Partner Feeds

The need to improve our earthquake and tsunami response

WA DNR News - February 10, 2018 - 4:00pm

Washington faces the second highest risk from earthquakes, and one of
our nation’s highest risks for tsunamis, yet we remain the only west coast
state that does not have a seismic hazard inventory for critical infrastructure.

That’s not all: many communities along our coast have either outdated tsunami
inundation maps — or no maps at all.

Buildings in most school districts (72%) in Washington state have high to very high risk exposure to seismic events, such as earthquakes. Source: DNR

The stakes are huge. A Cascadia subduction zone earthquake and tsunami would cause more than $50 billion in damages and more than 10,000 deaths in Washington
state – and those are 2010 estimates.

That’s why I’ve asked the Legislature to provide DNR with $543,200 for FY2019 and an ongoing appropriation of $493,200 to hire two geologists and one IT technician to identify and map earthquake and tsunami hazards.

With this additional staff on board DNR will be able to produce:

  • Tsunami and earthquake hazard maps;
  • An inventory of the geologic risks to critical infrastructure like
    ports, schools and hospitals; (this will take 10 years of only one staff member is added and will not happen if no funding is appropriated);
  • Critical information for emergency responders to build quick
    response plans;
  • Reliable data for city and county planners to use in zoning
    determinations;
  • Tsunami evacuation maps for all coastal communities; and
  • Public education tools for geologic hazards.

We don’t know when the next Cascadia subduction zone earthquake and tsunami will occur but one thing is certain: it will happen again. For a modest investment now, we can help the people of Washington become far better prepared for the next major disaster.

by Hilary Franz, Commissioner of Public Lands, @CommissionerHilaryFranz

Click here to get email updates from Hilary Franz and DNR.

Categories: Partner Feeds

Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz on Safeguarding the Public from Landslide Risk

WA DNR News - February 9, 2018 - 10:38am

Washington faces one of the highest landslide risks in the nation. In 2017, we had 155 reported landslides, most of which passed without notice or concern. But this year we only have to look at Rattlesnake Ridge to see the danger that landslides pose to people and property. I’m calling on Governor Inslee and the state Legislature to fund critical services and provide the tools we need to minimize the risks landslides pose to public safety. Namely:

I’m asking for $460,000 for engineers to help ensure that logging roads are built safely and won’t trigger unstable slopes. We’ve seen a 10-fold increase in road applications around potentially unstable slopes over the last 6 years. My agency, The Department of Natural Resources, seeks more engineers to properly review each application and ensure public safety.

I’m asking for $1.6 million to study the SR 530 corridor, allowing us to determine the cause of the Oso landslide. More than 3 years after the slide, the cause of the Oso landslide remains unknown. This funding will put geologists on the ground, where they will map and drill into the earth to further analyze this 50-square mile corridor. By studying the SR 530 corridor, we will gain insights into how Oso and other glacial deep-seated landslides occur, improving our ability to anticipate landslides throughout the state. Counties with similar geology include King, Pierce, Thurston, Okanogan, Douglas, Chelan, Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille, Clallam, Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, Mason, Kitsap, Island, Jefferson and San Juan.

I put forth these funding requests in the Washington State Department of Natural Resource’s original October supplemental budget request to the legislature. Today, we know from a recent Climate Risk Assessment that more frequent periods of heavy rainfall during Washington’s rainy seasons will lead to an increasing amount of landslides. Please know that I continue to work on this with Governor Inslee and the state Legislature.

by Hilary Franz, Commissioner of Public Lands
@CommissionerHilaryFranz 

@Hilary_FranzCPL

Find out what’s happening with the Washington Geological Survey, forest practices rules and more with email updates from Hilary Franz and DNR.

Categories: Partner Feeds

Umatilla National Forest prepares for prescribed burning (2018 Umatilla NF Prescribed Burning Prescribed Fire)

Inciweb Articles OR - February 7, 2018 - 12:57pm
North Fork John Day Ranger District to implement prescribed burn this week PENDLETON, Ore. – The Umatilla National Forest is preparing to implement early season prescribed burning activities as soon as Thursday across portions of the Forest. Fire management officials on the North Fork John Day Ranger District will begin implementing a prescribed burn plan on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, three miles south of Dale along the west side of Highway 395. The District’s upcoming prescribed burn operations consist of approximately 200 acres of grass within a 600 acre burn unit. The objective of the burn is to reduce the spread of invasive grasses, such as Ventenata and Medusahead, by burning the first germination of grass following the recent snow melt. Implementing these burn operations will help encourage the growth of native vegetation. Smoke from the burn operations will be visible along the highway, but the activities are not anticipated to produce significant or long-lasting smoke....

Getting an early jump on fire season

WA DNR News - February 3, 2018 - 3:00pm

Last week I got the opportunity to speak to 150 fire commissioners and fire chiefs, the brave men and women who make up our local fire districts. Our partnership is a critical part of DNR’s wildfire response; together we’re able to protect people, communities and resources from wildfire. We’ll be coming together again this spring, when we’ll lead an inter-agency training for nearly 1,000 firefighters.

Time together before we face the challenges of wildfire season is critical. I shared with them my vision for managing vegetation and fuels, protecting communities, reducing human caused wildfires and safely and effectively responding to wildfires.

As we now work together with our local state and federal partners to develop my 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan for Eastern Washington, I emphasized how the change we’re seeking in the health of our forests won’t happen immediately. We need to continue to do all we can to protect people, communities and our natural resources from the threat of wildfire. Part of that will come with additional funding, which is why I’m requesting $1.7 million from the legislature this year to train more firefighters, increase fire response and readiness in Western Washington, and improve systems for wildfire data, finance, forest health and firefighting resources.

