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Outside with Pride: Connecting All to Public Lands

WA DNR News - June 14, 2019 - 1:21pm

As the manager of 1,200 miles of trail on public lands, part of our work at the Washington State Department of Natural Resources includes providing people with recreation opportunities in our forests.

If we don’t reach every community, then we are not succeeding in our mission.

We are dedicated to making recreation opportunities more inclusive. Social media accounts like Unlikely Hikers, Melanin Base Camp, Patie Gonia, Latino Outdoors — to name just a few — post often how they are making the outdoors truly a space for all, and our staff is continually inspired by their work.

We’re proud to celebrate Pride month this June, and we want to talk about the steps we’re taking to better support our LGBTQ community members.

Connecting All Communities to the Outdoors

Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, who leads DNR, believes that creating inclusive spaces starts with access and accountability.

“We are blessed with some of the most beautiful mountains, waterways, and forests in the country,” Franz said. “While it’s my duty to protect 6 million acres of Washington’s public lands, it’s also my job to ensure people — no matter where they live and no matter their background — can enjoy these lands.”

One way we’re making it easier to connect people to the outdoors is through the Trailhead Direct program.

Together, with our partners at King County Metro Transit and King County Parks, we’re promoting this program because it gives people who might not own a car or who want to reduce their impact on our trailheads the opportunity to take a bus from the Seattle area to DNR-managed trails in North Bend.

But that’s just the beginning.

“Not only do we need to be thinking about how to physically connect people to the outdoors, but how do we facilitate a culture that makes everyone comfortable while exploring and playing in nature?” Commissioner Franz said. “I’m committed to ensuring all recreationists, no matter who they love or how they identify, feel welcome and have a safe experience on our trails and at our campgrounds.”

DNR doesn’t only manage recreation sites. Our geologists map landslide risks and monitor volcanic hazards. Our state-managed lands generate millions of dollars for public services like school construction. And we manage the state’s wildfire firefighting force.

Commissioner Franz and DNR are invested in the future of stewardship and the next generation of scientists and foresters to create a stronger and better Washington for our communities, environment, and economy.

Creating Gender Inclusive Bathrooms

Washington State Human Resources has already installed gender-affirming restroom signs outside multi-stall restrooms in their building. Gender-affirming signs are those that recognize that a person’s gender expression and gender identity may align and may fall outside the binary gender options, meaning beyond male or female.

DNR’s human resources team is in early discussions about how we can follow this example and install gender-inclusive bathrooms signs in the Natural Resources Building in Olympia and our region offices throughout the state.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, a person’s gender expression is “the external appearance of one’s gender identity, usually expressed through behavior, clothing, haircut or voice, and which may or may not conform to socially defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with being either masculine or feminine.”

Defined by the HRC, gender identity is “one’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither — how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One’s gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.”

Here are the new signs outside the restrooms.

Image: Washington State Human Resources

DNR bathroom facilities at our trailheads are primarily gender-neutral. If a sign at our trailhead is specific to a gender, you are welcome to use the bathroom that best aligns with your gender identity.


Natural Resources Building Aiming to Become a Safe Place

In the summer of 2016, Governor Inslee signed Directive 16-11 reaffirming the State of Washington as a safe place for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning LGBTQ+ community and directing agencies to become the front door to persons seeking refuge. The Natural Resources Building in Olympia, where hundreds of DNR employees work, is working to become an official Safe Place.

“As public servants and employees of DNR, we instinctively help when someone is in trouble,” said Marika Barto, DNR Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Chief and Ethics Advisor.

“The Safe Place program recognizes that the LGBTQ+ population in our community are subject to a disproportionate amount of hate/bias crimes. We will be equipped with the tools to create a safe and welcoming place and provide a safe harbor for any person who is feeling unsafe and seeking police support.”

Safe Places in Washington are marked by this logo sticker like this:

Image: Seattle Police Department

The logo is meant to convey inclusion and intersectionality with any and all individuals, regardless of their race, political beliefs, nationality, age, gender, sexual orientation and/or identification. While DNR is still in the early process of discussing this program, the Seattle Police Department’s Safe Place program is already in place. You can read more about it here. You can read about Olympia’s safe place here.

We’re open to your thoughts

At DNR, we know there’s more work to be done in providing authentic inclusive spaces. We’re open to all feedback and discussions. You can email us here.

Categories: Partner Feeds

10 outdoor escapes near Seattle

WA DNR News - June 12, 2019 - 11:59am

Seattle is undeniably awesome — a world-class city with a vibrant history, shopping, nightlife, arts and culture, food, and more.

But when you find navigating the urban core a chore, it might be time to put the evergreen back in your state of mind.

Just outside the bustling city, you’ll find myriad outdoor activities on state recreation lands managed by Washington State ParksWashington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR)

These agencies have joined forces to bring you a taste of what you can find just beyond the Seattle city limits. Find your next adventure just 3060, or 90 minutes from the heart of Seattle.

30 Minutes… Lake Washington

Lake Washington is huge — the second largest natural lake in the state and the biggest in King County. This freshwater outdoor recreation mecca is just a short hop by car or bus from both Seattle’s and Bellevue’s metro centers. Fishing, hiking, boating and paddle sports are all within easy reach of Lake Washington’s shore.

What to do

Fishing — It’s open season year-round at Lake Washington where you can catch largemouth and smallmouth bass, yellow perch, cutthroat trout, black crappie, and other panfish species. For more information on public piers and fishing opportunities, download the public piers of Lake Washington guide here.

Hiking —Saint Edward State Park in Kenmore offers a top-notch urban hiking experience. The quiet, forested grounds were once home to a seminary. The park offers the longest stretch of undeveloped shoreline on the lake. Or, trot over to Bridle Trails State Park for a stroll or a horseback ride along the 28 miles of classic Pacific Northwest forest trails.

Boating and paddle sports — Lake Washington’s generally tranquil waters are a hotspot for boating, sailing, kayaking and paddle boarding. Launch your craft from the WDFW ramp in Kenmore, just north of Saint Edward State Park. 

Edmonds Pier and Edmonds Marsh

No boat, no problem. Try out fishing at the Edmonds Pier with generous seasons for salmon fishing, shellfishing (as seasons allow) and some great September squid fishing.

What to do

Fish— King salmon (Chinook) fishing peaks between mid-July and mid-August. But salmon fishing is open year-round here.

Squid jigging — Reel in a different kind of catch this summer and fall. Squid begin arriving in June and July. But starting in September, scores of migrating squid show up to feed by night. Bring your flashlight, and tackle to the pier and try something new!

Birding — One of the few urban saltwater estuaries remaining in the Puget Sound, Edmonds Marsh is a stop on the Great Washington State Birding Trail – Cascades Loop. Stroll the boardwalk, and see how many of the 90 species of birds that frequent this marsh you can spot.

Lake Sammamish State Park and the Sammamish River

Seattleites and visitors to the area are lucky when it comes to great places to play on, in and near beautiful waterways. Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah offers wide-open spaces, tranquil waters, two swimming beaches and a state-of-the art, ADA-compliant playground. In addition, the park hosts youth programs, summer concerts, stewardship projects, boating events and more!

What to do

Paddle — Boating is big on Lake Sammamish. But you don’t need a second mortgage — or your own kayak or paddle board — to enjoy a day on the water! Rentals are available.

Fish — The Sammamish River connects Lake Sammamish with Lake Washington. Both are excellent fishing lakes. If you enjoy angling, try for smallmouth bass on the river when the weather warms and they begin to feed.

Hike — Enjoy a trek along beautiful Issaquah Creek and watch for songbirds.

Swim — If it’s warm, go for a swim at the park’s Sunset or Tibbetts beach.

Saltwater State Park 

A beach within reach! Located on the Puget Sound, Saltwater State Park in Des Moines is a quick ride down Interstate 5 from Seattle. It offers all the fun of a day at the shore without the long drive to the coast.

