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Winter Recreation Safety Tips

WA DNR News - December 16, 2019 - 4:14pm

Snowflakes are falling.  You’ve switched out tennis shoes for ski boots. Your hot chocolate consumption has shot up at an alarming rate. Wintertime is in full swing.  The coldest months of the year offer some sensational recreating opportunities; many Washingtonians will head out to ski, snowshoe, and hike in the frigid temps. But icy, snowy, subfreezing conditions can present serious risks to even the most experienced recreationists.

Aside from bringing along the “10 essentials” we’ve put together a list of additional considerations to keep in mind before heading out on your next snowy excursion.

Don’t recreate alone. You might fancy yourself a lone wolf, but with a heightened risk of injury due to cold temperatures and finicky weather conditions, you’re better off adventuring with a buddy. At the very least, make sure you let someone know your location, plan, and estimated time of return before heading out.

Opt for wool. Wool is a natural, breathable, moisture-wicking fabric. It simultaneously absorbs and repels water, wicking sweat from your skin and resisting moisture from the external, like rain or snow. That means it keeps you nice and warm and – most importantly – dry. Basically, it’s a magical material for cold weather.

Invest in foot traction devices. Snow and ice-covered trails present a serious danger of slipping and falling. Adding crampons or ice cleats to your standard winter recreation outfit can reduce the risk of injuries on days when the trails are unexpectedly precarious.

Take short breaks. Your body begins to drop in temperature when you stop moving. Rather than taking a long lunch or water break that would keep you stationary in the cold for an extended amount of time, take short, frequent breaks to keep your body moving.

Dress in layers. Bringing along multiple of clothing that you can remove and add will keep you warm and reduce overheating. You should always wear three distinct layers: a base layer for moisture-wicking and insulation, a mid-layer for added warmth, and an outer layer for wind and moisture protection.

Eat up. Forget your diet; winter recreation is the perfect excuse to eat all the caloric foods. Trudging through snow burns calories quickly, so don’t underestimate the amount of food you should bring. Snack throughout the day and eat portable, high-calorie meals to keep your body warm and your energy levels high.

Study avalanche “red flags.” The majority of avalanche victims unintentionally trigger the slide themselves due to traveling near unstable snow slopes. Stay alert when traveling in avalanche country – a rapid temperature increase, heavy precipitation, cracking or collapsing snow can be precursors to a slide.  Check before heading into the backcountry.

Know the signs of hypothermia. Involuntary shivering, a loss of motor skills, and a change in mood or confusion are the first signs that something is wrong. If you’re getting cold, put on more dry clothing and eat some high-carb foods. Don’t hesitate to turn back to shelter.

Don’t forget to hydrate. You probably won’t be craving water like you would on a hot summer day, but it’s important to keep your body hydrated throughout your adventure. Your metabolism is like a furnace for your body—keep it fueled with plenty of water and food and it will produce warmth.

Recognize your limits. If you don’t have experience with winter recreation, take it easy. Stick to populated areas that you’re familiar with. Take trips with more experienced winter recreationists to learn, but always be clear about your comfort level and skill set.



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Discovering an ecological anomaly: Crowberry Bog

WA DNR News - December 5, 2019 - 10:01am

Joe Rocchio is a senior vegetation ecologist at the Department of Natural Resources.

It was a quiet August morning on the western Olympic peninsula. I was gearing up for another day of surveying for rare and high quality wetlands. In front of me was today’s mission—a 40-acre wetland.

The previous few days were challenging, consisting of difficult romps through dense, coastal swamp forests and I was not in the mood to repeat those adventures. As I stood on the edge of the wetland, finishing off my coffee and hoping the caffeine surge would get me over this lethargy, I looked toward the middle of the wetland and saw what looked like a thicket of tall shrubs. That meant another brutal day of bushwhacking. Ugh.

After a few minutes of hesitation, I took one last sip of coffee and jumped in. The first 20 meters were as expected—very mucky soils and slow going. At least there was no deep water and so far, the shrub density wasn’t too bad. The next 50 meters proved to be a bit drier but the shrubs were getting denser. And, those shrubs toward the middle were now looking like they would be over my head. Not looking forward to that.

After a few more minutes of plowing toward those tall shrubs, I came to an abrupt change in the vegetation. Waist-high shrubs all of a sudden dropped below my knees—same species, just dwarf versions of them. How could those tall shrubs I feared be so short? Their density also changed dramatically. They went from occupying all available space to being scattered. In between the dwarf shrubs was this continuous, fluffy, pillow-y, carpet of peat moss radiating beautiful shades of deep red, rusty orange, and lime green colors. These changes were not gradual—the transition was abrupt and clear.

This dwarf vegetation extended in front of me across a large, flat area. Trees changed too. In the area of dense shrubs, the scattered trees grew to 10-15 meters tall. But where the dwarf shrubs occurred the trees were short and looked like bonsai. The water levels had changed as well. The ground surface underneath the dense shrubs was moist but not wet.  However, when the dwarf shrubs appeared, I noticed that the water level was at the soil surface–the ground was saturated and squishy.

Joe Rocchio shows a piece of peat moss, the organic material that makes up the majority of Crowberry Bog

As I looked back toward where I started, wondering what was going on, it hit me—no, floored me—I had just walked uphill. The area covered by scattered dwarf shrubs where I was now standing was higher than where I started. Okay, but why is the high point wetter than the slope leading up to it? Gravity doesn’t work this way. Water is supposed to move downhill, not uphill. Wetlands are supposed to occur where water collects in low points on the landscapes, not in places where water flows to the top of a hill. Where the heck was I?

Having spent a lot of time reading about the peatlands that occur in the high latitudes of Canada and Europe, and dreaming that one day I might be able to visit those boggy paradises, I started to piece together what I had just stumbled upon. It seemed I had just stepped into a raised bog—something that had never before been documented in the western United States. I felt like Indiana Jones finding the Ark of the Covenant.

I was by myself that day and didn’t have anybody to share this discovery with so I walked around the bog exuberantly talking to myself, “Dang, this is a raised bog. Right? Yes, it’s raised.”

Although I was blind to all the signs when I first walked into the bog, it was so obvious to me now.

“Look at how the edges slope DOWN toward the forest. The top of this bog is clearly above the edge. But, wait, raised bogs are not supposed to occur here. Well, here it is. True that. Wow, I just found a raised bog!”

I engaged Dr. David Cooper at Colorado State University to help design a research project that would provide the necessary information to determine whether Crowberry Bog was indeed a true, raised bog.  We installed 15 well nests across the site. At each nest are three to four groundwater wells that allow us to measure the water table, direction of water movement, and water chemistry.

A DNR ecologist surveys one of the 15 “well nests” at Crowberry bog, tools used to measure the water table, direction of water movement, and water chemistry of the area.

If Crowberry Bog was a true, raised bog, it would have the following characteristics:  (1) The water table would be tightly associated with precipitation events; (2) the direction of water movement would be downward and lateral, at least in the winters months (if water movement was upward, that would indicate groundwater inputs); (3) the pH and calcium concentrations would be very low and less than found in local precipitation; and (4) vegetation patterns would show distinct zonation associated with these measures.