I want to thank the fire personnel who joined me this week and to all who continue to persevere in making our communities and resources more resilient.

by Hilary Franz, Commissioner of Public Lands, @CommissionerHilaryFranz

Find out what’s happening with wildfire protection, forestry rules and what’s happening on the 5.6 million acres of state trust lands with email updates from Hilary Franz and DNR.

 

Categories: Partner Feeds

More Ponderosa Pines Killed by Western Pine Beetle

WA DNR News - January 28, 2018 - 9:01am

The western pine beetle is a native bark beetle found in eastern Washington that can kill ponderosa pine, its only host in the state. In typical years, they hang around in low populations attacking weakened, diseased or older ponderosa pines. They are frequently found in trees weakened by root diseases, such as armillaria. When trees experience severe drought stress, as they did in 2015, the western pine beetle can more easily overcome the resin flow defenses of water-stressed trees.

High numbers of stressed trees produce more beetle offspring and can lead to large outbreak populations. Aerial surveys in Washington recorded 12,900 acres with western pine beetle-caused mortality in 2016, more than double the amount in 2015, and the highest level since 2008. Typically, there is a year-long delay between beetle attack and visible crown symptoms. Drought damage can also have lasting effects on tree vigor and western pine beetle populations may continue to build, so mortality is likely to increase. The most recent large outbreak in Washington was 2003-2004, with over 120,000 acres affected each year.

The pattern left on the landscape is patchy groups of orange or red ponderosa pines. This “group kill” is a result of pheromones used by the beetles to coordinate mass-attacks and concentrate beetles from the surrounding area.

Female western pine beetles that make it past bark and resin will lay eggs in the sugary phloem layer of the inner bark in the main bole of the tree. Hundreds of their larval offspring mine in the phloem, disrupting the vital flow of sugars and girdle the tree.

PHOTO 1: Western pine beetles can introduce bluestain fungi that grow into the sapwood, eventually causing tree death. Photo: US Forest Service.

Western pine beetle also introduces bluestain fungi (See Photo 1) that grow into the sapwood and interrupt flow of water in the xylem layer, hastening tree death. In addition to copious resin flow that might fend off bark beetle attacks, healthy trees are induced by attacks to actively produce high levels of terpenes which can be toxic to bark beetle larvae. This response is reduced in weakened or stressed trees, resulting in higher beetle reproductive success and a larger “brood.” To make matters worse for the trees, western pine beetle can produce up to two overlapping generations per year in Washington.

There are three other species of bark beetles that may aggressively attack and damage ponderosa pine. Mountain pine beetle occupy the same niche as western pine beetle in the main bole, but mountain pine beetle outbreaks in ponderosa pine are more likely to occur in higher elevation areas near lodgepole pine, its preferred host. The red turpentine beetle prefers to attack the lower eight feet of the main bole and ips pine engravers can attack smaller diameter tops and branches. It is possible to find all three species in the same tree. These double- or triple-whammies will certainly decrease chances of tree survival.

PHOTO 2: Western pine beetle egg galleries. Photo: William M. Ciesla, Bugwood.org

Successful western pine beetle attacks are easy to identify and differentiate from the other bark beetle species. Since western pine beetle is the only one that pupates in the outer bark, their larvae, pupae, and newly developed adults are easily accessible for predators, such as woodpeckers. Look for patches of bright orange bark where woodpeckers have flaked off the darker outer bark, a tell-tale sign of western pine beetle activity. Popcorn-sized pitch tubes may be visible on the bark surface, but these are less common than with mountain pine beetle. The surest way to confirm western pine beetle is to remove a patch of bark and look for the winding, serpentine egg galleries in the layer between bark and sapwood that do not change in width (Photo 2). When new brood adults emerge from the tree, they leave behind perfectly round exit holes a few millimeters across.

What Can Landowner Owners Do?

Orange crowns will certainly get the attention of landowners who will want to take action to manage the problem. Keep in mind that the crown often dries out the season after beetles killed it, so they may have already moved on. If exit holes are present and numerous, nothing will be gained (in terms of managing beetle numbers) by tree removal. Trees with green crowns that have woodpecker activity or pitch tubes with no exit holes may still contain beetles. Removal of these “green attacked” trees may help reduce beetle populations. During an outbreak, this approach is likely a losing battle since beetles can fly in from nearby areas. The best management practice for bark beetles is to control competing vegetation and increase vigor and resilience of the healthiest trees in a stand.

Direct control methods such as pesticides can be effective in preventing attacks to high value trees but will do nothing to save a tree that’s already infested. There is a commercially available pheromone called verbenone that is marketed as a pine bark beetle repellant. Verbenone can be effective with mountain pine beetle in some situations, but for western pine beetle and ips pine engravers, the current formulation hasn’t worked well in field testing.

Ponderosa pine mortality from western pine beetle may be high in some areas, but keep in mind that due to the patchy attack pattern, landscape level effects will be lower than with mountain pine beetle. Eventually outbreaks will collapse as drought conditions improve and beetles have fewer weak trees to support high populations. In addition, more beetles start dying as they try to survive in healthier hosts.

If you would like assistance with bark beetle identification or ideas for their management, please contact the Washington Department of Natural Resources Forest Health Program at 360-902-1300 or forest_health@dnr.wa.gov.

This article originally appeared in Small Forest Landowner News, published by DNR. Sign up for a free subscription and see other free DNR e-newsletters.

Categories: Partner Feeds

More work to do on 318th Anniversary of Cascadia quake

WA DNR News - January 26, 2018 - 9:26am

It was 318 years ago today when the earth last served Northwesterners a catastrophic reminder that it is always in motion.

On Jan. 26, 1700, the Cascadia subduction zone produced a Magnitude 9 megathrust earthquake that ripped a 1,000 km tear just off the North American coast, shaking and flooding land from British Columbia to California.

