Change is Coming…

SFL Newsletter

Beginning this month, the Small Forest Landowners Newsletter will go from being published bi-monthly to quarterly. The reason for the change is to better mesh with the publication schedule for WSU’s newsletter Forest Stewardship Notes. See you in July!

DNR Website

DNR is planning a new website. Your help is key to making sure it will work well for yourself and others. Please take three minutes to answer five simple questions on our online survey about how you would navigate the site to find what you’re looking for.

To share more about your website needs, send an email to carrie.mccausland@dnr.wa.gov.

Landowner Assistance Fish and Wildlife Biologist Ken Bevis receives Wildlife Society’s Partnership Award

KenBevis

Ken Bevis, a DNR Landowner Assistance Fish and Wildlife Biologist, received the Wildlife Society’s Partnership Award. recently. Photo: DNR.

At the recent Annual Meeting of the Washington Chapter of the Wildlife Society, our own Landowner Assistance Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Ken Bevis, received the Wildlife Society’s Partnership Award. The Partnership Award recognizes an outstanding accomplishment by a person or organization for working with and establishing partnerships that otherwise would not have existed or functioned as well without their initiative, and which has resulted in significant advancement of wildlife conservation.

Ken has forged a strong partnership with staff working in the Firewise and Forest Health Cost Share programs here at DNR. He has been able to show that creating defensible space around homes, improving the health of a landowner’s forest, as well as creating valuable wildlife habitat can all be mutually accomplished at the same time.

In the past, the notion of maintaining small brush patches, protecting large woody debris or creating forest openings were not part of the management prescriptions for maintaining defensible space or improving forest health. In fact, most staff believed that these habitat features needed to be removed. But Ken’s ability to show staff that these important habitat components can be maintained at the same time, and still provide the defensible space and forest health benefits has opened the eyes and the minds of many DNR staff. Ken now works in close collaboration with Firewise Foresters and forest health foresters on a regular basis. They are regularly co-presenters at a number of workshops, field events, and educational courses throughout the state.

Ken is an experienced naturalist and biologist with over 26 years of technical fish and wildlife management experience. Ken also works very closely with WSU Extension foresters on a number of educational events such as Coached Planning Courses, Forest Health Workshops, Forest Owner’s Field Days, and many other educational venues. One of Ken’s strongest assets is his communication skills. Ken is an award winning communicator and has a keen interest in listening to landowner’s needs and interests and taking that information and applying it appropriately. He is an accomplished public speaker and has outstanding interpersonal communication skills. He is extremely effective in relationship building with both internal and external staff, stakeholders, and is highly regarded for his professionalism among his co-workers and colleagues.

The inter-program partnerships that Ken has fostered within DNR, combined with the many external partnerships he’s built over the years, made him an exceptional choice for the Washington Wildlife Society’s Partnership Award. The Small Forest Landowner Office and the Forest Stewardship Program are very lucky to have Ken on our team. Congratulations Ken!

By Tami Miketa, Manager of the Small Forest Landowner Office

Small Forest Landowners Needed to Help in Fisher Recovery

Fisher whole

The fisher (Pekania pennanti) is one of the larger members of the weasel family and is only found in North America’s boreal and temperate forests. Through excessive trapping and habitat loss, fishers were eliminated from Washington state by the mid-1900s. The species is currently listed as endangered in the state of Washington and is under consideration for listing as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has been working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), National Park Service, US Geological Survey and the US Forest Service to help Fisher maprecover the fisher. Recovery areas have been identified for the Olympic and Cascade ranges. Successful reintroductions occurred in Olympic National Park from 2008 to 2010 and reintroductions are planned in Mount Rainier National Park and Gifford Pinchot National Forest in the South Cascades for late 2015. Two to three years later, reintroductions will follow in the North Cascades (North Cascades National Park and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest).

In addition to reintroducing the species, WDFW has been preparing for the potential federal listing by developing a voluntary conservation approach for private landowners – a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA). Simply stated, those who agree to take certain measures to protect fishers would not be subject to future land-use restrictions that might result if the species is listed under the ESA.

How Can Forest Landowners Help?

