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

On October 26, 2020, DNR released its 2020 Forest Action Plan, outlining more than 100 priority actions to improve and conserve forests across Washington, including goals that help small forest landowners manage their land, rural economies, wildfire response, fish and wildlife, outdoor recreation, urban trees, and clean air and water.

Tami Miketa
Tami Miketa, manager, Small Forest Landowner Office

DNR wrote the Forest Action Plan in collaboration with numerous government, conservation, tribal, and industry partners. The plan weaves new goals with those already outlined in other strategies, including DNR’s strategic plans for forest health, wildfire, and climate change, as well as the state’s salmon recovery, invasive species, and wildlife plans.

A Forest Action Plan in Every State

In the 2008 Farm Bill, Congress charged each state with developing a Forest Action Plan by 2010 and updating it every decade. State Forest Action Plans offer a practical and comprehensive vision for investing federal, state, local and private resources where they can be most effective in achieving three conservation goals:  

1.    Conserve and manage working forest landscapes,

2.    Protect forests from threats, and

3.    Enhance public benefits from trees and forests.

Submitting a Forest Action Plan revision to the Forest Service qualifies states to receive federal funding to help make their plans a reality. Over the past decade, DNR received more than $50 million for such forestry programs as the Forest Stewardship Program that provides technical assistance to small forest landowners, urban forestry, conservation of working forests at risk of development, and community wildfire preparedness.

 A Western Washington Focus

Also unveiled in the 2020 Forest Action Plan is a western Washington prioritization map showing 16 priority areas with the greatest opportunities for forest investments. These priority landscapes, spanning nearly 2 million acres, are where state and federal resources will be deployed first to increase forest resilience.

Forests in central and eastern Washington have their own high-priority areas identified through the 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan, which DNR released in 2017. The plan is available at dnr.wa.gov/ForestHealthPlan

“At DNR, we work every day to ensure that our state’s lands, waterways and communities thrive, and supporting our forests is key to that mission,” Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said in the news release announcing the new Forest Action Plan. “From climate change and catastrophic wildfires, to invasive species, to increasing development, our forests face unprecedented threats that require bold action. The Forest Action Plan is a critical tool to unify around a common vision and getting to work saving forests across our state.”

“Forest health is a statewide issue,” Franz added. “This plan targets work in western Washington forests to complement our efforts underway in eastern Washington.”

 From Plan to Action

 Priority actions outlined in Washington’s 2020 Forest Action Plan include:

  • Preparing western Washington for wildfire: In western Washington, increase understanding of current and future fire patterns and risks to communities and infrastructure to inform management and planning.
  • Safeguarding against drought: Develop drought mitigation strategies at the landowner and landscape scales to reduce forest health vulnerabilities.
  • Protecting critical fish and wildlife habitat: Develop incentives to protect forest ecosystems that provide rare or high-quality wildlife habitat.
  • Reducing wildfire fuels in eastside forests: Consistent with DNR’s 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan, conduct 1.25 million acres of scientifically sound, landscape-scale, cross-boundary management and restoration in priority watersheds in central and eastern Washington to increase forest and watershed resilience by 2037.
  • Supporting rural jobs: Enhance economic development through implementation of forest restoration and management strategies that maintain and attract private sector investments and employment in rural communities.
  • Increasing controlled restoration burning: Work with the Washington Prescribed Fire Council to identify and remove obstacles to greater use of prescribed fire.
  • Connecting fish and wildlife habitat: Maintain, restore, and conserve wildlife habitat connectivity based on the Washington Connected Landscapes Project and ongoing regional planning efforts such as the Cascades to Coast Landscape Collaborative.
  • Saving forests from development: Identify potential gaps and opportunities to strategically align and support the conservation of forests at risk of development. Help support small forest landowners by providing on-site Forest Stewardship technical assistance to help landowners implement their management objectives for their land.
  • Promoting urban forests in an equitable way: Promote and enhance the health and resilience of forests in urban centers to be prepared for climate change and help support environmental justice.
  • Getting to work quickly: Secure full funding to implement shovel-ready projects identified through opportunities like the Family Forest Fish Passage Program.

