Please take every precaution during this severe wildfire emergency

August 20, 2015
Coulee Hite fire i

The Coulee Hite fire in early August threatened more than 50 homes near Spokane before it was contained. Photo courtesy of Fire Chief Nick Scharff, Spokane Fire District 10

With firefighting resources stretched and more unstable weather, including gusty winds, moving into the state’s eastside, we can’t say it enough times: Please be extremely cautious and take every available precaution to protect your families, pets, and treasured possessions from wildfires during this current emergency. That includes taking evacuation orders and emergency directions with the utmost seriousness and doing everything possible to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Under the current weather conditions, fires are developing quickly. If you feel endangered by an approaching fire: evacuate immediately. Please resist the temptation to hunker down and fight fires and please do not wait for firefighting resources that may not be immediately available. And don’t forget the “P’s of Preparedness if you are asked to evacuate:

  • People
  • Pets
  • Papers (important documents)
  • Phone numbers
  • Prescriptions (medications and glasses)
  • Pictures (and other mementos)
  • PCs (for the info stored on them)
  • Plastic (credit cards, cash)
  • Planning
This is a time to be smart, be safe, and get out of harm’s way. Buildings can be rebuilt – but nothing can bring back a loved one.

Weather conditions heighten wildfire risk

All of eastern Washington is under a red flag warning issued by the National Weather Service. The service also forecasts winds of 15 to 20 mph with gusts of up to 40 mph across northeast Washington, including the Methow Valley and the Okanogan Valley. The area includes the several counties where more than 1,000 firefighters are battling 10 large wildfires that have burned more than 120,000 acres.

For information about current wildfire incidents, go to the Incident Information System website.

Also, stay connected during wildfire season through DNR’s Fire Twitter:

What do we mean when we say the Northwest is at ‘Preparedness Level 5?’

August 13, 2015
The Stickpin Fire has burned 2,000 acres so far. Photo courtesy of Jay Jurgensen

The Stickpin Fire has burned 2,000 acres so far. Photo courtesy of Jay Jurgensen

As of today, the Pacific Northwest is at the highest level, level 5, which means we have the potential to exhaust our wildland firefighting resources. As the preparedness level rises, more firefighting resources are generally engaged and needed.

The Northwest Interagency Coordination Center (NWCC) in Portland sets the preparedness level for the Pacific Northwest (Washington and Oregon) for the current day. Fire managers use National Weather Service fire weather forecasts, along with Predictive Services products from the NWCC, to set fire precaution levels and anticipate the workload associated with initial attack and large fire support which are key components in preparedness planning. Preparedness levels are set after considering fuel and weather conditions, current and expected fire activity, as well as factors that influence the availability of firefighting resources.

In a similar manner, the National Multi-Agency Coordination Group (NMAC), located in Boise, establishes a National Preparedness Level for each day.

For additional information, see the documents on preparedness levels on the NWCC Publications webpage.

For current wildfire incidents throughout the nation, go to the Incident Information System website.

Also, stay connected during wildfire season through DNR’s Fire Twitter:

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Timely tree tips — drought damage dynamics

August 12, 2015
Drought tree

Trees in Washington state are showing the damage caused by dry conditions. Photo: DNR.

When the rainforest in Olympic National Park catches fire, you know that Washington is dry. However, increased fire risk is not the only summertime threat to trees and forests. Drought conditions can cause cell and tissue dieback in trees and can also give pests and diseases a leg up in the battle for forest health.

According to DNR’s recently published Forest Health Highlights in Washington–2014:

“Trees experiencing drought stress can become more susceptible to insect and disease attacks and are less likely to recover from damage. In eastern Washington, trees growing in dense or overstocked stands have a higher likelihood of experiencing drought stress.”

Trees in urban landscapes that may be disproportionately affected by drought are those that are newly planted, victims of root damage, or growing in tough planting sites that are heavily compacted, poorly irrigated, or space limited.

In some cases, such as with water-dependent diseases like Sudden Oak Death, drought can hinder the growth and spread of disease organisms. However, many pests and diseases are more resilient in drought conditions than their host tree species.