Oral traditions from the Quileute and Hoh tribes described the night the Thunderbird and Whale fought, shaking mountains, uprooting trees and covering the land with ocean water.

DNR Geologist Tim Walsh explains to a National Geographic documentary crew how these red cedars were killed by a flood of seawater more than 300 years ago after the Cascadia Subduction Zone magnitude 9 earthquake of 1700.

Geologists say the event was the result of the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate pushing under the larger North American plate. The violent subduction resulted in the quake that dropped the coast as much as 6 feet and produced a tsunami that reached almost 1,000 feet inland.

But it was the Cascadia quake’s impacts some 4,700 miles across the Pacific Ocean that allowed scientists to properly date and time the geologic event to around 9 p.m. Jan. 26, 1700.

Records in Japan told of the Orphan Tsunami of 1700. That documented tsunami, combined with analysis of red cedar trunks by scientists like Brian Atwater of the United States Geologic Survey revealed land subsidence and seawater inundation that submerged coastal forests.

What about the next one?

So that’s how we know the damage produced by the last Cascadia quake. But what about the next one? The geologic record shows the Cascadia subduction zone produces megathrust quakes every 300 to 600 years, after all.

The first tip is to be ready. Have plans for what to do when earthquakes or tsunamis happen.

In addition to developing plans to prepare for natural disasters like our friends at Washington Emergency Management advise, you can know more about what these geologic hazards likely mean for your neighborhood, thanks to the hard work of our geologists.

Levels of probable earthquake damage in Washington and Oregon are shown in red, orange and yellow. Image: USGS.

DNR holds scenarios developed to show how seismic forces could impact all of Washington’s communities, from Aberdeen to Zillah. One of those scenarios shows the toll another Magnitude 9 Cascadia quake could inflict.

Shades of red indicate the number of buildings that could be damaged in the Grays Harbor area from another M9 Cascadia subduction zone earthquake.

You can view that scenario, and 19 others on our seismic hazard catalog.

More work to do

And although a lot of work has been done to identify and locate areas that could be impacted by earthquakes and tsunamis, there’s a lot more to do.

Washington faces the second highest risk from earthquakes, and one of the highest for tsunamis in the nation, yet remains the only west coast state that does not have an inventory of the seismic hazard for critical infrastructure. In addition, many communities along the coast have either outdated tsunami inundation maps – or no maps at all.

That’s why DNR is asking the legislature this year for a funding package that will allow us to produce a robust set of tsunami inundation maps; inventory critical infrastructure; provide maps and data for emergency responders, city planners and our fellow geologists; and – most importantly – identify, map and mark evacuation routes in communities that might impacted by the next tsunami, whether that’s from a Cascadia subduction event or more remote earthquakes like this week’s M7.9 strike slip quake at the convergence of the Pacific and North American plates southeast of Alaska’s Kodiak Island.

You can find out more about the risks Washington’s active geology present to you and your loved ones with the scenario catalog or by the hundreds of reports on Washington geology filed in the Washington Geology Library. Those reports can also be accessed online through our new publications catalog.

For more tips on how to be best prepared for the next disaster, check with Washington’s Emergency Management Division.

Categories: Partner Feeds

Select the right place to plant your tree: tips to avoid tree-planter’s remorse

WA DNR News - January 21, 2018 - 7:30am
Always plant the right tree in the right place. It’s less maintenance and will produce benefits for years.

Is your yard a bit bare and lacking character? Trees to the rescue!

Early spring is a good time to plant new trees, and now is a good time to plan for them.

Whether you decide to plant a tree for aesthetics, to increase your property value, to save energy through shading, or to provide food and shelter for the birds, it is important to plan for your planting.

The first step is to think critically about where you’d like to plant your tree, The conditions of your desired planting site can help you determine what type of tree might be the most successful in that location, that is assuming your desired location can actually support a tree.

Considerations when evaluating your site include:

  • Are there underground utilities? Call 1-800-424-5555 two working days before you dig a hole. A utility location service will mark the pathways of underground utilities on your property, including water, electric, gas and sewer, so you can avoid costly and dangerous line damage.
  • Is there enough space for the tree? Visualize the tree 50 years from now and plant so that it will not interfere with nearby structures, or overhead utilities (see photo). A large-statured, long-lived tree will need more space than one that matures at a small height. Only small-growing trees (less than 30’ at maturity) should be planted under overhead power lines. Consider how wide the base of the tree will be at maturity, and plant to avoid damage to sidewalks, and infrastructure.
  • What are the environmental conditions? Some trees are tolerant of partial or full shade; others need full sunlight to survive. Some trees tolerate well-drained, dry soils while others need and thrive in consistently moist soils.
  • Do you need a permit? Know your community’s regulations regarding tree planting on public and private property.

It might help to take photos and record notes about your site, including distances to buildings, sidewalks, driveways, and utilities. This information will help the staff at your local nursery point you toward a few tree choices that are well-matched to your planting site.

Check out Trees are Good for excellent tree planting tips.

Visit DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry Program webpage for additional information.

Categories: Partner Feeds

Washington’s kelp forests rely on cool weather and water to thrive

WA DNR News - January 10, 2018 - 11:43am

Washington’s kelp forests rely on cool weather and cold water to grow, and are sensitive to changes in climate processes, according to a recent study of the iconic seaweed that grows along the saltwater shorelines of Puget Sound and the outer Pacific coast.

Like coral reefs and rain forests, kelp is a foundation species that supports a unique and diverse community of animals.

That’s why Helen Berry, a scientist with the Washington Department of Natural Resources, teamed up with Dr. Cathy Pfister of the University of Chicago and Dr. Tom Mumford, Marine Agronomics (retired WDNR) to look at the health of kelp forests along Washington’s shores and study the factors that influence their growth or decline.

