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Timely tree tips – Urban forests improve public health

WA DNR News - 15 hours 57 min ago
Healthy urban forests provide so many benefits. Photo Guy Kramer

The following article appeared in the November 2017 issue of Tree Link Newsletter, a free publication from DNR.

It is no coincidence that the places we go to unwind and relax are places where natural elements are more prominent—a hike in the mountains, boating on a lake, fishing in a quiet stream, watching ocean waves rolling onto the shore, or simply just lazing beneath a shade tree in summer.

We seek these places, consciously or unconsciously, due to the restorative power of nature. We feel renewed in both body and spirit after returning from that hike, that fishing trip or that beach vacation.

Many urbanites crave tranquil experiences in nature as an antidote to the stressful conditions of city life such as noise, congestion, pollution, crime, and chronic mental fatigue.

This is why city parks and urban forests are so important.

Science has demonstrated that access to nature in cities – even views of nature in cities – has significant, positive impacts on our mental and physical health. For example:

  • Hospital patients with views of nature heal faster and require less pain medication
  • Trees reduce the urban heat island and scrub particulate matter from the air, improving air quality and reducing the incidence and severity of respiratory diseases.
  • Parks, street trees, and trails make it more comfortable and desirable to be outside, encouraging physical activity, which can help residents lose weight, reduce cholesterol, and maintain general fitness.
  • Community gardens and orchards facilitate the consumption of healthy foods, and particularly among residents that might not otherwise have access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • The presence of greenery is shown to reduce stress, anxiety and depression, which has been linked to improved mental health and reduced crime.

The planting and stewardship of trees in cities can dramatically boost pulic health outcomes and is a cost-effective tool for improving quality of life.

The above examples and many more are supported by scientific research, which has been compiled and curated by Dr. Kathleen Wolf and her associates at the University of Washington. For more information, visit their Green Cities: Good Health website.

If you would like to receive Tree Link Newsletter by email each month or view our full line-up of free electronic newsletters visit:  http://eepurl.com/bAn75v

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Two Washington sport fish records fall

WA DFW News - November 20, 2017 - 12:00am
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Do trees need attention in the winter? You bet they do

WA DNR News - November 19, 2017 - 7:30am
Properly prune your trees to avoid breaking limbs in the winter. Trees don’t need snow on them to become hazardous.
PHOTO: Dena Scroggie

Yes, your trees need care throughout the winter to maintain their health, but you need to start now before a big freeze.

Even though urban trees are now going into dormancy, they require attention throughout the winter to stay strong.

Here are four tips to follow:

  • Wrap the trunk. Some recently planted, thin-barked trees like honey locust, ash, maple and linden, are susceptible to bark-damaging sunscald and frost cracks when temperatures fluctuate in fall and winter. Wrap trunks of younger trees up to the first branches using commercial tree wrap to protect the bark. Remember to take the wrap off once weather warms in the spring.
  • Use mulch. Two to four inches of wood chips, bark, or other organic mulch spread over the root system of the tree will help reduce soil evaporation, improve water absorption, and insulate against temperature extremes. To prevent rodent damage and the possibility of rot, make sure that mulch does not rest against the trunk of the tree. Consider layering leaves around the base of each tree as natural mulch.
  • Prune, but not too early and not too late. Although trees can also be pruned in the summer during active growth, late winter is often a favorite time for pruning. Remove dead branches and improve its form, but make sure you are doing it correctly. Always prune at the branch collar – the point where a branch joins a larger one – and don’t remove any branches without good reason. Follow this link to find out more about pruning trees.
  • Give them a drink. Water trees throughout the dripline of the tree; that is the area from just outside the trunk to the outer edge of the longest branches. Trees need about 10 gallons of water per inch of tree diameter. Long, slow watering will assure that water reaches down into the root zone.

If this winter brings long periods of dry weather (2-3 weeks without rain or snow), and the ground is not frozen, it is a good idea to give your trees some water. Your care for them will provide benefits for years to come.

If you have any questions or want more information on urban tree care, contact DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry Program.

