Archive for the ‘Forests’ Category

The dispute over natural vs artificial trees continues

November 28, 2015
Real Christmas trees are a renewable resource. Is your artificial tree? Photo DNR

Real Christmas trees are a renewable resource. Photo/DNR

Every holiday season there are debates about which is the better choice – a real or artificial Christmas tree.

As an agency that leases land to tree farmers, manages the state’s urban forestry program, and employs a good number of foresters, we may be a bit biased. Still, here’s our attempt to keep you informed and dispel some common myths around the topic.

Myth 1: You save forests by using a fake tree. Yes, the U.S. Forest Service issues a small number of permits to cut wild trees, but most of the Christmas and other types of holiday trees you purchase are grown on farms just like any other agricultural crop. Because real Christmas trees are usually grown as a crop – they even call them ‘Christmas tree farms’ – you are buying a harvested product grown for this purpose.

Myth 2: Real trees aggravate allergies. A pine tree allergy is relatively uncommon, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and real trees clean pollutants from the air as they grow.

Myth 3: Fake trees are fireproof.  Artificial trees advertised as “flame retardant” can resist flames for a period time, but when they do burn, they will emit significant heat and toxic smoke containing hydrogen chloride gas and dioxin. Take care no matter which tree you choose.

Myth 4: Real trees are a fire safety hazard. To minimize your risk, keep your tree freshly watered every day, use new lower-heat LED lights if you can, keep open flames away and dispose of the tree before the needles become brittle.

Myth 5: Fake trees are better because you can reuse them. Each year, municipalities reuse millions of real Christmas trees as mulch or wood chips. Natural trees are also 100 percent biodegradable. At some point, a fake tree wears out and ends up in a landfill (they aren’t recyclable or biodegradable).

Myth 6: Real trees cost too much. In Washington, most locally grown trees cost between $20 and $45 while a plastic tree costs from $100 to $300 depending on height and quality. You’ll have to use an artificial tree many years to break even. In any case, buying your tree locally helps support the fiscal health of your community.

Myth 7: Real trees have pesticides and chemicals on them. Tree farmers use chemicals only when needed and follow instructions made by the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Food and Drug Administration. Plastic trees crafted outside of the United States may not have similar oversight. Know that lead dust from artificial trees can be harmful, especially to children.

Myth 8: Real trees are a hassle and a mess. Yes, they do need to be watered each day, but what is a half of a minute between friends? Yes, when you move the tree in and out of the house, you will need to vacuum. Hey, you probably needed to do it anyway. Plus, what says “clean” better than the sent of fresh pine?

Myth 9: I can cut a tree on state lands. No, it’s illegal to cut trees from state trust lands. These trees need to grow to build future public schools in our state, as well as provide wildlife habitat and clean water and air.

Myth 10: No one cares if my tree is real or fake. Which sounds like more fun – picking out a fragrant, live tree with friends and family or waiting in a checkout line to buy a plastic replica of a tree? And, since most real holiday trees are grown on family-owned tree farms, purchasing a real tree makes an important economic contribution that matters to many rural Washington communities.

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No need to burn outdoors; there are better options

November 21, 2015
silvicultural burning

Landowners must obtain a burn permit before burning large amounts of forest debris on lands protected from wildfire by DNR. Photo DNR

Fall and winter can bring rough weather conditions that wreak havoc with roadways, homes, business and utilities. Storms can quickly create hazardous trees or limbs but there’s no need to compound the adverse event by raising the risks of a runaway wildfire. When you need to clear away yard and tree debris after a storm, think about options other than outdoor burning.

Outdoor burning is a leading cause of wildfire ignitions. If you must burn, know the rules, and choose the right weather for burning. If you have a burn barrel, don’t use it. In fact, just get rid of it – burn barrels are illegal in Washington state.

Fortunately there are alternatives to burning, such as chipping and composting, which are easy and practical ways to dispose of many organic materials or convert them to another use.

