New Hires Helping Small Forest Landowner Office Improve Services

by Tami Miketa, Manager, Small Forest Landowner Office

We have some good news regarding our staffing levels here in the Small Forest Landowner Office (SFLO). We are growing! More precisely, we are getting back up to speed with the staffing necessary to serve you.

Whitney Butler

Whitney Butler was recently hired as a Natural Resources Specialist by the DNR Small Forest Landowner Office. Photo: DNR

The SFLO is beginning the recruitment process for a new Specialist position. This person will serve as our technical expert in western Washington. The job’s duties will include providing on-the-ground technical consultative services to help small forest landowners understand the forest practices rules and to share technical advice with landowners including information about:

  • Timber harvest systems,
  • Small forest landowner alternate plan templates,
  • 20-acre exempt harvest activities,
  • Long-term applications,
  • Low impact harvest activities,
  • Road construction techniques, and
  • Other support to landowners related to state forest practices rules.

This person also will oversee the development of educational curricula and the numerous outreach activities administered by the Small Forest Landowner Office. We can see that there is a great need for small forest landowners to get help completing their forest practices applications and navigate the application and permit process. I am glad that we will soon have someone on staff who can fulfill these important tasks! We anticipate having a person in this newly created position on team by June.

Other New Hires to Assist You

Chris Briggs

Chris Briggs was recently hired as a Natural Resources Specialist by the DNR Small Forest Landowner Office. Photo: DNR

The SFLO recently hired two Natural Resource Specialist’s: Chris Briggs and Whitney Butler. Chris and Whitney will help the program identify all of the qualifying timber for each FREP application on the program’s waiting list. They will then oversee cruise contracts to determine the value of the qualifying timber for each FREP application. This is an important step for the program, and the landowner, to ensure that the value of the qualifying timber in each FREP application is captured in an expeditious manner. Funds for the program’s easement purchases and staff were included in $3.5 million the State Capital Budget’s $3.5 million appropriation to the Forestry Riparian Easement Program for the FY15-17 biennium.

Finally, the SFLO plans to hire an additional Natural Resource Specialist to help another of our treasured programs — the Family Forest Fish Passage Program (FFFPP) — process FFFPP applications, conduct fish barrier evaluations and, most importantly, conduct extensive outreach to small forest landowners. It is anticipated this new position will join our team by June. Funds for the program’s matching grants and staffing were included in the $5 million appropriated to FFFPP in the State Capital Budget for the FY15-17 biennium.

The SFLO is slowly regaining the staffing levels we had in previous years, and bringing these new positions on board this spring is a great start to what we hope will be a fruitful and productive year for small forest landowners and DNR.

Wildlife Habitat is One of the Joys of Owning Forestland

Natural cover

Natural cover helps wildlife shelter from predators. Photo: Ken Bevis.

By Ken Bevis, Wildlife Biologist, DNR Small Forest Landowner Office, Ken.Bevis@dnr.wa.gov

One of the greatest joys of owning forestland must be encountering wildlife—the swish and leap of a deer’s rump as it vaults a down log, flickering, silvery trout in forested streams, and drumming grouse often heard but rarely seen. Take a walk with any small forest landowner, and you’ll hear these stories, even from those who don’t list wildlife habitat as their primary reason for owning forestland.

If you’re among the 60 percent of small forest landowners who list “Nature/Biodiversity” as one of your primary reasons for holding forestlands, you certainly value those encounters. A new publication by the Woodland Fish and Wildlife Publication Project, entitled Family Forests and Wildlife: Vigorous Forests and Healthy Wildlife, offers key information on enhancing wildlife’s access to food and water, providing protective cover and enough habitat space. Family Forests and Wildlife gives resources for finding further information and guidance for how one might identify which species are resident.

Active management of your forest land can preserve and enhance habitats for our nearly 400 species of forest associated wildlife in Washington. Many people wonder where to begin in regard to better managing their lands for habitat. Here are a few ideas:

Barred owl with garter snake.

Barred owl with garter snake. Photo: Ken Bevis/DNR.