After a few years of data collection, it was apparent that Crowberry Bog indeed possessed all of these characteristics!  And, it is old. During our research, I found a scientific paper from 1974 that described a peat core collected from Crowberry Bog that showed the peat was about 5 m deep and started to accumulate nearly 16,000 years ago! Ancient and rare.

It has been eight years since that August morning and five years since I proposed that the site be designated a state Natural Area Preserve. Recently, the Board of Natural Resources voted to protect Crowberry Bog by transferring these lands into the Washington State Natural Areas program. The site is now permanently set aside for research, education, and, best of all, to conserve an incredibly beautiful and special place. I hope to help protect many other examples of Washington’s ecological treasures over the course of my career but if this happens to be the only place I’ve been successful, I will be content.

Categories: Partner Feeds

Get the inside scoop on becoming a wildland firefighter

WA DNR News - November 19, 2019 - 3:28pm

You may be intrigued by the prospect of becoming a wildland firefighter but not quite sure what else you need to know to get started. To help you get oriented, we’ve come up with some answers to questions you might have.

Q: What are the physical requirements for the job?

A: Every U.S. firefighting agency or bureau, including DNR, requires the completion of a Work Capacity Test (WCT), aka the “pack test.” It’s called the pack test because it requires an applicant to hike 3 miles on level ground with a 45-pound pack. This is to measure aerobic capacity, muscular strength and muscular endurance, which are important to ensure the safety of yourself and coworkers. Every fire fighter is expected to perform arduous work and must complete the hike within 45 minutes using a fast walking gait – no running. If you don’t meet the test requirements initially you have two weeks to take it again and pass.

Q: How should I prepare for the pack test?

A: If you don’t think you are in shape for the test, adopt a training routine at least 4-6 weeks before you take it. You could also contact the agency you’re applying with or local fire programs to see if there are group training programs for a pack test in your area. Remember to allow your body to rest a day or two before the test.

Q: How well does firefighting pay?

A: Pay for a firefighter starts on par with other summer jobs but quickly outpaces them when a busy fire season creates the need for firefighters to work overtime. At the same time, firefighters often won’t need to buy food or pay for lodging because you pitch a tent at the fire camp, where meals are provided, while working on a fireline.

Washington also ranks high in terms of average income for firefighters across the United States.


Q: What is the lodging situation?

A: Between incidents, DNR firefighters work a regular shift or of a work center and can return home every evening. You’re chances of being hired increase if you’re willing to be based out of the state’s more remote regions. Therefore, firefighters further from home may use a trailer or simply pitch a tent between incidents.

While attending a training academy or assigned to a fire incident, you live in a “camp setting” which entails morning briefings, tents, showers and meals. The camps include first aid and supply stations for every day necessities, charging outlets (usually),  lost and found, mail delivery and, of course, coffee and hydrating beverages.

Q: What will DNR provide on a fireline?

A: When you report to work, you’ll be issued gear that you will maintain throughout the season. This equipment includes flame-resistant Nomex shirts and pants, a hard-hat, leather gloves, safety glasses and an emergency fire shelter. To protect your feet, you must be able to buy lace-up boots with Vibram soles and constructed entirely of heavy leather (no metal) that extends a minimum of 8 inches above the heel cup (from the inside of the boot). DNR will reimburse up to $350 (with original receipt) for the cost of pre-approved boots.

Q: What about safety and training?

A: Fire is dangerous and safety is always our top priority. Quality training is a key part of remaining safe on any job, including wildland fire fighting. Basic training includes classroom learning and hands-on practice. Before working with a crew, you get training on:

  • Driving engines
  • Operating a chainsaw
  • Maintaining your situational awareness
  • Operating within the incident command system
  • Wildland fire behavior
  • Using equipment
  • How to respond in an emergency

Once working with a crew you continue to learn from more experienced members of your team every day. At the same time, every firefighter is empowered to assess situations and make decisions based on maintaining their own personal safety.

An important part of DNR’s firefighter training are annual training academies. See this video for a more detailed look: 

Q: How will working as a firefighter help me grow?

A: The work is hard but rewarding, and the tenacity you develop working as a firefighter will serve you no matter where you go or what you decide to do. Fighting wildfires is the kind of work that inspires a sense of pride and accomplishment and leads to more confidence in yourself and your capabilities. It can also be a stepping stone to a career.  You will develop a network of agency firefighters that may be interested in recruiting you if you do a good job.

Firefighters who wish to pursue a career can acquire additional training and education on subjects like advanced techniques in fire and fuel management, land management, public affairs, forest health or rangeland ecology. Other fire training can include learning about prescribed burns, incident command, fire investigations, tactical decision-making or dispatch. Firefighters can even move into specialty programs like aviation fire training that can lead to becoming a “smoke-jumper,” a nickname for firefighters who parachute into remote locations.


Categories: Partner Feeds

Apply Now: DNR Posts Seasonal Wildfire Jobs and 30 New Full-Time Positions

WA DNR News - November 19, 2019 - 2:43pm

Would you make a good firefighter? Do you know someone who would? The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is looking for courageous, motivated men and women to join us in our efforts of protecting 13 million acres of Washington lands from wildfire this upcoming summer.

What’s new this year?

DNR has 30 new full-time positions for qualified wildland firefighter leaders interested in forest restoration and wildfire preparedness and prevention work in the off-season, along with fighting wildfire in the summer. When it isn’t wildfire season, duties will include the application of prescribed fire (a controlled burn conducted to restore forests) and wildfire risk assessments for communities and people’s homes. Positions are available at DNR regions across the state and pay up to $53,904 a year.

Applications are due Dec. 1.


For these permanent Wildland Fire and Forest Health Specialist positions, DNR is seeking job candidates who have:

  • Fully qualified to be a single resource boss, such as a heavy equipment boss, firing boss, crew boss, helicopter crew boss, felling boss or engine boss
  • Experience supervising or leading wildland firefighting personnel
  • Knowledge of burn permit and fire regulations, smoke management, fire prevention programs, fire investigation and fire suppression
  • Can meet the arduous level physical fitness standard: walking 3 miles in 45 minutes while carrying a 45 pound pack
  • The ability to work with the public, sometimes under stressful situations
  • A high school diploma or equivalent
  • A valid driver’s license, 3 years driving experience, and a driving record free of serious traffic violations

No experience required: seasonal positions

The work of seasonal wildland firefighters is strenuous, yet rewarding. DNR provides the training, safety clothing and protective gear. You must bring enthusiasm and the ability to perform strenuous outdoor work safely and productively. You must also be willing to accept direction and act responsibly.

Though important, seasonal firefighting jobs are temporary. You can generally expect to work three to four months beginning mid-June and ending in mid-September. However, the experience and training that you take with you can form the foundation for a successful lifelong career in forestry and other natural resource professions.