Photo credit: Cathy Pfister

Using climate data, historical kelp surveys and DNR’s unique 26 year monitoring data set, the research team explored the dynamics of kelp forests along the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific coast.

The research has just been published in the Journal of Ecology.

Looking through the historic lens

The team’s study found kelp forests were most abundant and persistent along the western Strait of Juan de Fuca and the outer coast, remaining stable when compared to historical kelp surveys done in 1911- 1912. Meanwhile, kelp forests declined in the eastern Strait over that same time. The proximity of kelp forests to human population centers and their distance from the influence of cooler oceanic waters may explain this century-scale decline. Worldwide, kelp dynamics vary greatly – extreme losses were recorded recently in Tasmania and northern California, while other areas show stability or gains.

In contrast to the outer coast and western strait, scientists are concerned about declines in kelp forests within Puget Sound. DNR scientists are currently completing a study that examines changes in South Sound over the last century.

Abundance and persistence of giant kelp (Macrocystis) and bull kelp (Nereocystis) canopies between 1989 and 2015. The symbol shape depicts species. The size depicts abundance. The color indicates how consistent in abundance each population has been over the last 26 year – more red colors are more consistent through time. (Figure 1 in Journal of Ecology publication.)

Conditions more important than competition

Along Washington’s shoreline, some kelp beds persist over decades, others fluctuate greatly year-to-year. The long-term data set allowed the researchers to detect climate signals in the dynamics of kelp forests. Throughout state waters, kelp cover was strongly related to large scale climate indices.  Increased kelp cover occurred when the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the Oceanic Niño Index were negative and the North Pacific Gyre Oscillation was positive, conditions where seawater is colder and more nitrogen rich.

Macrocystis  Photo Credit: Brooke Wiegel Nereocystis  Photo Credit: Brooke Wiegel

The 2 species that compose kelp beds, the annual bull kelp Nereocystis luetkeana and the perennial giant kelp Macrocystis pyrifera have positively correlated dynamics: a good year for one species is also good for the other. This suggests that environmental conditions are more important than competition between species.

 

How will kelp forests will be affected as our oceans change?

The climate index correlations showed lower kelp forest abundance during warmer water phases. Additionally, a 93-year temperature record in the region revealed a 0.72-degree Celsius increase over this period. The responsiveness of kelp to climate indices, coupled with increasing temperature and increasing human population, suggests a need for wise management to protect this iconic resource.

More information

Read the complete scientific publication at the Journal of Ecology.

Explore the historical and modern surveys in a storymap.

Find out how DNR is working to study Washington’s nearshore environments to strengthen its management of 2.6 million acres of state-owned aquatic lands at www.dnr.wa.gov/programs-and-services/aquatics/aquatic-science.

 

Categories: Partner Feeds

Pros and cons of small trees

WA DNR News - January 9, 2018 - 7:30am
This smaller tree isn’t quite small enough to grow healthy under a powerline.

Small trees have skyrocketed in popularity, most importantly thanks to utility companies. Trees no taller than 25-35 feet will not grow up into overhead power lines, which reduces tree-related outages and the need for heavy pruning to achieve clearance.

Smaller trees require less space above and below ground than larger trees do, which generally (but not always) results in fewer and less severe conflicts with infrastructure. Highly urbanized planting sites are often too cramped for large trees, whereas small trees can more easily be tucked into tight spaces.

Small trees are no less prone to storm damage than larger trees. Yet, shorter trees with small diameter wood are inherently less likely to cause serious harm when they break.

In spring, dogwoods, crabapples, cherries and other small trees push prolific, show-stopping blooms that few shade trees can match.

In spite of these benefits however, there are some serious short-comings to small trees.

Cons

Thanks to ecological adaptations in their native environments, small trees may have short but very wide canopies, multiple stems or trunks, low branching, and irregularly shaped crowns.

These growth forms are generally not appropriate along streets, in parking lots or in commercial districts.

Can you imagine a vine maple in a sidewalk cut out or a parking lot island? You would constantly be hacking up the tree to provide the clearance and visibility you need in those settings.

Small trees are perhaps the worst trees to plant for sign visibility. Pruning up the low branches almost never achieves good line-of-sight with signage, and cutting off the top of the tree…well, we all know how bad that is.

Many small trees, including Cherries, Plums, Pears, Crabapples, Hawthorns and Serviceberries, are susceptible to a battery of insect and disease problems, which can reduce tree health, increase mortality and drive up maintenance costs. Some orchardists are concerned that pests and diseases harbored by ornamentals may inadvertently threaten local fruit crops as well.

Environmentally, small trees are dwarfed by larger ones. A small tree casts less shade, buffers fewer winds and conserves less energy. Small trees also intercept less stormwater, scrub fewer particulates from the air, and capture less carbon than large trees will. The relatively shorter lifespans of most small trees means what benefits they do provide won’t last as long.

A small tree is beautiful in bloom, however, few small trees can achieve such architectural feats as framing and softening the visual appearance of large buildings, delivering the much-coveted tunnel-effect on tree-lined streets or providing a more comfortable sense of human scale in pedestrian areas.

Sometimes a small tree is the best option, such as when power lines are overhead, but small trees aren’t a panacea. Planting the right tree in the right place should always include an analysis of the pros and the cons. And in fact, knowing the cons may be more valuable.

 

Categories: Partner Feeds

Forest Health & the Hungry Hungry Caterpillar

WA DNR News - January 7, 2018 - 7:00am

The life of a Douglas-fir tussock moth is not an easy one. The females can’t fly, and food is often scarce, not to mention viruses that make them explode. What’s more difficult than being a tussock moth, is having those moths in your forest.

