Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Puget Sound Partnership issues update on State of the Sound

November 5, 2013
Puget SoundCorps team

Members of a Puget SoundCorps team remove creosote-treated logs from Neck Point on Shaw Island in San Juan County in 2012. Photo: DNR.

The Puget Sound Partnership released its “State of the Sound” biennial report late last week. The report, an update on the progress of the recovery of Puget Sound, reveals some positive steps but a lot more work to be done.

Here’s a small sampling of media coverage:

KPLU: Small Steps, but Much Work Ahead for Puget Sound Health

Jefferson Public Radio: New Report: Puget Sound Still In ‘Critical Condition’ But Don’t Unplug Life Support Yet

Read the report

DNR’s Aquatic Restoration Program works in partnership with other agencies, nonprofits, businesses and private citizens to improve the health of Puget Sound by removing toxic creosote debris, removing invasive plants and other shoreline restoration projects. 

A few scary facts for Halloween 2013

October 31, 2013
common garter snake

In Washington State, the common garter snake (which is nonpoisonous) is found from coastal and mountain forests to sagebrush deserts, usually close to water or wet meadows—or your garden. Photo: Jon McGinnis/WDFW.

If the parade of costumed tricker-treaters coming to your door tonight or the endless reruns of horror movies on TV these past few weeks (or today’s close-up photo of snake) are not enough to give you a fright, here are some scary facts about the state of the environment in Washington State, with an emphasis on biodiversity.

  • Approximately 33 percent of the Puget Sound’s 2,500 miles of shorelines have been armored with bulkheads and other structures to protect homes, ports, marinas, roads and railways, and other property. More than half of the shoreline in the central Puget Sound has been modified by port development, armoring of beaches, and other uses, causing significant loss of habitats important to beach and nearshore species.
  • More than half of the Columbia Plateau Ecoregion (roughly the area known as the Columbia Basin) has undergone conversion from its shrub-steppe landscape to cropland. What remains is a fragmented shrub-steppe, which compromises the habitat of many species that rely on this type of habitat.
  • More than 90 percent of the original Palouse grasslands in Washington have been converted to agriculture, housing or other uses. A number of plant species once common throughout the Palouse now hang on in small, isolated remnants.

What’s so important about biodiversity?

Native species (such as shellfish, salmon and Douglas-fir) and their ecosystems contribute billions of dollars to fisheries, timber harvests, outdoor recreation and other sectors of our state’s economy. Native ecosystems also provide clean water, natural flood control, and habitats for fish, plants, and wildlife.

To help protect these important native habitats that help nurture biodiversity, DNR manages a statewide network of Natural Area Preserves and Natural Resources Conservation Areas. Many of these areas represent the finest natural, undisturbed ecosystems in state ownership; they also protect one-of-a-kind natural features unique to this region, such as the Mima Mounds in Thurston County or Selah Cliffs in Yakima County.

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Teanaway Community Forest? Your questions answered

October 14, 2013
The Teanaway Community Forest was identified as critical habitat  for the conservation and restoration of many species, especially  fish. Photo: The Wilderness Society

The Teanaway Community Forest was identified as critical habitat
for the conservation and restoration of many species, especially
fish. Photo: The Wilderness Society

On October 1, 2013, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources purchased a 50,272-acre property to create Washington’s first state-managed Community Forest. The Teanaway Community Forest is situated at the headwaters of the Yakima Basin watershed and is a key component of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan.

DNR will collaboratively manage the forest with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, with significant public input from a community-based advisory committee.

So, what exactly is a Community Forest? Will there still be recreation access? Will I need a Discover Pass?

Find the answers to your questions in the Teanaway Community Forest Q & A.

Ready for more? Check out the links below:
>>Eight Ways the Teanaway Land Purchase Affects You
>>Join the Teanaway e-newsletter

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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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Teanaway Community Forest introduces new way of managing public forestlands

October 3, 2013
Fall view of the Teanaway Community Forest, the first Washington State-managed community forest. Photo: The Wilderness Society.