For example, bark beetles thrive on drought stressed trees. In recent years, pine bark beetle populations have been exploding throughout the western U.S. as a result of drought and other complicating factors. Many types of tree diseases may also worsen in drought conditions including root rots, cankers, and wilts such as Dutch elm disease.

Check out this recent story from King5 News about the effects of drought on Seattle’s elm tree population.

For more information on this topic, consider reviewing the following resources:

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Recovered maritime gear up for auction to recover derelict vessel costs

August 11, 2015
Items recovered from derelict vessels like this helms wheel can be bid on through the state's surplus auction site.

Items recovered from derelict vessels like this helms wheel can be bid on through the state’s surplus auction site.

Are you in the market for an old helm steering wheel or antique wheel house telegraph?

DNR is the agency chiefly responsible for removing and destroying vessels found derelict or abandoned in Washington’s waterways. Most often, the derelict or abandoned vessels we recover are destroyed. But prior to destruction, our crews are many times able to recover equipment from inside the boats that are still shipshape and Bristol fashion.

As part of our efforts to recover the considerable costs of removing and destroying derelict vessels, DNR sells those usable parts through the Department of Enterprise Services Public Surplus auction site.

An antique wheelhouse telegraph is one of the many items recovered from derelict vessels you can find on auction.

An antique wheelhouse telegraph is one of the many items recovered from derelict vessels you can find on auction.

Until Thursday evening, August 13, you can bid on items like a Helm Steering Wheel and several wheel house telegraphs.

“This helps the state receive some additional revenue while keeping some of these historic pieces out of the landfill,” said Derelict Vessel Program Manager Melissa Ferris.

More items are added as they are recovered.

Removing environmental hazards

Abandoned or derelict water craft cause any number of problems on our waterways, and it’s not just that they are unsightly. A sinking or derelict boat can pose environmental hazards.

Sometimes, abandoned craft become illegal dumping grounds for trash, and even waste oil and other nasty stuff we want to keep out of the water. Boats can pose dangers to the environment if their owners neglect them. For example, boats with leaky engines will emit polluted water into waterways when their bilge pumps kick in. Others just fill up with rainwater and sink.

Since DNR instituted the derelict vessel program in 2002, more than 580 abandoned or neglected vessels have been removed from Washington’s waterways.

A proactive program

In 2014, DNR also instituted a new program to help owners of boats in disrepair voluntarily dispose of their boats before they become problems in the water.

The Vessel Turn-In Program allows owners of vessels less than 45 feet long to get rid of their boats, if they cannot afford to dispose of it themselves.

DNR works with boatyards and contractors throughout the state to destroy boats taken in through the program.

Owners do not receive payments for their boats, but disposal is free for those who qualify.

You can see a list of vessels currently pending custody action here.

Rec alert: Wildfire closes Island Camp and Bird Creek campgrounds

August 11, 2015

Island Camp and Bird Creek campgrounds are closed until further notice due to wildfire. To preserve your safety, please stay clear of the campgrounds, located near Glenwood in southeastern Washington.

When updates about the fire become available, you’ll find them listed here.

Bird Creek Campground

Bird Creek Campground is closed until further notice due to wildfire. Photo/ DNR.

Where to go instead
Visit our statewide interactive recreation map to get ideas of where to go on DNR-managed lands.

Wildfire prevention
Remember to recreate safely and do your part to prevent wildfires. Take 90 seconds to watch DNR’s YouTube video and learn more about how to reduce your chances of accidentally started wildfire while recreating.

To get updates on Washington wildfires, follow our DNR Fire Twitter.

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Geographic names committee seeks your input

August 10, 2015

Wildcat Pond, named by the students at McCleary School, is up for consideration by the state’s Committee on Geographic Names. Photo: DNR.

Should a previously unnamed pond near the town of McCleary be officially called Wildcat Pond in honor of a nearby elementary school’s mascot? How about designating a unnamed waterway in Jefferson County as Cooper Creek to honor early homesteaders in the area?