  • 18 years old when hired (typically mid-June)
  • Have a high school diploma or GEDwhen hired (typically mid-June)
  • Have a valid driver’s license2 years of driving experience and an acceptable driving record with no serious traffic violations. We cannot accept the following:
    • License suspension/revocation due to reckless driving, hit and run, leaving an accident scene, failure to appear, DUI or other vehicle-related felony
    • More than 3 moving violations in the past 12 months
    • More than 4 moving violations in the past 24 months
  • Able to operate a manual transmission
  • Able to buy regulation boots for $250 – $350 (reimbursed up to $350 with a receipt after purchase) 

To apply

When you apply for a seasonal position, your application cannot be edited after it is sent, and you can only apply once a year. Therefore, it is important to meet all of the requirements before applying.

The application that you fill out on will ask questions on basic information, education, past work history, references and include a simple questionnaire.

Be sure to identify the specific regions you are willing to work out of and apply for all that are appropriate for you: Northeast, Northwest, Olympic, South Puget Sound, Pacific Cascade, and/or Southeast. The more flexible you are, the more likely you are to be successful. For tips on preparing for an interview, check out

To apply for one of the permanent positions, visit and search for the term “Wildland Fire and Forest Health Specialist.”

Learn more about DNR’s Wildfire Division here.


Categories: Partner Feeds

Vandalism On State Lands Reduces Recreation Funding

WA DNR News - November 18, 2019 - 11:25am

Washington state forests are home to gorgeous views, a multitude of recreating opportunities, and, unfortunately, a major vandalism issue. From torn down fences to an abandoned, Costco-sized pallet of sour cream, Larry Raedel, chief law enforcement officer of DNR police, sees vandalism in all shapes and forms on state land.

“It’s a little disheartening when you roll into a really nice, well-developed recreation site and you see that our fence posts have been damaged, our corrals are damaged, our signs are shot up, there’s litter left behind,” Raedel said.

Vandalism has always been an issue, but on some DNR trust lands, it’s become more prevalent due to an influx of patrons. DNR spent over $114,000 on trust land cleanup over the last two years, which doesn’t include money spent on vandalism cleanup at designated DNR recreation sites.


One of the most common forms of vandalism on state lands is trash dumping. People abandon bags of garbage, old mattresses, broken toilets, even hazardous waste. Not only is this an eyesore for those who want to use the sites, but it poses an environmental threat. In 2018, DNR removed five large abandoned barrels full of a water and oil mixture in Capitol State Forest, a biohazard incident that cost nearly $3,000 to deal with.

DNR staff also get regular calls about abandoned vehicles, some that have been set on fire or damaged beyond value. Capitol Forest Recreation Manager Philip Wolff said some parts of the year, they’ll come across one abandoned car a week. These major cleanups are a huge time and resource suck for DNR employees, Wolff said, energy that should be going toward improving public land.

An abandoned, burned vehicle left behind in Capitol State Forest.

Raedel hears the same response from caught offenders who abandon their trash over and over again: “I thought I could dump out here.” No matter how many times he hears this defense, it always surprises him.

“This is the forest, this is where we come and recreate and enjoy everything that nature has to give us. It just blows us away when we hear those kinds of comments,” he said.

Another type of prevalent vandalism on state lands is damage from irresponsible target shooting. Not only do some shooters leave behind shells and illegal target debris, but many informational signs have been destroyed by bullet holes. The damage to signs is more than a vandalism issue; in some areas, it impedes others’ ability to learn of important messages that may include the basic rules of target shooting, timber harvest information, or trail closure notices.

A vandalized sign on DNR land. Signs destroyed by illegal shooting is one of the most common forms of vandalism on state land.

Vandalism to toilet facilities is also common and costly. Outhouses are regularly covered with graffiti, with damage done to the inside that makes them unusable; this costs around $800 to repair. DNR outhouses have also been blown up with explosives.

Public use impacts

Leah Dobey, DNR’s statewide recreation manager, said vandalism is more than a minor issue. If there are repeated offenses in a specific area, it could eventually lead to public access restrictions.

“People aren’t necessarily thinking about the impacts their actions have on state trust lands and other recreationalists, and there is an impact,” Dobey said. “Anytime our staff are spending their time and our financial resources cleaning up [vandalism], that’s time and funding going towards clean up instead of maintaining and improving our recreation facilities.”

DNR employees work to clear a pile of abandoned trash left on state trust land.

DNR recreation would much rather use their efforts to beautify their sites, Dobey said. Funding that goes toward clean up on recreation sites would usually be used for tasks like trail maintenance, pumping trail toilets, or removing downed hazard trees.

“Restricting public access is not something we want to do,” Dobey said. “But if citizens continually abuse the land and we aren’t able to keep it appropriately cared for, unfortunately that has [resulted in gate closures].”

Raedel leads a 12-officer team, responsible for covering over 160 DNR-managed recreation sites. Although they receive assistance from DNR partners like the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Washington State Patrol, they can’t be everywhere at once. Fortunately, they get help from other policing resources, like trail cameras and helpful citizens.

Increased visitation of public lands can result in a vandalism uptick, but it also provides more opportunity for community accountability. Besides following the rules of “pack in, pack out,” the public can make a difference by supporting the phrase, “If you see something, say something,” Raedel said.

As long as they’re not putting themselves in harm’s way, Raedel encouraged recreationalists to grab a photograph or to write down a description of vandals if they felt comfortable, that way the force can follow up. Members of the public can call 1-855-883-8368 if they see suspicious activity. He hopes additional eyes on the ground can lead to healthier, well-maintained state lands.

Dobey echoed this sentiment, saying that in addition to taking care of their own items on state lands, she hopes recreationalists will help keep their peers accountable.

“I think there is value in self-policing,” Dobey said. “If we get more people who care for the land and think about themselves as stewards for our trust lands, we can all help be part of the solution.”

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Prevention Pays Off: Homeowner’s House, Trees Remain Intact in Williams Flats Fire

WA DNR News - November 18, 2019 - 8:48am

Long, destructive wildfire seasons can wreak havoc on unprotected homes. But contrary to what you may think, your house has a good chance of remaining intact in a wildfire if you follow the necessary precautions. The work of one Ferry County property owner helped firefighters save his home during the 2019 Williams Flats Fire, and saved many of the mature trees on his property, too.

In 2014, the landowner contacted the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Landowner Assistance (LOA) Program about precautionary steps he could take to increase his home’s wildfire resilience. LOA forester Michelle Ensminger, of DNR’s Northeast Regional Office, visited the 135-acre forested property to talk about the landowner’s goals for home protection.

Ensminger first walked around the home, providing suggestions to reduce the risk of ignition by ember showers. The majority of his property was populated by ponderosa pine and Douglas fir trees that ranged from saplings to mature trees.

After the initial inspection, Ensminger gave him two main recommendations. First, to remove enough of the small trees so that the trees in the forest are spaced about 16 feet apart; doing so would reduce the risk of fire jumping from the branches of one tree to another. Second, she recommended removing lower branches and brush to reduce ladder fuels – meaning the chances of a ground fire climbing into tree tops would lessen.

The property owner’s land before tree thinning projects were completed. The property owner’s land after tree thinning projects were completed.

With the help of the LOA Cost-Share Program, which pays part of the cost of thinning, pruning and clean-up, the landowner acted on the recommendations. The landowner completed thinning projects in 2014 and 2017 which covered 71.5 acres in total – more than half of his property.

