Partner Feeds

Forest restoration work helped firefighters stop Boyds Fire

WA DNR News - January 29, 2019 - 12:03pm

Tom Merritt’s Eastern Washington home is about 15 miles away from where Boyds Fire broke out on the evening of Aug. 11. Perched high up on a hill, he saw smoke and watched as the fire rapidly grew.

“I was watching it from the deck of my house in Colville and I was like, ‘Oh, that thing is getting after it,’” Merritt recalled.

And it did spread fast.

The fire began in the Sherman Creek Wildlife Area, west of the Columbia River in Northeast Washington. It was windy that evening, and embers blew ahead of the fire, igniting more forest and growing the fire further. The fire threatened a cedar mill vital to the local economy, businesses, private homes, and Bonneville Power Administration lines that serve Ferry County. When those power lines go down, the whole county loses power.

“It was very eye-opening,” said Daro Palmer, assistant manager of the wildlife area. “Fire is a very impressive thing. With that fire, the way it was with high winds and the rate it was moving at, I was awestruck.”

With so much at stake and the fire quickly growing in intensity, firefighters needed to act fast to contain the blaze. However, steep terrain meant firefighters would have to dig firelines mostly by hand, and in a forest thick with vegetation, this was easier said than done. The fire grew to more than 3,000 acres within a few days, prompting evacuation notices for nearby residents.

Then firefighters learned of a respite: the fire was headed toward forests that had received forest treatments, such as tree thinning and controlled burning, carried out by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service. Because of this work, these forests were much less dense, making them easier to navigate with minimal fuels (dry brush and woody debris). The fire would not spread as quickly through those woods and hopefully would stay on the ground.

“Without the previous treatments we would not have had the time to construct firelines and remove the fuel to be able to burn out the fire. So we would have had to let the fire grow larger in order to buy us enough time to safely construct firelines,” said Cindi Tonasket-Ebel, landowner assistance forester for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, who assisted with fighting the fire.

In the end, those firelines were what contained and stopped Boyds Fire.

The yellow line in the map above indicates Boyds Fire’s footprint, it burned 4,712 acres in total. The pink areas show where the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife previously treated the forest with prescribed burns. The blue line is the wildlife area boundary. (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife image)

The story of forest health treatments aiding wildland firefighters is becoming more noticed as the state and its partners work to increase the scale of forest health work in Central and Eastern Washington under DNR’s 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan. Treatment areas provided a tactical advantage during the Stormy Creek and Cougar Creek fires near Entiat in July, and prescribed burning and forest thinning done previously in the Colville National Forest helped crews battle the Horns Mountain Fire in August.

Forest health treatments

Different landowners may have different reasons for treating their forests, but forest health treatments are generally aimed at returning many Central and Eastern Washington forests to a more natural state – one that is resilient to wildfires and less likely to spread flames.

Common treatments consist of thinning small trees from an overly dense forest, and removing the low-hanging branches, woody debris, and brush that could help fire spread from the ground up into the crowns of trees – also called ladder fuels. Forest thinning is often followed with prescribed – or controlled – burning to further reduce fuels and help encourage plant regeneration in ecosystems that rely on occasional, low-intensity fires.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has actively thinned 4,100 acres in the Sherman Creek Wildlife Area for more than 10 years in order to provide high-quality habitat for species of all sizes – from deer and moose to birds and butterflies. They have also conducted prescribed burning on 890 acres within that stand to eliminate the slash produced by thinning, reducing the wildfire hazard even more while rejuvenating the forest floor, said Matt Eberlein, prescribed fire program manager for Fish and Wildlife.

Firelines dug in areas treated by the U.S. Forest Service and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife cut Boyds Fire off from reaching more forest, ultimately containing the fire. (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife photo)

For many pine forests in Central and Eastern Washington, fire is part of the ecosystem’s natural process. It cleans the forest floor, makes room for sunlight to reach the floor, and nourishes the soil. It also reduces competition for nutrients, allowing trees to grow healthier.

The U.S. Forest Service has also applied forest health treatments to about 1,500 acres in the Sherman Creek area since 2012. These treatments include cutting small trees to reduce ladder fuels, mechanical thinning, and pile burning.

“In a combination of forest activities and prescribed fires, we were actually able to bring that stand of timber a little closer to what its natural state would have been,” Eberlein said.

Outside of those treated areas, Boyds Fire burned hot and ferociously.

“It carried through the untreated landscapes fairly easily through continuation of the fuels and spots where embers go up in the air and land up ahead of the fire and start new fires,” said Gary Jennings, a deputy incident commander on the fire.

In areas that were thinned, the fire still burned hot, but because there were no ladder fuels to spread the flames upward, it remained largely on the forest floor, said Richard Tveten, forest manager for Fish and Wildlife.

“It was a very hot, windy day, so the fire still carried through the areas that had been thinned and burned, but the damage to the forest was minor,” Tveten said.

5 homes lost, 23 protected

During parts of Boyds Fire, in the Colville area, low-hanging branches and an overabundance of tree saplings provided ladder fuels for fire to spread into the forest’s canopy, growing the fire more rapidly. (Photo by Gary Jennings)

The effort to fight Boyds Fire was multilateral. Under the management of Northwest Incident Management Team 11, DNR, the U.S. Forest Service, Joint Fire Districts Stevens County 8/Ferry County 3, Colville Bureau of Indian of Affairs, and other agencies worked together to suppress the fire using firefighters from 16 different states. About 1,100 people were engaged in fighting the fire. Teams worked around the clock until the fire was suppressed, Jennings said.

The fire burned for 21 days over 4,712 acres. It burned through land managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, DNR, and Washington State Parks. Within the perimeter, five homes and four outbuildings were lost, but 23 homes and many more outbuildings survived.

This year marked Jennings’ 44th fire season. Though he is retired from his position as a fire management officer with the Forest Service, he still works during the wildfire season with Northwest Incident Team 11.

“Everyone is working under the same rules of engagement,” Jennings said. “It goes from training to coordination. And we are pretty fortunate to have such a strong inter-agency working group in wildland fire. In my job, I worked around the country and you don’t always find that. And every year we seem to make better strides.”

Jennings said Washington’s approach to wildfires can be a good example for the rest of the country. From inter-agency collaboration, to the methods used to fight wildfires, to forest health treatments that reduce wildfire risk, Washington will continue to make progress.

The inter-agency approach makes sense when treating forests too. This fire burned across the boundary lines of seven public agencies, plus private property. DNR’s forest health plan includes a vision of these landowners all working together to implement large-scale, cost-effective treatments to significantly improve the chances of avoiding the kind of intense wildfires that so significantly impact Washingtonians.

“As we face a warming climate and longer fire seasons, we need to continue to collaborate across property lines to safeguard our forests and communities,” said Hilary Franz, Commissioner of Public Lands in Washington state. “Washington is known for its evergreen forests, and the thinning and prescribed burning that agencies are doing to maintain the health of those forests is critical to preserving our natural resources for generations to come.”

To ensure forest work continues across Washington at the pace and scale needed to achieve this, Franz is seeking $55 million from Washington’s state legislature. Earlier this month, Franz also unveiled her Wildland Fire Protection 10-Year Strategic Plan to help the state prepare for and manage increasing wildfire challenges.

As head of the state’s largest wildfire fighting force – the Department of Natural Resources – Commissioner Franz knows that increased investments in wildfire preparedness and forest health restoration are key to reducing wildfire risk in Washington.

Categories: Partner Feeds

New grants help forest collaboratives restore health, wildfire resiliency to Washington’s forests

WA DNR News - January 23, 2019 - 9:03am

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources is empowering communities to tackle important forest health issues with two new grant programs. These programs, which support DNR’s 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan, aim to create forests that are resilient to wildfires, insects and disease by supporting large-scale forest restoration efforts led by groups called forest collaboratives.

Forest collaboratives bring together those who know the forests best – conservationists, tribes, timber workers, scientists, recreationists, local government, and other community members. Despite this diversity, they all have one thing in common – an inclusive, science-based approach to forest management. And by designing restoration projects in an integrated way, forest collaboratives work toward healthy forests that provide meaningful ecological, economic, and cultural value for Washingtonians.

Of the two new grant programs, DNR’s All Lands Forest Restoration Grant Program supports forest treatments, such as the thinning of small-diameter trees and controlled burning to reduce underbrush and fire risk. The second grant program, the Building Forest Partnerships Grant Program, funds facilitator time, meeting spaces, forest field trips and other opportunities to forge relationships and reach consensus on forest management.

Nine forest collaboratives from around the state received a combined $1.8 million through these two grant programs, and they are leveraging the funds in innovative ways to increase the pace and scale of forest health treatments in Washington.