Gather information

Just like a forester doing a stand inventory, do the same with wildlife. Keep a log of your wildlife observations: species, date, time, specific location on the property, and behavior observations. Over the years this log will provide fascinating information about what animals frequent your property and how they survive. Changes may be noted over time. For example, some areas of our state commonly have elk on private forest lands, some do occasionally, and other areas, such as southwest Washington state, are seeing declines due to hoof rot and other factors. Migratory bird arrival and departures can be noted by the first or last observation of species such as the beautiful Western tanager or yellow-rumped warblers. This information can form the basis for many habitat decisions that follow.

Map features

Add wildlife habitat features to the stand maps of your property. Note areas with small wetlands, snag patches, concentrations of rich fruit-bearing shrubs, or well-used travel ways for deer and elk. These features will also change with time, and adding this data layer to your plan is both interesting and useful.

Read

I was pleased to co-author Family Forests and Wildlife: Vigorous Forests and Healthy Wildlife with two of my colleagues from Oregon. This free online publication from the non-profit Woodland Fish and Wildlife Project offers key information about enhancing wildlife access to food and water, providing protective cover and sufficient habitat space. It also lists resources for finding further information and guidance for identifying which species are resident on your property.

Like other publications from the project, Family Forests and Wildlife can be viewed and downloaded for free at woodlandfishandwildlife.com. You’ll find that the project has many more excellent resources for landowners who want to learn how to protect and enhance fish and wildlife habitat on their lands.

 Top 10 Tools for Wildlife

  • Keep forests as forests
  • Leave or create down logs
  • Leave or create snags
  • Retain legacy structures such as big old trees and stumps
  • Leave standing live trees for future legacy structure recruitment
  • Provide safe access to water
  • Leave or recruit hardwood and fruiting shrubs across the landscape
  • Leave or recruit hardwood trees across the landscape
  • Maintain well-vegetated riparian buffers

New: The Washington State Consulting Forester and Silvicultural Contractor Directory

The Washington State Consulting Forester and Silvicultural Contractor Directory is now completed and online. Created by WSU Extension Forestry, the directory is a compilation of forestry professionals around Washington state who provide the professional services to private forest landowners. The directory includes specific information about each professional, including contact information, services provided, bonding and insurance information, experience, and counties served. Inclusion in this directory is voluntary and all information is provided by the forestry professionals themselves.

Find links to the directory on the WSU Extension Forestry website and on the Small Forest Landowner Office web pages.

White-nose Syndrome Discovered in Washington Bat

White-nose Syndrome

White-nose syndrome has spread quickly, killing more than 6 million bats in North American since it was first documented in 2006.

White-nose syndrome (WNS) has been confirmed in a little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) found near North Bend in April – the first recorded occurrence of this devastating bat disease in western North America. The presence of this disease was verified by the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center.

WNS has spread quickly among bats in other affected areas, killing more than six million beneficial insect-eating bats in North America since it was first documented nearly a decade ago.

WNS is not known to pose a threat to humans, pets, livestock or other wildlife.

“We are extremely concerned about the confirmation of WNS in Washington state, about 1,300 miles from the previous westernmost detection of the fungus that causes the disease,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “Bats are a crucial part of our ecology and provide essential pest control for our farmers, foresters and city residents, so it is important that we stay focused on stopping the spread of this fungus. People can help by following decontamination guidance to reduce the risk of accidentally transporting the fungus.”

The spread of white-nose symdrome since 2006

map courtesy of whitenosesymdrome.org

First seen in North America in the winter of 2006/2007 in eastern New York, WNS has now spread to 28 states and five Canadian provinces. USGS microbiologist David Blehert first identified the unknown fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, which causes the disease. WNS is named for the fuzzy white fungal growth that is sometimes observed on the muzzles of infected bats.  The fungus invades hibernating bats’ skin and causes damage, especially to delicate wing tissue, and physiologic imbalances that can lead to disturbed hibernation, depleted fat reserves, dehydration and death.

Transmission and precautions

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) veterinarian Katie Haman said the disease is transmitted primarily from bat to bat, although people can carry fungal spores on their clothing, shoes or caving gear.

“The bat found near North Bend most likely had been roused from hibernation and was attempting to feed at a time of very low insect availability,” Haman said. “At this point we don’t know where the infected bat may have spent the winter, but it seems likely that it was somewhere in the central Cascades.”