Fall view of the Teanaway Community Forest, the first Washington State-managed community forest. Photo: The Wilderness Society.

This week, Washington State celebrated the formation of the first state-managed community forest, the Teanaway Community Forest.

The Teanaway Community Forest is a 50,272-acre property situated at the headwaters of the Yakima Basin watershed (map).

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is collaboratively managing the Teanaway Community Forest with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and with significant public input from a community-based advisory committee.

The Teanaway acquisition is the largest single land transaction by Washington State in 45 years and reflects more than a decade of collaboration involving many organizations and individuals. The property will become Washington’s first Community Forest under the terms of legislation enacted in 2011, a model designed to empower communities to partner with DNR to purchase forests that support local economies and public recreation.

“The Teanaway Community Forest is one of the most beloved landscapes in Washington, and it will be cared for and managed for years to come to reflect the values and priorities of the community that has worked so hard to protect it,” said Peter Goldmark, Commissioner of Public Lands. “That’s the beauty of the Community Forest Trust model: it allows local communities to help protect the forests they love.”

Still have questions? Check out the Teanaway Community Forest Q & A or email them to teanaway@dnr.wa.gov

>>Sign up to receive the Teanaway Community Forest e-newsletter
>>View a media release about the purchase
>>Check out photos

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DNR weekend reading: Why injured trees don’t ‘bleed’ to death; stressed out salmon; and other stories

September 28, 2013
Willapa Bay sunrise

A late August sunrise over Willapa Bay in western Washington. DNR manages many tideland leases for aquaculture in Willapa Bay — one of the richest shellfish areas in the world. Photo: Craig Zora/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:

Virginia Tech University: Why don’t trees ‘bleed’ to death when they get injured?
Using a powerful new type of microscope, scientists have discovered how “check valves” in wood cells control sap flow and protect trees when they are injured. The knowledge may lead to better ways of extracting natural chemicals from wood to make products ranging from medicinal polymers to sugars that are the basis for bioenergy systems.

Aarhus University (Denmark): Uphill for the trees of the world
You may need to get out your mountain boots to go for a walk in the woods in the future. A new study shows that forests are to an increasing extent growing on steep slopes all over the world.

The Earth Institute/Columbia University: Wind and Rain Belts to Shift North as Planet Warms, Says Study
As human activity continues to heat the planet, a northward shift of Earth’s wind and rain belts could make a broad swath of regions drier, including the Middle East and American West, while making monsoon Asia and equatorial Africa wetter, says a new study

Science Daily: Improving Salmon’s Success in the Wild and Aquaculture
Have you ever been stressed and forgot what you were doing? Chronic mild stress may explain why many wild salmon don´t return to our rivers and why 20% of farmed salmon production is lost every year.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL): NREL Calculates Emissions and Costs of Power Plant Cycling Necessary for Increased Wind and Solar in the West
New research quantifies the potential impacts of increasing wind and solar power generation on the operators of fossil-fueled power plants in the West. To accommodate higher amounts of wind and solar power on the electric grid, utilities must ramp down and ramp up or stop and start conventional generators more frequently to provide reliable power for their customers — a practice called cycling.

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DNR weekend reading: Will climate change put tree species in the ‘fast lane’?

September 14, 2013
eelgrass

Native eel grass, like this clump seen in a Puget Sound tidal pool, is an indicator of the health of aquatic areas. Photo: DNR

Here are links to articles about recent research, discoveries and other news about forests, climate, energy and other science topics:

Duke University: Climate Change May Speed Up Forests’ Life Cycles
Instead of migrating northward via seed dispersal to cooler climates as predicted, trees in most forests are responding to a warming climate by staying in place – but speeding up their life cycles.