Alternatives to outdoor burning 

  • Compost it.It’s a practical and convenient approach for disposing of forest debris. Any vegetable matter can be composted. Organic material, such as fallen leaves, grass clippings, weeds, and the remains of garden plants, make excellent compost. Used as mulch for paths where it will eventually decompose and become compost to use in your garden. Check with your local county extension office, city, or county for schedules of composting classes.
  • Chip it.Turn large branches and debris into mulch. If you don’t already own a chipper, check with your local equipment rental agency. Invite your neighbors to join in to make it more cost efficient for everyone.
  • Use curbside pickup.
  • Take it to an approved landfill that accepts forest debris. Many counties have forest debris waste composting facilities.

Also, outdoor burning is a cause of smoke and certain pollutants. This smoke can be unhealthy, because the small particles in smoke are so tiny they can easily get into your lungs. People most at risk are children, patients with respiratory illnesses, and adults over 65 years old. Visit the Department of Ecology’s air quality website to find out if your local clean air agency has issued a burn ban and other advice.

Don’t risk burning

The biggest human cause of wildfires in Washington is outdoor burning. These escaped wildfires are investigated and, if found guilty, you can be fined. If burning is allowed in your area, the only material that can be burned is natural vegetation grown on the property where the burning occurs. And, be sure to check DNR’s webpage on silvicultural outdoor burning.

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Getting a permit to gather firewood on DNR-managed state trust lands

November 19, 2015

Cutting firewood on

People often ask DNR if they can cut their own firewood on the forested state trust lands we manage. Generally, we provide places for you to cut firewood from downed wood or slash following timber harvests. Unfortunately, we don’t have as many of these opportunities as you might think.

DNR allows firewood cutting only when a timber harvest area has enough leftover downed wood or slash to make it worthwhile for you to go all the way out there. Many sites may have this left-behind wood but not enough for people to harvest for firewood.

Why do we insist on keeping some of this down wood around?

Because DNR manages forested state trust lands for habitat, as well as revenue production, a certain amount of the snags, downed wood and stumps left after a timber harvest must remain for birds, mammals and other critters. Habitat management is a key component of our State Trust Lands Habitat Conservation Plan.

Another factor limiting our supply is that the commercial timber harvesters who bid on trust lands timber are using more of the branches and stumps these days, so there’s less left behind to gather for firewood.

Check this web page to find out where DNR firewood gathering permits are still available. You’ll also find instructions for where and what to gather.

Some of the federal lands in Washington issue permits to gather firewood for personal use:

It is a violation of state law to cut down trees or take firewood from state trust lands without permission from DNR.

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GIS Day: Celebrating the technology that reveals the world around us

November 18, 2015
GIS layers

Geospatial information systems technologies gives us new insights by more easily compiling multiple layers of information about a specific area on a map. GIS is used to map crime, show land use, reveal historic trends on the land and more. Image: NOAA

Geographic information systems (GIS) — the technology that helps us see the world around us in new ways — is in the spotlight today, November 18 — also known as “GIS Day.” Among the many events bringing together GIS professionals, students, and the general public to learn about and discuss the impact of this technology is an all-day conference at the Washington State Capitol today. Washington State Joint Agency Day features technicians from more than two dozen state, county and city agencies who gather to explain how they use GIS in the public’s interest and to save time and money. DNR, for example, uses GIS to reveal geologic hazards, map streams, route trails, track the spread of invasive species, and map marine vegetation.

DNR offers its trove of GIS data about forestry, geology, wildfire, wildlife and more to the public for download at no charge.

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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Be prepared for storm-damaged trees; five tips to stay safe and five more to ensure proper care

November 11, 2015
Wind can damage even young trees if they are not planted, pruned nor cared for properly. Photo Janet Pearce/DNR

Wind can damage even young trees if they are not planted, pruned nor cared for properly. Photo Janet Pearce/DNR

Homeowners have two good reasons for caution as fall storms encroach your property. Beware of residual hazards from storm-damaged trees, and roving “tree cutters” who may not have the best interests of you and your trees in mind.

Five 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 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, be wary of approaches from unskilled “tree cutters.” 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.

Five 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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Green jobs benefit early career workers in Washington

November 3, 2015
WCC crew

WCC crews participate in a variety of projects, including installing sign holders for different state agencies. Photo: DNR

A recent research project evaluated stress-recovery and personal effectiveness for young people who work in conservation jobs.  The research project explored how an outdoor work environment (including urban forest settings) may serve as a path to personal resiliency (through job opportunities, peer engagement, and skill building) and provide healing opportunities.


Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) is an environmental service program for young adults supported by the federal AmeriCorps service program. Corps members are 18 to 25 years of age, and participate in service work in small crews to restore natural resource sites. WCC engages approximately 300 people each year, a minority of whom are veterans. This study followed a cohort of approximately 270 WCC members who served for a year from autumn 2013 to autumn 2014.


The study was funded by the USDA Forest Service and Washington State Department of Natural Resources, with collaboration by the Washington State Department of Ecology. Dr. Kathleen Wolf from the University of Washington and Elizabeth Housley from OurFutureEnvironment Consulting LLC conducted the study.


Overall, the corps members entered the work program in quite good health compared to national standards, and yet research results show their perceived stress was further reduced after a year’s service. Returning second year members reported better perceived health and higher perceived leadership ability compared to new members.


Employment by organizations such as WCC can engage veterans and other early career adults in a socio-ecological projects where the benefits of nature experiences are coupled with opportunities to exhibit mastery, recover from stress and anxiety, and gain other positive markers of personal resiliency.


One possible outcome of this study might be to introduce outdoor work as a therapeutic activity for young adults, including younger veterans. If so, careful planning of work tasks to align with more diverse physical abilities would be important.


The technical report or a two page results summary  are available online. Or visit the Green Cities: Good Health web site for more information about the social and human health benefits of nature in cities.


This article was reprinted as it originally appeared in DNR’s Tree Link Newsletter.

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It’s no trick: The bats at DNR’s Woodard Bay are a treat

October 31, 2015

As guardians to the home of the largest bat-breeding colony found in the State, DNR wants you to know that their presence is a real treat.

Bats are important for keeping insect populations in balance. The yuma myotis and little brown myotis bats at Woodard Bay eat mostly smaller insects such as mosquitoes, midges, and flies. They can consume up to 600 of them in just one hour.

Woodard Bay Natural Resources Conservation Area is open year-round, but summer is the time for bat fans to visit the newly restored site to watch the bats emerge at dusk from the old logging pier that they call home. Wait until after April when bats will return by the thousands to roost.

One of the informative signs that you can visit at Woodard Bay.

One of the informative signs you can visit at Woodard Bay Natural Resource Conservation Area, near Olympia.

Residents from Henderson Inlet to Olympia, Tumwater, and Lacey benefit from their bug-devouring ways. Locations as far away as Capitol Lake, Black Lake, Long Lake and Pattison Lake are confirmed feeding sites for this colony.

Chances are, however, that wherever you live in Washington you’ve got local bats treating you to summers with fewer bugs.

Learn more about DNR’s Natural Area Preserves and Natural Resources Conservation Areas that serve to conserve and restore lands for species like Washington’s bats.

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Wood for good

October 22, 2015
This curio shelf is made from urban waste wood donated by the City of Olympia Photo Janet Pearce/DNR

This curio shelf is made from urban waste wood donated by the city of Olympia. Photo Janet Pearce/DNR

Waste not, want not. Sometimes urban trees need to be removed due to poor health, damage, or development activities. In the past, this urban waste wood was often sent to landfills. In better situations, it’s repurposed for ‘low-end’ uses, such as mulch or firewood. Yet, the Cedar Creek Corrections Center’s sawmill and carpentry shop is taking this resource to an even greater level and turning out high-end reuse products – good news for urban ‘waste’ wood and our communities.

Thanks to special project funding through the USDA Forest Service, and in partnership with Cedar Creek Corrections Center, DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry Program is able to show how to put urban wood to good use. With a portable sawmill, a drying room, and a carpentry shop, Cedar Creek has turned urban waste wood into beautiful bowls, boxes and benches. Some of these beautifully crafted products are returned to wood donors while others are donated to non-for-profit charitable organizations, or schools.

The Urban Wood Utilization Project promotes the use of urban waste wood resources for their highest and best use while developing viable job skills for minimum security prison inmates.