Successful implementation of Washington’s 2020 Forest Action Plan will require collaboration with many partners and stakeholders, as well as adequate resources. Under this plan, DNR will build and strengthen partnerships to help leverage the necessary time and resources to accomplish these goals and share lessons learned over time.

From the SFLO family to you, we hope you have joyous and safe holiday season!

Barred Owls: Complex Creatures With an Aggressive Twist

By Ken Bevis, stewardship wildlife biologist, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, ken.bevis@dnr.wa.gov

The barred owl is not native to Washington state, but it can still play a valuable role in managing rodents in your forests. (Photo courtesy Gregg Thompson)

“Who Cooks for you? Who Cooks for You Alllllll!”

The last note rises into an amazing inflection that can only mean one thing – a barred owl.

Strix varia is a medium to large owl that resides in the forests of Washington, Oregon, north Idaho, British Columbia and parts of California. They are very widespread, occurring in all but the high-elevation forest types. They do well in second- and third-growth forests, and are an often observed, relatively common species, particularly in western Washington. They will even live in towns!

Barred owls have a distinctive round head and dark eyes (no “ears”) and generally perch in the lower and middle crowns of large trees. Their coloration is mostly light, ghostlike gray, with distinct vertical barring on their breast. They are known to eat almost anything alive, including snakes, birds, and small mammals. One study even found fish in their diet! They are highly territorial and very vocal. Almost all of our small forest landowner clients have heard and/or seen them on or near their properties, and marvel at their raucous calls.

Interestingly, barred owls are native to the eastern forests of North America, not the Pacific Northwest. In the latter part of the 20th century, they made their way across the continent, somehow skipping across the Great Plains from one patch of trees to another (riparian forests and towns as stepping stones) and arrived here.

The first documented sighting in Washington was in 1965, and each year they spread. Today, they occur throughout forested regions of the northwestern United States. (You can learn even more about the species from the Seattle Audubon and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.)

They are closely related to our native spotted owls, and have even been known to hybridize. Barred owls are more aggressive than spotted owls and are thought to displace spotted owls when territories overlap. This has put a considerable wrinkle in recovery efforts for the spotted owl, but that is a much bigger story than this article will cover!

Barred owls have another peculiar habit that is infrequently experienced with owls – they sometimes will attack people! (Great horned owls will rarely do this too).

Recently, I had cause to hear a story from forestry consultant Becky Chaney in King County, who was repeatedly swooped and struck by a barred owl! As she retreated from the forest, the owl drew blood with a direct surprise hit from behind with its talons. Ouch.

Becky relayed this story of a different aggressive owl from a friend of hers in an email:

“My entire trail crew (I think it was four of us) got chased down the trail as we headed back to our rigs after work – it was dusk, we were at 10-foot spacing (tool safety), and singing silly songs. About half a mile from our truck, the owl came from behind with a warning swoop. We took the hint and booked it, and were glad we all had hard hats because it was coming for our heads. The attack was very real, the owl intended to cause real harm, and we were chased almost all the way back. (How big is an owl’s territory?) I think ours was a barred owl but the light was dim (and we were really focused on not tripping/falling as we booked down the trail with our tools). Maybe it’s just an owl, but they are large, know how to maximize impact when striking, and have nasty talons. “

I reached out to Ruth Milner, District Biologist for Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in Mill Creek, and asked about this behavior and WDFW’s response. Ruth wrote to me in an email:

“Hi Ken,

“We’ve had a bunch of these attacks this year, starting in early September, if memory serves.  We think these are juveniles who are frustrated because the parents are booting them out and refusing to feed them.  So they may be taking out frustrations or simply bored and honing their swoop and grab skills. …  WDFW will … advise people to avoid the area where the attacks are happening. It’s likely one bird, and the bird is probably hanging in one general area. It’s not clear that the attacks will abate in winter because that’s when most of these kiddo attacks seem to happen. But come spring, the adults will expel the offender. Peace will reign until the next batch of chicks start to fledge.