Every ten years or so, the tussock moth population skyrockets in some areas of eastern Washington, well beyond what the forest can support. When that happens, these insects can eat so much that they literally kill the fir trees they feed on, sometimes up to 40 percent in a single stand. If a tree is lucky enough to survive the infestation, they’ll then be much more vulnerable to disease, pests and wildfire.

Often when we talk about species that destroy forests, those species are invasive. They didn’t come from the areas they’re killing. The tussock moth is actually a native species here in Washington, so what causes their once-in-ten-year eating rampage? We know that historically, the event happens approximately every ten years, but with a potentially disastrous ecological hazard, being as precise as possible is very important.

The male tussock moth has one goal in life – to mate. The Washington State Department of Natural Resources knows that this is the case, and so we use it to our advantage. Every year, we set out hundreds of traps for the male moths, baited with female pheromones.

One of the goals of the new 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan for eastern Washington is to produce and share better forest health data:

Tussock moth tracking is one of the tools that entomologists use to assess forest health. In 2016, the Department of Natural Resources and other agencies placed traps in 260 areas throughout eastern Washington, hoping to gather a large enough sample to measure the general population. With enough traps, we can get a good picture of how many moths are out there, and how many there are likely to be in the near future. A trap in a typical year will catch around two or three moths. But in a year proceeding the “swarm,” the trap will catch upwards of forty moths. If we can predict next year’s population, landowners can better prepare their trees. In a more big-picture sense, however, we can also prioritize which sections of our forests to modify.

The Department of Natural Resources also conducts aerial surveys of eastern Washington forests in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service. Some of those surveys are looking for what’s called “defoliation” (trees with discolored or fewer leaves and needles). This is an excellent indicator of forest health, and it’s a good way to measure the effects of a tussock moth outbreak. Combined with trapping, we get a good idea for what’s going on across millions of acres of Washington forestlands.

Why are moth population explosions such a hazard to the health of our forests? It’s a native species, so why is there an imbalance?

Historically, wildfires were an important part of the ecosystem. These wildfires would burn through forests on a regular basis and clean the landscape of branches, smaller (less fire resistant) trees, and underbrush. Since western settlers came to this part of the state, those natural fires have been prevented. The result of this has been unnaturally dense parts of the forest with more fir trees, and it is in these dense stands that the Tussock moth thrives and spreads. In natural, spread-out stands of trees, it is much more difficult for the moth to travel and nest.

Washington State Department of Natural Resources entomologist Glenn Kohler shares forest health concerns and demonstrates tracking methods for KOMO TV.

This is why the 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan: Eastern Washington calls for thinning or treating 1.25 million acres of overstocked forests. The Department of Natural Resources looks to lead statewide efforts to move forests to more resilient conditions. Not only will this help manage moth outbreaks, but it will also make our land much less susceptible to catastrophic wildfire. Through mechanical thinning and prescribed burns, (more on that here) we hope to regain balance and a healthier outlook for the eastern half of the state.

Moth traps and aerial surveys are two methods the Department of Natural Resources can use to help update forest inventory data on a regular basis to reflect changes in forest conditions – including fuel conditions – from insects. One of the plan’s strategies is to, by 2020, have comprehensive maps of current forest structure and fuel conditions available for eastern. The plan also identified several other data needs: wildland-urban interface areas, areas where forest health treatments have occurred and trends in wildfire risk. This data will help us to be efficient and better understand which approaches are most effective.

Monitoring and progress reports will require collaboration and continued support of existing partnerships between the Department of Natural Resources, Department of Fish and Wildlife, USDA Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Natural Resource Conservation Service, tribes and private landowners.

Achieving this goal may not be much easier than the life of a Douglas-fir tussock moth. Yet, by working collaboratively, it is possible. Together, we can monitor and track our progress toward healthier, safer forests.

Learn more about creating the new 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan: Eastern Washington, here.

 

Categories: Partner Feeds

New Year’s resolutions for you and our community’s trees

WA DNR News - January 3, 2018 - 7:30am
Mature trees enhance this urban street. Photo: Guy Kramer.

With a new year starting, many of us will take a hard look at our habits and behaviors and set new goals.

How about investing energy in New Year’s resolutions that make a difference to trees in your community? Completing these resolutions might bring you and your community benefits too.

Suggested tree resolutions for 2018

  • Take a child to a local park, forest or natural area with a tree identification book to explore the environment.
  • Attend at least one urban forestry event to better understand how your community supports forestry activities.
  • Arrange a friendly chat with a local developer, business owner, homeowner association president or other stakeholders in community forestry.
  • Write articles, blogs or letters that educate or champion the importance of trees in your community.
  • Donate to or volunteer for an organization that supports healthy community trees and forests.
  • Plant a new tree every month or the equivalent (12 trees during 2018).

As a tree fan, it is important to remember that trees need to be healthy to provide the many great benefits we expect of them. Trees growing in urban areas need particular care and management throughout their lifetime. Older and larger trees tend to provide the greatest benefits, but they also tend to have more and greater defects that can impact public safety (see Timely Tree Tips in the Tree Link Newsletter for more on this topic). If we do not care for young trees, they will not live to be old trees, and if we do not care for old trees, then we undercut a lifetime of investment in their success.

DNR’s urban forestry staff are available to assist with efforts in your city. Give us a call for ideas on how you can advance the planning, care and management of the trees in your community.

Categories: Partner Feeds

Our Favorite Blogs from 2017

WA DNR News - January 2, 2018 - 8:00am

2018 is here so let’s take a look at some of the blogs that were our favorites (and yours, too, we hope) from the past year.

Commissioner Franz Picks Five Favorite Spots to Celebrate Washington Trails Day Mailbox Peak Trail.