The completion of these projects directly contributed to the preservation of his home during the Williams Flats Fire, officials say.

When the landowner’s property was evaluated, the work he had conducted was obvious. Ponderosa pine trees were spaced out and limbed up, and the amount of fuel on the ground had been reduced.

Solomon’s team came up with a plan to dig fire line around the home, tying in with the areas where the homeowner had done the work.

When the main fire was a couple hundred yards from the house, the crews started burning out the fuels in the treated area. The flame lengths were light at 2 to 3 feet, with no trees torching. In stark comparison, the untreated forest had flame lengths of 6 to 8 feet high with single trees and groups of trees torching, which helped spread embers.

Ground crews handled the fire within the treated area, and after it burned around the structure, it eventually moved back into untreated areas where it grew in intensity. This treatment, made by the landowner with assistance from the DNR, helped provide a safe area for firefighters to engage the Williams Flat Fire.

“Being proactive and doing fuels reduction treatment on their property allows us to be effective with the resources we had available,” Kurt Solomon, protection specialist for Incident Management Team 8, said.

LOA uses state capital funds and federal grants to offer financial assistance to landowners to thin forests, reduce the intensity of wildfires, and increase forest health.

The program is available for forestland owners in central and eastern Washington who have up to 5,000 acres of forest and want to make their forests healthier and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires.

For further assistance for those who live in Ferry, Lincoln, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Spokane or Stevens counties, call the Northeast Region office at (509) 684-7474. For residents of central and eastern Washington, call the Southeast Region office at (509) 925-8510. Ask to speak to a landowner assistance forester.

Categories: Partner Feeds

10 Hikes to Try on National Take a Hike Day

WA DNR News - November 15, 2019 - 8:00am

Grab your daypack and your hiking boots — today is National Take a Hike Day! The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages 1,200 miles of trail, home to some of the most popular hikes in Washington. In honor of this recreation-dedicated holiday, we’ve compiled a list of 10 trails that should go on your hiking bucket-list. Check it out!

Striped Peak Trail
Distance: 5 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Moderate

Hikers traverse through old growth Douglas-fir trees and coastal scenery on this well-traveled trail which concludes with a spectacular view of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Vancouver Island. There’s an option to expand your hike to explore an isolated rocky cove, the perfect place to view tide pools and watch waves crash on the beach.

Chelan Butte Trail
Distance: 7.5 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult

Bring along your camera on this sandy day hike. At the top of this steep trek, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of Lake Chelan and the Columbia River. This is a popular spot for paragliders, so keep an eye out once you’ve reached the summit.

Cutthroat Lakes via Walt Bailey Trail
Distance: 6 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Difficult

Discover several picturesque little lakes at the end of this difficult, but rewarding, backcountry trail. Scenic meadows and peek-a-boo views of ridgeline provide plenty of visual interest as hikers climb switchbacks galore. Be careful climbing this trail during late fall, as hazardous ice and snow can create issues for even the most experience hikers.

Whites Ridge Trail
Distance: 11 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Moderate

Take in gorgeous views of Mount Adams and the Yakima valley while you trek this 10-mile loop. This trail is great for year-round use, especially in the fall when the foliage lights up with brilliant oranges, yellows, and reds. Hike the full distance, or shorten your trip by cutting back through logging roads.

Dishman Hills Natural Area Loop
Distance: 1.5 miles roundtrip, with additional trails to explore
Difficulty: Easy

Nestled in the hills near Spokane, this 1.5-mile loop is the perfect place to get away from the city for a breath of fresh air. With several additional trails connected to the main loop, hikers can easily customize their adventure. Keep an eye out for cottontail rabbit, porcupines, and whitetail deer, all which frequent the area.

Disappointment Trail
Distance: 5 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Moderate

Hugged close to the Canadian border, this Loomis State Forest hike has a deceiving name. The trail guides recreationalists through towering evergreen trees and up an open ridge. Pack a lunch and chow down while you take in the views of Disappointment Peak and Snowshoe Mountain.

Tarbell Trail Loop
Distance: 22 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Sections of this trail are more than a century old, but it’s still a beloved recreation spot for many. This 22-mile loop is very customizable and offers several natural attractions, like a clear view of Mount Hood and a waterfall.

Manastash Ridge
Distance: 4.0 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Moderate

Hikers are surrounded by stunning views for the majority of this journey, including a sweeping panorama of the Kittitas Valley with the Stuart Range peeking up in the distance. As the name suggests, the trail follows a ridgeline, often shared with horseback riders and mountain bikers.

Mount Teneriffe
Distance: 13 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult

Located in close proximity to the popular Mount Si trail system, Teneriffe is a less-frequented trail that offers equally beautiful panoramic views. Hikers take a gentle climb through meadows and forested areas before a rocky scramble to reach the summit. There’s an added option to extend the hike with a detour to Teneriffe Falls, a tall, narrow waterfall with a 22-switchback climb.

Douglass Falls Grange Park Nature Loop
Distance: 1.5 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Easy

Get your blood pumping with this quick and easy nature loop in eastern Washington. The loop climbs through deep green conifer forests near a creek, leading up to a 60-foot waterfall. Short and sweet, this is a great trail for families.

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

Inciweb Articles OR - November 13, 2019 - 11:09am
John Day, Prairie City and Hines, OR. – Prescribed fire operations will continue as weather permits across the forest.                   Blue Mountain Ranger District will be working in the Galena unit 40b and continue monitoring conditions for further ignitions.   Emigrant Creek Ranger District will begin ignitions on a 200 acre under burn in the Silvies Unit 7, tomorrow, November 13.  The unit is 3 miles south west of Silvies River crossing off of National Forest System road 31.  This will be a two day ignition process.      Prairie City Ranger District will begin ignition of hand pile units near Dans Creek area and in the Elk 16 project area, starting tomorrow, November 13 into Wednesday.  Fire staff will monitor conditions to possibly begin jackpot burning in the Elk 16 M units starting Thursday and Friday.   For the safety of firefighters and the public, roads and areas of prescribed fire activity will be signed, please avoid these areas so as not...

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

Inciweb Articles OR - November 7, 2019 - 4:13pm
John Day, Prairie City and Hines, OR. – Prescribed fire operations will continue as weather permits across the forest.   Blue Mountain Ranger District will begin ignitions on the 63 acre Galena 40b project, November 8, 2019.  Galena 40b is in the Middle Fork of the John Day River area.     Emigrant Creek Ranger District will monitor conditions to begin ignitions on Silvies Unit 7, starting on Tuesday, November 12.  The 400 acre unit is near National Forest System road 31, two miles south-west of the Silvies crossing.    Prairie City Ranger District will monitor conditions for continued prescribed fire operations.   For the safety of firefighters and the public, roads and areas of prescribed fire activity will be signed, please avoid these areas so as not to interfere with ongoing operations.  For safety, roads, trails, and areas may close temporarily as firefighter operations are taking place. Smoky conditions may also reduce visibility to a level that would require...

World Tsunami Awareness Day 2019

WA DNR News - November 5, 2019 - 2:18pm

It’s World Tsunami Awareness day, an occasion to become better prepared and less scared of the monstrous waves.