“Also, I have a couple of people who are experimenting with wearing hats with large eyes attached to the top of the hat.”

A juvenile barred owl shows off its plumage as it stretches. (Photo courtesy Gregg Thompson)

It seems these are the same birds in the same areas being territorial. Most of the incidents are a swoop and hazing of sorts. Seldom is blood drawn, but it is definitely intimidating.

Seasonality of the swoops is usually late spring when nesting owls have juveniles on the branches, and these autumn incidents. But it is rare. I have been told of an owl swooping on someone more than once, but Becky’s story is the first I have heard involving blood.

Safety measures could include hard hats, carrying an umbrella or something like the eyes or a face mask on the back of your head (like people do in areas of India where tigers live). Remember: It is a localized and seasonal behavior by a small number of birds. It’s best to avoid that area when it happens.

As with all other owls, barred owls are a protected species in Washington, and cannot be killed indiscriminately.

They are a beautiful member of our forest ecosystem and obviously have an attitude that helps them play their role in the natural forest ecology. Owls are good to have around, as they are major predators of rodents.

Owls usually roost inside the canopies of larger trees, close to the tree bole. Retaining patches of tall trees of at least a quarter acre will provide interior roosting and possibly nesting habitat. Owls don’t build nests of any kind, so they must find a platform of some sort – an old crow or raven nest, the crook of a tree, a mistletoe platform, or even cavities, for some. Retaining defective trees provides this habitat. Search the bases of prospective nest sites for owl pellets and white wash (poop) to try and locate nests.

WDFW’s Living with Wildlife publication makes these suggestions for encouraging owls to live at or visit your property:

  • Retain multi-acre patches of coniferous and/or deciduous trees.
  • Protect quiet, secluded areas near rivers, creeks, and lakes and away from human activity.
  • Retain large dead or dying trees — more than 20 feet tall — as potential perches.
  • Protect or plant hedgerows and thickets to attract small mammals that owls eat.
  • Leave large grasslands alone or mow them only infrequently to provide habitat for small mammals that owls eat.
  • Manage mice and rat problems without poison baits, which can potentially kill owls.
  • Install owl nest boxes for barn owls, Western screech owls, Northern pygmy-owls, and Northern saw-whet owls.
  • Install perch poles.

Embrace the barred. Don’t worry. But when they tell you to stay out of an area, you might want to do that!

This piece of forest on the Key Peninsula in Pierce County is ideal owl habitat. (Photo by Ken Bevis, DNR)

All-Lands Forest Health Monitoring Effort Underway

By Kate Williams, Fire Ecologist, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, kate.williams@dnr.wa.gov

Monitoring ecological changes that result from forest health treatments is a crucial, and often overlooked, part of the land stewardship process. Limited by time, money, or a shared tracking system, we often focus on getting the job done and miss establishing a way to quantifiably measure our successes (as well as identify where we might have missed the mark).

Grass regrowth is seen two weeks following a prescribed fire. (Photo by Kate Williams, DNR)

How do we capture minor changes over time and share our findings with a broad audience who can put it to use? With countless people managing for various objectives, how can we compare the results of our efforts and ensure our time and money is paying off in the long run?

As of yet, there has not been an all-lands multiparty monitoring system for Washington to help us answer these important questions. To meet this need, the Forest Health and Resiliency Division of DNR will soon be releasing the first version of a Forest Health Treatment Unit Monitoring tool intended to monitor on-the-ground, treatment-level ecological changes and will complement the statewide DNR Forest Health Tracker (which is expected to be operational by June 2021). The Forest Health Tracker focuses on the spatial location and various resource-related project details and may include treatments across various ecosystems while the Treatment Unit Monitoring tool was designed specifically for forested ecosystems and is not meant for grass or shrub systems.