European Geosciences Union: Tiny plankton could have big impact on climate
As the climate changes and oceans’ acidity increases, tiny plankton seem set to succeed. While the smallest plankton groups would thrive under elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, that could cause an imbalance in the food web as well as decrease ocean CO2 uptake, an important regulator of global climate.

University of Maryland: Scientists find “fingers” of heat below Earth’s surface
Scientists have used seismic waves to detect previously unknown “fingers” of heat, some thousands of miles long, in Earth’s upper mantle. This helps explain the “hotspot volcanoes” that give birth to island chains such as Hawaii and Tahiti.

Dept. of Energy/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory: Climate benefit for cutting soot, methane smaller than previous estimates
Cutting the amount of short-lived, climate-warming emissions such as soot and methane in our skies won’t limit global warming as much as previous studies have suggested, a new analysis shows.

Scientific American: Crop Pests Spreading North with Global Warming
Crop pests and diseases are moving towards the poles at about the same speed as warmer temperatures. New findings suggest that climate change is driving their relocation, and raises major concerns about food security.

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Derelict dock and pilings to be removed from Fox Island; work starts next week

September 13, 2013
Aerial view of Fox Island

This old dock and pilings (outlined in red) will be removed from Hale Passage off Fox Island because they are leaching toxic creosote into the water. Photo: Washington Department of Ecology, Coastal Atlas.

DNR begins work next week to remove a derelict ferry dock, 182 pilings and other dilapidated, creosote-tainted structures from the northern and northeastern waters off Fox Island. The first phase of the project starts Tuesday (September 17) when workers will begin removing an old ferry dock once used by the ‘mosquito’ fleet, the nickname given to the swarms of small steamboats that once plied Puget Sound waters.

The dock is one of several structures along Fox Island in Hale Passage that contain creosote. Once a popular wood preservative, creosote is a toxic substance that contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and other pollutants. These highly toxic chemicals are harmful to marine life, including salmon and the forage fish that they eat.

Funding for the Fox Island creosote-removal project comes from the Jobs Now Act, enacted by the 2012 Washington Legislature. All work will be completed by mid-October. (Note: work schedules are subject to change due to weather and other considerations.)

See the project sites on a map

Read more about DNR aquatic restoration and clean-up projects.

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DNR weekend reading: Evidence that Clean Air Act is helping forests, and other science news

September 8, 2013
wildflowers at Mount St. Helens, 2004

In 2004, years after the eruption of Mount St. Helens, the Pumice Plain located north of the volcano’s crater is covered in wildflowers. Photo: P. Frenzen/USDA Forest Service.

Here are links to articles about recent research, discoveries and other news about forests, climate, energy and other science topics:

Kansas State University: Evidence that Clean Air Act has helped forests
By studying more than 100 years of eastern red cedar tree rings, scientists found that the trees have improved in growth and physiology in the decades since the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970, indicating that the Act has helped forest systems recover from decades of sulfur pollution and acid rain.

National Institute of Standards and Technology: Knowing Exposure Risks Important to Saving Structures from Wildfires
A study of one of California’s most devastating wildland fires — the 2007 Witch Creek/Guejito fire — strongly suggests that measures for reducing structural damage and property loss from wildland fires are most effective when based on accurate assessments of exposure risks both for individual structures and the community as a whole.

Montana State University: MSU research highlights bears’ use of Banff highway crossings
Genetic testing has revealed that many bears in Canada’s Banff National Park routinely use the bridges and underpasses installed for them along the Trans-Canada Highway, evidence that the ecological corridors provide safe transit to maintain a health ecosystem

K-State Research and Extension News: Wheat Research Indicates Rise in Mean Temperature Would Cut Yields
Using simulations, researchers have found that a 1 degree Celsius increase (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) in projected mean temperature would decrease wheat yields by 10.64 bushels per acre or nearly 21 percent. The study is the first to quantify the impacts of climate change, disease and genetic improvement for hundreds of dryland wheat varieties grown in North America.

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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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