What to do 

Camp — A night under the stars with just a short drive from the city? Yes, please! The park’s 47 sites do fill up quickly, but you can reserve them up to nine months in advance.

Explore tidepools —McSorley Creek’s fresh water meets the salt water here, and the volume of creatures that call it home are vast and varied. Wade in the shallows and turn over rocks (gently) to make discoveries. In the fall, you may see salmon spawning on the creek!

Dive —Saltwater is the only state park with an underwater artificial reef for diving. It is also a protected marine sanctuary.

Picnic — You’ll find ample picnic tables, shelters, and barbecue pits to cook up a great lunch or dinner.

60 minutes … Tiger Mountain and Raging River state forests

Looking for that wow factor you can only get from high above the city? Look no further than Tiger Mountain. Located in the foothills of the Cascade Mountain Range, the mountain offers spectacular sweeping views of Issaquah and Seattle. This day-use recreation area and working forest boasts more than 13,000 acres of soaring peaks, roaring river lands, and miles of sun-dappled forest trails.

What to do

Hike — You could spend years exploring the many trails at Tiger Mountain. We recommend starting with  Tiger Mountain Trailhead and Tiger Summit Trailhead off Highway 18. Want more? Head over to West Tiger Mountain Natural Resources Conservation Area for another 41 miles of spectacular hiking.

Bike — Like to bike? Bomb down the Raging River State Forest’s 17-mile bike oriented single-track system. The trails range from easy to expert-only riding levels. This recreation area is expanding, so if you have ridden it before, try it again soon!

Soar — Fly like an eagle at Poo Poo Point! Local hang or paragliding aficionados are likely familiar with this popular launch spot. Not that much of a daredevil? Why not take a hike there and watch gliding enthusiasts riding the breeze — and catch some great views. 

Mount Si Natural Resources Conservation Area

Climb on, let’s go! Mount Si NRCA is home to four incredible mountain peaks just waiting for you to summit! A diverse landscape of peaks, streams and lakes, the area is also home to old-growth forest, wildflowers and host of forest creatures including black bear, elk, deer, cougar, coyote and mountain goats.

What to do

Hike — If mountain hiking is your bag, this is your destination. Get to the top of popular Mount SiMount Tenriffe and Green Mountain, then put a pin in Little Si. Once you complete all of these, go ahead and yodel — you definitely earned it.

Climb — Not every crag has a mountain and not every mountain has a crag, but these do, and they are amazing. The Mount Si NRCA has multiple locations to challenge you with world-class rock climbing. Watch out for goats! 

Middle Fork Snoqualmie Natural Resource Conservation Area

The Middle Fork Snoqualmie NRCA is positive evidence that an Ice Age is not a bad thing. Soaring peaks and glacier-carved basins make these DNR-managed lands near North Bend a diverse outdoor playground. You’ll find legendary hiking and mountain-climbing opportunities here but also some perfect destinations for a weekend family picnic.

What to do

Hike — Middle Fork NRCA is home to one of Washington’s top hiking destinations: Mailbox Peak. Those who make it through the jagged, steeply-rising switchbacks to the summit have the opportunity to leave behind a letter to the universe in — you guessed it — the mailbox at the top. But Mailbox is not the only gem. Hike up to Granite Peak to take in views of Russian Butte, or along Granite Creek Trail to Granite Lake to view some glacially carved awesomeness.

Picnic — Not all hikes need to go to the top of something to be wonderful. Plan a weekend trip with the kids to Champion Beach. Once the snow is gone, hikers of most ages should be able to manage this gentle, 1-mile hike. Bonus: kids (and kids at heart) can explore the banks of the Snoqualmie River after lunch.

Dash Point State Park

Looking to put your toes in the sand? Craving a classic day at a sandy oasis near home?  Dash Point State Park is your destination!  It won’t seem like it, but you’ll be right near the heart of Federal Way — just a short drive to the store if you forget the marshmallows!

What to do

Camp — Dash Point is a larger park than Saltwater, with many more campsites for both tents and RVs. Don’t have either? Try a cabin! Small, cozy cabins — each with its own fire ring to gather around — are available to rent as well.

Skim board — Long, wide stretches of fine sand make Dash Point a skim boarder’s paradise. A cross between surfing and skateboarding, skim boarding carries risks but can be an invigorating pastime with practice. Get used to falling — it’s definitely part of the learning process.

Fish — You can score from the shore at Dash Point! Bring your tackle, and catch your lunch or dinner.

Fly a kite —Round up your favorite kite-flying partner, and enjoy a breezy afternoon at the beach.

Hike and/or bike — Stroll or roll. Dash Point is as nice a park for a cool, forested afternoon hike or ride as a warm day at the beach.

90 minutes… Blake Island Marine State Park

Thanks to geological forces, Western Washington is rich in islands, large and small. Blake Island Marine State Park is a favorite spot for kayakers, boaters and tourists. From the island you get a commanding view of Seattle, but you feel like you’re a million miles away…

What to do

Tillicum Village — Argosy Cruises offers unique excursions from Pier 54 in Seattle that take you on a tour of Northwest native history, culture and traditions. Tours include a live storytelling show and traditional salmon feast. Tillicum Village is not a part of Blake Island State Park, but Argosy also offers shuttle service to the island for campers as well as beach exploration programs and kayak excursions.

Kayak — As a stop on the Cascadia Marine Trail, Blake Island is a favorite among human-powered boat enthusiasts. Once ashore, you can hike in and camp at one of the three marine trail campsites, or choose from one of the 44 standard campsites. Get there in time for sunset — you won’t be sorry.

Boating — Blake Island is meant for mooring, with 1,500 feet of moorage dock, 24 mooring bouys and a pumpout station. Electrical service is available at the park’s dock. Moor, then head into the interior to explore the island’s network of trails!

Reiter Foothills State Forest 

A dramatic landscape of mountain peaks, lush forest, rivers and cascading waterfalls awaits you at Reiter Foothills State Forest. Motorized and non–motorized recreationists can find something to love in Reiter Foothills.

What to do

Go moto! — Reiter Foothills has miles of fun, challenging 4×4 trails and ATV single-track trails with more planned for the future. Bring your favorite rig, and stir up a little dust!

 Go non-moto! — Miles of hiking and biking trails snake through Reiter Foothills.

Before you go, you should know:

The Discover Pass is your ticket to state recreation lands managed by State Parks, WDFW and DNR. An annual pass is $30, and a one-day pass is $10. (Transaction fees apply in some cases.)

Fishing: Pick up your fishing license and download a copy of the 2019 fishing pamphlet. (TIP: Check with the Department of Health before consuming certain kinds of fish.)

Water access sites: Where are the boat ramps? WDFW offers a comprehensive list.

Boating safety and education: Do you have a Boater Education Card? Do you know if you need one? Washington State Parks’ Boating Program has more information.

Trail etiquette: Do you know who has right-of-way on a trail?

Getting there. Don’t have a car? Try taking the bus: King County Metro Transit, Community Transit (Snohomish County). King County Metro also offers its Trailhead Direct service from late April through late October. Also, ZipCar offers a Discover Pass to its members!

Make a reservation: Book your state park overnight stay online, or call (888) CAMPOUT or (888) 226-7688.

Looking for more inspiration?

Our agency websites offer a wealth of information you can use to plan your next dream outdoor vacation. Visit us today!

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Washington State Department of Natural Resources

Washington State Parks

 

Categories: Partner Feeds

What to do if you encounter smoke or fire on the trail

WA DNR News - June 11, 2019 - 8:52am

Wildfire knows no boundaries. Not state, federal or private. Not wilderness or trail. As hotter, drier weather conditions return for summer in Washington, wildfire is an unfortunate inevitability.  

Wildfire touches more parts of our lives than ever before and preparedness extends beyond clearing brush around your home. What happens when wildfire reaches our favorite recreation areas? Do you know what do you do if you encounter smoke or fire while out on the trail?

Before you head out for summer adventures, use this guide to ensure your trip is fun and safe.