Washington State has the second highest tsunami risk behind California because of its close proximity to the tectonic plates, crustal faults, and large subduction zone. But Department of Natural Resource scientists, have created materials to educate Washington residents of these risks.

Tsunamis in Washington

Since 1700, Washington has experienced multiple tsunamis that were generated from earthquakes caused by the tectonic plates off the coast.

When an earthquake hits, scientists expect a tsunami to land on Washington’s coast within 15 minutes of the initial strike. Two hours and 30 minutes later it is projected to hit the Tacoma waterfront after passing through the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Washington faces danger from both distant-source earthquakes and other natural disasters.

In 1964, a magnitude 9.2 earthquake in Alaska’s Prince William Sound produced a tsunami with 12-foot waves that flooded Washington’s coastal towns, even sweeping away a bridge over the Copalis River.

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

Several of Washington’s largest historic tsunamis were triggered by landslides, such as the 1980 tsunami produced by the Mount St. Helens eruption in Spirit Lake, and the Hat Island tsunami that buried an entire village in the 1820s.

Additionally, eastern Washington faces tsunami hazards, as multiple landslide-induced tsunamis have been recorded in Lake Roosevelt. 

Cascadia Earthquakes

The last Cascadia Earthquake, was recorded 319 years ago in 1700, it shook Washington, and surrounding states, and even Japan with a 9.0 magnitude. Cascadia subduction zone earthquakes occur every 300-600 years when the larger North American tectonic plate is pushed upwards by the Juan de Fuca plate.

Scientists at the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), have put together tsunami evacuation maps and a detailed video simulation illustrating the path, intensity, and effects on surrounding areas the next Cascadia Earthquake-induced tsunami is expected to have.   

Understanding Tsunamis

Many tsunamis are generated from the force of tectonic plates thrusting together. The energy that is emitted from this collision reverberates into the water creating a surge that forms large swells of fast moving water.

The greater the depth of water, the faster the water moves, reaching speeds up to 500 mph, the equivalent of a jet plane. As it reaches land, the water becomes shallower. It will slow to speeds of 20 to 30 mph but that is still faster than humans are able to run.

Unlike wind-driven waves, tsunami waves have greater wavelengths allowing them to maintain their force as they move inland, ultimately creating more potential for damage. Flooding from a tsunami wave can last for as short as several minutes up to multiple hours. This is the reason tsunami experts warn that the first wave may not be the most dangerous. In fact, it is the following waves that people should beware.

What we need to know!

All this being said, how should we prepare? Below is a list of preparedness tips, resources, and helpful information to make sure you’re ready when you feel the earth shake.

  1. Be informed: sign up for text alerts from local government and emergency alert stations. Look for signs when you visit coastal cities.
  2. Know your surroundings: if you are near the coastline, know where you can evacuate to higher ground.
  3. Know your evacuation route: if possible, identify multiple evacuation routes in case one is not accessible. You can check for evacuation routes in your area here.
  4. Plan ahead: if you are visiting the coast, ask your hotel staff what their evacuation route is. Likewise with schools, ask what their evacuation plan is—a route to higher ground or vertical evacuation as seen here.
  5. Have a communication strategy: develop a way to communicate with your family to ensure they are safe should you be separated. Choose a meeting spot on high ground and practice getting to that spot in various conditions.
  6. Preparedness packs: put together emergency bags for your family and pets to take when you evacuate. It is recommended to stock the bag with 2-weeks worth of supplies.
  7. Prepare all locations: place a preparedness pack in your car, at work, at school, on your boat, and in your house to ensure you are ready no matter where you are.
  8. Maritime preparedness: if you are on a boat out in the water, move to depths of 180ft. Wait until you are given the all clear from officials to come back to the harbor. If you are in the harbor, exit your boat and move to higher ground.
  9. Stay updated: purchase a battery operated radio to receive updates from NOAA weather radio station.
  10. Pass it on: share your knowledge with friends and refer them to these links for more detailed information.
Categories: Partner Feeds

It’s no trick: The bats at DNR’s Woodard Bay are a treat

WA DNR News - October 30, 2019 - 3:00pm

As guardians of the home of the largest bat-breeding colony found in the State, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wants you to know that bats are a real treat – on Halloween and every day of the year.

There’s something batty going on with these little mammals. They actually look like flying mice. It makes sense why the German word for bat is “Fledermaus”, meaning, “fluttering mouse.”

You can go and check these little guys out for yourself at Woodard Bay Natural Resources Conservation Area. The NRCA is open year-round. Even though bats become popular around Halloween, the best time to see them is actually in the summer. Come to Woodard Bay any clear summer evening to watch the bats emerge at dusk from the old logging pier that they call home. Or, you can wait until after April when bats will return by the thousands to roost.

Bats might seem a little scary, but they’re actually just plain cute. They tend to get a bad rap because of the misconceptions that surround them. No, our Washington species don’t eat blood. No, they don’t get in your hair. And, no, you won’t get rabies from them unless you happen to handle and get bitten by the rare individual carrying rabies. Bats are good to have around – really good.

Bats are some of the most diverse and amazing animals in the world. In fact, they are the second most varied mammal group behind rodents. There are more than 1,300 species of bats in the world with the highest diversity in tropical realms such as Columbia and Indonesia. Yet bats occur in virtually all non-polar environments.

In Washington, we have 15 species of bat, some of which migrate in the cold months to either hibernaculum sites (often suitable caves) or places where insects are available. Little brown bats have been found to migrate 200-800 km (125 to 500 miles) to hibernate. We actually know very little about bat migration.

What do they eat?

Bats are important for keeping insect populations in balance. The yuma myotis and little brown myotis bats at Woodard Bay eat mostly smaller insects such as mosquitoes, midges, and flies. They can consume up to 600 of them in just one hour.

Residents from Henderson Inlet to Olympia, Tumwater, and Lacey benefit from their bug-devouring ways. Locations as far away as Capitol Lake, Black Lake, Long Lake, and Pattison Lake are also confirmed feeding sites for this colony.

But chances are that wherever you live in Washington, you have local bats treating you to summers with fewer bugs.

Bats hunt by emitting high frequency sounds that bounce off their flying insect prey, (yes, just like a radar), and this enables them to locate prey even in total darkness. They also use this amazing ability to fly in places full of obstacles and navigate in darkness. Toothed whales (like dolphins or sperm whales) also have this ability and even a few tiny shrews.

Bat Populations at Risk

Bats are in trouble. Besides being sometimes reviled for reasons of superstition or wrong-headedness, there are big environmental troubles out there.

White Nose Syndrome has been decimating bat colonies in hibernation in the eastern United States. It is a fungus that can live in the cool, moist conditions where clustered bats congregate during hibernation. Their respiratory systems clog up and they die — by the millions.

It is feared that up to 80 percent of eastern U.S. bats have perished in recent years. Unfortunately, a case of this disease was detected in Washington state just last year. Please contact the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife if you find a sick or dead bat, or if you notice bats unable to fly. You can report your observations online.

Learn more about DNR’s Natural Area Preserves and Natural Resources Conservation Areas that serve to conserve and restore lands for species like Washington’s bats.


