Archive for the ‘Forests’ Category

Trees: a winning strategy for storm water woes

October 6, 2015
Storm water woes can happen in Washington. Photo DNR

Storm water woes can happen in Washington. Photo DNR

Storm water runoff – the rain that falls on streets, driveways, rooftops, and other developed land – is one of the most widespread challenges to water quality in Washington state. It carries oil, grease, fertilizers, soaps, and waste from pets and failing septic systems into streams and other bodies of water.

DNR has set a goal to clean up and restore natural areas in Puget Sound communities, because the clean water that originates in the upland forests we manage can become polluted as it flows through urban and suburban areas.

One of the best ways to mitigate the negative impacts of urban and suburban storm water runoff is to reduce how much of it ends up in natural waterways. Trees and shrubs are part of the solution.

October is an excellent time to recognize the many benefits that trees provide, including reduction and filtration of storm water runoff, because trees:

  • Reduce storm water runoff by intercepting rainfall in their canopies where it is later re-released into the atmosphere.
  • Slow down runoff rates and reduce pollutants by absorbing storm water through their roots.
  • Store pollutants and transform them into less harmful substances.
  • Create healthy soil conditions that allow rainwater to filter into the soil so that less flows down streets, sidewalks, gutters, and storm sewers.

Here’s what you can do to help the trees in your community do a better job of filtering and managing storm water runoff:

  • Decrease the amount of hard surfaces (like concrete) that block water from soaking into the soil.
  • Advocate for more trees and vegetation in your community.
  • Preserve healthy, established trees through proper maintenance and care.
  • Minimize the clearing of trees and vegetation ­– you’ll also help reduce soil erosion.
  • Avoid over-fertilizing or over-watering your trees and lawn.
  • Route excess storm water to a natural retention area, such as a vegetated area with healthy soil which can filter out pollutants, reduce runoff rates and volumes, and prevent soil erosion.
  • Retrofit parking areas and other locations with extensive hard surfaces with new plantings of trees, shrubs and other plants — strategically located, they can intercept storm water and allow it to filter into the ground.

Trees, of course, are not the only means to address the challenges of storm water runoff, but here at DNR, we believe they are a big part of the solution, which is why we support Gov. Jay Inslee’s decision to proclaim October as Urban and Community Forestry Month.

For more tips and ideas, visit DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry Program, which operates with support from the US Forest Service.

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DNR burn ban expired; still a need for fire caution

October 2, 2015
Cougar Creek Fire, which started Aug. 10, 2015 by lightning, scorched 53,532 acres near Mount Adams. Photo Joe Smillie/DNR

Cougar Creek Fire, which started Aug. 10, 2015 by lightning, scorched 53,532 acres near Mount Adams. Photo Joe Smillie/DNR

Even though recent rains and lower temperatures have reduced fire danger, some parts of eastern Washington are still dry.

When you’re out this weekend hunting or recreating, remember to:

  • Check with a camp host or landowner to see if campfires are allowed.
  • If a campfire is allowed, don’t leave it to smolder.
  • Keep it small and have a bucket of water, as to not let it get out of hand.
  • After a campfire, be sure to extinguish it completely until it’s cold to the touch.

If you are hunting, check out our forest road survival safety tips from DNR’s Ear to the Ground blog. For hunting, visit the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website. Also, don’t forget a Discover Pass, your gateway to exploring Washington’s great outdoors. 

County burn bans may still be in effect in various locations throughout Washington.  Check with your community fire district for local information. Before burning outdoors, check to see if there are any fire restrictions for your area.

In addition, industrial forest operations on DNR-protected lands remain regulated under the requirements of the Industrial Fire Precaution Level (IFPL) system. If you’re involved in forest operations, check for and follow restrictions as they apply to the area you will be working.

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Trees are nature’s phenomenon

October 1, 2015
fall colors in urban forest

Happy Urban and Community Forestry Month! Healthy trees create a vibrant urban forest. Photo Guy Kramer

Happy Urban and Community Forestry Month! Governor Jay Inslee has proclaimed October as such for the third consecutive year. Why? Because when you think about all the benefits that trees provide, you realize just how phenomenal they are.

Many benefits of trees are obvious: Trees create food for insects, wildlife and people; they supply wood for fuel, furniture and homes; and they provide beauty for all of us. Other tree benefits can be less obvious: A large tree in your front yard can intercept rainfall in its crown and absorb rainfall through its roots, reducing stormwater runoff and flooding on your property; if that same tree shades your house, it can save you hundreds of dollars every year in cooling costs; and, a healthy mature tree in your front yard can boost your property’s value.

So how in the world would you go about calculating your own tree’s benefits? Easy, but you’re going to need the size of the tree and approximate age. Then, use the National Tree Benefit Calculator to find out all the benefits. Plus, you can virtually plant a tree and find out what benefits it will provide. Autumn is generally a great time to plant new trees, too.

There are surprising benefits from all types of trees. You can learn more about them through Trees Are Good. DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry Program is also a source for information, including technical, educational and financial assistance for cities, town, counties, tribal governments, non-profit organizations, and schools in Washington state.

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Fall is here – plan for tree planting

September 27, 2015
Susan Pierce, Trees Atlanta,

Put the kids to work planting trees this fall. Photo Susan Pierce, Trees Atlanta,

Fall is a perfect time for planting trees. Yet, have you planned what kind of tree and where it should grow?

Whether you plant a tree for aesthetics, to increase your property value, to save energy by providing shade, or to watch birds while lounging in a hammock, it is important to plan ahead. Start by thinking about your site.

For trees to grow to maturity and provide the many benefits we expect from them, they must be well-matched to site conditions. Take a look at these important considerations:

  • Above- and below-ground conflicts, such as buried utilities or view corridors,
  • Expected changes, including any future needs of the site, and
  • How much maintenance and care the tree will require.