How will it work?

After proposed treatment units are identified, data can be collected using the app ArcGIS Survey 123 on a smartphone or tablet. Survey 123 is a free program that uses a fillable form which feeds into a state database that can be utilized by land managers and researchers for refining adaptive management strategies. Data can be collected remotely and sent to the master database once the device is within cell service or connected to an internet network. For privacy reasons, collected data will not be publically available but individual users will be able to view any data they submit.

Comparison of New DNR Forest Health Tools
Forest Health TrackerTreatment Unit Monitoring
Captures and shares perimeters of forest health treatments across landscapeCaptures stand-level vegetation and fuels data
Used to track treatment completion for planning effortsUsed to compare treatment effectiveness
Data entered through website portalData entered through tablet/phone app

There are currently two options of survey “levels”: one for capturing simple stand-level information and a second that includes additional overstory and surface fuel metrics. The simple protocol is designed for those with little to no forestry experience who want to answer basic questions tied to their management objectives, such as:

  • What is my stand density before and after treatment?
  • Am I creating/retaining more snags?
  • Are there invasive species present before or after treatment?
  • Am I reducing surface fuels?

The protocols use a quick plot framework and require basic forestry equipment. Ideally, data for a project will be collected before any work begins, immediately following, and one year post-treatment. While there is ample research looking at treatments on federal and state land, there is more to learn regarding smaller-scale treatments and those conducted on private land. This information will help us begin to build a system that looks across ownerships and identify longstanding ecologically and financially effective solutions.

A monitoring crew collects vegetation data to quantify changes following high-severity wildfire. (Photo by Kate Williams, DNR)

The DNR Forest Health program will host webinars in January 2020 to walk interested participants through setting up Survey 123 on your device and work through the simple protocol.

If you are interested in attending a webinar or contributing to this monitoring effort, please contact myself or Amy Ramsey (20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan Coordinator) at amy.ramsey@dnr.wa.gov. We hope to see you this January!

A Nest by the Numbers: What WSDA Found Inside the Asian Giant Hornet Nest

By Karla Salp, Washington State Department of Agriculture

More than 500 Asian giant hornet specimens in various stages of development were collected when entomologists found the first Asian giant hornet nest in the United States.

But finding the nest was just the first step in the eradication. After the discovery of the nest site, WSDA entomologists had to safely remove hornets living in the nest, remove the tree, and finally split the tree open to reveal the nest inside.

A new Asian giant hornet is seen ready to emerge from its nest found in a Whatcom County tree. (Photo courtesy Washington State Department of Agriculture)

After opening the tree containing the Asian giant hornet nest on Oct. 29, WSDA entomologists still had a lot of work to do to collect data about what the nest contained. Much like the election, the tallying took quite a bit of time and, to some extent, continues. 

The nest was just over 8 feet high in the tree and, once opened, was found to be about 14 inches long and 8 to 9 inches wide. Here are the preliminary results of what our entomologists found in the nest.

  • 6 combs – There were six layers of comb in the nest. Combs are the structures that hold the hornet larvae as they develop. Part of the interior of the tree had been chewed away to accommodate the combs.
  • 776* cells – The combs are made up of cells and each individual cell can hold a developing Asian giant hornet. *This number is approximate as there was some damage to the combs.
  • 6 unhatched eggs – These eggs were all located in the last and smallest of the combs.
  • 190 total larvae – The larvae are whitish “grubs” in uncapped cells. Many had fallen out of the combs into the tree cavity during the nest removal.
  • 108 capped cells with pupae – Pupae are the next stage after larvae. Based on the size of the cells, most of the pupae found are believed to be pupae of new virgin queens.
  • 112 workers – This total includes 85 workers that were vacuumed out of the nest on Oct. 24. All of the workers survived being vacuumed out of the nest.
  • 9 drones – Drones are male hornets, and they generally emerge from the nest before the new queens emerge.
  • 76 queens – Most likely all but one queen would be new virgin queens. New queens emerge from the nest, mate, and then leave to find a place to overwinter and start a new colony the next year.