In recognition of Washington Trails Day last August, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz encouraged all Washingtonians to take advantage of the state’s thousands of miles of recreational trails.  She also highlighted some of her favorite DNR-managed hiking spots on both sides of the Cascades. In addition to fun and exercise, outdoor recreation supports more than 200,000 Washington jobs and generates more than $26 billion in economic activity annually.  Read more…

New Trail Opening this Weekend Brings East Tiger Mountain Bike Trail System to over 23 Miles Inside Passage mountain bike trail.

Everyone loves a new trail and there were several trail openings to celebrate in 2017, including a new 1.6-mile mountain bike trail on East Tiger Mountain, just a short drive from Seattle. Built by DNR trail crew staff in partnership with Puget SoundCorps crews, the new Inside Passage trail brings the East Tiger Mountain Bike Trail System’s total trail mileage to over 23 miles!  Read more…

Washington’s Most Overlooked Mountaintop Glacier Peak. Photo: DNR.

Last May, during Volcano Awareness Month in Washington State, we put the spotlight on each of our state’s five active volcanoes, including Washington’s least-recognized volcano, Glacier Peak. Just 70 miles from Seattle, Glacier Peak has produced larger and more explosive eruptions than any other Washington volcano except Mount St. Helens, the Washington Geological Survey says.  Read more…

Wet Weather can Trigger Shallow Landslides – Do You Know the Warning Signs? Shallow landslide related to intense rain.

The geology of western Washington — steep slopes and soils — make this landslide country but with the right conditions, steep slopes in eastern Washington are vulnerable, too. Lots of rain, combined with failing drainage systems and development that increases surface water runoff near steep slopes, can be landslide triggers on both sides of the Cascades, which is why we share some of the warning signs of an impending landslide. This year we also introduced Homeowners’ Guide to Landslides, a free download produced by the Washington Geological Survey, in partnership with the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries. Read more…

Treating Washington’s Forests

Our blog about the 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan: Eastern Washington outlined how a combination of prescribed fires, mechanical treatment projects, new policies and priorities, along with other steps, can reduce the risk of uncharacteristic wildfires and increase the health and resilience of forests in Eastern Washington. The plan — created collaboratively with more than 33 organizations and agencies — was unveiled in October by Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz. Read more…

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DNR Website and System Maintenance

WA DNR News - January 1, 2018 - 7:00pm

January 2

Staff will be upgrading some of DNR’s online systems January 2.

The website and web based programs may not be available for use. In the meantime, please stay connected on our “Ear to the Ground” blog and/or other social media tools.

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DNR’s social media sites:
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Taking Kindling From the Forests to the Classroom for Forest Health

WA DNR News - December 27, 2017 - 1:16pm

New Building Materials

This video is remarkable. First of all the speed with which they’re building this elementary school classroom is incredible. In one day, they have most of the structure in place. Second, they’re helping to prevent catastrophic northwest wildfires while they do it.

The secret is in the pre-assembled panels they’re using. Local cross-laminated timber technology is one of many new possibilities outlined in Washington’s 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan. Yet, what does building gorgeous new classrooms for kids have to do with wildfires?

The Problem

If you’ve been following the news, you may have noticed the increasing severity of the wildfires around our state. In 2014 and 2015 we had two consecutive years of record-breaking wildfires.

Why are the fires getting worse? Part of the problem is densely wooded land. Fire is a natural, important part of the ecosystem in many of our eastern forests. However, past forest and wildfire management practices have resulted in uncharacteristically overstocked and crowded forests. Too much vulnerable underbrush. Too many skinny, small-diameter trees competing for water, nutrients and sunlight. Fires in these densely packed forests often burn with uncharacteristic severity and duration.

Think of it, if you will, as removing kindling from a fire.

When you’re building a fire, you can’t get it burning if you start with the big logs. You need to surround those logs with smaller branches before it really gets going. Wildfires in the forest work in much the same way. If there are enough branches and vegetation to act as kindling, a fire can quickly ignite the big trees and grow out of control. Take away the smaller-sized and dense vegetation, though, and the fire stays along the ground and leaves most of the big trees unscathed – maybe even improved. This is why the new forest health strategic plan for eastern Washington calls for increased amounts of mechanical thinning – so when wildfires begin, they will be more manageable, less severe, and cause little damage to larger, older trees.

See how The Nature Conservancy is using mechanical thinning treatments to reduce fuel in the Cascades.

One of the obstacles to removing small-diameter wood and brush has been that it may not pay for itself in the way that traditional logging does. Up until recently, mills haven’t had the technology to produce useful products from an excess of smaller wood.

As part of its project to build the classrooms seen above, the state had to use Oregon-manufactured cross-laminated timber. But imagine the impact of being able to produce our own cross-laminated timber here in Washington. Imagine the boost to our rural economies. Imagine urban construction sustainability benefits. Your imaginings may become reality. Two cross-laminated timber manufactuers are slated to open in eastern Washington in 2018.

(Use photo of Hilary at Seattle unveiling. Caption: Commissioner Franz admires a Seattle classroom, a cross-laminated timber demonstration project designed to spur demand.

It’s the promise of solutions like this that drives one of the key goals in the new 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan: Eastern Washington:

The plan, just released by Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources that she leads, points to how forest health, wildfire risk, and rural economic development are inextricably linked in eastern Washington. Oregon produced a cost-benefit study in 2012 indicating that for every $1 million spent on forest restoration, there is approximately $5.7 million in economic benefit and return.

Well-managed, resilient forest ecosystems can provide natural resource jobs, recreation jobs, and timber products. The 33 agencies and organizations that collaborated with the Department to create the plan emphasized that cross-laminated timber and other emerging technologies can help build Washington’s economy.