This map shows the forest collaboratives in Washington state that received grant money from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. (The Nature Conservancy image)

Darrington Collaborative

The Darrington Collaborative was established in 2015 in the rural timber town of Darrington in Northwest Washington. It has a 10-member board made up of diverse perspectives, including representatives from Washington Wild, Hampton Lumber, American Whitewater, and the Glacier Peak Institute. The shared goal is to increase sustainable timber harvests while improving the ecological function of forests and watersheds in the Darrington Ranger District of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

“The Darrington Collaborative has been a unique and rewarding experience for the community of Darrington to build trust with industry, environmentalists and local leaders to provide economic benefits to our community through sustainable logging, forest restoration, and education,” Darrington Mayor Dan Rankin said.

Prior to the creation DNR’s grant programs, the Darrington Collaborative was focusing on small projects to help build shared understanding about different management approaches. Now, with nearly $125,000 from the DNR grants, and a $25,000 match from Hampton Lumber, it is moving on to a project covering 30,000 acres around the Darrington Ranger District.

This project will gather the technical information necessary for forest health treatments that enhance old growth characteristics, thin overstocked second-growth stands, and improve roads and aquatic conditions. This investment will expand the U.S. Forest Service’s ability to get work done in the forest, accelerating the timeline for treatments in this area by more than a year.

Glacier Peak Institute will lead a team of Darrington High School students to collect and analyze data so the collaborative can monitor the ecological impact of the project.

Local companies will benefit from contracting restoration work and from timber harvests in the thinned second-growth stands. The surrounding community will benefit from additional recreational opportunities, and wildlife dependent on old growth forests will benefit from improved habitat conditions.

Chumstick Wildfire Stewardship Coalition

Located in the Wenatchee River watershed near Leavenworth, the Chumstick Wildfire Stewardship Coalition is primarily focused on the problem of severe wildfires. Identified by multiple analyses as one of the highest-risk wildfire areas in the state, the forested landscape around Leavenworth is scattered with private homes.

Like many areas east of the Cascades, historically frequent, low-intensity fires were an essential part of healthy forests. A century of fire suppression, however, has created dangerous buildup of low-value woody debris. Prescribed, or controlled, burning and other tools can reduce those combustible materials and get the forest back to a healthy balance, but prescribed fire can also be challenging to implement, especially across different landownerships.

In Leavenworth, this problem is compounded by the fact that the burn season is short at such a high altitude. Long winters and long fire seasons allow only about six weeks in the fall and six weeks in the spring to conduct prescribed burns.

“There is just no way to get rid of enough fuels right now, with the lack of nearby timber mills and restrictions such as the local apple maggot quarantine area” said Corrine Hoffman, director of the coalition. “Removing fuels is a huge challenge in the Leavenworth area.”

Tree farmer Ross Frank, former chair of the Chumstick Wildfire Stewardship Coalition, talks to members of The Nature Conservancy in June at the Red-Tail Canyon Farm in Leavenworth. The Chumstick coalition facilitated the meeting, allowing members of The Nature Conservancy to meet potential forest health partners in Washington state. (The Nature Conservancy photo)

Like many large problems, the solution requires an all-hands-on-deck approach for treating forested landscapes. Joining with federal and private forest landowners, Chelan County Fire District 3, Chelan County, The Nature Conservancy, and others, the Chumstick coalition has a two-pronged approach: public outreach and direct landowner assistance.

About $125,000 in DNR grant funding is empowering the coalition to not only expand these activities, but plan and carry out a larger project that coordinates treatment across private and public land. The coalition will work with landowners to assess their properties and apply necessary forest health treatments while working with the Forest Service, which will do its own treatment on land adjacent to these properties.

Strategically investing in a large, cross-boundary project, rather than one-off projects that exclude the surrounding property, creates a continuous landscape of resilient forests.

Chumstick Wildfire Stewardship Coalition Director Corrine Hoffman, far left, and Mike Smith, a volunteer coordinator and firefighter with Chelan County Fire District 3, talk to elementary school students about wildfire and its effects on forest ecosystems during the Wenatchee River Salmon Festival last summer in Leavenworth. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)

Northeast Washington Forest Coalition

The Northeast Washington Forest Coalition has raised the bar for forest collaboratives everywhere since it started working on forest restoration on Forest Service land in 2002. Despite having forests that produce less board-feet per acre than forests in other parts of the state, Colville National Forest in Northeast Washington has become the largest timber-producing forest in the region, largely thanks to the work of this coalition. The coalition also restores and protects important wildlife habitat, thins forests to reduce the risk of uncharacteristically large wildfires, and produces stands of trees that are larger, healthier, and more in line with historical conditions.

Formed in 2002, the coalition includes diverse interests such as Vaagan Brothers Lumber, Sustainable Obtainable Solutions, Resolute Forest Products, the Kalispel Tribe, Kettle Range Conservation Group, Avista Corporation, Conservation Northwest, and The Lands Council, as well as consultants working in private forests, wildlands safety, and forest biomass. Technical advisers provide important insights and connections with even more diverse groups and interests.

Previously, the coalition’s projects have focused on the Colville National Forest. Now it is starting a new project, called Sxwuytn (s-who-ee-tin), the Kalispel Salish word for connections or trail, in a 90,000-acre planning area that includes a checkerboard of land controlled by the Forest Service, the Kalispel Tribe, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, DNR, and private landowners.

“We at NEWFC are thrilled that our Washington state legislators and the Department of Natural Resources have tackled the issues of forest health, restoration and resilience head-on,” said Gloria Flora, Executive Director of Sustainable Obtainable Solutions. “They’re using science, planning and supporting our on-the-ground action to increase the pace and scale of restoration across all lands. That shows real leadership and allows us to help our forests and communities even more effectively.”

This project is uniquely suited for the collaborative to take on – with a combined $425,000 from DNR’s two grant programs, the Northeast Washington Forest Coalition is engaging in and coordinating public outreach, connecting with a wide range of landowners, and building broader community support for forest management and restoration through involvement and education.

Grant funding also supports surveying forest roads, analyzing aquatic conditions, and accelerating the planning process. The Sxwuytn Project takes the planning process to a new level by inviting the public to help plan and prioritize a menu of treatments that all landowners and managers can select from to create a mosaic of forest restoration treatments across all landscapes.

Forest collaboratives: a Pacific Northwest institution

Forest collaboratives are not new to the Pacific Northwest. In the early 1990s, forest collaboratives started to form as an alternative to the litigation-heavy timber wars that pitted environmental advocates and endangered species against timber companies and rural jobs.

However, growing challenges with catastrophic wildfire, drought, and disease have made the need for collaborating on and implementing forest restoration more urgent.

Forest collaboratives don’t just address conflict, they leverage additional knowledge and resources into forest management while respecting the different values that forests provide. They also create a forum for addressing forest issues on a larger, connected landscape rather than focusing on individual tracts of property.

Want to learn more or get involved? Visit washingtonforestcollaboratives.org.

Categories: Partner Feeds

The inclusion gap: Building barriers to break them with the Women in the Woods

WA DNR News - December 24, 2018 - 10:17am

After hiking in the rain on a cold Saturday morning, 12 women came to what looked like a fork in the Douglas Fir Trail of DNR’s Mount Si Natural Resources Conservation Area. So they dropped their packs, but they weren’t there to rest —  they were there to work.

“We’re going to be really defining the trail,” said Mountains To Sound Greenway Trust Volunteer Program Coordinator Caroline Villanova. “To make sure people know where they’re going, they’re not getting lost, not going down a decommissioned road, and they know clearly the trail they are on.”

Villanova explains hugelkultur mounds. It’s an agricultural technique where mounds are constructed from woody debris, organic materials like leaves, and rich soil.

The sight of yellow hardhats and swinging pickaxes isn’t unusual along the trail. Thousands of volunteers graciously dedicate their time to maintaining and fixing up trails like ones in the Mount Si NRCA.

What’s different about this one? It’s a step in the right direction to bridging the inclusion gap in outdoor recreation.

Nearly 10 years ago, a Mountains To Sound Greenway Trust staff member saw the need for spaces for women who wanted to do trail work. So they created Women in the Woods,  supportive, year-round events for anyone who identifies as a woman and wants to use a power tool out in the woods.

Maria Sheldon, Greenway Trust Education Associate, uses a pickax to dig a trench.

Zan McPherson, Greenway Trust Volunteer Program Associate, and Maria Sheldon, Greenway Trust Education Associate, were both out on the Douglas Trail as part of the all-female leadership.

“I love the all-women space,” said McPherson. “It’s important, and personally feel so much more empowered as a leader in a group of all women.”

Sheldon continued, “Zan and I, being leaders, we get the opportunity to share what we know but also learn, and not only does this empower women but people who are trying to get more experience, and so we get a variety of trail maintenance experience [from people during events], and we get to learn from people as well.”