Despite multiple applications of carbon dioxide, removal of the workers, and storage in a cold facility, most of the specimens were still alive when the nest was opened.

Asian giant hornet pupae are seen in various stages of development. (Photo courtesy Washington State Department of Agriculture)

Where we go from here

WSDA will continue trapping through at least Thanksgiving and possibly beyond, but will likely only track worker hornets. Our entomologists will not, for example, track new queens if any are captured as they are unlikely to return to a nest, but instead will attempt to locate a mate. Even if no other hornets were to be found, WSDA will continue to trap for at least three more years to demonstrate the area is free from Asian giant hornets.

WSDA’s Pest Program still hopes to eradicate Asian giant hornets from the Pacific Northwest in cooperation with our neighbors to the north in Canada. The effort will take require international cooperation, research for better detection tools, and the continued work of vigilant observers from the public to prevent Asian giant hornets from gaining a permanent foothold here.

If you may have seen an Asian giant hornet in Washington State, report it with a photo if you can get one at:

If you believe you have seen an Asian giant hornet but live in another area, please report it to your state or province’s invasive species managers.

Get to Know a Forester: Laurie Cox

Laurie Cox is the manager of DNR’s well-respected Family Forest Fish Passage Program (“Triple Eff, Double Pea”). She reviews applications and helps small forest landowners with corrections to barriers on fish-bearing waters. This is one of DNR’s most popular and well-liked programs, helping more than 400 small forest landowners meet the forest practices rules while opening access to more than 1,000 miles of previously blocked fish habitat.

Laurie Cox is the Family Forest Fish Passage Program manager for DNR. She has worked for the department for nearly four decades.

With the help of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the state Recreation and Conservation Office, FFFPP assists private forestland owners in removing culverts and other stream crossing structures that keep trout, salmon, and other fish from reaching upstream habitat. Road culverts and other structures that are aging, too small, or improperly installed can block fish from reaching their spawning grounds, and young rearing salmon from reaching the ocean. The program funds the replacement of eligible barriers with new structures.

If you are a small landowner with a stream, and an outdated crossing of some sort (usually old culverts), check out the website at dnr.wa.gov/fffpp to see if you may qualify, or send Laurie an email at sflo@dnr.wa.gov.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I have been married to my husband, Neal, for 28 years.  I have two children: Lindsey, 25; Kyle, 22; a son-in-law, Kenny, 25; and a granddaughter, 10 months old. I enjoy spending time with my family the most. Hunting and gardening are a couple of outdoor activities I enjoy. I have been a school board member at Southside School in Mason County for 12 years. I also have served on an environment learning center board member for 12 years.

How long have you been working in forestry? Why did you go into this field?

I have worked for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for almost 38 years. I started as a seasonal firefighter for the Department of Natural Resources 42 years ago and decided that the outdoors was the place for me. I enjoyed working for an agency that made you feel like you were family and could accomplish anything if you had initiative. My passion is to work with landowners to solve forestry issues.

What sort of jobs have you had? Schooling?

I have a 2-year forestry degree from Centralia College. I have truly worked my way up through the DNR. I started as a seasonal firefighter on a 20-person crew in 1979, then supervised a 10-person slash-burning crew, and landed my first permanent as a forest worker in 1983 in Winlock, Washington. I then worked as a forest technician in Hoodsport, Washington, and promoted to a Forester 1 then to a Forester 2 position, both in the Forest Practices Division in Mason and Kitsap counties.  After 28 years, I became a Forest Practices Coordinator in the Forest Practices Division.  Then I landed the Family Forest Fish Passage Program manager position. I still love working fires, and I have served for over 20 years as a Planning Section Chief on one of Washington state’s five Incident Management Teams.

What do you emphasize when talking to small landowners?