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Burned Area Reports (2017 Central Washington BAER Burned Area Emergency Response)

InciWeb Articles WA - November 15, 2017 - 11:31am
Burned Area Report Summaries and Values at Risk Matrix and Treatments have been released: Diamond Creek Fire Burned Area SummaryValues at Risk Matrix and Treatments Jack Creek Fire Burned Area SummaryValues at Risk Matrix and Treatments Uno Peak Fire Burned Area SummaryValues at Risk Matrix and Treatments Jolly Mountain Fire Burned Area SummaryValues at Risk Matrix and Treatments

Timber and Trails Merge in Reiter Foothills State Forest

WA DNR News - November 14, 2017 - 2:54pm
A rock crawler tests out a Reiter Foothills Forest boulder. Photo by Scott Davidson, 4×4 volunteer. 

The rock hopper is perched on top of a giant bolder as though posed for a glossy magazine ad. It’s just part of the backdrop in Reiter Foothills State Forest, a landscape managed by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources as working trust lands.

Harvesting timber to provide funding for public services is a core function of the Department. It generates about $200 million a year through sustainable timber harvest projects to provide public funding for schools, libraries, public safety and other services that rural and urban residents rely on.

These trust lands are managed by the agency with two other primary objectives in mind too, to protect the environment and provide places for people to enjoy the outdoors through a wide variety of recreation options. In fact, DNR’s followers span a wider variety of recreation interests than any other state land management agency – from hang gliding to sea kayaking.

When the Reiter Foothills Recreation Plan was created back in 2010, stakeholders were well aware that timber harvests were a part of the equation. Yet, when trees within the part of the Boulder Unit had gown to a size sufficient to provide good local lumber, DNR staffer John Moon knew the agency’s harvest objectives would have to take into consideration the land’s special recreation value. You see, this section of the forest included the Reiter Foothills 4×4 trails – a recreation site of great significance to many people.

There are very few places where residents who enjoy 4x4ing, or “rock crawling” are still allowed to go – the nearest legal alternative is Walker Valley, another DNR site 75 miles away. That’s likely because without careful planning, this activity can cause erosion and environmental degradation. Private property owners are often unwilling to take on such responsibility. In fact, DNR enacted a massive ORV shutdown here back in 2006 for just such reasons.

Since then, however, the agency has worked with user groups to rebuild 4×4 roads (“trails” are a better and more common description) intentionally located where their activities won’t interfere with sensitive areas. Volunteers have used large equipment to painstakingly place boulder upon boulder to create a continuous series of drops and obstacles – almost mimicking a raucous dry creek bed. Today, 6.8 miles of carefully designed 4×4 trails have reopened to the public – and they get used a lot.

As the timber sale approached, Moon worked with Reiter Foothills Recreation Manager Ben Hale to reach out to users to understand how the agency could meet its goals, while protecting recreation interests and the investments. Foresters like Moon must meet agency needs, including volume, revenue, habitat conservation plan and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) requirements, but they’re also empowered to design their harvests in ways that meet landscape objectives or community preferences. Hence the aptly named “Pathfinder Timber Sale.”

DNR Forester John Moon with one of the trees that 4×4 enthusiasts identified as one to exclude from the Pathfinder Timber Sale for its importance to the local trail system.

For the Pathfinder Timber Sale Moon first altered the edge of the sale boundary to boarder the edge of the trails. This reduced the need to repeatedly cross the trail, which helped to minimize damage. He also stipulated that the harvest would only occur within a single winter season, when use is lighter. In addition, harvest activities would shut down each weekend to still provide access to the public on Saturdays and Sundays when the site is traditionally most popular. Then, he visited the site with 4×4 enthusiasts to identify which specific trees adjacent to the trails were important to their enjoyment.

It turns out that keeping trees tight to the road creates a more challenging experience. Removing a tree may make the trail too easy and less fun. Other trees are important for their ability to winch off of – either to create that just-so photo op, to get out of trouble, or to help a buddy out of a jam. With the help of the 4×4 community, Moon was able to clearly mark which trees should be left in place.