Volunteers complete the hugelkultur mounds by transplanting ferns.

Along with Villanova, McPherson and Sheldon coached volunteers on the task at hand: building hugelkultur mounds. It’s an agricultural technique where mounds are constructed from woody debris, organic materials like leaves, and rich soil.  Together, it creates an egg yolk of nutrients that will help the forest floor to form and allow more native plants to grow. Also, the mounds and the plants clearly divert hikers away from the wrong path.

It took six hours of digging around for good soil, moving rocks, and sawing fallen logs to complete. Stepping back to see what they accomplished, the volunteers took away more than just the satisfaction of a hard day’s work.

The group celebrates completing their work at the Little Si trailhead.

“We have people who come together who don’t even know each other while working on the trail together and problem solving,” Villanova said. “I can see people getting to know each other more, making jokes, laughing, and all of sudden we end the event and everyone is friends. We’re closer, like physically, we can hang out. Clearly a community has formed around Women in the Woods.”

  • Learn about future Women in the Woods event here
  • Volunteer with a DNR work party here
Categories: Partner Feeds

New App Enlists Smart Phone Users in Keeping Puget Sound Clean

WA DNR News - December 20, 2018 - 2:15pm
Your smart phone can now help clean up Puget Sound.

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) today announced the launch of MyCoast Washington – a mobile app that allows the public to help identify and remove marine debris. The app allows people to photograph large marine debris, creosote-treated wood, derelict vessels, storm surge damage, king tides and changes to shorelines while walking Washington’s beaches. DNR and its partners will then use that information to prioritize clean-ups and inform management of aquatic lands in a changing climate. DNR is a state leader in restoring marine environments. Since 2002, DNR has removed more than 50 million pounds of marine debris – the equivalent of 72 Boeing 747’s – from Washington’s waterways. Creosote-treated materials leach chemicals into beach and marine sediments causing toxic conditions for organisms that live in and use these areas.

But with only three full-time employees spearheading the work, the agency needs assistance in identifying debris that is polluting our waters around the state. “Now more than ever, it is our duty to safeguard Washington’s waters and beaches from toxins and pollutants,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. “The MyCoast app allows all Washingtonians to participate in protecting our waters, ensuring our people, salmon, and orcas have clean, healthy habitat. We’re working to speed up our efforts to restore Puget Sound, and this app lets anyone who cares about Puget Sound’s health join in.” Washington MyCoast is a project of the Washington Department of Natural Resources, in collaboration with the U.S. Geological SurveyWashington Sea Grant, the Snohomish County Marine Resource Committee, and the Northwest Straits Initiative. HOW IT WORKS                                                            Anyone who spots creosote, old docks, floats, or other marine debris on the beach can simply take a picture in the MyCoast app, and that geo-located photo will go directly to the DNR Marine Debris Removal Program, letting them know what was spotted and where it is. Residents can also use the MyCoast Washington app to contribute to ongoing shoreline research and monitoring by documenting areas where storm surge or king tide events have changed shorelines. The app is available for the iPhone from the Apple App Store or for Android phones from Google Play. ACCELERATING CLEANUP EFFORTS Under the guidance of Commissioner Franz, DNR is committed to restoring development-damaged aquatic lands and access to rivers cut off by barriers to fish passage. Removing creosote treated logs from Puget Sound beaches is one of the several tasks that Washington Conservation Corps do each year. Photo: DNR

As part of that commitment, the agency is asking Washington’s legislature for a $90 million funding package to protect and restore aquatic habitats to boost salmon and orca recovery efforts. This package funds direct implementation of expanded restoration efforts, one of several actions recommended by the Southern Resident Killer Whale Task to boost orca habitat, as well as action items identified by the Puget Sound Partnership and Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. STEWARDSHIP OF STATE AQUATIC LANDS As steward of 2.6 million acres of public aquatic lands, DNR manages the bedlands under Puget Sound and the coast, many of Washington’s beaches, and natural lakes and navigable rivers. DNR manages these lands to facilitate navigation, commerce, and public access, and to ensure protection of aquatic habitat. Since 2004, DNR has partnered with entities such as Marine Resources Committees (MRC), WSU BeachWatchers, People for Puget Sound, Washington State Parks, The Nature Conservancy, and the Northwest Straits Commission, to identify and remove creosote-treated debris.

Categories: Partner Feeds

Worried about storm power outages?

WA DNR News - December 17, 2018 - 12:29pm
Wind with drenching rains can create hazardous trees. Photo: DNR

Recent blasts of wind in Washington helps us appreciate the work of local utilities. They help our homes stay warm and toasty and keep the lights on during these darkening days of December.

Yet, as our annual storm season once again rolls in, it becomes more challenging to ensure the reliability of the power grid.

Storms bring high winds, high winds can bring down trees, and trees can bring down powerlines (like dominoes gone wrong).

Utility companies play a lead role in the prevention of power outages, but they can’t do it alone. We have three ideas on how you can help.

As responsible citizens, we need to monitor our trees for potential conflicts with powerlines and report any issues to the local utility…preferably before the next storm strikes.

Also, the best way to prevent future tree-related outages is by planting the right tree in the right place. Avoid planting a tree that will grow high enough to get into nearby powerlines as it matures.

By planting smaller trees, or by planting larger trees a safe distance away from powerlines, we can prevent problems before they happen. This practice can also reduce or eliminate the need to prune trees, and reduces you chance of a power outage.

DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry Program recognizes utilities in Washington who have committed to healthy tree care and maintenance, tree worker training programs, and community tree planting – including ways to reduce issues between trees and powerline. The Tree Line USA Program provides many benefits to electric utility providers and the communities they serve. It’s an Arbor Day Foundation Program that recognizes best practices in public and private utility arboriculture.

There are 11 recognized Tree Line USA Utilities in Washington:

  • Avista Utilities
  • Benton County PUD
  • Benton REA
  • Chelan County PUD #1
  • Clark County PUD
  • Pacificorp
  • Puget Sound Energy
  • Richland Energy Services
  • Seattle City Light
  • Snohomish County PUD No. 1
  • Tacoma Power

Since it’s better to be safe (and warm) than sorry, do these three things to show your appreciation for both the twinkle of outdoor holiday lights and the equally lovely trees they rest on. Take a moment to check for tree/powerline conflicts where you live, and contact your local utility if necessary. Plant the right tree in the right place. And, encourage, or congratulate, your utility provider’s participation in the Tree Line USA Program.

For more information, visit the Arbor Day website or DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry Program.

Categories: Partner Feeds

DNR, veterans organization help homeowner improve wildfire safety

WA DNR News - December 12, 2018 - 10:34am

When Chris Mastel was in the Marines, he had a sense of purpose every day, a clear mission to accomplish. It was something he missed when his time in the military ended.

“As soon as I got out – not having a purpose, no mission every day – it was a struggle for me,” said Mastel, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps for eight years.

Mastel’s councilor at the local veteran’s center recommended he check out Veterans Community Response, a nonprofit organization based in the Spokane area that helps veterans adjust to life after returning home from combat. Comprised entirely of volunteers, the organization fosters teamwork and camaraderie and helps veterans develop skills in a variety of areas – even in helping rural homeowners reduce wildfire risk on their property.

Investing in forest health, wildfire safety

Some members of Veterans Community Response are firefighters in the area so they were aware of the severity of the wildfire threat and saw an opportunity to help reduce that threat. About a year ago, Veterans Community Response contacted the Washington State Department of Natural Resources to find out how they could help. The veterans took wildfire chainsaw training and forest health classes covering tree identification, tree health, and forest thinning practices. They also learned of small forest landowners who needed help with forest restoration work.

One of those landowners was Dave Taskila who owns about 6 acres of heavily vegetated forest in the Spokane area, dense with lodge pole pine and ponderosa thickets.

“This area had burnt in 1991 – before we bought the land – in a firestorm, so I figured it would happen again,”he said.

Taskila knew he should get his house and the surrounding land assessed for wildfire risk and applied to DNR’s cost-sharing program for small-forest landowners. The program is typically a 50/50 cost-share to help landowners complete forest health work on their property. The landowner can hire someone to do the work and DNR will pay half of the fee, or the landowner can do the work themselves and be reimbursed for half the value of their labor.

Veterans Community Response volunteers remove brush, low limbs, and smaller trees to restore forest health and reduce wildfire risk in the Four Mound community of Spokane County on May 5, 2018 – National Wildfire Preparedness Day. The nonprofit tackled this project after working on Dave Taskila’s land.

This program is a valuable tool for DNR’s 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan, which aims to actively manage our forests, restoring them to a more natural and resilient condition.

After Taskila was accepted into the program, a forester came to his home, assessed his trees, and showed him what needed done to bring his forest to a healthier, more resilient state. The grant he received required that he finish the work within two years.