Small changes, but all part of the job for the volunteers on the Washington State Committee on Geographic Names. The committee, which was created by the state legislature, is seeking input on three proposals before its October 23 meeting in Olympia. You can review the proposals — all submitted by Washington residents — and make your own comments on the DNR website.

The formal geographic naming process we use today was created in 1890 by presidential order because surveyors, map makers, and scientists needed uniform, non-conflicting geographic nomenclature. In this age of geographic information systems and the Internet, standard geographic names are more important than ever.

Changes approved by the committee would advance to the Board of Natural Resources for a final determination. Then, if approved, the proposal would go before the U.S. Board on Geographic Names for a decision.

(NOTE: The McCleary City Council approved the Wildcat Pond name in 2014)

Road graders add to this summer’s scene at Cattle Point

August 6, 2015
Cattle Point Natural Resources Conservation Area on San Juan Island. Photo: DNR

Cattle Point Natural Resources Conservation Area on San Juan Island. Photo: DNR

Summer brings scenic and historic Cattle Point Natural Resources Conservation Area (NRCA) a wide range of unique sights. Joining the more than 40 species of butterflies, 160 species of birds and 150 species of native plants, are excavators and road graders.

Erosion continues to take away the coastal bluffs along San Juan Island’s southern point, which has threatened the primary access road to Cattle Point, potentially cutting off access to public and private lands.

San Juan County and the National Park Service, along with the Federal Highway Administration, are realigning the road nearest the bluff. This project is underway now and scheduled for completion by this October. Visitors to the NRCA may experience minor traffic delays to accommodate construction activity. The Mt. Finlayson Trail and nearby roadside viewpoint in the NRCA will be closed during construction, but all other trails in the NRCA remain open.

You can track the progress on the U.S. Department of Transportation website at

At Cattle Point NRCA, visitors will find grasslands, gravelly beaches, dunes, a mature conifer forest and steep bluffs. Cattle Point NRCA consists of two waterfront parcels at the south end of San Juan Island.

On just 112 acres, the NRCA provides a diverse range of geologic features, plant communities and wildlife habitat. The largest portion of the NRCA extends across the tip of the island from the Strait of Juan de Fuca, over the Mount Finlayson ridge and into Griffin Bay. A second parcel is near the U.S. Coast Guard lighthouse and includes an historic building, beach access and a day-use interpretive area. Adjacent to the western edge of the conservation area is the San Juan Island National Historical Park “American Camp” unit.

When visiting San Juan Island, make time to drop by our interpretive site near the Cattle Point Lighthouse. The day-use interpretive area includes parking [remember to bring your Discover Pass], beach access, hiking trails with viewpoints, and a picnic area with restroom. Wildlife is abundant and includes eagles and other birds of prey. Cattle Point offers outstanding views of the Olympic and Cascade Mountains and surrounding islands.

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Homeowners can learn from the pros about wildfire prevention

August 3, 2015
Keep a close eye on lawnmowers and yard tools after use. They stay hot for at least an hour. Photo Frank Boston/Flickr/CC/Cropped

Keep a close eye on lawnmowers and yard tools after use. They stay hot for at least an hour. Photo Frank Boston/Flickr/CC/Cropped

Those who work day-in and day-out in the forest have plenty of know-how about taking extra precautions to prevent wildfires. With these dry days in Washington state, residents can take a page out of the professionals’ rulebook while performing yard work at home, too.

DNR currently has restrictions, called Industrial Fire Precaution Levels (IFPL), in place for people who work out in the woods, such as loggers or foresters, to help reduce the risk of wildfires. While these restrictions only apply to pros and their equipment, certain home yard tools, such as mowers, edgers, trimmers, saws and chainsaws, can also cause a spark that could start a fire in your yard, causing havoc in your neighborhood, or spread to any nearby wildland areas.

Instead, homeowners can apply these common-sense tips when using such tools at home.