Before your trip

Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has several resources you can use during wildfire season to stay up-to-date on what is happening on the landscape. 

Before you load your pack and head out check fire conditions and DNR Wildfire Twitter alerts for emergency information in the area you plan to visit. There are a few key things you want to know before you go:

  • Are there fire closures in the area or nearby where you plan to visit? Always obey these closures for your safety and the safety of our fire crews.
  • What are the weather advisories? Look out for red flag warnings — low humidity, windy, and hot conditions — that indicate severe fire danger.
  • Are there campfire bans or restrictions? These can apply to specific locations, elevations, counties, and regions. If there aren’t campfire restrictions, brush up on how to properly extinguish your campfire. On DNR-managed land, campfires are only permitted in approved campground fire rings.
Packing for your trip

If you determine the place you are planning to visit is safe, pack your bags with wildfire preparedness in mind. Hot, dry summers mean wildfires can spark at any time across the state. While you already know you should never hit the trail without the 10 Essentials, your maps and water are more critical than ever.

Make sure you have physical maps that display the terrain of the area you are visiting so you can easily navigate the landscape should fire and smoke divert you from the trail. Your phone isn’t always a reliable resource in the backcountry.

Pack a little more water than usual. Wildfire conditions are likely to leave you thirsty, especially if an emergency arises and you are away from water sources longer than anticipated.

If you own colorful gear, now is the time to pack it. In case of emergency, colorful gear will be easier for fire crews to spot you from the ground or the air.

If you see a smoke column on the trail

If you are out on the trail and see a smoke column or dense smoke in the distance, don’t ignore it. You need to act.

If you don’t have cell reception, assess the situation. Are you in the forest? On a ridge? In a saddle between peaks? In a chute? Is it windy? These are dangerous scenarios as fire can move quickly across these types of terrain. Don’t panic, but get moving. Observe which direction the smoke is flowing and head in the opposite direction. Keep an eye on the conditions. Shifting winds can change the fire’s direction of travel in a snap.

If the smoke and fire are not blocking your exit, the safest thing you can do is turn around, head back to your car, and drive to safety. Call 911 or DNR wildfire dispatchers at 800-562-6010 as soon as you regain cell reception.

If you see fire on the trail

Situational awareness is paramount.

While you are on the trail, make mental notes of any bodies of water, large swaths of clean, exposed rock, and open areas with little vegetation that you pass. Though it is unlikely that you will find yourself caught in extreme fire danger if you followed the above tips before you set out, wildfire is unpredictable. These areas can offer potential refuge in extremely dire situations.

If you get caught in an area where you can see the actual fire, try to run in the opposite direction. If that is not possible, find the best refuge you can. You are looking for rock fields with minimal brush, green meadows with minimal brush, and bodies of water with objects you can behind to protect yourself from radiant heat. If you are on a ridge and see fire below you, find refuge on the opposite side of the ridge. Fire typically travels upslope.

Other things to keep in mind

Breathing in smoke is unhealthy. Even if there isn’t an active fire burning near the area you would like to visit, wildfire smoke often blankets the state throughout the summer. Breathing in wildfire smoke can cause you to have itchy eyes, a sore throat, runny nose and shortness of breath, and chest pains in more extreme circumstances. Sensitive groups like children, older people, and people with asthma are especially susceptible.

You can lessen your chances of suffering from the adverse effects of wildfire smoke by checking local air quality reports before you head outdoors. It is best to avoid exerting yourself, i.e. doing activities that cause you to breathe deeper and harder, in areas with poor air quality.

Fire safety and awareness tools

Fire danger by county

DNR Wildfire Twitter updates

Incident Information System (InciWeb)

Information on wildfires

How to prepare for a wildfire

Living with fire

Categories: Partner Feeds

Final Update 243 Command Fire (243 Command Wildfire)

InciWeb Articles WA - June 7, 2019 - 7:53pm
Incident Summary: The 243 Command Fire started on Monday night, June 3, near Highway 243 and Wanapum Dam. The winds pushed the fire easterly through the Lower Crab Creek Canyon. The fire crews were able to contain it between the canyon’s northern and southern ridges. It is presently 85% contained with 20,380 acres burned. The cause is still under investigation.The fire has been handled by the Southeast Washington Interagency Type 3 Team 3, Tony Gilmer is the Incident Commander.Fire’s Summary: Early the fire was pushed by strong winds from the west. As it was running to the east, air was pushed up and out to its sides. On the south side of the canyon, the fire tried to cross the road and run up the ridge. Crews made sure that fire did not cross that road. The north side of the canyon is sheer vertical with draws. Crews fought to keep the fire from running up these draws. Over the first few days the fire moved east, running and spotting ahead of the flame front. By Wednesday...

Explore your public lands with Geocaching

WA DNR News - June 6, 2019 - 2:18pm

With 1,200 miles of trails and 80 campgrounds, it’s no surprise that Department of Natural Resources-managed lands offer some of the most diverse ways to experience the outdoors.

You can cross-country ski in the shadow of Mount Rainier, enjoy one of over 25 beachfront campsites in the San Juan Islands, test out your skills on one of our expert-only downhill-only mountain bike trails or rock climb at some of the state’s most brag-worthy destinations. If you look closely, you might even find one of 3 million hidden containers, called Geocaches.

“My agency is committed to creating more opportunities for people to get out and explore our public land,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. “That’s really what geocaching is all about – discovering more outdoors.”

This summer, we’re in on the game. We’re hiding five geocaches at some of our most popular trails and campgrounds. Check Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz’s social media pages over the next few months for hints.

How Geocaching Works

To find geocaches hidden along DNR trails visit Geocaching.com or use the Geocaching app and find coordinates in an area near you. Using the app or a GPS-enabled devise, navigate to the geocache’s coordinates.

Image credit: Groundspeak Inc. (dba Geocaching HQ)

Once you find a geocache, you can log your experiences online to earn points. Some geocaches can contain small items to reward navigators – make sure to replace the items with something of similar or of higher incentive for future geocachers.

Before you leave on your next geocaching adventure, don’t forget to download our mobile-ready trail maps, which will help you navigate in real-time while you’re out exploring. View and download our mobile maps at dnr.wa.gov/MobileMaps. (It’s a great idea to bring along a printed version, too!).

Leave No Trace

Anytime you’re on the trail, it’s important to be a good steward of the land. Here are some tips to cache in and trash out.

  • Stay on trail, don’t create your own
  • Pack out all of your waste
  • Respect wildlife
  • Share the trail with others
  • Don’t damage trees & plants
  • Do your part to protect our public lands

If you’re inspired to do more, look into volunteering and taking action. Geocache’s Cache In Trash Out program is an environmental initiative supported by the geocaching community.

Image credit: Groundspeak Inc. (dba Geocaching HQ)

Since 2002, CITO has helped preserve the natural beauty of cache-friendly spaces. In that time, more than 363,000 people have volunteered at 18,000 CITO events.

DNR also hosts dozens of work parties throughout the year for trail maintenance. Learn more here.

About DNR

In addition to providing opportunities for geocaching and other recreation, DNR also generates revenue for public services statewide, keep forests development-free, support clean air and water and uphold some of the highest environmental standards available.

To start exploring DNR trails, visit dnr.wa.gov/go. To learn more about geocaching, visit geocaching.com.

 

Categories: Partner Feeds

Is my Tree Dying? How Climate Change and Drought are Changing the Landscape

WA DNR News - June 6, 2019 - 12:46pm

The problem first gained attention in bigleaf maple trees, which have been dying off since 2011 in some parts of Washington and Oregon.

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the University of Washington, the U.S. Forest Service, the Oregon Department of Forestry, and Oregon State University tried to find out why. They investigated a wide variety of insect-related diseases and disease-causing fungi to determine if any of those could be the cause of the sick and dying bigleaf maples.

