What you need to know as a homeowner, before it’s too late

January 7, 2016
This house was saved from the Chelan Complex Fire because it had defensible space. Photo Kari Greer/USFS

This house was saved from the Chelan Complex Fire because it had defensible space. Photo Kari Greer/USFS

Winter weather may tempt you to let wildfire be the last thing on your mind. Well, don’t let it. Now is the time to prepare.

Wildfires are not going away. In fact, they are getting more destructive. Why? One reason is because many of us want to live in the woods, far from the hubbub of city life. Washington state ranks highest among all western states with the most developed with homes in the wildland-urban interface. Making this popular choice comes with more responsibility to create a safe place around your home.  If there are trees and shrubs up against your home, your house has very little chance of surviving a wildfire.

This is where defensible space and these 12 simple steps can play not only an important role, but also the most important role, in saving your home from wildfire. A community that bands together and takes responsibility to prepare for the threat of wildfire may suffer less loss in the end. Take it from someone who knows. Carolyn Bergland, a landowner who had to evacuate during the 2012 Taylor Bridge Fire in Ellensburg, advises:

“Landowners need to take fuels reduction and Firewise efforts seriously and educate their neighbors so that communities are able to be more resilient. By employing the principles of defensible space, you make it easier for firefighters to fight the fire and easier for a fire to go around you. It’s a sense of responsibility to the other people that live close by, and the community as a whole.”

If you think that wildfire isn’t something you have to worry about, consider the safety of the men and woman assigned to fight the fire that may threaten your home. We appreciate defensible homes, because they’re safer places for our firefighters to fight wildfire and crews can be more efficient, allowing them to move on to other areas that still need help.

Even in a more developed neighborhood, you can still be affected by wildfire. Look for green belts or open space areas around you that have the potential to catch fire and threaten your home. If you live in this situation, you may have winter work to do too.

For an in-depth look at what you can do to protect yourself, see the Ready Campaign’s How to Prepare for a Wildfire or go to www.firewise.org. See more of the story from Suzanne Wade with the Kittitas County Conservation District in the National Fire Protection Association newsletter, Fire Break.



Help shape recreation from Baker to Bellingham

January 6, 2016
The recreation planning includes some of the Nooksack River. Photo by Patrick McNally.

The recreation planning area includes part of the Nooksack River. Photo by Patrick McNally.

Do you have ideas about how you’d like to experience recreation on DNR-managed lands between Mount Baker and Bellingham? We’d love to hear them.

This month, DNR is beginning a recreation planning process that will determine how we manage recreation on state lands in Whatcom County for the next 10 to 15 years. The Baker to Bellingham Recreation Plan, once complete, will guide recreation in the 86,000-acre planning area, which includes Sumas Mountain, borders the three forks of the Nooksack River, connects with Whatcom County park lands, and provides views of the north Cascade Range. View a map of the planning area.

Share your thoughts via open house, volunteer committee
Attend one of our upcoming open houses to hear more about the planning project and provide input. Each open house will begin with a brief presentation followed by opportunities to speak with DNR staff one-on-one.

Tuesday, Jan. 19
7 to 9 p.m.
Port of Bellingham Cruise Terminal
Dome Room
355 Harris Ave.
Bellingham, WA 98225

Wednesday, Jan. 20
7 to 9 p.m.
Lynden Community Center
401 Grover Street
Lynden, WA 98264

You can also consider applying to serve on our volunteer recreation planning committee, which will provide draft recommendations to guide plan development. To apply, click here.

Learn more
To stay involved with the project, subscribe to our Baker to Bellingham E-news or visit our project page. Have a question? Send us an email.

Wildlife trees: Animal magnets

January 5, 2016
Pileated woodpecker.

Pileated woodpecker. Photo: Glenn Thompson.

Many species of wildlife find shelter in trees, and not just in living trees. Trees are mostly cellulose, which is not living tissue, biologically speaking: hard for most organisms to digest but great for wildlife habitat. Once a tree dies, the habitat value of a tree and its wood seems to take off. Wildlife trees are standing dead (snags), defective live trees or down logs, all of which have large amounts of dead wood.