The area does look different since the harvest finished last spring. Clusters of big trees still stand tall – about ten of them per acre. (An acre is a bit smaller than a football field.) Those islands of more mature trees provide diverse habitat. They’re often clustered around special “habitat trees”, such as snags, especially large trees, or structurally unique trees which we work to protect as a part of any harvest on state trust lands.

The harvested open areas, which span the majority of the harvest site, creates ground-level vegetation preferred by a wide variety of insects, birds, small mammals and amphibians. The birds and animals that visitors may spot will shift as the ecosystem evolves and the foot-tall replanted trees grow – generally at a rate of about one foot per year.

Berms in the Pathfinder Timber Sale help to keep riders on track while providing habitat for forest critters. 

The 4×4 community recommended that the slash that’s normally generated by a harvest be left at the site to create natural “berms”. The branch-based berms may be a bit unsightly (the agency often removes them in areas where lots of people would have to see them), but they serve to contain members of the 4×4 community that might be otherwise tempted to stray off-trail. Those slash piles can also provide habitat for salamanders, frogs, snakes, lizards, chipmunks, squires, mice and other small critters.

The recreation community gets something in return from these timber harvest too. Timber production pays to maintain the roads, which would otherwise represent a significant cost. Volunteer trail builders use these roads to bring in equipment and supplies. Visitors use them to get to their favorite trailheads. The harvest management fee that DNR uses to replant these areas also provides wildfire protection and law enforcement services for the forest.

While 4×4 rock crawling may not be everyone’s activity of choice, (about half of the Reiter Foothills working forestland has been set aside for hikers, horseback riders and mountain bikers who generally prefer space removed from motorized recreation) foresters can work to engage the public in similar ways for areas with other forms of recreation.

Reiter Foothills Forest is an example of how the Department of Natural Resources has been able to steward public lands for 4×4 recreation in ways that both protect the environment and meet the agency’s fiduciary responsibilities. The Pathfinder Timber Sale ultimately generated $1.6 million for public services, 70 percent of which was shared in May with the final 30 percent arriving this month.

Recreation improvements in the area will continue over the next few years. A large, permanent trailhead just off Reiter Road will allow parking for 100 ORV and visitor vehicles, and an additional 3.3 miles of 4×4 trail are slated to be built by volunteers, with agency collaboration, once state Recreation and Conservation Office grant funds become available.

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Achieving Healthy Eastern Washington Forests Within 20 Years

WA DNR News - November 8, 2017 - 8:48am

Throughout the western United States, including Washington State, the health of our forests has been in decline for several decades. This means that our forests are less able to provide ecological functions, less sustainable, less resilient, less able to meet land manager objectives and less resistant to invasive species, insects, diseases and fire.

How We Got Here

At a broad scale, this state of decline can be attributed to past management practices, including past fire management practices, that have resulted in uncharacteristically overstocked forests; and episodic droughts that have increased the competition among trees for available moisture, resulting in increased stress and loss of vigor.

Fires in these densely packed and moisture-stressed forests often burn with uncharacteristic severity and duration. This is partly due to accumulation of dense and continuous fuels. Wildfires are fueled, for example, by trees killed by insects and diseases.

Our Current Situation

Much of the 10 million acres of forestland in eastern Washington faces serious threats to forest health. An analysis by The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Forest Service identified nearly 2.7 million acres of eastern Washington forestland requiring some sort of treatment to create forests more resilient against insects, diseases and wildfires.

The acres of trees that have been killed or damaged in the first decade of the 2000s was 150 percent greater than the 1990s and 200 percent greater than in the 1980s. The National Insect and Disease Risk Map (NIDRM) shows elevated levels of damage will continue.

Assessments of forest health in eastern Washington show that current treatment levels and approaches are inadequate to significantly reduce the risk to forest ecosystems and communities.

Growing Awareness

The state experienced record-breaking wildfire seasons in 2014 and 2015. In 2015, wildfires cost state taxpayers $89 million. Predictions indicate that the Pacific Northwest may experience four times more acres burned by wildfires annually within the century.

Accelerating the planning and implementation of forest health treatments across eastern Washington, and doing so at the landscape-scale, is critical to reducing the risk of uncharacteristic wildfire and improving forest health conditions. That’s why, in 2016, the Washington State Legislature directed the Washington State Department of Natural Resources to craft a strategic framework and plan to address the problem.