Taskila didn’t do much the first year, because he didn’t think the project would be that difficult – that is until he and his grandson started thinning trees and clearing brush. What they found was closely bunched trees and dense understory. He was about halfway through the project when he learned volunteers from Veterans Community Response could help him finish his project before the approaching deadline.

The project on Taskila’s land was the first forest health and fuels reduction project Veterans Community Response worked on, and it was the ideal site to start with because it was close to town while still being very overgrown.

“This property had not been thinned in quite some time and it was a thicket of pine. Nothing was growing in a healthy manner,” the organization’s president, Darrin Coldiron, said.

About 20 volunteers worked to thin the remaining 3 acres, with usually about six veterans working each day. The project took about a month to finish.

When the veterans finished the project within the timeline allocated by the grant, Taskila was extremely pleased with the work accomplished. “They ended up doing the worst part of the property. Even though it’s flat down there, it was really bad and thick,” he said.

Taskila donated his DNR cost-share money to the nonprofit in appreciation of their labor, allowing the organization to pay for more equipment, protective gear, and training, plus member retreats and recruiting.

Veterans Community Response is working on six similar forest health projects. It’s the type of collaboration that Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, who heads DNR, speaks about the state needing.

“With creative and collaborative approaches we can restore the health to our forests and reduce wildfire risk, keeping the Evergreen State true to its name,” Franz said. “I am proud of the important work being done by our veterans, our small forest landowners, DNR, and other partners.”

For the veterans, the rewards are close to home. Not only are they giving back to their community in ways that have the power to prevent a devastating wildfire, they’re also able to pass that sense of achievement onto new members.

Volunteers take a well-deserved break from thinning and brush removal during a project in the Four Mound area in May.

“We’re getting veterans back involved in the community,” said Mike Patterson, a veteran and member of the nonprofit. “Most combat vets tend to isolate when they come home, so this is a great way of getting them back involved and completing a project.”

Mastel, the Marine vet, attended a retreat put on by the nonprofit and found that sense of purpose he was searching for after retiring from the military. He decided to join the staff and devote some of his time to helping the organization with events and projects. He was one of the project leads on Taskila’s land and was pleased with the work he and the group accomplished.

“I had no idea what we were in for, but when we finished it looked amazing,” Mastel said.

And all of this work means all the more when community members like Taskila are so positively affected by the nonprofit’s work and happy with the final result.

“I can actually use some of (my land) and walk through it,” Taskila said, laughing. “It turned out great, I’m pleased.”

Categories: Partner Feeds

State Timber Harvests Are Each as Unique as the Names They Go By

WA DNR News - December 7, 2018 - 2:22pm

Brokedown Place. Jumping Jack. Goldfish. Silver Charm. Camp Draper.

Evocative? Yes. Unique? Definitely. And just like their unique names, the state-land timber harvests managed by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources get individualized pre-auction assessments.

DNR’s primary reason for growing forests on state trust lands is to provide a quality timber harvest opportunity capable of generating funds for public beneficiaries, primarily schools. Timber harvests have generated nearly $900 million for beneficiaries over the past five years.

“Timber sales are a vital part of how we’re able to support schools and local governments throughout Washington,” says Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, the elected official who leads the Department of Natural Resources. “Just like each school and community has unique needs, these harvests receive individualized approaches to make them sustainable and environmentally sound — and they come with creative names that reflect that approach.”

Before a timber harvest is offered for sale, state foresters make a series of assessments. They review data and make site visits asking things like… Where are the streams and wetlands located? What are the potential effects of this harvest on water quality? How will the harvest affect fish and wildlife habitat? Are there nearby slopes that require a geologic assessment? Are there other areas that will require special attention?

As DNR foresters make these assessments they commonly find areas that do need special consideration. They use this information to create a set prescriptions, or rules, that a timber harvest company will have to abide by if they submit the winning bid to log the land. It’s at this point that the timber harvest gets its distinctive name, often inspired by the land itself. Ram’s Horn. Ninebark. Summer Breeze.

If a harvest has too many special requirements, timber companies will be more hesitant to bid for harvesting rights. This may lead to a lower bid and result in less revenue for schools and public services. This situation could also leave DNR exposed to legal action for failing to meet its legal mandate to generate that revenue. Alternatively, a harvest with too few restrictions could fail to adequately protect public lands and unnecessarily damaging public lands for years to come.

That’s why the proposed harvest, including the requirements a timber harvest company will need to meet, are reviewed in a transparent process after the assessment is complete. Proposed harvests go through a public comment process, called SEPA (an abbreviation for the State Environmental Policy Act, which created the procedure), designed to ferret out any site-specific environmental concerns that may have been missed initially. Then, the proposed harvest goes to the Board of Natural Resources, which is comprised of industry and beneficiary stakeholders. The public is invited to attend and provide comments at their public meeting, where the board then decides if the proposed harvest is approved for sale.

The process takes time – normally one to two years.

Only after these steps, and with full knowledge of all the requirements, do timber harvest companies get the opportunity to bid on a timber harvest. The highest offer — the bid that will generate the highest revenue for the public beneficiaries — wins.

So what are the possible prescription restrictions that a harvest company may have to abide by? They run can be anything from stream buffers, to trees that must remain or the mix of trees to replant, to how and when the harvest should be done.

Timing timber harvests to the seasons

Timber harvests can be restricted to the drier summer months in areas where runoff may be a special concern. Alternately, colder areas at higher altitudes may benefit from a winter harvest, when the ground is frozen or protected by a layer of snow.

Based on the site conditions, DNR may also set the harvesting system that companies can use. Some systems have advantages protecting soil, water, fish, amphibians or wildlife in given situations.

Harvest systems matched to meet the need

Ground-based harvesting systems are typically used on state trust lands with less extreme terrain, on soils not easily compacted and in areas with good road access. Look for them in flat areas and on slopes of less than 35 percent in Western Washington and less than 50 percent in Eastern Washington. These operations may be combined with rubber tire skidders, tracked skidders or shovels to achieve desired protection objectives.

Rubber tire skidders are used to push or pull logs distances of up to 700 feet in Western Washington and 1,300 feet in Eastern Washington. They can disturb and compact soils, so use is generally limited to non-sensitive areas. Tracked skidders, or “dozers,” perform many different jobs on a logging site. They can pull large loads of logs, operate on moderate slopes and work in softer soils with less compaction. Shovels are a versatile piece of equipment that put less pressure on the ground than skidders. You may see these operated around riparian areas, trees not being harvested, and across uneven surfaces with stumps, boulders and heavy brush. Shovels can also be used for site preparation, road construction and installing culverts. A fully mechanized harvesting system is another option that compacts the ground less than skidders. This system performs the entire harvest process, such as cutting, forwarding and bucking.

Cable systems partially or completely suspend logs moving them to landing zones up to 1,000 feet away. Because cable systems require special crews, they’re more expensive and are generally only required when ground-based systems can’t be used. Look for them on state trust lands with slopes greater than 35 percent, areas with broken topography, or wet or easily compacted soils.

Helicopter logging may be the only option in areas where road construction would be too expensive or would adversely affect an environmentally sensitive feature. Look for it on slopes steeper than 40 percent, though it’s not common, because it’s so expensive.

Regardless of the system, state land harvests require harvesters to work where they will disturb less soil, which can cause erosion and soil compaction while making it harder for trees to re-establish. To ensure this happens, DNR has timber harvest companies plan their skid trails in advance and mark the approved areas clearly.

Regenerating forests, regenerating value

Prior to a harvest being completed, DNR silviculturists make a plan to replant the working forest, accounting for myriad factors, including elevation, aspect and seed zone.

The silviculturists start with information gathered during DNR foresters’ environmental assessments before the timber harvest, and account for any adverse conditions at the site, such as the presence of laminated root rot or pests like the spruce weevil.

Then, silviculturists focus in on the details of the site. Generally, sites below 2,000 feet in elevation are more fertile than higher-elevation sites, so the planted seedlings will face competition from other plant species. Using information from reforesting similar sites, silviculturists decide whether a site preparation treatment will be necessary. The treatments control competition from both native and invasive species, giving the seedlings a better chance to establish themselves. At higher elevations, those treatments are less likely to be necessary. Depending on the site’s aspect (which direction the slope faces), different trees may be more likely to thrive.

Another important factor in replanting is using seedlings from the same tree zone as the harvest. Knowing the origin of a seed is crucial to determining where the tree will survive and grow successfully because of different environmental and climate differences. Native conifers in the Pacific Northwest have some of the highest levels of genetic variation found in plants.

After preparing the site after the harvest, foresters come in the next spring and repopulate the forest with seedlings selected specifically for that area. At lower elevations, about 300 Douglas-fir and 100 western red cedars are planted per acre; at higher elevations, about 300 Douglas-fir and 60 western redcedars are used.