I find out what their goals are. Most landowners are highly motivated and want to do what is right for their property and the environment. I assist them in any way I can to help them meet their goals in the most economical way. 

Why do you think our work is important?

It is important for sustainability of the fish population in the state of Washington. We assist landowners with fixing crossings to enable harvest and hauling over a fish-bearing stream, while protecting and improving that habitat.

What is good for the forest landowner is good for the fish.

What is your favorite kind of tree and why?

My favorite tree is the Douglas-fir. The Douglas-fir’s taproot symbolizes me because I was born and raised in Chehalis and now live in Shelton. I am a true Washingtonian through and through.

Pine Bark Beetles in Western Washington: Not-So-Troublesome Residents

By Glenn Kohler, forest health entomologist, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, glenn.kohler@dnr.wa.gov

In western Washington, you would not expect to find large swaths of red-dead pines devastated by pine bark beetle outbreaks. Surprisingly though, it’s not hard to find some of the same tiny bark beetles west of the Cascades if you know where to look. The difference is the abundance of pine host trees and their condition. There just aren’t enough continuous pine stands on the west side to sustain widespread outbreaks.

Western white pine killed by mountain pine beetle in Kitsap County. (Photo by Glenn Kohler, DNR)

But where you do find pines in poor condition, you’ll find the beetles. They only attack dead, dying, diseased, and unthrifty pines, so the populations stay small. New generations of beetles just move to the next supply of weakened or dead trees rather than overwhelm healthy trees in great numbers.

Mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae), at least two species of pine engravers (Ips pini and Ips paraconfusus), and red turpentine beetle (Dendroctonus valens) all make themselves at home in western Washington. They are all capable of attacking any species of pine, including ornamental trees, so it’s easy for them to survive in low numbers.

Western pine beetle (Dendroctonus brevicomis) doesn’t live on the west side. Maybe it doesn’t like the rain, but a more likely reason is that western pine beetle only attacks ponderosa pine. These are hard to find outside of natural stands in the Joint Base Lewis-McChord area and those scattered in urban areas and farmland.

For several years, the Department of Natural Resources put out traps baited with pheromones to monitor California fivespined Ips (CFI), a species newly recorded in Washington since 2010, which has caused damaging outbreaks in the Columbia River Gorge area. CFI loves ponderosa, so we put out traps in western Washington wherever we could find mature ponderosa and plantations of young “wetside” adapted Fort Lewis or Willamette Valley ponderosa varieties.

Attack sites or “pitch tubes” from mountain pine beetle on western white pine bark. (Photo by Glenn Kohler, DNR)

We did catch a few CFI as far north as JBLM and Shelton, but we also put out traps for Ips pini and collected those in the thousands. What were they doing there? Certainly not killing hundreds of young pines or causing top-kill like they do in eastern Washington. That happens frequently when fires, storms, or untreated logging slash provide them with ample breeding material.

We’ve rarely seen pines killed by pine engravers on the Westside, unless they were already dying from some other cause. So they’re breeding in the same way, but there’s just not enough beetles or host trees to cause noticeable damage. If you find dying shore pine (lodgepole pine), western white pine, or larger downed branches of these trees on the west side, you’ll likely find Ips pine engravers at home under the bark.

Mountain pine beetle (MPB) is harder to find, but sometimes makes an appearance in stressed or dying ornamental pines. There are also a few places where we’ve seen actual outbreaks of MPB killing a number of trees.

One recent example of an MPB outbreak is in the Illahee Preserve Heritage Park in Bremerton, where the beetles have killed dozens of western white pine. Aerial surveys indicated damage from this outbreak had been going for several years, but the actual cause wasn’t recognized until someone who regularly walks the park trails reported an unusual number of killed trees.

Fork-shaped galleries of Ips pine engravers. (Photo by Glenn Kohler, DNR)

Western white pine is dominant and abundant in the park and MPB was in all the dead trees sampled, so it is possible this is a self-sustaining outbreak on a small scale. There is no evidence of root disease on the site, so the outbreak was likely tipped off by recent droughts increasing tree stress. Another example of small pockets of MPB activity is in high-elevation stands of whitebark pine in the Olympic Mountains.