Wildlife managers are seeking help from forest landowners to work as partners in the recovery of fishers in Washington state. Forest landowners can qualify for this type of conservation agreement by voluntarily signing on to the CCAA administered by WDFW. Proposed conservation measures applicable to all enrollees include:

  • Allowing WDFW access to your property to monitor fishers and their den sites
  • Providing protection to denning females and their young by avoiding disturbance around known denning sites while occupied (generally between the months of March and September)

WDFW will submit its draft CCAA template to USFWS in April 2015. The federal review and approval process will begin, which will include a public review process. Once approved, landowners can sign on to the CCAA until such time as fishers become listed under the federal ESA.

Species Information

Fisher on TreeThe species is dark brown and has a long bushy tail, short rounded ears, short legs, and a low-to-the-ground appearance. Fishers mate from late March to early May, with females giving birth to a litter of 1 to 4 kits the following year. While birthing dens are always in cavities of live trees, females may move the kits to other den structures, including cavities in snags or downed logs, or to log piles or ground burrows. Fishers prey on small mammals such as deer mice, voles, and squirrels throughout their 25-to-50 square mile2 home ranges.

They prefer low- and mid-elevation forests with moderate to dense canopy closure and an abundance of large woody structures such as cavity trees, snags, and downed logs.

For more information on the fisher, the CCAA and enrolling in the program, please contact Gary Bell by phone at 360-902-2412 or via email at Gary.Bell@dfw.wa.gov

By Terry Jackson, WDFW Forest Habitats Section Manager

Spring is a Time of Miracles

After a long winter, life is suddenly returning to the forests of the Pacific Northwest! For small forest landowners this is the time to visit your lands, remember habitat features, plan new activities, and continue protecting the valuable habitats on your woodlands.

Birds

Townsends warbler

Townsends warbler

Between March and May migratory songbirds arrive to take advantage of the explosion of insect life in our temperate forests. Many of these birds return yearly from the Neo-tropics (Central and South America) to breed and remain with us only for summer months. Others merely pass through on their way to breeding grounds farther north, using our forests and shores to refuel and rest. Listen carefully at dawn and you can hear their amazing chorus of song, as they declare breeding territories and try to attract mates.

Western pee wee. Photo: G. Thompson.

Western pee wee. Photo: G. Thompson.

Research suggests that some of our migratory birds (western tanagers, Townsend’s warblers, flycatchers) may key in on our deciduous trees either because of the insect populations, or because the trees are similar to the broad-leafed forests where they spend the winter. Interestingly, many of the neo-tropical migrants arrive as trees are leafing out. Conifers have more consistent habitat features, with needles present year-around, and provide habitats utilized more by year around residents such as chickadees and nuthatches.

Rich shrub layers and overlapping canopy trees can provide critical habitats for these nesting birds. Many like snags along the forest edge, particularly if there are meadows or water nearby. Watch for flycatchers “hawking” (catching on the wing) insects by darting up into the air and flying back to their favorite perches. There are at least 8 species of birds known as flycatchers that will grace your forest this spring and summer including the western wood pee wee and both the Hammond’s and dusky flycatchers. These birds nest in forked branches high up in trees, and actively feed throughout the day. Try telling them apart by their behavior and calls. Appreciate the journey they just made from central Mexico or Arizona back to your property!

Mammals

Yellow bellied marmot. Photo: K. Bevis.

Yellow bellied marmot. Photo: K. Bevis.

In the spring, hibernating mammals such as marmots and ground squirrels suddenly appear. These animals will usually breed immediately after leaving hibernation, producing young within a month or so. They actively feed throughout the spring and summer and return to hibernation in the fall. Black bears also reemerge from their winter rest in the spring and begin avidly foraging for food. Deer in snow country remain on their winter range where food can be thin and scarce, surviving on their fat reserves. As nutritious new growth appears, they regain their strength and move back to their summer range to have their fawns. 

Amphibians

Rough-skinned newt.

Rough-skinned newt.

Frogs, toads and salamanders become active in the spring as well, breeding as ponds and wetlands lose their ice cover and the edges warm. Depending on where you are, the woods can be alive with their breeding migrations and choruses from late-February to June. Spend an evening listening to their singing or an afternoon watching rough-skinned newts wandering the woods. 

Fungus

Lobster mushroom.

Lobster mushroom.

Moist soils and rotting wood produce amazing springtime explosions of mushrooms all over Washington. Mushrooms are the fruiting body of fungi, with the mycelium or “root mass” buried below ground. The mycelium unobtrusively break down organic material on the forest floor, helping to ensure the health of the forest and its residents. When conditions are right, the mushrooms themselves appear, often literally overnight, in crazy and varied shapes, sizes and colors. Mushrooms are also abundant in the fall. If you plan on picking mushrooms, be careful and take along an experienced mushroomer or a good field guide! Although some mushrooms are a tasty treat for humans and wildlife alike, others can make you sick or even kill you.