“When you plant, you control the stocking, what’s growing there and how far apart it’s spaced,” says Cory McDonald, a forester in DNR’s Northwest region.

Some other native tree species are also introduced at the time to increase biodiversity, and foresters working at higher elevations also allow for natural repopulation of the forest. Douglas-firs and western redcedars are planted because they have the best return on financial investment to fulfill DNR’s obligation to generate money for its beneficiaries, like public schools and local governments.

“In order to have trees for the future, we have to have prompt reforestation with healthy, vigorous trees, that’s the biggest thing,” McDonald says. “If we just didn’t plant, there would be a lag time before the stand became naturally reforested. It would happen over time, but it wouldn’t be as quick, and that’s tougher to manage because you don’t have the certainty over the timing.”

The minimum amount of trees to replant after a timber harvest on state or private lands in Washington is 190 trees per acre, though most landowners plant far more than that so they have a bigger yield to harvest.

DNR has a nursery where it grows many of its trees for replanting from seed, a process that takes two years before trees are ready to be planted. That means foresters need to estimate years ahead what they will need to properly re-establish our working forests.

Harvest frequency

There’s no general rule for knowing when a landscape will be ready to harvest. Different species grow at different rates. Conditions can vary from one hillside to another. Droughts can last have a significant influence. The agency’s general approach, however, is to harvest trees once their growth rate slows, for the best return on the public’s investment.

When DNR prepares a harvest auction, it considers the surrounding area, too. Weighing factors include the maturity and size of trees on adjacent land, along with the size of the harvest area itself. Timber harvests are generally limited to 100 acres, though may be up to 120 acres in special situations. They also must border areas where trees have not been recently harvested – either adjacent to 30 percent mature forest, 60 percent young forest or 90 percent newer forest with trees growing there more than 5 years. The result is a landscape with trees of various sizes. The habitat is varied and no single watershed is too heavily affected within a short timeframe.

Accommodations for recreation

Many state forest lands are also prime areas for recreation. The agency retains a no-harvest buffer around its campgrounds, but with 1,500 miles of trail on DNR-managed lands, it’s inevitable that timber harvests affect trails.

DNR Forester John Moon with one of the trees that DNR identified as one to exclude from the Pathfinder Timber Sale in 2017 in Reiter Foothills State Forest for its importance to the local 4×4 community. (DNR photo)

When a trail traverses a harvest, it is closed temporarily while the harvest completed to protect public safety. After the harvest, the DNR and volunteers clean up and reopen the trail.

Some consider newly harvested areas less attractive than mature forest. As an accommodation, the agency may locate the harvest’s leave trees along trails or roads to provide a visual barrier. However, timber harvests can also provide an unexpected benefit: enhanced views.

Special landscapes get special protections

Not every landscape is appropriate for timber harvests. In addition to potentially unstable slopes, DNR also will not harvest at the state’s most precious ecological areas as a part of the natural areas program. In addition, uncommon habitats such as talus fields, caves, cliffs, oak woodlands, areas bald of vegetation, mineral springs and large mature (“old growth”) forests are excluded from harvest areas.

Areas are also excluded when they provide important habitat for endangered or threatened plant or animal species, such as the spotted owl or marbled murrelet.

All told, approximately one-third of the state lands managed by DNR are not harvested for timber.

Protecting and sustaining people, too

DNR is a founding member of the Logger Safety Initiative, which promotes occupational safety in the logging industry. Logging is historically one of Washington’s most hazardous industries — one where workers, particularly in non-mechanized logging jobs, suffer serious injuries much more often than in any other major industry while employers struggle to afford accelerating workers’ compensation insurance costs.

In response, DNR, private land owners, logging industry employers and the Department of Labor & Industries formed the Washington State Logger Safety Initiative. The agency continues as an active landowner member of this broad-based effort to promote occupational safety, reduce fatalities, and decrease the frequency and severity of workplace injuries in the logging industry. DNR also works to include companies logging on state lands as participating members.

Sustainable forests

DNR has also achieved multiple sustainable landowner certifications. Certified forests are grown to an approved set of standards, which demonstrate environmentally responsible, socially beneficial and economically viable management practices that promote responsible forestry. The agency aims to exceed best management practices, and it goes through a rigorous third-party audit of its practices every two years to identify any areas in need of improvement.

These certifications are good for harvest companies, too. Timber harvested from state lands can able to demand higher prices in the marketplace due to its FSC or SFI sustainable certification status. This, in turn, means harvest companies are willing to bid more, providing greater revenue to schools and other beneficiaries.

Case-by-case assessments and care are a big part of how DNR ensures both economically viable and environmentally sound timber harvests on DNR-managed state trust lands. Doing so protects waterways, fish, wildlife, public resources, recreation and the forest’s ability to continue growing timber (a sustainable source of revenue) for public beneficiaries in perpetuity.

The one-of-a-kind names? Well, that part’s mostly just for fun.

Categories: Partner Feeds

Winter Warriors: Adventures Awaits Along This Hut-To-Hut Trail System

WA DNR News - December 6, 2018 - 1:19pm

Imagine standing at 4,700-feet overlooking a hilly, snow-dusted treeline with a view of Mount Rainier and getting some of the best powder you’ve ever seen.

But the thing is, you don’t have to daydream about it – because you can go there. Tucked away in our Tahoma State Forest awaits three huts and a yurt dotting a trail system. And it’s only a two hour drive from the Greater Seattle Area.

Here’s the hut-to-hut breakdown.

HIGH HUT

  • Elevation: 4,760 feet
  • Gain: 2,400 feet
  • Miles to hut: 4
  • Sleeping capacity: 8 people
  • Find a trail map here
High hut. Image: DNR

SNOW BOWL

  • Elevation: 4, 250 feet
  • Gain: 2,000 feet
  • Miles to hut: 4
  • Sleeping capacity: 14 people
  • Find a trail map here
Bruni’s Snow Bowl. Image: MTTA

COPPER CREEK

  • Elevation: 4,200 feet
  • Gain: 2,400 feet
  • Miles: 4
  • Sleeping capacity: 14 people
  • Only accessible in winter in respect
    to conservation efforts
  • Find a trail map here
Copper Creek Hut. Image: MTTA

THE YURT

The Yurt. Image: MTTA So you want to go? Here’s what to know

HUT AMENITIES: Each hut provides a stovetop, pots to melt snow for water, bunk beds, kitchen essentials, a fireplace, and an outside bathroom.

WHAT TO BRING: Bring the Ten Essentials! Don’t forget your Discover Pass and sno-park permit. Find a trail map here.

ETIQUETTE: Snowshoers should stay to the side to preserve the groomed trails
for skiers. You may be sharing the huts with other groups, so be respectful and practice Leave No Trace principles.

RESERVATIONS: The huts are free to use from 7 a.m. – p.m.. An annual gala is held every November, which includes a lottery for first-round reservations. Beginning in late-November, the website opens all remaining spots for reservation. The huts are always full on weekends, but weekdays often have openings, and you can check back regularly for weekend cancellations. For more information, visit skimtta.org.

DIRECTIONS TO TRAILHEAD: The location of the 1 Road Sno-Park moves depending on the snow level. If there is a lot of snow and the gate to the upper area is locked, then use the lower Sno-park at 2,360 feet elevation. If there is less snow and the gate to the upper area is open, then head farther up the road to the Upper 1 Road Sno-Park at 3,000-feet elevation.

The location of the 1 Road Sno-Park moves depending on the snow level. If there is a lot of snow and the gate to the upper area is locked, then use the lower Sno-park at 2,360 feet elevation. If there is less snow and the gate to the upper area is open, then head farther up the road to the Upper 1 Road Sno-Park at 3,000-feet elevation.

How long have the huts been there? Who are the people behind this trail? What makes the huts different than others in the northwest? 

Looking for a conversation starter with your group on the trail? Read about how this all came together. You may discover that you love the story of how this trail system came together as much as you love the trail system itself. Story first published in Mountaineer Magazine

The view of Elbe and Tahoma State Forests as seen from what is now the High Hut. Building a hut system

On a winter day in 1989, Bob Brown’s mind was wandering as he explored Mount Rainier’s Paradise area during a backcountry ski. A Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) forest manager, Bob had recently read about hut-to-hut skiing trail systems. European-inspired, hut-based backcountry skiing took off in America nearly a century before his trip that day, and while hut systems were available in Eastern Washington, none had been built on the western side of the Cascades. Not yet that is.

“I thought, gee, [a hut system] would be sort of neat [in Western Washington]. And then I thought, gee, all the roads – on both the DNR land and private timber company land,
and even some forest service land – are all snow covered in the winter. So there’s ready-made trail. And you have landings, which are cleared areas, where you can build huts
on and they would have views.”