Despite many attempts to uncover the cause and treat the trees in Western Washington, by the end of 2018 there were no signs of recovery. The most recent decline symptoms include partial or entire crown dieback, discoloration and reduced size of the leaves, crown thinning, and death.

A University of Washington study suggests that increased human development, higher summer temperatures, and severe summer droughts are linked to the declining health of bigleaf maples.

Now scientists fear that other Pacific Northwest tree species are suffering a similar fate. Across Washington, people are reporting diebacks not only in big-leaf maples, but Douglas-fir, western red cedar pines, and western hemlock, Washington’s official tree.

Damage and mortality in Douglas-fir and western red cedar was immediately noticeable during the drought in 2015. Symptoms included entirely red crowns, red tops and scattered red branches, with symptoms becoming more severe during record-breaking heat in spring 2016. It was more difficult to notice in western hemlock, because many dying hemlocks dropped foliage without color change.

DNR has received a number of calls from people who have seen tree dieback on their property. Read on for more information about why it’s happening and how to help your trees.

Droughts and tree health

Branch flagging in Douglas-fir in Thurston County caused by drought stress.

Droughts occur when average temperatures increase and average precipitation decreases. As explained by the Oregon Department of Forestry, drought conditions can “create water stress inside the tree and can reduce growth or cause mortality.”

In Washington, drought conditions have reached moderate to severe levels since 2012, leaving many of Washington’s native trees struggling to survive because they can’t get enough water. And drought conditions are expected to get worse with climate change.

It is important to care for trees that are exposed to drought conditions, as they become more vulnerable to pathogens, insects, and diseases. The Oregon Department of Forestry suggests the following 10 tips to mitigate drought stress on trees:

  1. Select native and local drought-tolerant species that are appropriate for your site and soil conditions.
  2. Thin stands during normal years, not within a drought if possible, as thinning can cause a short-term increase in water stress. Remove damaged, stressed or overly mature trees.
  3. Control vegetation (especially grasses) that compete for soil moisture.
  4. Remove or destroy freshly dead or dying trees and slash or blowdown created in the previous year to prevent insect infestations and outbreaks.
  5. Avoid damaging and compacting soil around tree root zones from vehicles, grazing animals, etc. – especially during the wet season.
  6. Irrigate landscape trees during dry weather. Apply water slowly over many hours so it penetrates to tree roots, or use drip irrigation.
  7. Apply mulch to landscape trees to retain soil moisture.
  8. Do not alter drainage patterns near established trees.
  9. Do not fertilize during droughts. Fertilizer stimulates foliage production and can increase water requirements.
  10. It may be less effective to use systemic pesticides, which are absorbed into a plant’s tissues, on drought-stressed trees because these pesticides rely on water translocation within the tree.

Research on bigleaf maple decline

Many bigleaf maple trees in Washington have exhibited symptoms of decline, including partial to entire crown dieback, discoloration and reduced leaf size, loss of leaves and death.

In 2011, more and more bigleaf maples in Western Washington seemed to be sick or dying. Some of the most prominent symptoms were yellow flagging of large branches, small leaf size, and partial or entire crown dieback. Sixty-one sites were sampled to determine if Verticillium wilt was the causing factor.

In 2014 and 2015, DNR, the U.S. Forest Service, Oregon State University, and the Oregon Department of Forestry conducted a survey to determine if microscopic root diseases were the cause of the bigleaf maple’s dieback. By mid-2016, many causes had been investigated such as armillaria root disease, verticillium wilt, fungal pathogens neonectria and nectria, and other small pathogens. All of these causes were ruled out.

By the end of 2018, there was no improvement in the condition of the bigleaf maples in Western Washington, but increased drought conditions correlated with the declining health of the trees.

Climate change, drought, and the forest

Seven out of the past 10 years have been warmer than average in Washington state, supporting projections by the Climate Impact Group at the University of Washington.

The group’s report found that “the Pacific Northwest is projected to warm rapidly during the 21st century, relative to 20th century average climate, as a result of greenhouse gases emitted from human activities.”

Regarding precipitation patterns, Washington has seen a mix of wetter, normal, and drier years over the past 10 years. This mixed precipitation pattern is also supported by the Climate Impact Group’s report, which suggests that seasonal precipitation changes will be mixed but “most models project drier summers.” Precipitation patterns are expected “to be primarily driven by year-to-year variations rather than long-term trends, but heavy rainfall events are projected to become more severe.”

Unfortunately, heavy rain events caused by climate change are not going to offset the effects of drought conditions on trees. As explained by DNR scientist Glenn Kohler: “Increases in rainfall are coming in spring and fall, not during the hot, dry summer months when trees are experiencing the most moisture stress during these severe droughts.”

Washington’s iconic native trees aren’t the only things that climate change is threatening. If emissions continue to increase, temperatures will continue to rise, which will have a negative impact on Washington’s economy, agriculture, habitats, and water resources.

In 2018, the Climate Impact Group updated its report on how climate change will affect the state, and the far-reaching consequences of inaction.

Learn more about what DNR is doing to combat climate change in this video:

Categories: Partner Feeds

Celebrate National Trails Day on the new Oxbow Loop

WA DNR News - May 31, 2019 - 8:54am

We’re celebrating National Trails Day with even more opportunities to get out and discover recreation opportunities with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Venture out to the Mount Si Natural Resources Conservation Area on June 1st for the opening of the brand new Oxbow Loop Trail. The 1.9-mile length loop trail project includes a parking lot and offers increased recreation access east of North Bend, just 40 minutes from Seattle.

The majority of the project funding came from the Natural Areas capital budget and is part of an ongoing project to enhance day-use access at sites along the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River.

Discover Oxbow Loop Trail

Oxbow Loop Trail is a relatively flat 1.9-mile hike that provides a much-needed lower intensity hiking addition to the very popular and often overcrowded recreation areas within the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Valley.

The trail begins by winding through older forest stands, providing intermittent views of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River, Oxbow Lake, and the surrounding mountain peaks of the Middle Fork Valley.  The trail predominantly uses renovated segments of a former forest road before transitioning across an 80’ length trail bridge and onto a narrower trail located on a slope break above the lake on the south end.

To download or print a trail map, click here.

The public planning process

The new day-use site is a result of the local input and community support that went into that planning effort. DNR designed, permitted, and managed the development of the new trail and trailhead through a collaborative project between its Natural Areas and Recreation programs.

The agency also partnered with Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust (MTSG), who performed the heavy lifting on the development of trailhead parking, restroom installation, and trail development. A local DNR trail crew, with support from a Washington Conservation Corps crew, assembled an 80’ length trail bridge, assisted with trail surfacing, and installed signage and kiosks. RTI Fabrication provided the trail bridge materials, while Columbia Helicopters provided aerial bridge transport and placement.

DNR released the Snoqualmie Corridor Recreation Plan, a guide including high-priority plans to identify, evaluate, design, and develop river access and day use trail opportunities at four locations along the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River, in March 2015.  DNR continues to work with partners to further enhance the site by exploring opportunities to provide interpretive and environmental education.

Visitors will continue to see improvements identified in the plan on the ground for the next decade.

Getting there
Traveling on Interstate 90, take Exit 34 and follow 468th Ave SE to the north, turn right onto SE Middle Fork Road and follow for several miles as it transitions to NF Road 5600 and until you reach the Oxbow Loop Trailhead. Directions

To download or print a trail map, click here.

A Discover Pass is required to park at the trailhead, get yours here.

Categories: Partner Feeds

Summer’s here! Have fun, be safe.

WA DNR News - May 24, 2019 - 9:10am

Washington has some of the best landscapes and outdoor activities in the world, and this weekend is an incredibly popular time to go out and enjoy them. But enjoying our great outdoors consciously is everyone’s responsibility.

A few simple considerations can ensure your weekend is fun and safe.

Memorial Day weekend represents the spiritual beginning of the summer for many of us and Washington state has no shortage of amazing outdoor opportunities. From off-roading in Sadie Creek, to mountain biking in BBQ Flats, to camping at Dragon Creek, Washington’s outdoors are a great place to spend the long weekend.