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Read before burning

WA DNR News - October 25, 2019 - 3:03pm

Fall is here and with it comes rough weather conditions that wreak havoc on your property. Storms can quickly create hazardous trees or limbs, but there’s no need to compound the adverse event by raising the risks of a runaway wildfire.

As we round the end of the year, take advantage of periods of sunshine with little to no rain to assess your property and see if you have any trees or limbs that could be a hazard during the next storm or bout of bad weather.

Because outdoor burning is a leading cause of wildfire ignitions (yes, even in the wet months), think about options other than burning when you need to clear away yard and tree debris. Outdoor burning not only can be a fire hazard, but it can also create unhealthy smoke for your surrounding community.

Especially on the west side, keep an eye on the forecast for winds that are expected to come through the Cascade gaps. This is never good news if you are doing any type of outdoor burning. East winds bring dry, warm air, which can make outdoor burning a high risk of starting a fire.

Want to know what happens when an outdoor burn pile gets out of control?
Listen below.

Many communities, like Virginia Grainger Elementary School in Okanogan, are having clean up or compost parties. This not only brings neighbors together, but it also is a chance to get your property lean and clean before a wildfire comes through.

Before any burning, check with your local clean air agency to see if there is an air quality burn ban in place and look at local monitors to see current air quality levels.

Outdoor burning is a cause of smoke and certain pollutants. This smoke can be unhealthy because the small particles in smoke are so tiny, they can easily get into your lungs. People most at risk are children, patients with respiratory illnesses, and adults over 65 years old.

If you must burn, know the rules, and choose the right weather for burning. If you have a burn barrel, don’t use it. Burn barrels are illegal in Washington state.

Fortunately, there are burning alternatives, such as chipping and composting, which are easy and practical ways to dispose of many organic materials or convert them to another use.

Alternatives to outdoor burning 

  • Compost it – It’s a practical and convenient approach for disposing of forest debris. Any vegetable matter can be composted. Organic material, such as fallen leaves, grass clippings, weeds, and the remains of garden plants, make excellent compost. Used as mulch for paths where it will eventually decompose and become compost to use in your garden. Check with your local county extension office, city, or county for schedules of composting classes.
  • Chip it – Turn large branches and debris into mulch. If you don’t already own a chipper, check with your local equipment rental agency. Invite your neighbors to join in to make it more cost efficient for everyone.
  • Use curbside pickup – Check with your local government or waste management company to see if your area offers curbside collection of yard waste.
  • Take it to an approved landfill that accepts forest debris – Many counties have forest debris waste composting facilities.
  • Host a neighborhood cleanup day

Remember, escaped wildfires are investigated and, if found guilty, you can be fined. If burning is allowed in your area, the only material that can be burned is natural vegetation grown on the property where the burning occurs. Be sure to check DNR’s webpage on silvicultural outdoor burning.


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Finding Family Connections in Capitol Forest

WA DNR News - October 25, 2019 - 8:00am

Bob Bordeaux’s father, Bruce, wasn’t the reminiscing type.

Growing up, Bob was fairly naive to his father’s family history. He knew his dad came from a respected logging family, but beyond that, his vision of his dad’s childhood was blank.

“My dad’s life, to me, existed once he got married,” Bob said. “He never talked about anything before that.”

Bruce’s grandfather, Bob’s great-grandfather, was Joe Bordeaux, one of the original brothers Bordeaux, the trio that built a small mill town near Capitol Forest. In the early 1900s, the town of Bordeaux was bustling with activity, with more than 400 workers employed at the brothers’ company, Mason County Logging.

Bruce lived in this town as a small child, one of the last of the Bordeaux line to live in the area before it became a ghost town. Bob said his father rarely, if ever, spoke about this part of their family history. In the years since his father’s passing, Bob has found himself aching to learn more about his family.

“The older I get, the more I kind of wonder, ‘Well, what was dad like?’”

So he set out to find a literal connection to his family’s roots.

He reached out to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to get a piece of a tree from the Bordeaux forest, an area the agency now manages as part of the Capitol State Forest. He wants to use the wood to make commemorative keepsakes for his family, “so everyone can have a piece of Bordeaux.”


Brandon Mohler, DNR’s Black Hills district manager, said this was the first time he’d ever gotten a request like this, but was happy to help Bob find something for his project.

“I think it’s pretty cool,” Mohler said. “Especially with a family connection like this, there’s so much history. And it’s a part of DNR history, too.”

Mohler and Bob met up to walk through an area where timber harvest activities had recently been completed by DNR. This project is especially important to Bob because he doesn’t have many objects to remember his father’s side of the family by—he wasn’t a collector, he said.  Bob cherishes the items he does have, like an antique table he inherited.

Brandon Mohler, DNR’s Black Hills district manager, walks Bob Bordeaux through an area of Capitol State Forest to find a piece of wood for his family project.

“I’m happy every day that it is there,” he said. “It’s nothing fancy, scratched up after years of service, but it is pretty cool.”

As the two sifted through pieces of wood in the forested area, Bob reminisced about the time he spent in the area as a child. Despite his family’s history there, he can count the times he’s visited Bordeaux on one hand.

The small logging town experienced a sharp decline after a succession of forest fires gave the Black Hills their name. By 1941, it had become a ghost town.

Bob grew up in Yakima, but remembers swinging by to pick blackberries in the area when he was in grade school and thinking to himself, “No, there wasn’t a town here.” It was so overgrown and desolate, it was inconceivable to think his family once lived there, along with many others.

Indeed, it is tough to imagine the town was occupied by anything other than deer and Douglas-fir. Besides the shadows of a few forgotten structures, there’s no sign of the booming logging industry that once was.

Although his father was quiet about his time in Bordeaux, his grandmother, “was even more tight-lipped than my dad,” he said.

But as an adult, he’s having more conversations about his family’s colorful history with his mother and siblings.

“Now that I’m in my 50s, my dad has passed, I’m the youngest of the kids, you don’t need to protect a lot as far as the family stories,” Bordeaux said.

Once Mohler and Bob had pulled a couple of suitable tree scraps for the project, Bob pulled a small vintage suitcase from his truck, inscribed with the initials, “BB.”

Bob Bordeaux shows off old photos passed down from family members which give an idea what Bordeaux was like in the past.

“My dad’s,” he said with a small smile. It’s one of the few personal items he has to remember his father by. Bob pulled publications and photographs from the case that he’s collected over the years, all of which documented what life was like in Bordeaux in its prime.

“It fascinates me what life must’ve been like,” he said. He pulled out a photo of a group of loggers dated around the 1920s. “You can almost smell them just from the photo,” he said with a chuckle.

Bob wants to surprise his family members with the keepsakes he’ll make from the wood he got from Bordeaux. He’ll pass them along to his wife, daughter, mother, and two siblings, hoping to surprise them with a real-life connection to their family’s logging history.

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This Bioenergy Day, We Check in with School’s New Wood-Pellet Heating System

WA DNR News - October 23, 2019 - 7:30am

Happy Bioenergy Day!