Bob called a meeting between DNR, Washington State Parks, and the Forest Service about opening a new hut-to-hut skiing trail in the Tahoma State Forests. They sent out 1,500
questionnaires to measure public interest. Only two people didn’t like the idea.

The group established Mount Tahoma Trail Association (MTTA) in 1989 as a nonprofit and started fundraising. The state gave $160,000 — money pitched by a state senator who later said the funds were the best he’s ever allocated because of how well they were used. Other contributions came from grassroots fundraising efforts and in-kind work- hours by volunteers.

By fall, MTTA was working on building the High Hut. Its completion in 1990 was followed by Snow Bowl Hut, Copper Creek Hut, and The Yurt in 1991.

The view of Mount Rainier from the High Hut.

For three decades, volunteers donated more than 4,000 hours every year to operate and maintain the huts and trails, doing everything from work parties to weekend ski patrols. This allows MTTA to be a 100% volunteer-run organization, which means every penny donated or raised goes directly back into operating the facilities.

“If you come up with a good idea, then there’s a chance it might turn into something. But the [credit goes to] all the talented people who get excited about this thing and pour their heart and soul into it and make it work,” Bob said.

‘Ready-made’ trails in our working forests

When you ski or snowshoe from the lower sno-park near Ashford, it’s not long before a sign welcomes you into in the heart of a working forest. As part of Washington’s three million acres of federally-granted state trust lands, Tahoma State Forests are managed by the Washington DNR and are legally obligated to provide an array of benefits to Washington residents. Priority is placed on perpetually generating revenue to support public institutions, like funding construction of schools, namely through timber harvests.

Timber harvesting techniques have come a long way over the last century, which had previously left this land nearly barren. DNR and partnering conservation groups have worked together to revitalize the area, returning it to a resilient, productive working forest to sustain healthy and diverse habitats.

“When Snow Bowl Hut was built, there was a big open clear cut in front of it, and people would ski in that clear cut…and you can’t ski in the clear cut anymore,” Bob said. “And the reason you can’t ski in that clear cut is because there’s too many trees.”

A snowshower looks out into the forest on the trail.

When the season turns to winter, logging truck roads go dormant in the snow. Utilizing these existing roads for recreation preserves nearby conservation areas while also offering a backcountry experience. The trail system also evolves and changes with timber production and forest growth. That’s why the trails fluctuate between 50 and 75 miles of terrain from season to season.

“I’m proud that my agency and our partners are able to manage the public’s lands in ways that protect our natural resources, provide millions of dollars for public services, and give us some of the most beautiful areas to explore,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, a skier who manages DNR. “The Tahoma State Forests are a great example of what our working forests can do for us, from timber harvests to recreational opportunities.”

Accessible and affordable

More than 100,000 people have stayed overnight at the huts since their inception in the 1990s, not counting the thousands of day users who’ve skied through the forest. But many still consider this trail system to be among Western Washington’s best kept secrets. Most people find out about it through word of mouth and the MTTA Communications Director was no exception. Like many of the organization’s 90 volunteers, Heath Jones was inspired by his first trip up to the huts to give back. He volunteered on ski patrol for several years, and now focuses on creating awareness and accessibility for both summer and winter users.

“Making it accessible is important, and making it fun for all ages, whether playing board games or having bachelor or bachelorette parties or things like that … getting more people to understand what the huts are capable of… I think is a huge,” Heath said.

For MTTA, accessibility means providing ongoing improvements to enhance experiences for all skill levels, and that includes adding to the trail system. As the forests and trails evolve, so do the huts. For example: once powered by screw-on propane bottles, the huts now run on solar.

The High Hut with Mount Rainier peeking around it.

These upgrades, intersecting with convenience and safety, are met with respect by the users who practice Leave No Trace principles.

“People come up and take a sense of pride in it,” Jones said. “They keep it pretty clean,
refill water, sweep up, and leave it for the next people, which is important because they’re all public use. From what I’ve seen people are pretty respectful of the property and the ability to go up and enjoy the view.”

Bob and Heath both agree that what really sets these huts apart from others in the United States is they are relatively affordable for everyone.

Categories: Partner Feeds

There’s Plenty of Places For You to Find Your Christmas Tree in Washington (But State Forests Aren’t One of Them)

WA DNR News - November 23, 2018 - 8:00am

Take it from us: Christmas is better with a Christmas tree.

(Even Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz weighed in on this last year.)

Please don’t take your tree from us, however. You’ll have to get one from somewhere besides a state forest, just like we do.

Because the trust lands under our supervision are needed to generate sustainable revenue while managed in an environmentally conscious way, we can’t have people cutting down our juvenile trees before they reach maturity. If we did, then there would be less money generated for schools, libraries, and other public services for the agencies that depend on us.

Instead, to generate solid returns for those public services, we have to wait until the trees in the forest have reached maturity before auctioning them for harvest.

However, there are plenty of places on federal lands for Washington residents to be able to cut their own Christmas trees, and there’s also many tree farms open for residents shopping across the state.

National Forests

Private tree farms

Here’s to hoping for a safe harvest, and a happy holiday season, too!

Categories: Partner Feeds

Is it burning season?

WA DNR News - November 21, 2018 - 12:35pm
Outdoor burning is a leading cause of wildfire ignitions, smoke and certain pollutants. Photo DNR

With slash piles around and the cold November rain right around the corner, it’s a perfect time of year for forest landowners to consider their outdoor burning needs of branches and bark left behind after thinning, pruning or harvesting forest trees.

So, to answer the question of is it burning season: Yes, but not if the air quality is poor in your area.

Fire danger is low once again here in Western Washington as summer fades away and temperatures cool down.

Burning slash now avoids the future risk of uncontrolled fire during the summer, and it reduces the potential for nuisance smoke later amid the cold winter air.

Burning can also reduce the number of insects harmful to the forest that overwinter in slash and create more open ground for forest regeneration, which can boost forest health.

Nearly all slash burning is done under permits issued by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). These permits address how much can be burned, what equipment can be used and that attendance is mandatory on site during the burning. Other land-clearing burning typically falls under county permits. DNR also can deny burning if conditions could cause a fire to escape or if there is unhealthy air.

DNR fire personnel, county fire dispatch centers, and county fire marshals are notified daily of permitted burns.

Forest landowners are looking for those slightly breezy days ahead of or following a period of rain when there is upward movement in the air to help the fire burn hot and disperse the smoke high in the atmosphere.

Don’t be alarmed when you see columns of smoke or flames at night in the hills. Sometimes the amount of smoke or height of the flames may seem alarming and similar to what wildfires produce, but the outward spread of the slash fire is controlled during fall burning. A slash fire that burns hot and fast has more complete combustion and produces fewer pollutants than a slower-burning fire.

Always follow the Department of Ecology’s website (https://ecology.wa.gov/Air-Climate/Air-quality/Smoke-fire/Burn-bans) for air quality and burn ban information in your area.

Slash burns are usually completed and out within a week or two. If you do see smoke from a slash pile that continues to smolder for weeks, please call the forest landowner or your local DNR Region Office.

Categories: Partner Feeds

Water is Life: How My Culture’s Teachings Shape My Work at DNR

WA DNR News - November 21, 2018 - 10:05am

The diversity of our employees’ experience gives shape to the work of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. Lalena Amiotte has been with DNR since 2008. She is currently working as the Aquatic Resources Division’s Habitat Stewardship Unit Supervisor, where she specializes in environmental stewardship of overwater structures and endangered species recovery. Lalena previously served as the department’s interim tribal liaison. This essay is brought to you by our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Council.

I often find myself thinking of the teachings that come with the species we are trying to protect at DNR. Take the beaver, for example: In my culture, the beaver brings life; water, water is life. Without water, we cease to exist. Beaver are also the most industrious of all the creatures (and probably my favorite aquatic species) – they remind us to keep working and to not give up.

Lalena Amiotte, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, is the supervisor of the DNR Aquatic Resources Division’s Habitat Stewardship Unit.

I am constantly reminded at work of these stories and songs, and somehow this gives my work added meaning and importance.

As an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe from South Dakota, and the wife of a Skokomish tribal fisherman, the connection to the water and forests is who we are. We are raising our children on the Skokomish Indian Reservation in Mason County, teaching them to know the lands, the waters, and all the creatures big and small that call those places home. But we are also passing onto them how to use their voices to protect these precious resources for future generations.

Our teachings tell us that each one of us has a role in our family, our community and this world. My husband’s role is that of the fisherman and head of family by bringing the bounty of the sea home to our family and community. My role has always been to use my voice and be the example for the next generations – especially young native women in my community – by showing that women belong in natural resource management and that tribal perspectives matter in Washington state and across this country. Our daughter’s role might be the hardest – to remember everything we have taught her, so that when we are gone our family’s traditions and culture are not lost.

