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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What to know before outdoor burning this fall

November 3, 2014
Make sure you know what you're doing before burning any piles. Photo: Carrie McCausland/DNR

Make sure you know what you’re doing before burning any debris piles. Photo: Carrie McCausland/DNR

Fall and winter can bring rough weather conditions that wreak havoc with roadways, homes, businesses, and utilities. Storms can quickly tear limbs from trees.

When you need to clear away yard and tree debris after a storm, however, think about options other than outdoor burning. Outdoor burning is a leading cause of wildfire ignitions, smoke and certain pollutants. This smoke can be unhealthy, because the small particles in smoke are so tiny they easily get into your lungs. People most at risk are children, patients with respiratory illnesses, and adults more than 65 years old. Visit the Department of Ecology’s air quality website to find your local clean air agency for burn ban information.

If you must burn, know the rules, and choose the right weather for burning. Generally, cloudy days are favorable. The air on cloudy days tends to be unstable and generates enough wind to disperse smoke.

After you’ve stacked your pile of debris, cover it at least partially to keep the interior dry. Piles are easier to burn when drier, plus they generate a lot less smoke.

You can use just about anything, such as plastic, old tarps, lumber wraps, or cardboard. Just be sure to remove the cover before igniting your pile, as you may be fined for burning prohibited materials. Besides, the cover can be reused the next time you plan to burn.

If you have a burn barrel, don’t use it. In fact, just get rid of it – burn barrels are illegal in Washington state and have been for quite some time.

For more information on outdoor burning, go to DNRs Silvicultural Outdoor Burning webpage.

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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

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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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National Cat Day — We’ve got cats but don’t even think of petting one

October 29, 2014
male Canada lynx

Blends right in, doesn’t he? This male Canada lynx is one of about 50 that remain in Washington state. Photo: DNR

It’s National Cat Day! We’ve got lots of cats but don’t even think about petting one. DNR has an all-outdoor population of felines living on the millions of acres of state trust lands we manage… and none of them are ‘fixed!’ Many of these felines in our care are cougars and bobcats, but one cat in particular—the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis)–is worthy of special attention because it is the rarest of the three cat species native to Washington state. Perhaps fewer than 50 Canada lynx remain in Washington.

With their large feet and long legs, lynx are well designed for hunting in their native ranges: the mountains of north-central and northeastern Washington. Unfortunately, the continuity of this forest landscape has become fragmented over the decades, which has contributed to declines in the numbers of snowshoe hares–a primary food source for the lynx. Since 1996, we’ve been following our Lynx Habitat Management Plan—one of the most comprehensive conservation plans for lynx in the United States. We use this plan to guide forest activities in an effort to create and preserve high-quality lynx habitat.

To better understand of how lynx use certain habitats throughout the year, and how past and future land management has affected them, DNR works with other agencies, including the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, each winter to track and capture the lynx, put radio collars on them (for GPS tracking) and examine and chart their health.

Read more about Washington native wildcats and get some important safety tips about the dos and don’ts of living in cougar country

The future of biomass revealed?

October 24, 2014
Commissioner Peter Goldmark sees demo of woody debris conversion into usable energy.

Commissioner Peter Goldmark sees demo of woody debris conversion into usable energy.

This week, Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark stopped by the Willis chip plant in Cle Elum to see a demonstration of how wood chips, bark, and twigs are converted into usable energy. Goldmark joined a group of landowners, foresters, and WSU students to view a demonstration of what is called ‘mobile pyrolysis.’ This emerging technology offers important potential to generate energy from woody debris often left on the forest floor.

Basically, pyrolysis is a thermochemical process where organic material, such as wood, is heated in the absence of oxygen, causing the material to thermally decompose into combustible gases and charcoal products, such as bio-oil, bio-char, and syngas. Bio-oil can be used for heating or can be upgraded to transportation fuel. Bio-char can be used to make charcoal briquettes and increase the water- and nutrient-holding capacity of soil. Syngas can be used to produce thermal energy or electricity.

Several large research projects are underway in the United States and overseas to create biofuels from woody biomass and, in the process, generate clean energy from materials that would otherwise be discarded. The goal is to help keep both forests and the forest industry around here more resilient while contributing to local economies.