Today, we’re celebrating a significant accomplishment of bioenergy at a Washington school district. It’s been about a year since a new wood pellet boiler was installed at a Northport school in northeast Washington, a project in collaboration with the Washington state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the state Department of Commerce, and the Washington State University (WSU) Energy Program.

Bioenergy Day is a celebration of the ecological, social, and economic benefits of using organically-sourced energy.

What is Bioenergy?

Bioenergy is an efficient, sustainable form of energy that uses organic material to generate heating, cooling, or electricity. Commonly used materials include the byproducts of forest thinning, such as smaller trees, and agricultural and urban food waste.

The Northport boiler gets its juice from wood pellets, a much more sustainable option than the previously installed diesel-fueled heating system. These pellets are often made from byproducts of timber harvests or forest restoration activities – a convenient, sustainable use for organic material that might otherwise go unused.

The pellets are renewable and clean-burning, created in pellet-mills around the United States. These mills create jobs in heavily forested areas, often serving rural communities in need of sustainable jobs. Northport’s wood pellets come from Hauser, Idaho, but School District Superintendent Don Baribault has heard some talk within the community about hopes for local sourcing in the future.

It’s estimated that 1 million residences or businesses use wood pellets as a heating source, according to the Pellet Fuels Institute.

The First Year Report

First and foremost, Baribault says the wood pellet boiler has given some much needed warmth to the school, especially since the old system had begun to fail. Northport was in search of something that would be reliable and long lasting.

“Based on screening schools across Washington, Northport appeared among the most suitable sites for converting from oil heat to densified biomass,” said David Van Holde, senior energy engineer with the WSU Energy Program. “More importantly, the engagement and support by the superintendent and school board throughout the process ensured the project’s success.”

(Left to right) Superintendent of Northport School District Don Baribault, David Van Holde, senior energy engineer with the Washington State University Energy Program, commerce senior energy policy specialist Peter Moulton, Department of Commerce Director Lisa Brown, Anne Nelson with Department of Natural Resources and Andrew Haden, president of Wisewood Energy gather in front of the Northport wood pellet boiler.

Last year, Baribault said the boiler went through approximately 50 tons of wood pellets. According to the Energy Information Association, one ton of pellets is the energy equivalent to 2.8 barrels of distillate home heating oil.

Although the audit hasn’t been fully completed, Baribault said he believes the pellet boiler will save at least $10,000 a year.

The school’s campus serves roughly 200 students, many of whom thought the project was pretty “cool,” Baribault said, especially the youngest of the group who saw the crane installing the boiler and asked if they were getting a rocket ship.

To learn more about the Northport boiler, check out this blog from last year. You can learn more about Bioenergy Day here.

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

Inciweb Articles OR - October 22, 2019 - 5:05pm
John Day, Prairie City and Hines, OR. – Prescribed fire operations will continue as weather permits across the forest.   Blue Mountain Ranger District will be finishing ignitions today on handpile units in the Camp Creek drainage area.  Smoke may be visible from County Road (CR) 18 and National Forest System (NFS) road 36.  Ignitions were also completed on 327 acres in Soda Bear 8b unit in Bear Valley.  This week crews will begin ignitions in Dad’s Creek, Starr Ridge and Bear Valley.  Smoke may be visible from Highways 26 and 395 for several days.   Prairie City Ranger District completed ignitions on 1500 acres in the Summit 3 unit located in the south east corner of Logan Valley.  This week crews will be working on jackpot burning in Elk 16 M; south of NFS road 1410 and west of NFS road 14; as well as handpile ignitions on the north end of the district later on in the week.   Emigrant Creek Ranger District completed 944 acres in the Jane and Tarzan project areas. This...

10 miles of new trail open in Darrington’s North Mountain Bike Trail System

WA DNR News - October 18, 2019 - 7:38am

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) invites the public to come visit the North Mountain Bike Trail System, located adjacent to the community of Darrington, WA, with over 10 miles of new trails officially open beginning Saturday, October 19.

In partnership with Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, Darrington community, legislative leaders, Washington Conservation Corps, DNR trail crews, volunteers, Skagit and Snohomish Counties, DNR is opening the North Mountain Bike Trail System. About an hour from Everett, this trail system offers breathtaking views of Whitehorse Mountain and the Stillaguamish Valley.

Click to view slideshow.

“With around 10.5 trail miles opening on North Mountain’s upper slopes, new downhill trails provide a variety of challenges for riders with advanced skills.  This higher elevation trail system complements the 4-miles of lower North Mountain Bike Skills Area trails opened in 2017, offering skill-building for riders to eventually progress to the upper mountain shuttle zone,” said Sam Jarrett, DNR’s Trails Program Manager, who led DNR project management.

As the winter season approaches with more consistent precipitation and potential for snow on upper elevation trail segments, visitors should carefully consider the weather and resulting trail conditions before visiting.  Several advanced difficulty skill level trails are built to a more primitive development standard, trail crews will be tackling maintenance needs throughout the winter and spring months as trails wear in.

“Working with project partners, we are planning an in-person grand opening celebration event to occur spring 2020, at that time we expect to have a final trail connection in place that will link the upper mountain trails to the skills area.  This will allow visitors an option to descend the longest available system trail, starting near the roughly 3,800’ elevation North Mountain summit, and ending near local businesses in Darrington,” says Jarrett.

This project could not have happened without support from leaders at the town of Darrington, local businesses that supported various components of the project, including HiLine Helicopters Inc. and Three Rivers Cutting, and the hundreds of hours of donated volunteer labor contributed to developing the trails.

For more information about the trail system and to download a map visit DNR’s project web page at Insert trail system map or link on the project page


DNR held the two open houses for the project in Darrington and Arlington in November 2015. You can view the comments we received at public input stations at the Darrington and Arlington open houses.

Share your thoughts

To connect with our project manager, send us an email. To hear more about the project, sign up to receive updates on this project through our Darrington Mountain Bike E-news and connect with us on our Facebook and Twitter pages.  Class 1 electric mountain bikes (eMTBs) will be allowed on trails as a pilot project in our Darrington/North Mountain trail system.

This pilot project is expected to last through October 2020 and will provide one source of data gathering to help inform long-term suitability of e-bike usage on DNR lands.  WA Bill 6434: “Class 1 electric-assisted bicycle” means an electric-assisted bicycle in which the motor provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of twenty miles per hour.”

To participate in a project survey, including feedback on eMTB use on North Mountain, please visit the following survey link:

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October 1991 – A storm of wildfire wreaked havoc in eastern Washington

WA DNR News - October 16, 2019 - 1:08pm
With more people living in or near wildfire zones, such as forests and scrublands, it’s important for homeowners to learn how to reduce wildfire risks to their property.

Imagine 62 miles-per-hour wind gusts blowing in your neighborhood.

Twenty-eight years ago, Washington state experienced the fire of the century, titled ‘Fire Storm’ because that’s exactly what took place. The conditions were just right to create the perfect storm.

On October 16, 1991, 62 mph wind gusts were recorded in eastern Washington. The forests, brush, and grasslands were extremely dry. Because of a harsh combination of dry, unseasonably warm, and windy conditions, 92 wildfires quickly started.

Approximately 90% of the fires started because gale-force winds snapped power lines or trees fell into power lines.