The Solutions

Using locally-sourced, renewable materials would mean that our buildings are made sustainably, and responsibly. And of course, not importing our wood from far away states, (or Canada) means that we’re cutting down on harmful emissions. To that end, the organizations who collaborated on the forest health plan proposed a “local wood” marketing campaign, to emphasize the importance of buying locally.  Often, when we hear someone telling us to buy local, it’s in the context of food. But it is equally important to keep our timber supply close to home.

Part of the plan to support local economies, is to increase the amount of timber that’s selectively harvested from overstocked forests. Not only does this help the health of our forests, (removing competition so trees can grow large and resilient) but the generated revenue can help cover the cost of some of our other long-term treatment options. Logging and forest products infrastructure are needed to support many of the treatment plans, which can help keep local mills in business too.

We can also help realize this goal by supporting wood energy systems at appropriate and meaningful scales, such as support for the Washington Department of Ecology’s Wood Stove Change-Out Program to get outdated stoves replaced with clean-burning wood and pellet stoves. Pellet stoves burn compressed wood to create source heat for residential and sometimes industrial spaces. Today’s systems, fueled with renewable wood pellets, can reach an efficiency factor of more than 90 percent. Expanded use of such technologies can improve air quality, provide another market for forest restoration by-products and stimulate local economic development.

DNR Commissioner Hilary Franz attending the opening of a CLT-constructed school building in Seattle

As the Department, Commissioner Franz, her Forest Health Advisory Committee, and others from across the state work to implement the plan, watch for ways you can participate and support our state’s emerging economic opportunities too.

For the full text of the Forest Health Strategic Plan: Eastern Washington, click here.

Categories: Partner Feeds

Eastern Washington’s 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan and the Jolly Mountain Fire: A Retrospective Look at Efforts to Reduce Risk

WA DNR News - December 27, 2017 - 8:58am

A mile long and 200 yards wide. Just this spring Washington State Department of Natural Resources forestry staff installed the Lick Creek shaded fuel break in the Teanaway Community Forest between densely overgrown forestlands to the north and the Wagon Wheel community and Teanaway Valley to the south. It would play a critical role just a few weeks after its completion when, on August 11, 2017, lighting give rise to the Jolly

The Jolly Mountain Fire as it approached Teanaway Valley outside of Cle Elum in August of 2017.

Mountain Fire.

Predictions say that compared to last century we can expect to see four times more acres per year burned later this century. Washington will continue to see wildfires. Yet, strategically focused forest health treatments, particularly around neighborhoods, can reduce uncharacteristic, high-severity wildfires, increase forest resilience and reduce damage. That’s why Public Lands Commissioner Hilary S. Franz and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources are promoting Washington’s new 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan for eastern Washington. It identifies reducing the risk of wildfire in populated areas as a key goal.

As the Jolly Mountain Fire grew, it ultimately became the nation’s second-highest priority. This meant that fire responders were able to get good access to limited resources. Eventually up to 828 personnel were assigned to the fire. With this support, wildland firefighters were able to work on fire line operations while contractors worked to prepare structures by removing vegetation with brush chippers and chainsaws. As the fire approached, structure firefighters from across the state arrived in time to provide backup protection to area homes. This allowed wildland firefighters to focus their efforts on managing the fire itself. This isn’t always the case.

Wildland firefighters are often diverted from their work to stop an advancing fire to instead focus on defensive tactics designed to protect lives and structures. This can reduce their effectiveness, increase the effort’s complexity and result in more expensive suppression costs. The cost of the Jolly Mountain Fire has reached about $25 million – and expenses are still being tallied.

Last summer’s Jolly Mountain Fire threatened many populated areas. But one, the Wagon Wheel community, had a couple things going in its favor.

Wagon Wheel became a Fire Wise USA community in 2010. Though the 51 homeowners at one time had invested $96,000 toward reducing their wildfire risk, diligence varied over the years. As the Jolly Mountain Fire began to look like a threat to this community, firefighters had time to assess how well they would be able to defend each home. One lot with dense vegetation can pose a serious risk to surrounding properties. If that home and nearby trees catch fire, countless sparks will cascade down upon neighboring homes. It became clear that more work would have to be done in Wagon Wheel.

One of the strategies within the new forest health strategic plan is to better support landowner assistance programs that help reduce risk – such as creating Community Wildfire Protection Plans and defensible space around homes. Firewise USA is such a program. Last year Firewise USA saw more new communities join from Washington than any other state. Yet, communities have to maintain vigilance and repeatedly address ever-growing vegetation.

At the same time, Washington population is ever-growing too. Development is

wildlandurban interface (WUI) is where houses meet or intermingle with undeveloped wildlands. WUI areas are ripe for human-environment conflict, such as wildfire damage, habitat fragmentation, introduction of exotic species and declining biodiversity.

fragmenting Washington forests and new homes built in wildland areas increases risk.

Retroactively, one might acknowledge that the Teanaway Valley is a difficult place for a neighborhood. The 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan: Eastern Washington itself recognizes this particular watershed as one of the many higher priority areas across the state due, in part, to its fire risk.

Forty years ago, when home construction began here, our climate was not changing the way it is today and people were less aware that developing in wild areas like this would increase wildfire suppression challenges. Our state has learned hard lessons since then.

The new 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan for eastern Washington calls for ways to keep forestlands for converting to non-forest uses – such as subdivision development in wildland-urban interface areas. In fact, one of the motivating factors for purchasing the Teanaway Community Forest, which surrounds the Wagon Wheel community, was to prevent further encroachment into these forestlands. But you can’t turn back the clock and plenty of Washington communities just like Wagon Wheel already exist.