Teaching our next generation is so important. Without my education, my path in life would have been incredibly limited. Thanks to my parents and grandparents, I was encouraged from a very early age to go for higher education. I’m fortunate – without those people pushing me, I imagine my life would be very challenging. I try to pass this on to the next generation, both to my daughter and to the children in my community: Once you have a degree or a trade certificate, that can never be taken away. You earned that.

I like to share my culture’s teachings with my co-workers at DNR to add to their perspective about the conservation work we do here, and I feel like my perspective and experiences are welcome here. For someone with such a diverse background and traditions, for someone who cares so deeply for this land we are charged to manage, working for DNR is a natural fit.

Categories: Partner Feeds

We All Want Thriving Salmon and Orca – Our Plan to Help Starts at (Their) Home

WA DNR News - November 19, 2018 - 6:00am

As the Puget Sound resident orca population continues to dwindle, reaching a 30-year low, we have a ray of hope.

Or three – a trio of female orcas are pregnant right now, researchers announced recently.

But we haven’t seen a juvenile orca survive in three years in Puget Sound waters, and the populations of salmon the iconic sea mammals feed on have continued to decline in quantity, too.

Orca populations in Puget Sound are at a 30-year low. (Photo by Candice Emmons, NOAA Fisheries)

That’s why Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources today announced a $90 million environmental funding request to conserve critical aquatic habitat, improve water quality, and grow the trees and forests to ensure clean, cool waters necessary for salmon to survive.

“The existential struggle of many of Washington’s native species requires us to make immediate and significant investments in our landscapes,” Franz said. “This funding package allows DNR to take the next steps needed to protect and restore salmon habitat and water quality, helping secure a future for our orcas, our salmon, our way of life.”

According to the Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery and Task Force, the decline in orca and salmon populations is primarily driven by vessel traffic and noise, toxic contaminants in the water, poor habitat, and declining prey.

The funding package is designed to support the work of the task force and other entities by protecting and repairing habitat damaged by toxins, development and barriers to fish passage. By repairing salmon habitat, populations of salmon have more places to rebound, providing food for orcas and sufficient salmon to support tribal treaty fishing obligations, while also reopening closed commercial and recreational fishing opportunities.

Several of the actions recommended by the state’s Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery and Task Force would be fully funded and implemented, as well as proposals from the Puget Sound Partnership and the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.

Here are a handful of different ways this proposal would improve salmon and orca habitat:

A worker segments a polluting piling removed from Washington’s waters so that it can be removed from the beach. (DNR photo)
  • $7 million from the state operating budget would provide permanent funding to protect the aquatic food web by removing legacy toxins, restoring eelgrass beds, and removing marine debris.
  • $1.5 million would help DNR’s scientists assess the impact of ocean acidification in Washington, advancing research critical to the continued viability of oyster harvesting and other aquaculture.
  • $2.1 million would enhance urban forestry, keeping more stormwater runoff – the top pollutant of Washington’s waters – in the ground and out of salmon and orca habitat.
  • $8 million would fund Puget SoundCorps workers performing critical salmon habitat restoration.
  • $5 million would pay to remove several large derelict boats that are dangers to both fish habitat and public safety.
  • $1.5 million would allow DNR to perform conservation work on its natural lands, preserving threatened environments while providing natural resilience to climate change.
  • $1.6 million would fund experts to help small private landowners protect salmon habitat in their lands, and $23 million would be set aside to help landowners maintain protective buffers around streams and unstable slopes.
  • $31 million would go toward removing barriers to fish passage, including the removal or replacement of undersized culverts, on both state and private lands.
  • $1.4 million would go toward glacial landslide research, so DNR can understand and limit slides into streams and rivers.
  • $820,000 would be used to ensure that roads built for forest practices purposes are safe and do not add sediment to salmon-bearing streams.
How you can help

You can help protect the Puget Sound ecosystem at home, too.

Be mindful of when you use fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides, and try using non-chemical alternatives, like compost or pest-deterring plants. Make sure your car, truck or SUV doesn’t have any leaks, and recycle used oil whenever possible. Use commercial car washes or wash your car on your lawn or in other areas where the water can be absorbed, so it doesn’t go into storm drains. And if you have a septic tank at your property, make sure to service it regularly so it does not fail and release sewage into the environment. (Find a full collection of water-friendly tips at the state Department of Ecology’s website.)

Categories: Partner Feeds

Blanchard State Forest Purchase Secures Scenic Vistas, School Funding

WA DNR News - November 6, 2018 - 12:34pm

The Blanchard Forest Strategy is one step closer to full completion.

The plan, funded to completion by legislators last year, calls for the conservation of the 1,600-acre central portion of the state forest in Skagit County, with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources acquiring other lands nearby to replace the revenue once generated by timber harvests in the forest’s core.

Today, the state Board of Natural Resources approved DNR’s proposal to purchase nearly 200 acres of working forest next to Blanchard State Forest at its monthly meeting in Olympia.

“Completing this purchase ensures continued financial support for Skagit County students and local forestry jobs, all while protecting the core of Blanchard State Forest for present and future generations to enjoy,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, who leads DNR and chairs the Board of Natural Resources.

A series of trails winds through the Blanchard State Forest in Skagit County. The core of the forest is being conserved as part of a Legislature-funded plan, and replacement working forests have been acquired nearby. (Photo by Ashli Blow, DNR)

Blanchard State Forest is a 4,800-acre forest in Skagit County managed by DNR. It is located on the southern end of the Chuckanut Range, north of the city of Burlington. The forest is state trust land that DNR manages to generate revenue to support Skagit County public services.

The acquisitions — two parcels of forest land offered by the Goodyear Nelson Lumber Co., totaling 193.25 acres and costing $1.22 million — will help replace the timber revenue that Skagit County once received from the popular, scenic portion of the inner forest that is being put into conservation status, while also increasing public access to the area.

DNR’s purchases are part of the Blanchard Forest Strategy, which calls for placing the 1,600-acre core zone that includes Samish Overlook, Oyster Dome and backcountry camping areas at Lily and Lizard lakes into permanent conservation status. That core zone was used to provide revenue to several Skagit County junior taxing districts, which prompted DNR to acquire replacement working forest elsewhere in the county.

Funds for these purchases are part of a recent $2 million legislative appropriation for DNR to continue the Blanchard Forest Strategy. The beneficiaries include Skagit County, Medic One, the Port of Skagit and United General Hospital, as well as the Burlington-Edison School District. The purchase of the other two private parcels in the appropriation, totaling 76 acres, was approved by the Board of Natural Resources in September.

One more land transaction is expected before the Blanchard Forest Strategy will be completed.

Looking to learn more about Blanchard State Forest or the recreation opportunities there? Visit dnr.wa.gov/Blanchard for more information.

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Check our maps to find out your risk on World Tsunami Awareness Day

WA DNR News - November 5, 2018 - 3:29pm

It’s World Tsunami Awareness Day, and you should know that Washington faces one of the highest tsunami risks in the U.S. That’s why we are working hard to learn about tsunami hazards and produce maps and evacuation products to help you stay informed about the hazards for you and your family.

Here’s a not so fun tsunami awareness fact for you: all of Washington’s coastline is at risk for tsunamis; if you feel an earthquake get to high ground as soon as possible. Learn about tsunami hazard areas and evacuation routes ahead of time so if you are near the coast when the next earthquake happens you will already know where to go to get to safety.

As we saw in September in Palu, Indonesia, tsunamis can be devastating events that re-shape the ground, destroy structures and claim thousands of lives. Washington is also vulnerable to this type of event.

Tsunami deposits, submarine landslides, and buried trees remain reminders of the 1700 A.D. Magnitude 9 megathrust earthquake along the Cascadia subduction zone that produced a tsunami that flooded much of Washington’s coast. These clues have been located in numerous places along the Washington, Oregon, California, and Vancouver Island coasts.

Large waves generated by the 9.2 magnitude Alaskan earthquake in 1964 destroyed this bridge in Washington State.

We’re also vulnerable to tsunamis caused by distant earthquakes. A magnitude 9.2 earthquake shook the coast of Alaska southeast of Anchorage in 1964. The quake last almost 4.5 minutes, impacting many in Alaska. The ensuing tsunami traveled more than 1,300 miles to unundate the coast of Washington, Oregon and California, killing 16 people.

Another remarkable tsunami struck inland, when a series of landslides into Lake Roosevelt produced tsunami waves as high 65 feet.

This is why The Washington Geological Survey helps communities across Washington identify how they may be vulnerable to similar tsunami events and how they can craft innovative strategies for preparing for those threats.