The three primary needs of wildlife are food, water, and shelter. Trees — living or dead — provide two of the three (food and shelter), while helping to maintain and filter local watersheds. Dead trees provide food by housing the insects that feed on the dead wood, and offer cover in the form of cavities, crevices or loose bark.

Woodpeckers’ special role

Woodpeckers will make new cavities in wildlife trees every year, or improve old ones, as a regular part of courtship and nesting behavior. These cavities in dead trees are prime real estate, used by many other species when the woodpeckers are done. Fledging rates (babies to adulthood) for cavity nesting birds are much higher than rates for those that nest on the ground. Non migratory species, such as the pileated woodpecker, will use cavities for roosting in the non-breeding season. Nuthatches and other small birds will sometimes communally roost in cavities together. Flying squirrels are known to cuddle through cold winter days (they are nocturnal) piled into cavities.

Up to 40 percent of Washington’s forest wildlife species — and not just birds — use dead wood for some portion of their life cycle. The list is long. A few of the species that use wildlife trees are:

  • Pileated woodpecker
  • Hairy woodpecker
  • Downy woodpecker
  • Red-naped sapsucker
  • Western bluebird
  • Douglas squirrel
  • Marten
  • Long-tailed weasel
  • Chipmunk
  • Flying squirrel
  • Bats
  • Western toad
  • Salamander
pileated woodpecker cavities in a larch snag

Multiple pileated woodpecker cavities in a larch snag in northeast Washington. After more than 35 years as a snag, the tree fell in 2015. Photo: Ken Bevis/DNR.

Wildlife trees, including standing dead trees, are so important to wildlife that Washington State’s Forest Practices rules require timber harvesters to leave behind several of these trees per acre.

Forest Practices Illustrated — a simplified guide to the state’s Forest Practices Rules — suggests that planning for timber harvests include retaining more wildlife trees than the minimums required  and creating additional snags from low quality trees (easily with mechanical harvesting techniques) when possible.

Today is National Bird Day. Check out opportunities to watch birds on DNR-managed state trust lands, and learn more about birds from the Washington Ornithological Society and American Birding Association.

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Are you a forest landowner with trees damaged by recent winter storms?

January 4, 2016
A severe wind storm knocked down these Ponderosa pines, which are now susceptible to pine engraver beetle. Photo: State of Idaho

A severe wind storm knocked down these ponderosa pines, which are now susceptible to pine engraver beetle. Photo: State of Idaho

Severe November and December wind and snow storms in Spokane and other areas could be causing more damage than you realize. By this spring, you may notice little piles of reddish bark dust around your trees. This is a sign that bark beetles are attacking the trunks and branches of your damaged trees.

When the weather warms up, bark beetles become active, infesting and feeding on the sugary inner bark of your uprooted or broken trees. Over just a few weeks, inside the damaged logs, these beetles can build up populations, which then attack and kill neighboring healthy trees.

The chief culprits are known as the pine engraver beetle and the Douglas-fir beetle.

Prime targets

Ponderosa pine and lodgepole pine trunks and branches that are larger than three inches in diameter can be infested by the pine engraver beetle. Pine engraver beetles that infest wind-thrown trees in April and May will lay eggs that develop into adults and emerge in June of the same year. Although beetles that emerge in June often continue to infest damaged trees, the next generation of beetles that emerges in August may attack adjacent healthy trees.

The Douglas-fir beetle infests Douglas-fir trunks that are larger than about 10 inches in diameter. These beetles’ offspring require a year to mature and could infest healthy Douglas-fir trees in spring of 2017.

Both types of bark beetle are highly attracted to the thick, moist, nutritious inner-bark tissue of trees that are recently wind-thrown or have broken tops, as well as logs.

How to minimize your chance for infestations

The best option to reduce beetle infestations is to interrupt the amount of moist inner bark tissue that is available for beetles to breed. Remove damaged trees by salvaging the larger timber and safely burning or chipping smaller material. Try to increase the rate at which the inner bark dries out by cutting green logs into smaller pieces, removing branches, dispersing the woody material in a sunny area.

Leaving damaged trees or logs in the shade or in small sheltered piles lengthens the time the inner bark is suitable beetle food and habitat; it also increases the chances that the wood will become infested.

