, survey townships are one-mile square; 36 sections equal one township.)

As new states joined the union, Congress provided land grants to each. The federal Enabling Act of 1889 granted Washington state lands in Section 16 and 36 of most townships. Read the rest of this entry »

DNR secures more equipment and training for Washington’s rural fire districts

November 14, 2014
Refurbishing a government surplus truck chassis into a water truck saved this small Lincoln County fire district — and taxpayers — thousands of dollars.

Refurbishing a government surplus truck chassis into a water truck saved this small Lincoln County fire district — and taxpayers — thousands of dollars.

Small fire districts are often the first responders to a wildfire, yet they often lack the equipment and training they need to protect lives and property in rural areas.

That’s where DNR’s Fire District Assistance Program comes into play. The program helps reduce costs for Washington’s taxpayers and improves local response to wildfires by providing fire districts with access to surplus federal vehicles and other equipment through the Firefighter Property Program. So far in 2014, fire districts have acquired 14 excess Department of Defense vehicles that will be converted to fire engines and water tenders. Most of the equipment acquired under this program can be converted in less than six months and for much less than it would cost to buy a new fire engine. Check out some of the incredible equipment on DNR’s Flickr site.

In addition, DNR awards volunteer fire assistance grants with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The fire assistance grants provide a 50 percent match for the purchase of general equipment for wildland fire suppression. These grants are made available through the Federal Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act and are open to all Washington fire districts/fire departments who currently provide wildland fire response to private, state, or federal ownerships and serving communities less than 10,000 residents.

In 2014 to date, DNR awarded $349,000 to 77 fire districts/departments to help train and equip firefighters, and purchase and refurbish fire equipment for the purpose of preventing and suppressing wildland fires.

For interested fire districts and departments, more information is on DNR’s Fire District Assistance webpage.

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