During this time, northeast Washington was in the midst of high population growth. Many more homes were built in what we call the wildland urban interface (WUI), where homes and forest mix. These homes presented a challenge for firefighters; the majority of structures lost to wildfire were located in the WUI. One fatality occurred during the fire and 114 homes and numerous other structures were destroyed. Wildfires have become more disastrous as people move into the WUI.

Lessons learned and state mobilization established

Homeowners affected by Fire Storm were caught with a lack of knowledge about the wildfire risks where they lived. As a result, the National Fire Protection Association developed Firewise, a program to educate and assist homeowners in protecting themselves from wildfire. Firewise created a website for a national audience to provide the best available information on home wildfire safety. The website provides popular videos and instructional materials for nurseries, landscape professionals, and home owners.

Research dating back to the 1960s shows that the two major risk factors for homes during wildfires are:

  • A flammable roof, vulnerable to the embers thrown during a wildfire
  • Vegetation close to a house that generates enough heat or flames to ignite siding or other parts of the home

During Fire Storm, local firefighting resources were overwhelmed with the number of fires. As a result, the State Mobilization Plan was created. The plan quickly and efficiently brings in Washington Fire Service personnel and equipment from around the state when a wildfire exceeds a local fire department’s capacities.

These resources can include fire engines, firefighters, aircraft, heavy equipment and Incident Management Teams. These teams – part of the National Incident Management System – are made up of Department of Natural Resources, federal and fire service personnel.

Check out the mobilization process that is under the authority of the Washington State Patrol.

Fire Storm has resulted in a greater local and statewide awareness of the problems associated with people living in the wildland urban interface.

For more information, read the Fire Storm 1991 Case Study

Quick facts about Fire Storm 1991

Maximum wind gust: 62 mph
Homes destroyed: 114
Acres burned: 35,000
Homes threatened: 511
Separate fires: 92
Firefighters at fire: 4,000
Fire engines responding: 400
Fatalities: 1
Largest single fire: 13,840 acres
9-1-1 calls received, first 24 hours: 3,000

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Great #ShakeOut Playlist

WA DNR News - October 16, 2019 - 11:50am

The Great #ShakeOut is nearly here! While you’re preparing to drop, cover, and hold on during the drill, pump up with our earthquake-inspired playlist. This combination of rockin’ tunes is dedicated to everything related to shaking, rattling, and rolling.


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

Inciweb Articles OR - October 15, 2019 - 2:41pm
John Day, Prairie City and Hines, OR. – Prescribed fire operations will continue as weather permits across the forest.   Blue Mountain Ranger District will begin ignitions today on handpile units in the Camp Creek drainage area.  Smoke may be visible from County Road (CR) 18 and National Forest System (NFS) road 36.  Wednesday, October 16 crews will begin ignitions on 327 acres in Soda Bear 8b unit in Bear Valley.  District fire staff will continue to monitor conditions to possibly begin ignitions in the Starr project area also in Bear Valley.  Crews will continue hand pile ignitions across the district through this week and into next week as conditions and weather permit.     Wednesday, October 16, Prairie City Ranger District, will begin ignitions on 1500 acres in the Summit 3 unit located in the south east corner of Logan Valley and possibly some smaller ignitions of roughly 100 acres may occur in the Dads 2b unit and 50 acres in the Elk 16 project area, south of NFS...

How prescribed burns can prevent wildfires and renew ecosystems

WA DNR News - October 14, 2019 - 4:21pm

Plumes of black smoke rising ominously over the horizon. Bright orange flames licking up from the forest floor with dizzying speed. A canvas of black and white scorched earth left behind.

The destructive images from the wake of a catastrophic wildfire are easy to remember. But it’s just as easy to forget the renewal and growth that smaller fires can bring.

From our coastal prairielands to forests in eastern Washington, many habitats in our state depend on a cycle of low-intensity fire. For more than a century, however, the power of fire was stifled by well-intentioned wildfire fighting efforts. This fire suppression resulted in the overgrown, unbalanced ecosystems we see today in prairies and many of our central and eastern Washington forests.

Historically, low severity fires would burn periodically, reducing litter build up and paving the way for new life. Flora and fauna within these habitats evolved, adapting to the wildfire cycle and, in many cases, became dependent on their occurrence.

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is working to bring the wilderness back to its original splendor through prescribed burning – controlled burns for forest maintenance or habitat restoration. These controlled burns are designed to mimic low-intensity wildfires that would naturally occur.

“Prescribed fire can play a major role in the natural world by creating healthy ecosystems for plants and animals to flourish,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, who leads the DNR. “With proper planning and oversight, we can put fire to work for us and reduce the fuels that contribute to dangerous, severe wildfires.”

DNR is focused on two general types of habitats: The agency’s Natural Areas Program has been burning in prairies for years, and DNR’s Forest Health and Resiliency Division is launching a Prescribed Fire Program to restore the dry ponderosa-dominated forests of central and eastern Washington.

Prairie restoration burning

In prairies, without frequent fires to clear moss and deep thatch accumulation, native plants suffocate. There has been a substantial loss of habitat from encroaching trees and shrubs from surrounding forests; the native prairies of today are thought to be limited to only 3 percent of their former extent.

On a mild, sunny day in October, DNR conducted a controlled burn at the Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve.

“Mima Mounds is one of the largest remnants of the native prairies that occurred in this region historically,” said David Wilderman, Natural Areas ecologist for DNR. “Fire is a key component in maintaining prairies.”

This particular burn was long-awaited, and nearly didn’t happen thanks to soggy western Washington weather. Conditions have to be just right to conduct an effective, safe prairie burn, Wilderman said. And, it’s not just the weather that can halt a prescribed burn – fire crews have to pay particular attention to wind conditions.

One way this burn will renew the prairie is through the elimination of some fire-intolerant invasive species, like Scotch broom. Mima Mounds is dotted with areas of this green, brushy nuisance. The plant reproduces by seed, which can stay viable for nearly 80 years, Wilderman said.

“(Fire) also helps rejuvenate native prairie plants and wildflowers,” he said, citing camas as an example. “Camas is an important native food plant for Native Americans and an important nectar plant for butterflies in the spring.”

Even the smoke from controlled burns can have a positive effect on the landscape. Wilderman said for some native species, contact with smoke can result in more effective seed germination.


Forest restoration burning

Many forests can also reap benefits from a controlled burn. Frequent, low-intensity burns clear built-up woody debris, diminishing the types of fuels that lead to high-severity fires, which are difficult for forests to recover from and put our communities at risk.

A controlled burn can help manage invasive species and weeds, as the majority of native plants are adapted to the wildfire cycle whereas many invasives are not. In addition, controlled forest burns can prevent plant diseases, cycle nutrients in the soil and increase habitat for grazing wildlife.

The forests of central and eastern Washington have grown too dense and homogenized over time, resulting in a loss of varied habitat. A truly healthy forest is ever-changing, alternating with sections of fresh burns, young growth and established old growths. Several animal species, such as the Canada Lynx, depend on a morphing forest for survival as they use different habitats for hunting, raising babies and mating.

Read more about the state’s 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan to restore forest health and reduce wildfire risk here.

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