Plants

Calypso orchid. Photo: K. Bevis.

Calypso orchid. Photo: K. Bevis.

As the earth warms, new growth appears first on the forest floor and in the understory, then on the tall trees above. Flowering plants like the calypso orchid are specialists on the forest floor, living on moist decaying wood in older forests and are a wonderful surprise to see. Calypso, or fairy slipper, orchids are fragile and seldom survive picking or transplanting due to their fragile root systems and associations with particular soil fungi.

Want to know more? Contact DNR’s Small Forest Landowner Office and/or your local forester for more information about the life of your woods or to schedule a site visit to help you better manage your woodland.

By Ken Bevis, DNR Landowner Assistance Fish and Wildlife Biologist

Additional Resources:

Moskowitz, D. 2010. Wildlife of the Pacific Northwest: Tracking and Identifying Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians and Invertebrates. Timber Press.

Ruggiero, L. F., et al. Wildlife and vegetation of unmanaged Douglas-fir forests. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-285. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station

Burke Museum: Washington State Field Guides 

Field Guide to North American Mushrooms

Field Guide to Edible Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest

Summer Field Season – Save the Dates

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

It looks like this summer will be full of exceptional educational opportunities designed to help you manage your forestland.

Forester Field Days — Each summer, DNR, WSU Extension, and other agency partners host educational field days for forest landowners. Typically, we hold at least two Saturday field days each year, one east and one west of the Cascades. These field days offer a hands-on, “out in the woods” experience for the whole family. Participants can attend outdoor seminars on dozens of topics including forest health, thinning, and pruning; riparian management; wildlife habitat, special forest products, and wildfire protection.

These field days provide educational opportunities for participants of all ages and skill levels, regardless of property size. In addition to offering an excellent introduction to forest stewardship, field days provide advanced learning opportunities and refreshers for more experienced landowners, as well updates on the latest forest research and developments.

This year’s Forester Field Days are being held on the following Saturdays:

Forest Stewardship Coached Planning Courses – Coached Planning is the flagship of the WSU Extension Forest Stewardship Program. The short courses are designed to help forest landowners develop customized management solutions to meet their individual ownership objectives. Participants will identify their property ownership goals and develop a comprehensive forest stewardship plan. A stewardship plan may qualify landowners for cost-share assistance for plan implementation, as well as recognition as a Stewardship Forest, and a reduction in current-use property-tax rates. Forest Stewardship Coached Planning is a collaborative educational program offered by WSU Extension in cooperation with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and other federal, state, and local natural resource agencies. The classes typically include one evening class per week for six to nine weeks.

Dates and locations for 2015 are as follows:

  • Preston – Tuesday evenings starting September 22
  • Langley – Thursday evenings starting October 8.

This year, we’ve added a new Coached Planning Class designed to help landowners complete their forest stewardship plan during the course period. The course will focus on some of the common management challenges landowners face including access issues, improving the health and resiliency of your forest, enhancing and/or creation of wildlife habitat, and learning about non-timber forest products for personal or commercial use.

  • Chehalis – Wednesday April 22 through May 20, 6 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. One Saturday field trip is also scheduled during the course. For registration information contact: Juile.sackett@dnr.wa.gov

Forest Stewardship University

Forest Stewardship University is a suite of online classes available from WSU Extension on a variety of topics, including tree and plant identification, silviculture, forest health, managing noxious weeds, and understanding forest taxes and regulations. These online classes are available on demand at http://extension.wsu.edu/forestry/FSU/

Protection of Western Gray Squirrels in Washington – How Small Forest Landowners Can Help

Western Gray Squirrel

The western gray squirrel was once a common sight in the oak and conifer forests of the southern Puget Lowlands, Columbia Gorge and on the east side of the Cascades. In 1993, surveys showed that the squirrel’s distribution shrunk to three isolated populations in Klickitat and southern Yakima counties; Okanogan and Chelan counties; and on Joint Base Lewis-McChord. As a result, Washington state listed the species as threatened. One of the primary reasons for the decline of the species has been habitat loss and degradation associated with development, logging, fire suppression, catastrophic wildfires, and the invasion by weeds.