However, some outdoor activities can pose a risk to our public lands. Higher temperatures and drought conditions have increased the fire risk in Washington and nearly half the state is in a drought emergency. This year, DNR has already responded to more than 300 wildfire calls and about half of these fires have occurred in Western Washington. Most fires are human-caused and can be prevented by following these tips:

  • Don’t park on dry grassy areas. Residual heat from exhaust systems can ignite the dry grass.
  • Be sure recreation vehicles have operating spark arrestors or a catalytic converter.
  • Put out your campfire completely. Remember, if it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave.
  • Be aware of burn restrictions. Only build campfires when and where authorized.
  • Don’t discharge fireworks, incendiary ammunition, or exploding targets. These activities are illegal on public lands, and you WILL be responsible for the cost of fighting the fire.
  • Dispose of your cigarettes responsibly. Partially lit cigarettes can spark fires.

When we all do our part, we can prevent unfortunate fire related incidents and preserve our public lands. For more fire safety tips, visit dnr.wa.gov/WildfirePrevention.

Staying in for the Weekend? Take Some Time and Prepare Your Home

Now is a good time to prepare for wildfire. Help reduce hazards around your home and property by clearing excess debris and eliminating dense or overgrown vegetation around your home. For more tips on how to prevent wildfire damage to your home, go to http://www.firewise.org.

Categories: Partner Feeds

Heppner Ranger District implements prescribed burn (2019 Umatilla NF Prescribed Fire Prescribed Fire)

Inciweb Articles OR - May 13, 2019 - 8:10am
In partnership with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Blue Mountain Elk Initiative and Oregon Department of Forestry, fire management officials on the Heppner Ranger District are implementing a large-scale prescribed natural fuel burn today. The Lovlett prescribed burn is anticipated to take 4-5 days to complete and includes 500 acres of grass, brush, timber litter and timber understory south of Sunflower Flat near Lovlett Creek. The objective of the burn is to improve foraging habitat for big game, reduce long-term wildfire risk through reductions in existing fuel loading, and to restore the ecological functions of a fire adapted ecosystem to the area. Additional information about this prescribed burn is available by visiting the Umatilla National Forest’s prescribed fire interactive map. This map displays burning activities and is available at https://tinyurl.com/y8b433th. The interactive map allows the user to zoom in on certain areas and click on a burn unit for more...

Umatilla National Forest prepares for prescribed burning (2019 Umatilla NF Prescribed Fire Prescribed Fire)

Inciweb Articles OR - May 10, 2019 - 12:03pm
PENDLETON, Ore. – With the recent warmer and drier weather, fire management officials on the Umatilla National Forest are preparing to implement early season prescribed burning activities as soon as Monday, May 13, across portions of the Forest. “Frequent, low-intensity fire is essential for healthy forests and reducing the risk of uncharacteristic wildfire caused by excessive fuel buildup,” said Andrew Stinchfield, Deputy Fire Staff Officer. Prescribed burning is an effective tool for removing excessive amounts of brush, shrubs, and trees, while also encouraging the growth of native vegetation. In addition to reducing wildfire risk, prescribed fire also improves overall forest health and resilience to insects and diseases, and enhances habitat for elk, deer, and other wildlife. Prescribed burning is also highly dependent on weather conditions, which have to be within a narrow criteria window in order to use prescribed fire. Factors such as wind speed and direction,...

Malheur National Forest Prescribed Fire Operations Update (2019 Malheur NF Prescribed Fire Prescribed Fire)

Inciweb Articles OR - May 8, 2019 - 11:26am
After carefully monitoring conditions across the Forest, fire officials have determined that conditions are within specific parameters, including temperature, relative humidity, and fuel moisture to start prescribed fire operations in specifically planned units. Starting at 11 am today Prairie City Ranger District will begin ignitions on Elk 16 Hb, full ignition for the 330 acre unit is scheduled for Friday May 10. Smoke may be visible from Forest Roads 16 and 1420 for several days. Signs will be posted along Forest Road 1420 for public safety. Please use caution while traveling in the area. Emigrant Creek Ranger District fire crews are continuing operations on the Marshall Devine units totaling 2700 acres, Micro unit #5 with 18 acres and Trout unit #9 with 27 acres, this weekend. Moving to Driveway that consists of 4 units, #’s 14, 17, 28, and 26 totaling 99 acres within the coming week and George unit #103 totaling 2000 acres after. Activity will continue depending on...

Fire Staff Schedule Prescribed Fire Operations for this Weekend (2019 Malheur NF Prescribed Fire Prescribed Fire)

Inciweb Articles OR - May 2, 2019 - 9:51am
John Day, Prairie City and Hines, Ore. – After carefully monitoring conditions across the Forest, fire officials have determined that conditions are within specific parameters, including temperature, relative humidity, and fuel moisture to start prescribed fire operations in specifically planned units. Emigrant Creek Ranger District fire crews are planning to begin operations on the Marshall Devine units totaling 2700 acres, Micro unit #5 with 18 acres and Trout unit #9 with 27 acres, this weekend. Moving to Driveway that consists of 4 units, #’s 14, 17, 28, and 26 totaling 99 acres within the coming week and George unit #103 totaling 2000 acres after. Activity will continue through the weekend and into coming weeks depending on weather, conditions, and if objectives are being met. Prairie City and Blue Mountain Ranger Districts are continuing to monitor conditions to begin spring prescribed fire activity. For the safety of firefighters and the public, roads and areas of...

Capitol Forest Didn’t Always Look So Green

WA DNR News - April 29, 2019 - 12:35pm

The occasional dead tree stands alone, the snag casting sparse shadows against an otherwise-denuded landscape. Vast stretches of former forest sit so devoid of trees that they can no longer reseed themselves. Fallen timber and debris choke off stream drainages as the Black Hills stand left behind after being logged and abandoned.

Freshly digitized aerial photos show those conditions across Capitol State Forest southwest of Olympia when the Washington State Department of Natural Resources became an agency in 1957.

Modern-day aerial photos show a completely different Capitol Forest.

Where once a barren patch encompassed Capitol Peak and much of its surrounding areas, now the entire landscape is a healthy, productive working forest. The 110,000-acre forest is now managed to provide sustainable revenue to support schools, state universities, and local services throughout Thurston and Grays Harbor counties.

Capitol Forest provides so much more than revenue, too – wildlife habitat, carbon storage, and cleaner air, for starters, not to mention the seemingly infinite amount of recreation opportunities. From hiking and mountain biking to riding horses or motorcycles, or even just setting up camp for the night, there are many different ways to explore and enjoy being in the forest.

Story continues below.

Starting in the 1930s, the state came to manage the lands that comprise Capitol Forest after a pair of logging companies – Mud Bay Logging Co. on one side and Mason County Logging Co. on the other – clear-cut the timber and met in the middle before selling the land off for practically nothing or dodging property taxes and letting them enter foreclosure. The area was essentially void of trees, and was so fire-prone that the “Black Hills” moniker stuck because of its oft-charred landscape.

The Washington Division of Forestry, one of the predecessor agencies to DNR, began work at the Capitol Forest Nursery in 1934, growing seedlings with which workers could regenerate the forest from the ground up. By the 1970s, at least 11.1 million seedlings were replanted in the area, turning about 10,000 acres of land back into forest. A further 13,000 acres of the forest naturally reseeded itself.

Story continues below.

Nursery operations moved out of the Capitol Forest to the Webster Forest Nursery south of Tumwater in 1957. Since then, the Webster Nursery has grown nearly 900 million seedlings to be planted around the state, the majority of which have been used to replant state forests across Washington after timber harvests. The 14 different species of trees grown at the nursery are sold based on which zone the seeds were collected to make sure the seedlings are best equipped to thrive in the area in which they are planted.

In 1975, DNR chronicled the recovery work to that point in a 75-page book titled “Capitol Forest … the Forest that Came Back” – even then, there were still more than 6,000 acres of the then-70,000-acre forest that still needed to be replanted.

