The Monastery Fire, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and Puget Sound restoration were among the top stories of 2011 on Ear to the Ground.
A late-starting fire season still produced a few large wildfire incidents of note, including the Monastery Fire that burned more than two dozen homes and several thousand acres north of Goldendale. This year also was the 20th anniversary of the firestorm that burned more than 100 homes and 35,000 acres in eastern Washington, but also led to a new state mobilization process for major disasters.
Getting lots of readership in 2011 were our several postings about people damaging natural resources and public lands: a topic that (rightly) stirred a lot of readers to comment on DNR’s Facebook page, too. The year saw several incidents involving illegal off-roading that damaged state trust lands and, recently, an avoidable truck accident in Capitol State Forest that could have turned out much worse. DNR-managed state trust lands also experienced thefts of timber, metal gates and, even, concrete fence rails from a recreation area.
Our posting about the tsunami warnings following the 9.0 magnitude earthquake in Japan in March drew much interest. Thankfully, waves hitting Washington’s coastal areas were small and did not cause injuries or fatalities. Just a few weeks prior another popular posting emphasized earthquake and tsunami preparation. Our late March post showed the potential impact of a tsunami on Tacoma following a major earthquake on one of our regional faults. February, by the way, was the 10th anniversary of the 2001 Nisqually earthquake centered near Olympia that injured more than 400 people.
Blogs about wildlife and Puget Sound always draw lots of readers. One in particular shows off a large octopus temporarily landed (and safely returned) off of Cypress Island during a creosote piling removal project — one of several that DNR managed in 2011. Another popular posting described our Aquatic Resources Division’s work studying eelgrass beds — a major component of a healthy habitat in the Sound
When you think of Washington State’s natural resources, trees just naturally come to mind. Our foresters’ advice on managing trees, including those in urban settings, drew lots of readers. Our tips to avoid topping trees were popular, too. Many readers clicked on articles about wildlife, whether it was the birds (like sapsuckers) that rely on trees or other animals, such as Canada lynx, that inhabit the state trust lands DNR manages. We were pleased that many of you read our article about a program that seeks to rehabilitate low-risk offenders by training them to become arborists (and in the process get some more forest maintenance work done on state trust lands).