Offenders at Cedar Creek, and other correction centers across the state, play a critical role helping to fight summer wildfires. In the off-season, programs such as the Cedar Creek carpentry program provide additional opportunities for crews to earn modest funds to help support them upon release, and continue developing marketable green-collar experience.

Who donates urban waste wood?

Anyone! Here are a couple of examples:

A few years ago, the city of Olympia created a long-term plan to remove and replace several oak trees from Legion Way. These trees had had their tops cut off, a detrimental practice called topping, and the branches that grew back were weak and likely to break, especially during a storm. The city donated the wood to Cedar Creek’s urban wood project where it was crafted into a park bench and stools for Arbutus Folk School’s ceramics program.

A couple of years ago several black locust trees at 11th Street in Olympia were growing into electric wires after having been topped. When the state’s Department of Enterprise Services had to remove them, they donated the urban waste wood to Cedar Creek. Cedar Creek’s shop used the wood to build a bench and make decorative and functional bowls.

To make an urban waste wood donation, contact DNR at

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Commissioner Goldmark presents tree care honors to City of Seattle

October 19, 2015
Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray plant an Incense Cedar tree at Seattle’s Arbor Day event on Saturday, October 17.  Photo Linden Lampman/DNR

Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray plant an Incense Cedar tree at Seattle’s Arbor Day event on Saturday, October 17. Photo Linden Lampman/DNR

In celebration of Urban and Community Forestry Month, Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark presented Tree City recognition to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray at Seattle’s annual Arbor Day celebration. Seattle hit their 30th Tree City USA anniversary at the Saturday, October 17, 2015 event.

The Tree City USA Program has been greening up cities across the US since 1976. It’s a nationwide movement that provides the framework necessary for communities to manage and expand their public trees. The award is given annually to cities that meet Tree City USA standards (have a Tree Board, a tree ordinance for public trees, a community forestry program, and an Arbor Day observance and proclamation).

Of the 86 Tree City USA communities in Washington, only Ellensburg and Longview have been in the program longer than Seattle, with 32 and 31 impressive years respectively.

Seattle also received its 19th Tree City Growth Award. The Tree City USA Growth Award is awarded by the Arbor Day Foundation to recognize higher levels of tree care by participating Tree City USA communities. The Growth Award highlights innovative programs and projects as well as an increased commitment of resources for urban forestry. It also highlights new ideas and successes across the country.

Commissioner Goldmark also recognized Seattle City Light for their 2nd year as a Tree Line USA utility. DNR recognizes utility companies as Tree Line USA utilities when they commit to healthy tree care and maintenance, tree worker training programs, and community tree planting.

Trees and utility lines can come into conflict, but with careful planning of where new trees are planted and more attention to proper tree care, there’s no reason they cannot co-exist. The Tree Line Program recognizes best practices in public and private utility arboriculture, demonstrating how trees and utilities can exist side-by-side for the benefit of communities and citizens.

For more information on proper tree care, contact DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry Program.

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A wind storm worth remembering – October 12, 1962

October 12, 2015
The 1962 storm brought hurricane-level winds to Washington. Photo courtesy of Washington State Archives

The 1962 storm brought hurricane-level winds to Washington.
Photo courtesy of Washington State Archives

One of Washington’s most severe windstorms hit 53 years ago today, yet more than 60 percent of our state’s population wasn’t born yet and won’t remember it.

The 1962 Columbus Day Storm was the strongest non-tropical windstorm ever to hit the lower 48 states in recorded history. In less than 12 hours, it claimed 46 lives (7 in Washington state) and injured hundreds more. A wind gust of 160 miles per hour was recorded in the Willapa Hills of southwestern Washington.

More than 11,000,000,000 board feet of timber was blown down in northern California, Oregon, and Washington combined. After an intense timber salvage effort, many unimproved backcountry roads were created and continue to be used by hunters, recreationist, and loggers today.

Take a moment to remember or learn about this storm and use it as motivation. Prepare your trees, ready your boats, and check out the Washington State Emergency Management Division’s “Windstorms in Washington State” publication for survival tips. It could prevent your boat from sinking, keep you from losing power, or even save your home.

If you need tree care from the storm this past weekend, remember to take DNR’s advice when looking for a tree service.

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