Haman said Washington state has 15 species of bats that benefit humans by consuming large quantities of insects that can impact forest health and commercial crops.

WDFW advises against handling animals that appear sick or are found dead. If you find dead bats or notice bats exhibiting unusual behavior such as flying outside during the day or during freezing weather, please report your observation to WDFW online or call the WDFW Wildlife Health Hotline at 800-606-8768.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is responsible for bat management and conservation in Washington and will coordinate surveillance and response efforts.

To learn more about WNS and access the most updated decontamination protocols and cave access advisories, visit www.whitenosesyndrome.org.

2016 Marks 70th Year of Insect and Disease Aerial Survey in Washington

by Glenn Kohler, Entomologist and Aerial Observer, Washington DNR

Every year since 1947, aerial surveyors have reported the location and intensity of damage by forest insects, diseases, and other disturbances across all ownerships of forestland in Washington. Without aerial surveys, it would be impossible to track disturbance conditions over such a large area using ground-based methods. Aerial survey is also an important tool used to detect and map new outbreaks of native and exotic insects and diseases. The Washington Department of Natural Resources and the USDA Forest Service cooperate to conduct the annual aerial detection survey (ADS) and typically cover the majority of Washington’s 22.4 million acres of forested lands. The total area mapped with some type of damage varies each year from a few hundred thousand to nearly two million acres.

Forest health 2015

In 2015, levels of tree mortality, defoliation, or foliar diseases were recorded on approximately 338,000 acres, well below the 543,000 acres reported in 2014.

2015 Aerial Survey Highlights

A very active wildfire season in 2015 posed major challenges for the aerial survey, but crews were still able to complete the survey in all areas unaffected by fire. Approximately one million acres that would have normally been surveyed were not flown in 2015 due to numerous large fires of 2014 and 2015. Because it is difficult to distinguish mortality caused by fire from mortality caused by insects or disease, areas burned by wildfire are not mapped until the second year following the fire. Normally August is the best time to fly aerial survey in eastern Washington because damage signatures are well developed. But heavy smoke, temporary flight restriction areas, and crew and aircraft commitments to fire duty prevented any survey flights the entire month of August. An additional aircraft and crew were used to complete the survey by late September.

In 2015, some level of tree mortality, tree defoliation, or foliar diseases was recorded on approximately 338,000 acres. This is well below the 543,000 acres reported in 2014. Some part of this decrease is due to reduced acres flown in areas of eastern Washington that typically have higher levels of damage. However, downward trends in insect and disease damage were also evident in areas unaffected by wildfires.

Tree mortality was recorded on approximately 241,000 acres, of this 116,000 acres were attributed to bark beetles and 108,000 acres to bear damage or root disease. Relative to 2014, tree mortality decreased for all major bark beetles including mountain pine beetle (58,700 acres), western pine beetle (5,900 acres), Douglas-fir beetle (18,500 acres), fir engraver (11,700 acres), and spruce beetle (16,000 acres). Mountain pine beetle was at the lowest level in the last ten years. The area with conifer defoliation decreased to approximately 99,000 acres, down from 159,000 acres reported in 2014. Almost all defoliation recorded was caused by western spruce budworm (79,000 acres) and balsam woolly adelgid (19,600 acres). Western spruce budworm defoliation was at the lowest level in the last ten years, but similar to 2014. Approximately 9,800 acres had some level of disease damage, primarily bigleaf maple decline (2,700 acres) and needle casts in pines (3,200 acres) and western larch (2,900 acres).

Aerial Surveys Then and Now

Continue reading

DNR Revenue Forecast: Timber Prices Fall on China Concerns

By David Chertudi, Lead Economist, and Kristoffer Larson, EconomistDNR Office of Budget and Economics

Lumber and log prices have fallen markedly since peaking in mid-2014. Random Lengths’ Coast Dry Random and Stud composite lumber price peaked at $393/mbf in January 2014 but fell throughout the rest of the year to average $373/mbf. The composite lumber price continued to fall precipitously to a low of $287/mbf in May 2015 before rebounding to $333/mbf in July. As of December the price had fallen to $295/mbf, to average $311/mbf for 2015.