To date, conservation of western gray squirrels and their habitat has been accomplished using a voluntary management

Western gray squirrel nest

Western gray squirrel nest

approach: landowners work with WDFW biologists to develop a management plan that protects nests and important habitat attributes during harvest and other forest management activities. However, the effectiveness of a voluntary management approach has been challenged, and Washington’s Forest Practices Board has directed DNR and WDFW to make improvements that will help to ensure the success of this approach. The board will continue evaluating the value of this approach for adequate protection of the western gray squirrel and determine if alternate approaches, such as development of formal rules, are needed.

How can small forest landowners help?

The following actions are simple steps landowners can take to help conserve and rebuild western gray squirrel populations:

  • Look for western gray squirrel habitat on your property, which can be identified by a concentration of stick nests in ponderosa pine- and Douglas fir-dominated stands with a multi-layered and well-connected canopy.
  • Preserve patches of suitable nest trees and maintain connected tree canopy between nests during forest management activities.
  • Avoid disturbing important habitat features like oak trees, native shrubs, and ground cover of forest litter and/or moss.
  • Contact WDFW biologists for help in identifying nests, habitat, and creating a voluntary management plan.
  • Read up on the state’s efforts to conserve western gray squirrels. Additional information on western gray squirrels and what you can do to help conserve this species can be found in Management Recommendations for Washington’s Priority Habitats and Species, Western Gray Squirrel and in the Western Gray Squirrel Recovery Plan.

Species Information

The western gray squirrel is the largest native tree squirrel in Washington. The species use stick nests for resting and sleeping, and females use cavity nests for giving birth and rearing their young. These solitary creatures forage on the ground for pine nuts, acorns, seeds, green vegetation, truffles and fruit, but they rarely stray far from their nest trees.

Although western gray squirrels are sometimes confused with eastern gray and fox squirrels, the squirrels size and coloring set them apart from each other:

  • Western gray – Dark gray with pure white underparts, large ears and a large tail as long as the body.
  • Eastern gray – About 20 percent smaller than adult western gray’s with shorter ears and tail, eastern gray squirrels are pale gray with a brown to reddish tinge.
  • Fox squirrel – Similar in size to western gray squirrels, but with a cinnamon colored belly and short ears.

For more information or assistance with western gray squirrel conservation, please contact Gary Bell by phone at 360-902-2412 or via email at Gary.Bell@dfw.wa.gov

By Gary Bell, Wildlife Biologist, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife 

Forest Roads and Streams

Man on Road

How our forests develop is based on more than the types of trees we plant – environmental factors such as soil type and depth, rainwater infiltration, and elevation also play an important role. Protecting these factors and their ecological processes is a critical part of forest road planning and maintenance. Well-maintained roads also help ensure sedimentation does not reach important water systems within a riparian zone.

Riparian zones are the ecological link between terrestrial and aquatic systems. In addition to containing some of the more productive conditions for growing timber, they are heavily used by wildlife, provide essential habitat for fish and wildlife, and are key to protecting water quality. When they are properly stewarded they stabilize banks and filter sediment, as well as provide nutrients, large woody debris, and shade that fish and wildlife depend on.

Well-maintained riparian zones have deeper soils that hold moisture longer into the summer and saturate earlier in the fall, which allows the road surface and subgrade to hold moisture for a longer period of time. The subgrade and road surface moisture is also increased by the need to meet rule designated shade requirements within the riparian management zone (RMZ). By keeping a canopy of needles and leaves above a road, the sunlight and air movement is reduced during the fall and late spring. Needles and leaves create a mat that seals in moisture, both of which prevent the road surface from drying out. Using roads during the wet season causes the binding friction of surface rock to deteriorate and allows for the movement of fine soils from the subgrade to “pump up” through the margins between the pieces of gravel. This fine sediment stays suspended in surface runoff and can be carried into the ditches and streams affecting water quality and fish habitat. Generally, reducing sediment impacts in RMZ’s requires more cross drains, ditches on both sides of the road, sediment traps made from fiber or rock, and increased maintenance to keep them functional.

The forest practices rules discourage the construction of new roads within an RMZ:

Except for crossings, new stream-adjacent parallel roads shall not be located within natural drainage channels, channel migration zones, sensitive sites, equipment limitation zones, and riparian management zones when there would be substantial loss or damage to fish or wildlife habitat unless the department has determined that other alternatives will cause greater damage to public resources. Proposals with new stream-adjacent parallel roads will require an on-site review by an interdisciplinary team WAC 222-24-020 (2).”