If you’re one of a growing number of landowners planting pine on the west side, you should be aware that you’re not completely free of pine beetle activity – they’re a natural and minor component of western Washington forest ecosystems.

We have seen Ips breeding in downed pine branches and slash, but there hasn’t been any evidence of their brood killing healthy trees like they do on the east side. That’s likely due to higher vigor allowing west side pines to defend themselves more effectively.

However, as we’ve seen recently, droughts can tip the balance in the beetle’s favor. Fortunately, the damage has been on a small scale so far.

SFLO Regulation Assistance Update and Safety Protocol

Greetings to the Small Forest Landowner Community,

Todd Olson works as task force leader at a wildfire earlier this year. Todd is also the regulation assistance forester with DNR’s Small Forest Landowner Office.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we’re committed to still doing our work to support small forest landowners as they seek regulatory assistance, and we’re committed to doing it safely.

The Regulatory Assistance Program is diligently responding to forest practices related questions and topics for small forest landowners across Washington state. Field visits are still being conducted and voluntary road assessments are continuing to be accomplished. Fielding phone calls and emails can also be done in an efficient and timely manner. We can discuss field visit options and determine how to best meet the requests of small forest landowners across the state.

From July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2020, I was able to provide direct assistance with 26 new Forest Practices Applications covering 4,284 acres and respond to 283 requests for assistance. There are currently 138 small forest landowners who have volunteered to have road assessments conducted on their forestland. More than 70 road assessments have been completed so far, which are distributed over 31 counties across the state.

When meeting with landowners during field visits, I insist on practicing safety protocol to mitigate for COVID-19 exposure for all participants. Until further notice, we will not be conducting indoor meetings. Our safety protocol includes maintaining physical distancing (being at least 6 feet away from others) and, during potential outdoor interactions, using a cloth mask or covering that meets the state Department of Health or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. As a member of the SFLO staff, I also have access to disinfectant products, hand sanitizer, nitrile gloves, protective eyewear, and a digital thermometer. In our efforts to provide assistance, we will continue to practice these safety protocol measures.

Thank you for your continued effort and patience.

Todd Olson, Regulation Assistance Forester – DNR

‘Neighbor Helping Neighbor’: WSU Extension debuts new video series

Washington Farm Forestry Association, Washington State University Extension Forestry, and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources have launched a new educational feature titled “Neighbor Helping Neighbor.” The aim is to promote forestry education and management of family-owned forests across Washington state. The first installment, “Bugs N’ Crud,” focuses on Eastern Washington forest health concerns, and you can watch it below.

This video features Melissa Fischer, DNR’s Northeast Washington entomologist; Randy Burke, DNR’s Northeast Region landowner assistance forester; and Patti Playfair, landowner, tree farmer extraordinaire and past president of the Washington Farm Forestry Association. Ken Bevis, DNR’s stewardship wildlife biologist, provided the music and Sean Alexander, WSU Extension forester, did the videography, including flying his drone high above the treetops for some spectacular footage.

You Can Contribute to Western Redcedar Dieback Research

Joey Hulbert, Research Scientist, Washington State University – Puyallup Research and Extension Center, hulbe@wsu.edu

We are seeing it in many places, and it is of deep concern to all of us: Western redcedars are dying.

A dead cedar tree is seen in a forest stand. (Photo by Joey Hulbert, WSU Extension)

Western redcedar is an iconic and important component of Northwest forests. It has many ecological, economic and cultural values. Often referred to as the “tree of life,” the western redcedar is unmatched in its number of indigenous and modern uses. In many ways, this species embodies the forestry and cultural legacies of in the Pacific Northwest. In this time of dieback, it is critical we investigate the locations and the reasons behind the increased levels of mortality being observed.