To reduce risks to these many existing communities the forest health strategic plan proposes more mechanical treatments and controlled burns in wildland-urban interface areas. This brings us to the second thing that the Wagon Wheel community had going for it.

The state has not owned nor managed the Teanaway Community Forest for long – the legislature purchased it in 2013 – and there are many competing funding needs. However, the Tenaway Community Forest Advisory Committee concurred with staff from DNR and WDFW that completing the $185,000 Lick Creek shaded fuel break was a high priority. They recognized that this fuel break could help protect the state’s $100-million community forest investment, important wildlife habitat, nearby communities and critical waterways – nearly 400 miles of free-flowing streams and rivers crisscross the area and form the Teanaway River.

The Lick Creek mechanical thinning project followed along the Lick Creek Tie Rd. and other old roadbeds. These roads provided good access for machinery to trim low-hanging branches and cut back brush. Crews left larger trees in clumps and gaps resembling the kinds of tree stands historically found in this watershed. The road itself was expected to serve as a fuel break in the event of a wildfire – as it did on September 2, 2017.

As the fire initially grew, firefighters had come through the shaded fuel break and decided that they would attempt to stop this edge of the fire’s progression here. The reduced fuel levels would lessen the intensity of the fire and it was the first place where they would be able to safely position firefighters. In additions, those roads could provide a means of escape. Crews then cleaned up areas in need of additional attention and extended the fuel break miles in either direction.

Along the northern end of the Lick Creek shaded fuel break as crews used back-burns to meet the Jolly Mountain Fire.

Over several nights firefighters back burned into the fire. (The strategy was to light the back-burns as ambient temperatures lowered and humidity recovered slightly – to reduce the intensity of the back-burns.) Conditions were challenging – nearly record breaking heat and dryness. Today you can see evidence of multiple places where firefighters had to put out fire that “slopped” or “spotted” across the line.

Shaded fuel breaks, Fire Wise preparedness, fuel reduction projects and forest health treatments offer no guarantees. Had the wind blown differently, this may have been a very different story. For Commissioner Franz, the near-miss was emotional experience.

“The tension we all shared was just incredible – I could feel it in the air,” said Franz. “We knew we were all doing everything we could, but we also know that it was very serious situation. My heart was just aching for what these communities were having to endure.”

Fortunatley, this time, the line held. About 10 percent of the Teanaway Community Forest was severely damaged, but no structures or lives were lost.

Today, plants in the less severely burned areas are returning. The tall trees – and even a few of the smaller ones – have survived. But there is more work to do.

A full expression of the 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan: Eastern Washington across this landscape would have forest health treatments extend through the entire watershed, rather than cut through as a single line. Under this plan’s vision, you would see treatments extended past property lines so that Teanaway Community Forest, Natural Resources trust lands, Wagon Wheel private properties, U.S. Forest Service, Nature Conservancy, and other neighboring forestlands are equally resilient and prepared.

The fire would not have had to be stopped at any specific point, such as the Lick Creek fuel break, but could have been addressed anywhere within the forest based on other relevant considerations – safety, threatened species wildlife habitat, proximity to homes, risk to infrastructure, or even operational expenses.

Ambitious? Yes. Will it take time? Yes. Yet Commissioner Franz believes she, her

Hilary Franz, Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands.

Department, and all of Washington, are up to the task.

“We’re motivated. Everyone understands the issue and people are beginning to understand that we have a strong start to a solution,” said Franz. “As we successfully implement such efforts, our state and communities will begin to benefit from reduced high-severity wildfires.”

Read the full 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan: Eastern Washington here: www.dnr.wa.gov/ForestHealthPlan.

Categories: Partner Feeds

Sumatra tsunami anniversary reminder of hazards here in Washington

WA DNR News - December 26, 2017 - 4:25pm

Thirteen years ago today, a Magnitude 9.2 earthquake struck off the west coast of Sumatra, producing the single-most devastating tsunami in recorded history. The tsunami that swept across the Indian Ocean killed more than 230,000 people and left more than 1.7 million homeless.

The megathrust earthquake initiated from the Sunda trench subduction zone off the west coast of Sumatra.

This devastation is a strong reminder that Washington state is also vulnerable to this type of event. Closer to home, other reminders are tsunami deposits, drowned shorelines, and buried trees from the 1700 A.D. Magnitude 8.8–9.2 megathrust earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone. These clues have been located in numerous places along the Washington, Oregon, California, and Vancouver Island coasts.

Planning for tsunamis here

The Washington Geological Survey, is helping Washington communities identify how they are vulnerable to similar tsunami events and how they can craft innovative strategies for dealing with those threats.

DNR has produced tsunami inundation map to show how tsunamis would likely impact communities like Everett and the pacific coast.

More work needed

Though we have mapped tsunami inundation for some communities, many along the coast have either outdated tsunami inundation maps – or no maps at all.

In addition, Washington faces the second highest risk from earthquakes in the U.S., and one of the highest for tsunamis, yet remains the only west coast state that does not have an inventory of the seismic hazard for critical infrastructure.

That’s why this year, we’re is asking the legislature for funding to hire geologists to identify and map tsunami hazards in more of our coastal communities.

The Washington Emergency Management Division says the best way to survive any type of disaster is to have a plankeep informed, and have a mobile survival kit. Find out if you are in a tsunami inundation zone. Download a tsunami evacuation brochure for your community.

 

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What to do now with the ol’ Christmas tree

WA DNR News - December 26, 2017 - 8:00am
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.

Categories: Partner Feeds

What to do now with the ol’ Christmas tree

WA DNR News - December 26, 2017 - 7:20am
Google image – “They told me they’d make nice indoor Christmas trees.”

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.

Categories: Partner Feeds

WDFW approves New Year's razor clam dig

WA DFW News - December 26, 2017 - 12:00am
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