So how do you protect ecological functions while maintaining roads within a RMZ’s? By:

  • Locating new roads outside of natural drainage channels, channel migration zones, sensitive sites, and equipment limitation zones. Exceptions may be allowed after an on-site review by an interdisciplinary team.
  • Conducting road maintenance in riparian areas during the dry season.
  • Completing ditch cleaning re-vegetation with grasses or clovers to reduce sediment and bare soils.
  • Making sure culverts are functional and catch basin and outfalls are rocked to prevent scouring.
  • Constructing drivable dips in the road grade above culverts to allow water to move across the road if the culvert becomes over topped with water.
  • Discontinuing hauling immediately if a road begins to introduce fine sediments into the water, causing discoloration of the streams.
  • Adding, cleaning and repairing sediment traps.
  • Limiting access during seasonal wet periods and the wet season.
  • Decommissioning or abandoning roads in riparian zones by reforesting and seeding the foot print of the road with grass or clover, and removing all cross drain/relief culverts.

Remember that good roads protect water quality and riparian habitat, and prevent damage to public resources by:

  • Providing passage for fish during all life stages.
  • Preventing mass wasting.
  • Limiting delivery of sediment and surface runoff to water.
  • Avoiding the capture and redirection of surface or groundwater. This includes retaining streams in their natural drainages and routing subsurface flow captured by roads and road ditches back onto the forest floor.
  • Diverting most road runoff to the forest floor.
  • Designing water crossing structures to the 100-year flood level to provide for the passage of bedload and some woody debris.
  • Protecting stream bank stability, the existing stream channel, and riparian vegetation.
  • Assuring no-net-loss of wetland function or fish habitat.

Looking at roads as part of the ecological forest function protects your investment, ensures the protection of important fish and wildlife habitat and maintains good clean water quality.

Next Newsletter: Are Your Roads Ready for Fall?

By Boyd Norton, Northwest Washington Landowner Assistance Forester, DNR

March 2015 Lumber and Log Prices

Tree Dollar Sign

Lumber and log prices increased markedly in 2013 and somewhat less so in 2014. Random Lengths’ Coast Dry Random and Stud composite lumber price averaged $370/mbf in 2013, $373/mbf in 2014, and $341/mbf so far in 2015. Washington log prices moved up sharply from a two-year plateau in 2013 and continued to rise in 2014.

View more highlights from the March 2015 DNR Economic and Revenue Forecast

By David Chertudi, DNR Lead Economist

Events, Workshops and Publications

Workshops

Forest Stewardship Coached Planning – WSU’s flagship course teaches landowners 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.

  • Chehalis – Wednesday April 22 through May 20. For registration information contact sackett@dnr.wa.gov
  • Preston – Tuesday evenings starting September 22.
  • Langley – Thursday evenings starting October 8.

Forest Owners Field Days – Field days feature a whole suite of our most popular forest stewardship workshops. The state’s top forestry specialists will be offering hands-on field sessions throughout the day on a variety of topics that will help you to better understand, protect, enhance, and enjoy your forest.

Online

Forest Stewardship University offers a complete online education experience, featuring over 20 mini-courses ranging from forest health to taxes.

Publications

Forestry Education and Assistance for Washington Forest Landowners – A directory of key agencies and contacts for forest owners throughout Washington.

Consulting Foresters Directory – A listing of private consultants that can help you carry out forest management activities.

Small-scale Sawmill Directory – These databases provide a partial listing of sawmills that accept small quantities of logs:

Websites

Forest Seedling Network – An interactive website that connects landowners with seedling providers, forest management services and contractors.

Woodland Fish and Wildlife – A cooperative effort between state and federal agencies and universities to provide woodland owners with wildlife management information. The 21 publications cover topics as varied as cavity nesting ducks to wildlife found in white oak woodlands.

Women Owning Woodlands – The Women Owning Woodlands web project strives to bring topical, accessible, and current forestry information to woodland owners and forest practitioners through news articles, blogs, events, resources, and personal stories.

The Emerald Ash Borer – Preparing for Battle

Adult emerald ash borer.

The emerald ash borer is an invasive beetle from Asia that has decimated ash populations across New England, the Midwest and Colorado. It’s only a matter of time before it arrives in the Pacific Northwest and infests our native Oregon ash (Fraxinus latifolia) as well as the many ash street and ornamental trees in our communities. Read more at The Battle of the Ash Borer from the Lansing State Journal.