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