Sharing Washington’s 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan: Eastern Washington

On Oct. 25, 2017, Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz, with the help of the stakeholders who helped to craft the plan, shared a 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan designed to accelerate planning and implementation of forest health treatments to improve the ecological functions of forest ecosystems and the economic climate for rural communities and the people of Washington State.

Thank You!

It would not have been possible to address the forest health issue in a meaningful, coordinated, strategic fashion without the broad range of stakeholders and partners who participated in the plan. A diverse steering committee conducted analyses, evaluated data, drafted elements of the plan, and provided recommendations. Steering committee members met regularly over several months throughout the planning effort. Representing 33 unique organizations, they worked to bring a spectrum of perspectives and varied expertise to meetings that spanned our state — Chelan, Colville, Ellensburg, Olympia and Stevenson.

The plan will rely on commitment from many parties – state and federal agencies, conservation groups, timber industry, private landowners, tribes and other stakeholders—to take an approach that emphasizes strategically focused forest health treatments in priority landscapes to achieve its mission, goals and strategies.

 

It will also require working at large scales across land ownership boundaries, with unprecedented degrees of collaboration among landowners with diverse management objectives.

Welcome Forest Health Advisory Committee  

Many of the original 33 organizations that participated in the plan’s creation have agreed to continue to play a role as a part of the State’s new Forest Health Advisory Committee. Having witnessed the success of the legislative-directed Wildfire Advisory Committee, the Legislature acted again in 2017, with the support of the Department, to replicate that model for forest health efforts.

This new committee will advise Public Lands Commissioner Hilary S. Franz on the implementation of the plan and forest health treatments across Washington. Comprising 22 individuals representing as many organizations and agencies, it will continue to bring diverse perspectives forward and set the stage for strong partnerships in the future.

More Than Ever, Washington is Set Up for Success

Land management agencies have been actively implementing forest health treatments in eastern Washington for some time. However, recent estimates suggest that at current treatment rates it would have likely taken 53 years to address the existing restoration needs on federal lands alone. We need to pick up the pace of treatments across all land ownerships or we will continue to fall farther behind.

The 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan, Forest Health Advisory Committee and continued support from the Washington State Legislature will allow for meaningful wildfire risk reductions and forest health improvements by prioritizing watersheds, coordinating activities and focusing investments using a landscape-scale, cross-boundary approach. As the Department successfully leads such efforts our state will begin to benefit from reduce tree deaths and high-severity wildfires over time, especially in our overgrown, driest, highest-risk forest areas.

Learn more about the plan’s vision, mission and overarching strategy  here: www.dnr.wa.gov/ForestHealthPlan.

 

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Fish Black Friday for big rainbow trout

WA DFW News - November 6, 2017 - 12:00am
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Chetco Bar Fire Declared 100% Contained (Chetco Bar Fire Wildfire)

Inciweb Articles OR - November 4, 2017 - 6:00pm
Contact: Chamise Kramer, Public Affairs Specialist (541) 618-2051 SW Oregon—The Chetco Bar Fire has been declared 100% contained, effective November 2, 2017. The announcement comes as more wet weather moves into the southwest Oregon area, bringing rain and, at higher elevations, snow. Additionally, the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest has made documents related to the Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) effort available to the public via the RRSNF’s website. People can now access both the full BAER report, and the Specialist Reports that informed that document. (The public should be aware that the Specialist Reports document is a 163-page PDF document, and may take some time to download on slower internet connections.) For up-to-date information regarding the Chetco Bar Fire BAER efforts, follow the RRSNF on Twitter and Facebook.

Norse Peak Fire Closure (Norse Peak/American Fires BAER Burned Area Emergency Response)

InciWeb Articles WA - November 3, 2017 - 11:52am
Numerous hazards brought on by the Norse Peak Fire on the Snoqualmie Ranger District has required the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest to close down sections of the affected area to provide for public safety. The closure order can be viewed here. Click on Exhibit A and Exhibit B to view the closure map and a list of closed roads and trails.

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