Today, Capitol Forest has grown to 110,000 acres, providing more than 150 miles of recreation trails while also providing $15 million or more each year in timber revenue to sustainably support schools and county services.

Categories: Partner Feeds

Fire Staff and Crews Prepare for 2019 Prescribed Fire Operations (2019 Malheur NF Prescribed Fire Prescribed Fire)

Inciweb Articles OR - April 18, 2019 - 11:02am
Fire Staff and Crews Prepare for 2019 Spring Prescribed Fire Operations John Day, Prairie City and Hines, Ore. - Malheur National Forest fire officials are monitoring conditions on the Forest and preparing to implement the fall prescribed fire program. Prescribed fires, also known as controlled burns, refer to the planned and controlled use of fire by a team of highly skilled fire managers under specific conditions. During the spring and early summer months, the Forest has a number of planning units, ranging in size from 150 acres up to 4000 acres, scheduled for prescribed fire operations. Prescribed fires are conducted within specific parameters including temperature, relative humidity, fuel moisture, and wind speed. Implementation is dependent upon these and other necessary conditions. Should conditions allow, crews may start operations on some smaller units as early as Thursday, April 25, 2019. Spring burning will build upon efforts in the fall of 2018 when the Forest...

Preserving Washington’s biggest and best tidal surge plain

WA DNR News - April 8, 2019 - 11:14am

Tucked between Montesano and Cosmopolis near the mouth of the Chehalis River rests Washington’s largest and highest-quality coastal surge plain wetland.

The Chehalis River Surge Plain Natural Area Preserve is a 4,493-acre site that protects rare plant communities and species that thrive in the estuary environment where fresh and salt water systems meet. It is one of the 94 Natural Areas conserved by the Washington Department of Natural Resources for their high-quality native ecosystems and rare species or communities of species. Visitors to this minimally impacted, rural surge plain can learn about wetland function, use of the area by a variety of species, and the cultural significance of the site.

DNR wants to continue to enhance these opportunities for visitors. That’s why the agency has submitted a $1.5 million Environmental Resilience budget request for the 2019-2021 Biennium to the State Legislature.

A portion of that request for management of DNR Natural Areas will cover invasive weed control and facilities maintenance at the Chehalis River Surge Plain. DNR is also requesting a $55,000 investment from the state capital budget for future trail improvements and bridge and sign installation in the area.

“The Chehalis River Surge Plain gives families and children an incredible opportunity to get outside and enjoy our state’s Natural Areas together,” Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said. “In a time when we are so often looking at screens, it’s critical for our kids to have opportunities to learn, explore, and play in nature.”

People of all ages and abilities can experience the Chehalis River Surge Plain from the trail and boardwalk that follows an old railroad bed alongside portions Preachers Slough and Blue Slough, two significant side channels along the Chehalis River. They can also launch hand-carry watercraft at one of the small parking areas on the main stem of the Chehalis River and at the smaller Blue Slough parking area.

DNR has poured significant effort into the Chehalis River Surge Plain to make it a fun, safe, and engaging place for visitors, as envisioned during the community planning process that shaped the development of access features. The agency has recently completed several projects to increase accessibility, including the installation of new ADA handrails on Preachers Trailhead Bridge, new signage, new bollards at the Preachers Slough boat launch, and re-grading of Preachers Slough Road with new vehicle pullouts.

“The Chehalis River Surge Plain has come a long way in terms of providing a place for the public to come to enjoy the outdoors and learn about the ecological and historical features of the preserve,” Renee Mitchell, DNR Natural Areas Manager, said. “Although the site has been available for public access for 30 years, it was in definite need of some significant site improvements. In all of its transformation, however, the greatest success I feel is seeing people bring their kids out there.”

This summer, visitors can expect to see fresh gravel on the ADA Shoreline Access Trail and new fiberglass bridges this summer. The agency is also working on new interpretive signs for the three-and-a-half mile interpretive hiking loop.

DNR designated the Chehalis River Surge Plain as a Natural Area Preserve in 1989 to protect rare and high-quality native ecosystems and native species. The area is home to a remarkable variety of wildlife, including the rare Olympia mudminnow, pileated woodpeckers, bald eagles, reticulate sculpins, wood ducks, osprey, and mink. Now is an especially great time of year to visit the surge plains because several species are more visible during the spring mating season.

Throughout the year, families visit the area to walk along the interpretive trail, paddlers launch canoes and kayaks from the Blue Slough Access and Preachers Slough Road, and birders watch for wildlife.

About DNR’s Natural Areas Program
Under the oversight of Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, DNR conserves nearly 164,000 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

New maps help you walk away from tsunami

WA DNR News - April 5, 2019 - 11:18am

Knowing where to walk and how long it might take to get there can be one of the most important pieces of information for anyone in Washington’s coastal communities when a tsunami strikes.

People that live work and play near the coast in Washington State are at risk for tsunamis. Our main causes of tsunamis in Washington are from earthquakes and landslides. If you feel an earthquake, that’s your warning and you should evacuate and get to high ground immediately.

That’s why the geologists at the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have just published evacuation walk time maps for Port Angeles, Bellingham, Anacortes, Aberdeen, Hoquiam and Cosmopolis.

 

These maps, produced by the Washington Geological Survey within DNR, show the time it would take to evacuate on foot from the tsunami inundations zones of a Cascadia subduction zone earthquake. The walking pace is modeled at a slow walk pace, using the timing of crosswalks, adjusted for different terrain.

Using models of a Cascadia earthquake, the maps use colors to indicate how many minutes it would take to walk to safety at a moderate pace within these communities. Waves from a Cascadia earthquake-induced tsunami could reach Aberdeen in as soon as 15 to 20 minutes.

319 years since Cascadia last quaked

The geologic record shows the Cascadia subduction zone – the offshore area where the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate pushes under the larger North American plate – produces megathrust quakes every 300 to 600 years.

These maps are modeled on a magnitude 9 Cascadia earthquake. The geologic record shows earthquakes of this size occur approximately every 2,500 years, with the last striking in 1700.

Models, maps available online

The new pedestrian maps and maps for other communities are available through the interactive map on our web site: https://www.dnr.wa.gov/programs-and-services/geology/geologic-hazards/tsunamis/evacuation

The interactive map also provides access to tsunami evacuation brochures for areas that do not have walk time maps yet.

Other information about impacts from earthquakes to Washington communities is available on our Geologic Information Portal at: https://geologyportal.dnr.wa.gov

Geologists to discuss tsunami hazards at coastal Road Show next week

Washington Geological Survey geologists will present evacuation information and more with tsunami and earthquake experts from the Washington Emergency Management Division, the National Weather Service, Washington Sea Grant and local officials at next week’s Tsunami Road Show.

These experts will give 90-minute public presentations and answer questions at:

  • 10 a.m., Tuesday, April 9 at

Pacific County PUD Auditorium,

405 Duryea Street, in Raymond, WA

  • 7 p.m., Tuesday, April 9 at

Chautauqua Lodge,

304 14th St NW, in Long Beach, WA

  • Noon, Wednesday, April 10 at

Ocean Shores Convention Center,

120 W. Chance a La Mer, Ocean Shores, WA

  • 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 10 at

Aberdeen (J.M. Weatherwax) High School,

410 N. G. St., Aberdeen, WA

  • 10 a.m., Thursday, April 11 with the Makah Tribe at

Makah Tribal Community Hall,

81 3rd Ave. Neah Bay, WA

  • 6:00 p.m., April 11 at

Peninsula College in The Little Theater,

1502 E. Lauridsen Boulevard, Port Angeles, WA

  • 10 a.m., Friday, April 12 with the Lower Elwah Klallam Tribe at

Tribal Center,

2851 Lower Elwha Road, Port Angeles, WA

 

Categories: Partner Feeds

Wildfires Already? We’re Working Hard, and Need Your Help, Too

WA DNR News - March 21, 2019 - 2:17pm

Winter hadn’t even ended, but helicopters dumped buckets of water over wildfires. Engines with 10-person hand crews rushed to the front lines, and our dispatch centers quickly allocated resources to the threatened Western Washington communities.