This decline is mostly due to the dramatic slowdown in demand from China and an ample regional supply of both logs and lumber. Log prices are expected to increase throughout FY 16 to average as much as six percent more than FY 15.

In the November forecast, we noted that the expiration of the Softwood Lumber Agreement posed a major downside risk to the forecast because the expiration of tariffs might allow a flood of cheap logs and lumber to stream across the border from Canada. This has not occurred and probably will not because of constraints on Canadian log supply as they run out of excess wood from beetle-kill, the importance of China to the British Columbia lumber market, and the significant presence of Canadian companies that own U.S.-based sawmills.

Read the full February 2016 DNR Quarterly Economic and Revenue Forecast online.

Events, workshops and publications

Northwest Natural Resource Group Workshop Series (The Beginning Forestry Program)
You Bought a Forest, So Now What?

Chehalis — Saturday, April 23, 2016

This workshop will introduce forest owners to Pacific Northwest ecology and provide key information for starting to assess and manage woodlands. Topics this class will cover include: Forest ecology, tree identification, inventory approaches and options to assess forest health, tree stocking, invasive species, and wildlife habitat, mapping tools, current use taxation, local resources, technical assistance, and much more.

Event and registration information

 

Firewise Communities Workshop

Spokane (Spokane County) — May 17-18

“The best time to become Firewise is before the next fire starts…” Find out what steps to take to protect your home and neighborhood from wildfires, what resources are available to help you, and what we have learned from our recent wildfire seasons.

More information

 

Northwest Natural Resource Group Workshop Series (The Beginning Forestry Program)
Ecological Forestry 101; Intro to Silviculture & Wildlife Habitat

 

Oakville — Saturday, June 11, 2016

Many forest owners in the Pacific Northwest are interested in maintaining forests that provide a broad range of economic and ecological values. This workshop will introduce you to the principles of ecological forestry as well as tools to implement it successfully on smaller parcels. Topics include: Forest dynamics, forest health, young stand management, uneven-aged management, hardwood management, maintaining & enhancing wildlife habitat, and much more.

Event and registration information

 

2016 Forest Owner’s Field Day: Eastern Washington

Colville — Saturday June 25, 2016
Brochure, registration, schedule coming soon
Check WSU Extension Forestry for updates

 

2016 Forest Owner’s Field Day: Western Washington

Sequim — Saturday August 20, 2016
Brochure, registration, schedule coming soon
Check WSU Extension Forestry for updates

 

Forest Stewardship Coached Planning

If you own wooded property, this course will teach you how to assess your trees, avoid insect and disease problems, and attract wildlife. State experts will help you develop your own Forest Stewardship Plan to keep your woods on track to provide enjoyment and income for years to come.

Deming (Whatcom County) — Thursday evenings, September 15 – November 3
More information

Preston (King County) — Tuesday evenings, September 27 – November 15
More information

WHAT TO DO WHEN WILDFIRES STRIKE

Message from Tami Miketa, Manager of the Small Forest Landowner Office

2014 Chiwaukum Creek fire.

2014 Chiwaukum Creek fire.

A small forest landowner recently asked me what they should do if a fire strikes on or near their property. Who should they call and how should they protect themselves and their property? Considering this year’s tinder dry conditions for forests on both sides of the Cascades, I thought it would be a good idea to provide our readers with the essential “to dos” for when fire strikes.

Whether the fire is on your property or somewhere else, your first response should be to call 911 with the location of the fire. According to Bob Johnson, DNR’s lead firefighter and manager of the DNR Wildfire Division “Our first line of information about fires is often the public. If callers can take a moment to give us the general location of the fire, we can make sure there is a quick response by the firefighters best equipped to handle fire on that particular landscape.”

Dispatchers answering 911 calls immediately route calls to federal, state and local firefighters, depending on the location of the fire. While firefighting resources are heading toward the blaze, dispatchers or firefighters may call you back if additional information is needed regarding the fire, its location and nearby hazards.

“Sometimes we will need to check back with callers to confirm the location or to check on the status of the fire. This will ensure we have the right resources going to each fire. These calls can be invaluable as fires can change quickly” said Johnson. “Overall, our goal is to attack fires swiftly and aggressively before they have a chance to become large.”