We work with scientists and emergency managers to map results from modeled tsunami scenarios to show where waves would likely strike after a Cascadia quake, identify evacuation routes, and help communities with vertical evacuation strategies. Earlier this year, we released new tsunami inundation hazard maps for Port Angeles, Port TownsendBellingham, Anacortes, and the southwest Washington coast.

Earthquakes

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. We’re working every day to identify and map faults, so you can know where your nearest hazards lie.

The Washington Emergency Management Division says the best way to survive any type of disaster is to have a plan, keep informed, and have a mobile survival kit.

Find your best routes

Want to find the best evacuation routes for your community? Our Geologic Information Portal has a tsunami layer that shows tsunami hazard zones, evacuation routes, and designated assembly areas. Use the address locator tool to find evacuation routes and assembly areas near your home, school or workplace.

Using our interactive maps, you can create, save, and print custom maps, find more information about map features, and download map data for use in a geographic information system (GIS). In addition to a variety of geoscience layers that can be turned on and off, each interactive map has many base layers to choose from, so you can customize your map in any number of ways.

 

 

 

 

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11/03/18 Klondike Fire Update (Klondike Fire Wildfire)

Inciweb Articles OR - November 3, 2018 - 7:32am
After a very long fire season, the management of the Klondike Fire is being returned to a local Type 4 management organization Monday morning. Patrols will be ongoing in the Agness area. Repairs and patrols will be ongoing from the Cave Junction. The Evacuation Level 1 (READY) will remain in place for all residences in the area of Oak Flat Road, Old House Creek Road and all residents on the north and south sides of the Agness Road (3300) from the Illinois River Bridge to Coon Rock Bridge. The need for this level will be evaluated frequently and reduced as appropriate. For evacuation updates, check the Curry County Sherriff’s Office Facebook page. This will be the last update on the Klondike Fire from Northwest Incident Management Team 8, Doug Johnson, Incident Commander and for the incident unless there is significant activity. The G-mail, Facebook and Inciweb pages for this incident will be suspended today. Any additional information will be posted to the Rogue River – Siskiyou...

11/02/18 Klondike Fire Update (Klondike Fire Wildfire)

Inciweb Articles OR - November 2, 2018 - 7:13am
The Klondike Fire is being managed from Gold Beach by Northwest Incident Management Team 8 (Team 8), Doug Johnson, Incident Commander, with a camp in Cave Junction. Team 8 is preparing to transition to a local type 4 management organization who will monitor the fire from Agness and Cave Junction. Facebook and Inciweb accounts will be suspended Saturday unless there are any significant changes. An infrared flight over the fire area yesterday detected several heat signatures near containment lines. Firefighters are checking these locations. Restoration of the pastures near the Agness Work Center is underway. Resources will initially focus on fence repairs. Crews and heavy equipment have made significant progress in suppression repair work. Resource advisors are guiding all repairs. Crews will work to clear ditches of Forest Road (FR) 2308 of woody debris and piling the debris for later disposal. An additional local crew will assist with the covering of debris piles created during hazard...

Conservation connects public lands for trail connections and wildlife corridors along I-90

WA DNR News - November 1, 2018 - 11:36am

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently acquired 24 acres of land in the Rattlesnake Mountain Scenic Area. Rattlesnake Mountain provides an important connection between the Cascade Mountains and the Puget Sound lowlands by protecting critical wildlife corridors and recreation in the lower Snoqualmie Valley.

Co-managed by DNR and King County, this Scenic Area is a 1,771-acre Natural Resource Conservation Area that protects wildlife habitat and numerous riparian systems.
The acquisition completes a cluster of protected lands between the Raging River State Forest, Cedar River Watershed, Rattlesnake Mountain Scenic Area, Meadowbrook Farm, and Three Forks Natural Area.

“This makes the Rattlesnake Mountain Scenic Area a true example of partnership in the Snoqualmie Corridor for conservation and recreation opportunities,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, who leads DNR.

“The completion of this conservation will benefit our local communities and economy by providing connecting trails on public lands and wildlife corridors.”

Jon Hoekstra, Executive Director of the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, said this conservation acquisition represents the final piece of a 25-year effort to connect public lands, enable trail connections, and protect wildlife habitat on beautiful Rattlesnake Mountain, a popular recreation destination just outside North Bend.

“These incremental conservation success stories are ones we need to celebrate and diligently pursue in order to stitch together a landscape that will ensure ecological integrity and livability of our region,” said Jon.

Bald Mountain from Cutthroat Lakes

The 24-acre acquisition was funded by a grant from the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund Program through the US Fish and Wildlife Service. It represents a coordinated effort by both DNR and King County, as well as Forterra, Trust for Public Lands, and the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust to conserve the scenic and ecological character of Rattlesnake Mountain.

The Rattlesnake Mountain Scenic Area represents one of the first conservation acquisition efforts within the Mountains to Sound Greenway. In 1993, DNR and King County purchased 1,800 acres on the northern flank of the mountain. Over the last 25 years, the Trust for Public Land has partnered with DNR, King County, and the U.S. Forest Service to purchase 2,150 additional acres of conservation land, working forest, and easements along Rattlesnake Mountain and the Raging River State Forest.

Natural Areas Program

Under the oversight of the Commissioner of Public lands, DNR conserves nearly 159,000 acres of lands and ecological features in designated natural area preserves and natural resources conservation areas, protecting the highest-quality examples of natural Washington and providing opportunities for research, environmental education and low-impact recreation.

In addition, the Commissioner manages 2.5 million acres of trust lands for public benefit to ensure forested watersheds for clean water, wildlife habitat, recreation access, and wildfire protections. Commissioner Franz also oversees the state’s 3 million acres of aquatic lands, as well as industrial activities within forested areas, statewide geologic information and forest health efforts.

Categories: Partner Feeds

11/01/18 Klondike Fire Update (Klondike Fire Wildfire)

Inciweb Articles OR - November 1, 2018 - 6:13am
The Klondike Fire is being managed from Gold Beach by Northwest Incident Management Team 8, Doug Johnson, Incident Commander, with a camp in Cave Junction. Fire resources working on suppression repair relocated to the Curry County Fairgrounds in Gold Beach. Restaurants in the Agness area will continue to feed these resources. Restoration of the pastures near the Work Center used as fire camp will be completed by disking, seeding, and fertilizing. Fences will also be repaired. West Zone – Crews and heavy equipment have made significant progress in suppression repair work. Suppression repair is focusing on primary dozer containment lines by installing waterbars and spreading straw. Firefighters are also on the watch for smokes near containment lines and mopping up any heat. East Zone – Road repair work is ongoing along Forest Road (FR) 4105 and FR 2509. All work along FR 25 and FR 2512 has been successfully completed. The goal of repairing roads is to effectively drain water off...

10/31/18 Klondike Fire Update (Klondike Fire Wildfire)

Inciweb Articles OR - October 31, 2018 - 6:43am
The Klondike Fire is being managed from Gold Beach by Northwest Incident Management Team 8, Doug Johnson, Incident Commander, with camps in Agness and Cave Junction. Agness camp, located at the Forest Service Work Center, will be closing today. Fire resources working to complete suppression repair will be relocated to the Curry County Fairgrounds. Restaurants in the Agness area will continue to be utilized to feed these firefighters. Plans are underway to restore the pastures near the Work Center used as camp during the Klondike Fire including: disking, seeding, and fertilizing. West Zone – Crew and heavy equipment are making significant progress in suppression repair work. Suppression repair includes: removing berms on dozer lines, installing waterbars, and hazard tree abatement. Firefighters are also on the watch for smokes near containment lines and mopping up any heat. East Zone – Road repair work is ongoing along Forest Road (FR) 4105, FR 2509, FR 25, and FR 2512 near Flat...

10/30/18 Klondike Fire Update (Klondike Fire Wildfire)

Inciweb Articles OR - October 30, 2018 - 7:38am
Curry County Sheriff’s Office lowered the evacuation level in the Agness, Oak Flat, and Illahee areas to a Level 1 (Ready). All evacuation areas near the Klondike Fire previously at Level 2 are lowered to Level 1. Klondike Fire, in its entirety, is managed by Northwest Incident Management Team 8, Doug Johnson, Incident Commander, from Gold Beach, Oregon with camps in Agness and Cave Junction. West Zone – Firefighters and equipment were able to safely re-engage yesterday after the heavy precipitation events and proceed with repair work. Suppression repair work will include but not limited to: removing berms on dozer lines, returning drainage elements to functioning stable conditions, and installing waterbars. East Zone – Road repair work is proceeding along the Forest Road (FR) 4105, FR 2509, FR25, and FR 2512 near Flat Top Ridge. The goal of repairing roads is to return drainage elements to functioning stable condition to effectively route water off of the road, minimize...

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