DO NOT stack green firewood next to healthy standing trees. The idea is to reduce the number of places the damaging beetles have easy access to breed this spring, so high populations won’t develop and threaten remaining trees later.

If you own forestland and need advice about tree care, contact a DNR Region Office near you or the WSU Extension Office in your county.

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Still have your Christmas tree?

January 3, 2016
Christmas tree on the curb. Photo: Steven Depolo/Creative Commons

Christmas tree on the curb. Photo: Steven Depolo/Creative Commons

Now that the holidays are over, did you dispose of your real Christmas tree properly?

We hope you didn’t throw it in the trash. Real trees are biodegradable and can easily be recycled in many ways.

See which recycling options and tips might be viable for you and your family.

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Thanks to our volunteers: Southeastern Washington highlights

January 2, 2016
Volunteers building elk fence at BBQ Flats. Photo/ DNR.

Volunteers building elk fence at BBQ Flats. Photo/ DNR.

This last year was a big year for some of our southeastern Washington forestland, including Teanaway Community Forest, Ahtanum State Forest, and the new BBQ Flats. That’s thanks, in large part, to all of you.

In 2015, volunteers donated 5,855 hours. They spent more than 500 hours volunteering as Forest Watch volunteers and 1,400 at BBQ Flats. Volunteers spent nearly 300 in the Teanaway Community Forest and 2,350 in the Ahtanum State Forest, too.

Some of volunteers’ biggest accomplishments included removing old fence and building 2000′ of new field fence and almost 8000′ of elk fence at BBQ Flats. Volunteers also installed 55 new fire rings and 40 new picnic tables at Teanaway Campground in the Teanaway Community Forest. Volunteers in the Ahtanum State Forest, Naneum Ridge State Forest, Elk Heights, Rattlesnake and Beverly Dunes patrolled miles of green dot roads, maintained signage, and helped to keep campgrounds and roads clean.

Volunteers install new picnic tables at Teanaway Campground. Photo/ DNR.

Volunteers install new picnic tables at Teanaway Campground. Photo/ DNR.

This work couldn’t be done without the valuable efforts of our volunteers and partners.

Special thanks to:

Backcountry Horsemen of Washington (Wenas, Tahoma, Pierce County, Lewis County, Mount Adams, Purple Sage Riders, Trail Dusters chapters), Eastern Washington Adventures, Jeeping Nomads, Yakima Valley Timberwolves, Selah Cub Scouts, Sky Meadows Residents/Sky Riders Snowmobile and ORV Club, Wenatchee Mountain Masters, Yakima Ski Benders, Friends of the Teanaway, Washington Aerospace Club and Chelan Flyers, Master Hunters, Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, Mount Adams Snowmobile Club, Yakima County Search and Rescue, Kittitas County Field and Stream and all of the individuals who came out to lend a hand.

Thank you for the continued support of DNR’s recreation program and recreation opportunities across the state. Here’s to accomplishing even more in 2016. To learn more about volunteering with DNR visit our website.


Winter weather burn bans may be in effect; before any outdoor or silvicultural burning, check local conditions

December 31, 2015
Follow the outdoor burning rules before lighting any fire.

Follow the outdoor burning rules before lighting any fire.

Due to current and forecasted air quality in many parts of Washington, some clean air agencies have implemented burn bans.

DNR-regulated silvicultural burning is not allowed where an air quality burn ban has been declared. Air quality across the state is not expected to improve until the middle of next week.

For specific burn restrictions, go to DNR’s Fire Danger map and click on your county. Please follow the outdoor burning rules before lighting any fire.

Visit Department of Ecology’s air quality website to find your local clean air agency air quality and burn ban information. To find your local air monitoring site, visit Washington’s Air Monitoring Network.

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2015 DNR recreation, by the numbers

December 31, 2015


Thanks to all of you for your support of recreation opportunities on DNR-managed lands. To learn more about what’s up and coming for recreation on DNR-managed lands, visit our website or subscribe to our recreation e-newsletter.