You read that right: Western Washington.

Since Monday, firefighters responded to 50 wildfires in Washington state, with 49 of those were on the west side. 

During a few of those fires, law enforcement ordered evacuations and road closures for Kelso and Longview residents in Cowlitz County on Wednesday. (Find the latest info on that fire here.)

Washington State Department of Natural Resources Meteorologist Josh Clark, who forecasts fire weather and danger, calls this dry spell on the western side of the state an anomaly.

A firefighter at work during late winter/early spring wildfires.

“Offshore, easterly winds are a known, somewhat common, critical fire weather pattern for Western Washington where high pressure sets up east of the Cascades and low pressure on the west side. These winds usually come with warm and very dry conditions that promote considerable west side fire activity,” Clark said.

This event stands out not because of the phenomenon but the timing. Generally, this pattern occurs during our peak fire season in late August through early October. To have east winds in excess of 35-50 mph, relative humidities between 11 and25 percent, and temperatures reaching near 80 degrees Fahrenheit in March is extremely rare. These conditions, combined with abundant dead or dormant grasses and shrubs, allowed for a ‘perfect storm’ of weather and fuels conditions to bring about considerable fire activity over the past few days.”

Although more moisture is expected in the coming days, and this dry spell is an anomaly for this time of year, DNR is still expecting warm and dry conditions over the summer.  

This week should be a reminder to Western Washingtonians that we need to practice wildfire prevention all year long.  Last year, wildfire investigations found most wildfires in Washington state are human-caused.

So with the western side of the state becoming more populated, and our summers becoming hotter and drier, everyone needs to be intentional about their actions.

Prevention is simple. Don’t have anything dragging on your car. Put out your campfire (drown it, stir it, make sure all embers are out). Know the wildfire risk in your community. Check conditions before lighting a burn pile.

By taking these simple steps, you can help protect our communities and landscapes.

“Wildfire is a Washington state problem,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, who oversee DNR wildfire operations and the largest firefighting team in the state. “While my team and I get ready for the season, we need the public to help us out by being wildfire aware and practicing prevention.”

File photo: Commissioner Franz visited Western Washington Interagency Fire Training Academy last year as firefighters worked a fire suppression exercise.

At the peak of wildfire season last year, 3,000 firefighters were out on the landscapes. All helicopters were in the skies. Every engine on the fireline. Despite prepositioning our resources — a strategy that places firefighters in at-risk areas — our team was stretched thin.

Franz is working every day with the Legislature to get a $55 million wildfire and forest health package approved. It would get more full-time firefighters, air support, and invest in treatments that would restore the health of our forests.

“I’m proud of my wildfire team’s hard work this week. They were prepared, and we were able to keep most of these wildfires small,” said Franz. “However, going into late spring and summer, in order to better protect communities, we need more resources as conditions get hotter and drier. We need funding that will staff full-time firefighters, support more air assets, and carry out treatments that restore the health of our forests.”

Categories: Partner Feeds

It’s International Day of Forests – Do You Know What A Healthy Forest Looks Like?

WA DNR News - March 21, 2019 - 1:09pm

As Washington state and much of the West struggles with more damaging wildfire seasons, you might hear policy experts and elected officials use terms like “forest health” or “forest resiliency” when talking about ways to reduce wildfire risk – but what exactly does that mean? And what does a healthy forest look like here in The Evergreen State?

The answer might surprise you. This International Day of Forests, we break it down:

What is a healthy forest?

Simply put, a forest is healthy if the trees can access the nutrients, water and sunlight they needs to thrive and reproduce, and the forest is resilient to disturbances such as insects, disease, and fire. A healthy forest will also have a better chance of withstanding the effects of climate change.

It’s a common misconception, however, that for a forest to be healthy, it must be lush – filled with a dense under story and an abundance of trees – and that a landscape is healthier if it has more trees in it. Depending on the region, a healthy forest can look much different.

The upper photo, taken in 1934 in the Kittitas County area before excluding fire from the ecosystem, shows a more resilient forest (Photo by Reino R. Sarlin/USDA Forest Service). The lower photo of the same area, taken in 2010 after constant fire suppression, shows an over-crowded forest (Photo by John F. Marshall).

Historic photos of Washington’s forests, like the one above, show that prior to European settlement our landscapes didn’t have as many trees. That’s because wildfires were a frequent part of the ecosystem, coming through regularly and keeping the amount of trees and other vegetation in balance. More than a century of wildfire suppression has allowed these forests to fill in, creating fuel for uncharacteristically severe fires.

That’s one reason why forest health has become a hot topic among state leaders. According to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources’ 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan, 2.7 million acres of forest in Central and Eastern Washington alone need active management to increase the forest’s resiliency to insects, diseases, climate change, and wildfire.

In 2015, Washington had a recording-breaking fire season: more than 1 million acres and 230 houses burned, and wildfire-related spending cost taxpayers $89 million. Projections indicate that if we don’t take action, the Pacific Northwest will experience four times more acres burned annually by 2080.

“Restoring forest health and reducing wildfire risk go hand in hand,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, who leads DNR. “Through bold action taken with our national, state, and local partners, our forests can become more resilient, reducing wildfires and keeping The Evergreen State true to its name.”

Supporting forest health initiatives benefits us all. Healthy and resilient forest ecosystems trap and store carbon from our atmosphere, provide timber and recreation jobs, wildlife habitat, wood products, and clean drinking water.

What are the different types of forests in Washington?

Washington State is home to four general forest regions, each with their own characteristics. There are forests east of the Cascade Mountains, mountain forests, coastal forests along the Pacific Ocean, and Western lowland forests primarily along the Interstate 5 corridor.

Historical photographs often show open, park-like stands of ponderosa pine, such as this one from the Blue Mountains. (Photo courtesy of Baker County Library, Baker City, Oregon)
  • Low-elevation eastside forests. Shown above, these are often forests predominantly composed of ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir, and grand fir. Common in the hills and lowlands of Central and Eastern Washington, these forests historically experienced low and mixed severity fires every 5 to 25 years, and they often thrive when they have open spaces between trees.
Many picturesque timberline views in Western Washington are framed by mountain hemlock — our high-elevation conifer found in the wettest and snowiest locations.
  • High elevation forests. Predominantly subalpine fir, Engelmann spruce, lodgepole pine, and other conifers. Shown above, these types of forests historically experienced mixed to high severity fires every 80 to 300 years.
This mature (300-400 years old) Western Washington forest is characterized by towering Douglas firs with hemlocks present in all size classes, from juveniles to large canopy trees.
  • Western lowland forests. Forests in the Olympic Mountains’ rain shadow (around Sequim and Port Townsend), and southern Puget Sound lowlands, historically had mixed severity fires every 80 to 200 years.
  • Coastal forests. Moist forests in Washington are dominated by Douglas-fir, western hemlock, Sitka spruce or western red cedar and historically have high severity fires every 200 to 500+ years.
What threatens healthy forests?

A healthy forest may be affected by one of more of the following threats:

  • Climate change. Climate change is affecting the temperature and precipitation patterns in Washington, which can contribute to tree stress. Tree stress makes trees more susceptible to insects and diseases, which can lead to increased tree mortality.
  • Wildfires. Fire is a natural renewal process that promotes biological diversity and healthy ecosystems in our forests. However, projections suggest that fire frequency, intensity and extent will increase due to increased temperatures, earlier spring snow melt, longer fire seasons, and overcrowded forests.
  • Insects. Insects such as bark beetles can present a serious threat to forests when trees are stressed. Even though they are a native species, on an already weakened tree bark beetles can contribute to tree mortality. Defoliating insects can cause foliage loss in trees, contributing to tree stress and possibly bark beetle attacks.
  • Disease. Trees are susceptible to bacteria, viruses, and fungi. These diseases can affect tree health in a variety of ways, such as wood decay, tree growth, and tree mortality.
  • Invasive species. Invasive species are plants, animals, and organisms that are not native to Washington. These species can grow and spread quickly, harming the local plants and wildlife.