You also want to pick the best species for that site. List the tree attributes you’re looking for, such as crown shape or flower color. Also list attributes based on the site’s limitations. Will it need to tolerate a lot of shade from nearby trees or buildings? Is the soil often damp? Will there be room for the tree when it reaches its mature height?

Consider a species appropriate for your area of the state, too. Look to see if your city or county has a list of appropriate community trees.

Now comes the fun part! Shop nursery catalogs, visit a local nursery, or search online to find available tree species and the perfect tree for your site.


Ed Gilman of the University of Florida Agricultural Sciences has created a site evaluation form that can guide you through the selection process. To find a great volume of information about tree selection, planting, care, maintenance, and management, visit Gilman’s website.

The U.S. Forest Service has checklists to help before, during and after planting your tree.

Remember, you can always contact DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry Program for additional guidance.

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Communities can now apply for Tree City status; what are you waiting for?

September 21, 2015
Tree City USA!

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.

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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Urban Forestry Restoration Project – now taking applications until September 30

September 20, 2015
Puget SoundCorps crews can make your city look like this in the fall. Photo: Janet Pearce/DNR

Puget SoundCorps crews can make your city look like this in the fall. Photo: Janet Pearce/DNR

Great news! The Urban Forestry Restoration Project (UFRP) has been extended for the 2015-2016 project year (October 1, 2015 – June 30, 2016) and applications are now being accepted.

Each successful applicant receives approximately four weeks of Puget SoundCorps crew time to assist with urban forestry tasks that enhance the health and function of urban trees and forests.

Healthy urban trees and forests help to manage stormwater, reduce soil erosion, clean the air we breathe and the water we drink, and provide a broad range of additional ecological, economic and public health benefits.

Proposed projects must lie within the Puget Sound Basin, on publicly-owned property, and may not displace workers already in place or contracted. Criteria for selection include:

  • Local commitment to urban forestry;
  • Water quality impacts and community benefits;
  • Project planning and coordination; and
  • Public support and citizen stewardship involvement.

Application forms can be downloaded from the UFRP website. For questions or more information, please contact the UFRP Project Manager, Micki McNaughton, at (360) 902-1637 or

Application deadline is 4:00 pm on Wednesday, September 30, 2015.

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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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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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Sitka spruce: A tree with individuality

July 27, 2015

Western Washington’s Sitka spruce is not afraid to stand out from the rest. This tree can be seen sporting a variety of forms, from bizarrely shaped root systems to huge buttresses. Its unique shape has a lot to do with growing in a coastal environment. Being near the water, Sitka spruce faces challenges that inland trees don’t, such as a dense forest floor and extreme elements. These challenges force the tree to bend and twist in irregular ways.

How exactly does the forest floor of the coast affect the shape of Sitka spruce? The moist floor is often thick with bryophytes and other plants which makes it challenging for a tiny seed to grow. Therefore, Sitka spruce prefers to grow on elevated organic surfaces, such as logs and stumps. When these logs decay and disappear, the resulting Sitka spruce can display an oddly shaped root system and huge buttresses.

Sitka sprice root system

If a spruce started on a very large log, the resulting tree can often have a bizarrely shaped root system. Photo / DNR

Sitka spruce with broken trunk

The rotten top of a 400-plus year-old spruce snapped off in a violent winter storm, only to impale itself in the ground 65 feet from its base. Photo / DNR

Another factor that contributes to the individuality of Sitka spruce is its exposure to coastal elements. Violent winds can alter the shape of a Sitka spruce and if the tree’s top is rotten, the winds might even cause it to snap off.

Interesting facts like this and more can be found in DNR’s guides for identifying old trees and forests in Washington: Identifying Mature and Old Forests in Western Washington and Identifying Old Trees and Forests in Eastern Washington, both written by Robert Van Pelt, PhD. Both guidebooks are free to download.

Conservation of old-growth and other “structurally unique” trees is part of the State Trust Lands Habitat Conservation Plan that DNR uses to guide its management of working forests and provide habitat for endangered species on state trust lands.

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Have you watered your trees lately?

July 16, 2015

TreeThe dog days of summer are upon us, so it’s a good thing we have trees to help keep us cool! Summer is a great time to kick back, relax, and enjoy the nice weather. But this month and next can be hard on trees, and they can use our help. Don’t be fooled by cloudy weather, because it does not necessarily mean moisture.

In Washington, most of the annual accumulation of moisture comes in three seasons, fall, winter and spring. Summer is typically very dry. This weather pattern is great for vacations and back yard barbecues, but difficult for trees – particularly newly planted trees.

When we do get moisture, it may not be enough for our leafy friends, especially those planted within the last year or two. Even if you are watering your lawn on a regular basis, your trees might not be getting enough to drink. Grass roots, after all, only grow to a depth of several inches. In contrast, trees roots are deeper, from about 18” to 24” deep.

Long, slow watering under the drip-line of a tree with a soaker hose or even a bucket with small holes drilled into it will ensure that moisture seeps down into the root zone.

Or build a low ring of dirt about 1 foot from the trunk of the tree to create a soil dam. With your hose turned on to a slow trickle, fill the tree ring with water (this will take about 30 minutes). Keeping the hose on a trickle will allow the water to soak in rather than run off, while the dam will keep the water directly over the roots of the tree.

Remember that a 2-4 inch thick layer of bark mulch around the base of a tree will maintain soil moisture and help control weeds, (but keep the bark about a hands-width away from the trunk).

There are many factors involved when considering how much and how long to water. Check out this article by Oregon State University Extension (OSUE) about watering trees and shrubs the right way, and how watering needs differ depending on soil texture.

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