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Winter tree tips

December 30, 2015
Red oak tree

This handsome red oak tree is well suited for it location along a residential street in Snoqualmie. Photo: DNR

It’s cold and flu season and a time to take especially good care of ourselves. A doctor may ask about your eating, sleeping and exercise habits, or question you about preventative care measures, such as flu shots or vitamins. Proactive care makes us less susceptible to bugs and other circumstances that make us sick.

So what about your trees? Winter is challenging for trees as well, and the same advice applies to ensure that they are healthy and can withstand the stresses of the season. Here are some simple tips for preventative care of your trees to boost their health and decrease susceptibility to insects and diseases, storms, and winter damage.

  • Watering. Our summers have been hotter and drier than normal, resulting in chronic drought stress for many landscape trees. Watering can be just as effective in the winter as it is in the summer. If the ground isn’t frozen then trees will still benefit from winter watering. The Tri-Cities’ Washington State University Extension Horticulturalist, Marianne Ophardt offers this helpful winter watering advice.
  • Mulching. Mulching is perhaps one the best, most cost-effective preventative treatments for trees. Mulch helps regulate soil temperatures, retain soil moisture, reduce soil compaction, reduce competition from other plants, improve soil structure and fertility, and is a physical barrier that discourages damage from lawn maintenance equipment. Best of all it is cheap, especially if you’re mulching with recycled wood chips. Many tree service providers are happy to deliver loads of wood chips to your yard for free. Read more about mulch from the Morton Arboretum.
  • Structural Pruning.  A little light pruning when your tree is young can go a long way toward preventing the development of structural defects and mitigating future storm damage. It’s like teaching your tree to behave properly when it’s little so it can grow up to be a fine, upstanding adult–but you need to know what limbs to prune and why. Read more about structural pruning from the Barlett Research Lab.
  • Regular Inspections by a Professional. Think about this like getting a check-up from your doctor. Having an ISA Certified Arborist or other qualified tree professional inspect your trees on a 3-5 basis, and after storms, can alert you to specific tree problems or potential issues of concern. It is easier, safer and less expensive to deal with tree-related problems before the next storm rolls through. Learn more about hiring an arborist.

The old adage says “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. We hold this to be true for our own well-being, so let’s extend the same courtesy to our trees.

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English ivy invades Pacific Northwest forests

December 28, 2015
English ivy infestation in Olympic National Park

English ivy, like this infestation in Olympic National Park, can kill and pull down trees. Photo: Kevin Zobrist/WSU Extension.

What’s wrong with a little ivy? Plenty. The photo with this post was taken recently in Olympic National Park, demonstrating that invasive species know no boundaries. This was only a small piece of the infestation, which was killing and pulling over trees and completely destroying the native plants growing under the trees. This immense spread of ivy has very little value for wildlife, unless you’re a rat.

Native to Europe, English ivy and similar cultivars were introduced to North America by early settlers who prized it for ornamental purposes. It continues to be widely planted as an ornamental, according to the Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States. Because of its shallow, mat-like root system, ivy is a poor choice for controlling erosion, such as on hillsides.

“But I only have a little,” you say? That’s how this started out. English ivy spreads aggressively both vegetatively and by bird-disbursed seeds. There are a number of different varieties, all invasive and all brought in as ornamentals.

Getting rid of ivy

Spraying is challenging because ivy has a thick, waxy leaf, but there are some herbicides listed for use (always follow label instructions). Fortunately, English ivy pulls up (roots and all) pretty easily, so with a little elbow grease you can make good strides in eradicating it. You should wear gloves and a dust mask for this, for the sake of comfort. For ivy that is growing up and strangling trees, you don’t have to pull it all off the tree (which could damage the bark). Instead, pull the ivy off the tree up to shoulder height, making sure to sever all stems growing up the tree. Without ground contact, the remainder up the tree will die. Then work on pulling the stuff on the ground back from the tree, pulling it up by the roots. Here are two Pacific Northwest-oriented fact sheets about controlling English ivy:

Check out King County’s list of native plant alternatives to English ivy.

[This blog post was excerpted from an article in Forest Stewardship Notes by Kevin Zobrist, regional extension forestry specialist, WSU Extension Service. Forest Stewardship Notes is a free quarterly e-newsletter published jointly by DNR and WSU Extension Service. Sign up for a free subscription today.]


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