Want to take a deep dive into the most recent threats seen in Washington’ forests? Read our state’s 2018 Forest Health Highlights report.

How can we make our forests healthier?

There are several ways to make an unhealthy forest healthy again, depending on the type of forest and its purpose.

  • Mechanical treatments. This refers to the physical removal of small and densely packed trees that have accumulated due to fire suppression, through the use of chain saws, chippers and mastication. These mechanical treatments improve forest health by opening up the understory in Eastside forests, diversifying wildlife habitat, and reducing the possibility of a fire spreading quickly from the forest floor into the upper crowns of large trees.
  • Prescribed fire. Because fire frequently occurred in eastside forests, engaging in controlled burning there can improve forest health. Controlled burns – also called prescribed fire – allow professionals to apply fire to the right landscapes, in the right intensity, and at the right time to boost forest health. Prescribed fire reduces wildfire fuels, increases the effectiveness of mechanical treatments, improves forage conditions for grazing animals, and can reduce the risk of insect spread.
  • Active management practices. In moist Western Washington forests, an abundance of vegetation can be healthy, and these forests don’t experience wildfires as often. But because of our changing climate and historic logging practices, these forests will still require some active management to ensure a healthy ecosystem.
  • Regeneration harvests. Sometimes, all of the trees on a plot of land need to be harvested so the area can be replanted with trees that are better suited for the region and environment.
  • Teamwork. Collaboration is the key to improving forest health in Washington. Landowners –state agencies, federal agencies, tribes, the timber industry and homeowners – all need to work together to coordinate landscape-scale and cross-boundary projects in priority forests. Collaboration among landowners will help speed our progress on creating more resilient and sustainable forests. Read Washington state’s forest health strategy at www.dnr.wa.gov/foresthealthplan.

Want to learn even more? (It is International Day of Forests, after all.) Watch longtime forest researcher Paul Hessburg’s TED Talk about the history of forests in the Pacific Northwest and their relationship to fire:

Categories: Partner Feeds

‘Be A Part Of Something Bigger’: Women in Wildfire

WA DNR News - March 8, 2019 - 10:29am

She started fighting fires right out of high school. Digging line, packing a 40-pound bag of water over rough terrain, sometimes working all day and night — for Jennifer Bammert, it was about giving the fight all you got.

“All the women here can do the job,” Bammert told the Ellensburg Daily Record in 1994. “I think if you do your best and try hard … you’ll be recognized.”

Jennifer Bammert out in the field, talking to reporters. Image: Ellensburg Daily News

DNR promoted Bammert to crew supervisor, where she acted as incident commander, instructing firefighters and making decisions on suppression.

In her 14th season, during a large fire response, she directed 30 firefighters and was the only woman. All while keeping a baby-sitter on call for her son.

For her then fellow part-time firefighters at DNR — like Laurie Cox and Vicki Christiansen — it’s a similar story. They quickly gained respect for their grit on the fireline and love of protecting our forests.

“After my first year of firefighting and being with 19 other guys, I was hooked,” Cox said. “There wasn’t a lot of women in the agency at the time. I paved the way myself.

Firefighter Laurie Cox getting ready to work on the fire line.

Cox went on to be a forester, who now oversees the Family Forest Fish Passage Program, and she’s an organizer of the largest wildland fire training program in the state. This is now Bammert’s 39th fire season. She is still with DNR working hard, trying her best and newly promoted to Fire Suppression Program Manager. Christiansen served as Washington State Forester for years before becoming the U.S. Forest Service Chief.

These are just a few of the amazing women literally blazing trails for the last 40 years to make a clearer path for the next generation of firefighters.

‘Women are absolutely critical on the fire line’

As the second woman elected Commissioner of Public Lands, Hilary Franz strongly believes in further expanding the diversity of DNR’s wildfire team, the largest firefighting team in the state.

“Women are absolutely critical on the fire line for lots of reasons,” Franz said.

Not only for their leadership skills, but for their fearlessness, their courage, and their context of compassion and empathy, which are all critical qualities that we need in our firefighters. We need these women not only out on the fire line and in the community, but also back in our communication centers running logistics.”

In the last year, more women applied to be a DNR wildland firefighter than in 2018, but women still only make up 14 percent of DNR’s wildland fire team. Franz recently talked with women currently serving on the fire line to hear how we can make our firefighting space more welcoming and inclusive.

‘It’s really empowering’

DNR firefighter Celeste Winther and Franz discussed the multitude of jobs that come with wildland fire, and that people should know that you don’t have to hold an actual tool to be a firefighter.

“My first summer on fire, I was six months pregnant,” Winther said. “I was working on an incident management team (doing logistics work), and you’re still putting in the effort. My mom was worried, but I told her, ‘ I’m never going to be surrounded by more first aid personnel.’”

Celeste Winther stands next to an engine, talking with DNR about her fire experience.

Hannah Blackstock shared that she was a little intimidated to apply for a firefighter position, but last year she found herself out on the fireline in White Pass — riding in an ATV up a ski slope to set up a radio repeater for emergency communications. The views at the top were unreal, an experience you only get when working in wildfire.

It’s an opportunity to be a part of something bigger. When you see all the disasters on the news and you just want to help, this is a way you can help,” Blackstock said. “You learn so many life skills. It’s really empowering.”

Apply for our wildfire team here.
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‘A win-win-win’: DNR enters first lease for solar power generation on state lands

WA DNR News - March 7, 2019 - 2:21pm

For the first time, large-scale solar power generation is coming to Washington’s public lands.

Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz announced Wednesday that the Washington State Department of Natural Resources is entering into an agreement with a utility company to lease 480 acres of state trust lands in Klickitat County as part of a 150-megawatt solar power project.

Portland-based Avangrid Renewables agreed to a 40-year lease for the property, near the town of Bickleton, and expects to start transmitting power late next year. But the site will be generating more than electricity – it will also bring in $120,000 each year for schools across the state.

“Solar power is a win-win-win for the people of Washington,” said Commissioner Franz, the elected official who oversees DNR. “It generates significant revenue for our schools while creating jobs and providing clean, affordable energy to our homes and businesses.”

Solar power may be new to DNR, but the department already has an expansive clean energy program anchored by wind energy. Each year, turbines on state trust land generate 200 megawatts of power and raise $1.2 million for school construction and other public services.

The Bickleton lease is not a one-off project – DNR has two other parcels in Eastern Washington that are currently up for lease for solar power generation, and more than a dozen companies have expressed interest in using upwards of 30 tracts of state land to create solar power.

“Our goal is to produce 500 megawatts of solar power on public lands by 2025,” Franz said. “The clean energy we generate reduces pollution and builds energy independence in our communities. And it also creates family-wage jobs in parts of our state that need them the most.”

The Klickitat County parcel is currently being used as grazing land for livestock, generating $2 per acre per year. But Avangrid will instead be leasing the land it uses for power generation for $300 a year.

A map of the parcel in Klickitat County that DNR is leasing for the generation of solar power.

If the land were leased solely for grazing rights at the $2 price for the next 40 years, it would generate $38,400 for the Common School Trust, which is used to help fund school construction across the state. Once Avangrid begins generating power at the site, DNR will make that same figure over four months. In the 40-year span of the lease, the property will instead generate about $4.8 million for the trust.

“Executing the first solar power lease on state lands for a project like this is an exciting development for us as we work to expand solar energy in the Northwest,” said Avangrid Renewables’ Vice President for Business Development Jesse Gronner. “We still have a lot of work to do to push this project forward, but we think it’s a great site for a solar project, and we thank Commissioner Franz and her staff for working with us.”

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