  • Work in the mornings or late evenings to avoid the hottest parts of the day, and postpone your work when the weather calls for low humidity or high wind.
  • Keep a water hose or bucket or fire extinguisher on hand.
  • Use a nylon or plastic weed whacker line instead of metal.
  • Be careful not to set a hot tool down on dry grass or leaves.
  • Allow power engines to cool before refueling, and make sure the hot exhaust is kept away from dry grasses, weeds, and shrubs. Only use such equipment that’s in good repair and has spark arresters installed when applicable.
  • Stay home for an hour after finishing your work. This way you’d be around to notice if anything begins to smolder and smoke.

For more information on how to prevent wildfires, visit DNR’s Wildfire Preparedness webpage.

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Crawl around with the critters that come out at low tide at Sunday festival on Vashon Island

July 31, 2015
Photo of people on the beach near Pt. Robinson at the 2012 Vashon-Maury Island Low Tide Celebration

Visitors enjoy a sunny day at the 2012 Vashon-Maury Island Low Tide Celebration.
Photo: Michael Grilliot

As the caretaker for state-owned intertidal lands, DNR spends every day looking at its critters and vegetation. For the last decade, though, we have also helped celebrate the things that feed and breathe when tides recede with the community of Vashon-Maury Island.

That time comes again this Sunday, Aug. 2, when the Vashon-Maury Island Low Tide Celebration takes over Point Robinson Park from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) designated Maury Island as an Aquatic Reserve in 2000. The site is known for its significant habitat diversity, including eelgrass beds, Pacific herring spawning habitat, Chinook salmon and bull trout migratory corridors. There are few other places within this region that compare to Maury Island.

Along with the celebration of the tide, the day’s activities will feature a party to celebrate the 100th birthday of the Point Robinson Lighthouse and the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Coast Guard, which still owns the lighthouse.

This free event offers opportunities to:

  • Tour beach and tide flats with the Vashon Beach Naturalists
  • Tour the Pt. Robinson Lighthouse
  • Enjoy flora, fauna and cultural displays
  • Learn about traditional native uses of shoreline resources with Odin Lonning – traditional Tlingit artist and cultural educator

In addition, many conservation groups will be on hand.


Turkish towel is one of the many species exposed by low tides that can be spotted at this weekend’s Vashon-Maury Island Low Tide Festival. DNR Photo

Lowest water level will be around 1 p.m., so be there to commune with , hairy chitons, tukish towels and frilled dog whelk that will be exposed.

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 will also be available for sale. To get to Vashon by ferry, take either the Fauntleroy – Vashon Island or the Point Defiance – Talequah ferries.

DNR’s Aquatic Reserve Program will have a booth at the event presenting recent and on-going studies happening on Maury Island Aquatic Reserve, as well as discussing the Mooring Buoy project happening in Quartermaster Harbor.

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

Explore the Capitol State Forest right from your smartphone

July 30, 2015
The Capitol State Forest geo-referenced map is ideal for  your smartphone. Photo/ DNR.

The Capitol State Forest geo-referenced map for your smartphone. Photo/ DNR.

Did you know that you can take all of Capitol State Forest’s trails with you – wherever you go? With our free geo-referenced map, you can easily navigate the 100,000-acre forest’s trails with your smartphone. Using the free Avenza PDF Maps app, watch along as the map pinpoints your location. Even without cell service the map will continue to work using your phone’s GPS chip.

Ready to give it a try? Follow the steps below: 

  • Download the free Avenza PDF Maps app to your phone.
  • Open the app on your phone. Click on the icon in the lower left hand corner of your screen called ‘Maps.’ You will see a ‘+’ sign in the upper right of your screen.
  • After you click on the ‘+’ sign, it will ask you where you want to grab the PDF file from. Enter the following address into the box titled “From the Web:’
  • The map will be copied into your app. This may take a moment depending on your connection speed.
  • After the map is copied into the app, it will automatically load when you click on the ‘Maps’ icon. If you have your GPS turned on, it will automatically zoom to your position in Capitol State Forest.

To receive more information like this right to your inbox, subscribe to our monthly recreation e-newsletter. Learn more about DNR’s recreation program by visiting our website.

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