The Forest Health Watch program is a new initiative led by WSU to help keep forests healthy. The program aims to host research projects that Northwest residents can contribute to as Community Scientists. You can learn more about the program at foresthealth.org.

This pilot project of the Forest Health Watch program is focused on the dieback of Western redcedar. Unfortunately, many reports of dead and dying western redcedar trees occur throughout its range, on both the east and west sides of the Cascades. In the face of this disturbing trend, more research is needed to map the distribution, identify vulnerable areas, and determine the factors driving the dieback. Community science can help.

Community science is research conducted by the general public to assist scientists with large questions by gathering important information in a timely and systematic fashion. Everyone is welcome to participate and help advance this important knowledge. Interested individuals can register as community scientists in the Forest Health Watch program, but it is not required for participation.

The tops of the Western redcedars seen at center are typical of those seen in areas affected by dieback. (Photo by Joey Hulbert, WSU Extension)

Help research go faster – Northwest residents are encouraged to contribute by sharing observations of healthy and unhealthy western redcedar trees. Observations can be shared online through the Western Redcedar Dieback Map project on iNaturalist.org or by joining the project through the iNaturalist smartphone app. More information for contributing to the iNaturalist project are provided at foresthealth.org/map.

Although the first project of the Forest Health Watch program is focused on western redcedar, Northwest residents are invited to share concerns for other forest health issues or recommend future projects. The program is designed to host multiple research projects with plans to expand when more research priorities are identified and additional financial support is secured.

Visit the Forest Health Watch program website to learn more, sign up for the newsletter, share feedback or ask questions. Inquiries about the program or the western redcedar research can also be directed to Dr. Joey Hulbert at hulbe@wsu.edu.

A declining Western redcedar tree is seen in western Washington. (Photo by Joey Hulbert, WSU Extension)

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

Tami Miketa
Tami Miketa, manager, Small Forest Landowner Office

In these unprecedented times, I hope you and your loved ones are healthy and staying safe.

Like everyone else, for the past few months staff in the Small Forest Landowner Office have been assigned to work at home. However, we are now able to resume our field work with the primary consideration in resuming work being safety, and I want to ensure to you that DNR is complying with all statewide safety requirements, as well as recommendations from Department of Labor and Industries (L&I), the Department of Health (DOH) and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Our efforts to keep ourselves, our families, and the community safe is of utmost importance to each and every one of us. The basic tenets are: keep your distance, wear a mask, continue frequent hand hygiene, and stay home if you’re sick. Everything we do will be viewed through this lens.

Even on a beautiful summer day, everyone should continue to take all the precautionary measures. This includes social distancing, hand-washing, and using face coverings to help prevent the numbers of cases from increasing and people getting infected. Enjoying the outdoors (safely) is possible, even in the age of COVID-19, as long as you take precautions and use common sense.

When my staff are meeting with landowners and can maintain social distancing (being at least 6 feet away from others), a cloth mask or covering meeting the DOH or CDC guidelines is required. We have distributed KN95 masks for all staff working in the field. Staff also have access to disinfectant products, hand sanitizer, nitrile gloves, protective eyewear, and digital thermometers.

So if you are in need of help from the Small Forest Landowner Office, we are open for business, safely!

SFLO Program Updates

As we reach the end of the first year of the FY19-21 biennium, the Small Forest Landowner Office programs have completed a number of projects and purchased several conservation easements. The Family Forest Fish Passage Program (FFFPP) corrected 19 fish passage barriers opening 67 miles of upstream fish habitat, and the Forestry Riparian Easement Program (FREP) purchased 13 easements this fiscal year. It is estimated the FFFPP will correct another 19 fish passage barriers next fiscal year, totaling 38 barriers to be removed during the FY19-21 biennium. The FREP program estimates it will purchase an additional 23 easements, totaling 36 conservation easements to be purchased during the FY19-21 biennium.

I wish you all the very best this summer, and please keep yourself and your loved ones safe.