MyLandPlan.org advises landowners that if the wildfire is approaching your home, you can help keep yourself and your family safe and minimize the damage to your land if you:

  • Call 911 immediately.
  • Close all windows, doors, vents and other openings, and draw your shutters, drapes or blinds to keep out sparks.
  • Put on protective clothes, including long pants, long-sleeved shirt, closed shoes, gloves and a handkerchief to shield your face.
  • Have tools and water available throughout fire season – a shovel, rake, long water hose, and water-filled buckets may be helpful. Leave a ladder against your house in plain view in case firefighters need to access your roof.
  • Remove dead leaves, vines and other potential fuel for the fire that is near your house.
  • If your roof isn’t fireproof, wet it down with a hose. You may also choose to wet shrubs and other flammable objects within 15 feet of your home.
  • Turn off your natural gas, propane, or other residential fuel.
  • If you are advised to evacuate, immediately take your family and pets to a safe location.

Once you return home:

  • Carefully inspect your home before re-entering it. Check the roof and all rooms for embers, and have your propane tank, heating oil tank, or other source of fuel professionally inspected before using it.
  • If your home was damaged, have your water tested before consuming it. Damage to your plumbing system can allow your water system to become contaminated with bacteria.
  • Protect yourself while cleaning up debris. Wear a respirator or mask and wet the debris first, to minimize your exposure to ash and dust.

You’ll also need to check your trees for wildfire damage. Signs include:

  • Black scorch marks on the trunks. If the bark has been scorched off or deeply burned around the entire circumference of the tree, that tree is unlikely to survive and should be considered unstable.
  • Burned roots. Probe the ground, six to eight inches below the surface and up to several feet away from the base of the tree. Trees with burned roots are also considered unstable.
  • Lost leaves or needles. Evergreens will need special protection after losing some or all of their needles, as this makes them especially susceptible to bark beetle attack.

DNR’s Wildfire Resources web page, has additional resources that will help you prepare and survive a wildfire.

Summer to Fall Road Maintenance

Boyd Norton, NW Washington Landowner Assistance Forester 

Road vegetated RamsdellRBefore we start, I’d like to thank everyone who participated in our forest road design and maintenance survey. The results are being used in a legislative report addressing small forest landowners’ progress in meeting the Forest Practices Rules for road maintenance and abandonment. We hope the report will help us make some gains in providing you assistance with maintaining and improving your forest roads!

Summer is here and timber is moving from the forest to the mills. Our mild winter and spring has made it possible to access higher elevations and cross normally wet areas earlier than in normally wet years. While it may seem like it’s rushing the season, summer is the best time to start thinking about the condition of your roads and preparing for fall and the return of wet weather.

So take a walk and check your roads! 

For active haul roads, make sure that:

  • Cut slopes within harvest units have been cleared of logging debris.
  • Logging debris has been removed from the ditches.
  • Bare cut and fill slopes are ready for seeding or to cover with straw to prevent erosion.
  • Cross drains are functional and their inlets are cleared of debris.
  • Damaged cross drains and crossings for typed waters have been repaired or replaced and energy dissipaters installed where needed.
  • Water bars are functional and tied into the ditch, skewed across the running surface and delivering runoff to stable soils. Water bars also need to be deep enough to control run off and allow for reforestation access.
  • Landing debris is in a stable location.
  • Gates or other barriers are installed or planned for to prevent access. 

For existing and inactive roads, check that:

  • Gates and other barriers are functional and don’t need repair.
  • Ditches are free of woody debris and functional.
  • Cross drains and water bars are functional. Driveable water bars have been maintained to keep run off from over-topping and eroding the road surface or fill slope.
  • Undersized cross drains have been replaced or removed (minimum diameter 18” in western Washington, 15” in eastern Washington).
  • Culverts in seasonal and perennial non-fish habitat streams (Ns, Np), are clear of debris and designed to pass flows from a 100 year storm event.
  • The road surface is graded, crowned, outsloped and in a condition to prevent sediment from entering a typed water.
  • Type F water crossings are free of debris. Crossings planned for use in the near future, should be able to carry flows from a 100 year flood event, as well as allowing passage of fish in all life stages.