Mobile pyrolysis unit demonstrates the transformation of woody debris into gas, char and oil. Photo Janet Pearce/DNR

Mobile pyrolysis unit demonstrates the transformation of woody debris into gas, char and oil. Photo Janet Pearce/DNR

In 2013, approximately 23 percent of all renewable energy consumed was from wood – more than wind and solar combined – and second only to hydroelectric energy, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The U.S. Forest Service works with partners to support the development of wood energy projects that promote sound forest management, expand regional economies and create new rural jobs. The Washington Department of Natural Resources recently obtained a grant from the Forest Service to support the development of small to mid-scale wood energy systems in Washington state. The Cle Elum demonstration was one of 40 events in 24 states and Canada held by the U.S. Forest Service, state agencies, timber companies, and the biomass industry to raise awareness about bioenergy.

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Storms are here. How to protect your trees

October 22, 2014
Wind with drenching rains can damage or topple some trees. Photo: DNR

Wind with drenching rains can damage or topple some trees. Photo: DNR

The storm that moved into western Washington last night is bringing plenty of moisture and wind. The combination of soggy ground and strong winds can spell bad news for some trees–weak branches can snap, dead limbs may fall and, in extreme cases, shallow-rooted trees can topple, but let’s not panic. The good news is that most trees are well-adapted to the conditions and will weather this storm.

Proper pruning–we recommend arborists certified by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA)–in advance of storms increases the resilience of your trees but what can you do after the storm?  Check out our tree tips   Read the rest of this entry »

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:

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

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Lidar day!

October 17, 2014

Originally posted on Washington State Geology News:

Today is (informally) lidar day! You might not have the day off work, your kids might not bring home art projects featuring lidar, and it’s probably not possible to have a cake emblazoned with a point cloud, but lidar is taking center stage in science throughout the world and we want to celebrate!


Wave goodbye to the moon—lidar tells us it’s receding by inches per year.

But what is it? Lidar—Light Detection and Ranging, or a combination of ‘laser’ and ‘radar’—has been around since the 1960’s when folks first used lasers to measure the distance between objects. During the Apollo mission, in addition to collecting great moon rocks for geologists to study, the astronauts also installed a reflector that scientists use with lidar to measure how quickly the moon is moving away from the earth (~3.8 cm/yr it turns out, slowing our orbit about 2 seconds per century).

point cloud ‘Point cloud’…

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‘Fire Storm’ 23 years ago today in eastern Washington raised prevention awareness

October 16, 2014

forest fireTwenty-three years ago today, gale-force winds combined with dry and unseasonably warm weather combined to ignite the Fire Storm in Spokane County. It was called ‘Fire Storm’ because that’s exactly what took place. On October 16, 1991, wind gusts of up to 62 miles per hour were recorded in eastern Washington. Within hours, 92 wildfires had started — approximately 90 percent of them due to the gale-force winds that snapped power lines or pushed trees into power lines.

Most of the homes lost to wildfire in the following days were in what we call the wildland urban interface, where homes and forest intermix. There was one fatality during the fire and 114 homes and numerous other structures were destroyed. Population growth in wildland urban interfaces is a major reason that wildfires have become more disastrous.

Lessons learned
Many homeowners affected by the Fire Storm of 1991 were caught with a lack of knowledge about the wildfire risks where they lived. As a result, the National Fire Protection Association developed a program, Firewise, to help homeowners protect themselves and their property from wildfire. Since then, dozens of communities in eastern and western Washington state have qualified as Firewise communities because they took steps to reduce wildfire risks.

The two largest risks for homes during wildfires are:

  • A flammable roof, vulnerable to the wind-carried embers during a wildfire
  • Vegetation close to a house that can ignite and generate heat or flames that burn siding or other parts of the structure

The legacies of Fire Storm include the establishment of the State Mobilization Process that is under the authority of the Washington State Patrol and a greater awareness of the problems associated with people moving into the wildland urban interface.

Quick facts about Fire Storm 1991
Maximum wind gust: 62 mph
Homes destroyed: 114
Acres burned: 35,000
Homes threatened: 511
Separate fires: 92
Largest single fire: 13,840 acres
Firefighters responding: 4,000
Fire engines responding: 400
Fatalities: 1
9-1-1 calls received, first 24 hours: 3,000


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