If you’d like assistance with assessing your roads, contact Boyd Norton (boyd.norton@dnr.wa.gov) or submit a request online. Landowners with inadequate Type F crossings should contact the Family Forest Fish Passage Programyou can apply on-line or by contacting Laurie Cox directly (laurie.cox@dnr.wa.gov).

Property Tax for Timberland

Heather Hansen, Washington Farm Forestry Association

Budget-preparation-graphic-e1330391122329Is your timberland enrolled as designated forestland or open space timberland for property tax purposes? Have you heard from your County Assessor about disqualifying a portion of your land from one of these programs? Have you purchased land and had difficulty getting it enrolled in one of these programs?

If so, you are not alone and we want to hear your story. We have heard from members across the state about difficulty getting and keeping land enrolled in current use taxation programs. The intent of these programs is to encourage forestry and support all of the functions that timberland provides. Washington Farm Forestry Association is working with the Department of Revenue to ensure the programs are implemented accurately and fairly across the state.

The following counties have merged the open space timberland program into the designated forestland program: Chelan, Clallam, Cowlitz, Ferry, Grays Harbor, Island, Kitsap, Kittitas, Klickitat, Lewis, Pacific, Pend Oreille, Spokane, and Whatcom. In all other counties, the programs remain separate. The programs are similar. Contiguous timberland totaling five acres or more is eligible for these programs.

The more stories we hear from affected landowners, the better we can address concerns. Please contact Heather Hansen at hhansen@wafarmfoestry.com or 360-705-2040.

Key points for landowners

  • If a landowner receives a Notice of Removal from the County Assessor, it must specify why the land is being removed from the program.
  • Preferential tax treatment is granted in part because of the assumption that excise tax will be paid at harvest time. You must plan to harvest; however, there is a great deal of latitude about when, how and how much you may wish to harvest.
  • There is no requirement to open your land to the public.
  • The landowner must fulfill the restocking requirements in the timber management plan submitted with the application. As long as the landowner follows the timber management plan, the land should not be removed from the program. You do not need to hire a forester to write your plan. You can write it yourself or with help from a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Landowner Assistance Forester, your Conservation District or WSU Extension.
  • If you receive a Notice of Removal, contact your County Assessor’s office. Many concerns can be resolved by sharing information. If that does not work, appeal to your County Board of Equalization. There is no cost (except your time). You do not need an attorney. All it takes is a letter explaining why you think your land qualifies for the program. Do pay attention to dates; there is a deadline for appealing.
  • It states on the Notice of Removal that the owner can apply for reclassification as either open space land or agricultural land. In some cases, these other categories may be a better fit.  If the landowner applies for reclassification, no compensating tax is due.
  • If land is voluntarily removed from the program, compensating taxes must be paid.
  • If your application to enroll land in one of the programs is denied, the assessor must allow you to be heard. If issues are not resolved, this denial can also be appealed to the Board of Equalization.

If you have questions or concerns about designated forestland, open space timberland or other open space programs, please let us know. 

What the Law Says 

RCW 84.33.010: It is this state’s policy to encourage forestry so that present and future generations will enjoy the benefits which forest areas provide such as enhancing water supply, minimizing soil erosion, minimizing storm and flood damage, providing habitat for wildlife, providing scenic and recreational spaces, maintaining land areas whose forests contribute to the natural ecological equilibrium, and providing employment and profits to its citizens and raw materials for products needed by everyone.

RCW 84.33.035: “Forest land” means any parcel of land that is five or more acres or multiple parcels of land that total five or more acres that are devoted primarily to growing and harvesting timber. It includes land used for incidental uses that are compatible with the growing and harvesting of timber as long as those incidental uses do not total more than ten percent of the land. Incidental uses may include a gravel pit, a shed or land used to store equipment and any other use that does not interfere with growing and harvesting timber.  It does not include a residential home site.

To be eligible for the program, a landowner must have a timber management plan. This plan may be prepared by a trained forester, or any other person with adequate knowledge of timber management practices.

State law does not specify what must be included in the plan.