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.

A Disturbed Opportunity: Wildlife Seed Mixes

Ken Bevis, Landowner Assistance Fish and Wildlife Biologist and Jim Bottorff, Retired Landowner Assistance Fish and Wildlife Biologist

NE WA seeded road-verticalIf you’re looking for ways to attract wildlife while continuing to protect your land, think about seeding grasses and wildflowers. Seeding with a wildlife forage mix is an excellent habitat management practice that yields quick results and is well suited to small woodland timber management activities. Ideal locations for seeding include skid roads, the edges of logging roads, landings, and log decks where slash was burned. It can yield quick results that can improve over time as the seed becomes established. All the seed needs is sunlight, moisture, a little mineral soil, and off it goes!

When the weather cooperates and seeding is successful, noxious weeds don’t have time to get established and the new plants’ root mass slows erosion. Game (deer, elk, turkey) and non-game animals (songbirds, amphibians) are drawn to planted areas to feed directly on the plants and seeds, as well as the insects that the flowers attract. A variety of smaller animals may also use the cover to rest and rear their young.

Application and Care

Seeding can be done by hand-spreading a few pounds of seed after forest management activities are done, or using basic farming techniques such as tilling, adding soil amendments (including fertilizers), and even irrigation. In general, the more work you put into preparing the soil generates greater results for wildlife, but with proper timing and moisture, hand seeding can work as well.

Forage seed mixes are usually sown at the rate of about 8 to 20 pounds per acre, but if you’re only seeding a narrow strip along the skid road or a small area of the landing, an acres’ worth of seed will go a long way. As a rule, the seed should be sown in the spring, or late enough in the fall so the seeds won’t germinate until spring – you can even spread seed on top of the snow in early spring. Remember that the seed will need warm days, nights above freezing and water to germinate and grow before the summer dry spells or winter weather. It’s also a good idea to keep enough seed to re-sow any bare spots the following growing season.

Make sure you control any noxious weeds that are present before you sow you wildlife mix. This can add time and effort to the project, but it’s a critical step if the weeds are present. Your local weed control board can be a wealth of information and assistance on controlling these noxious weeds. Most of these weed species have little or no value to our desired wildlife.

Seed Mixes

Wildlife mixtures usually contain annual and perennial grasses and about one-third legumes, including some clovers, trefoil, and/or alfalfa mixtures. The legumes are particularly good wildlife forage. It’s important to avoid seeding where tree planting has occurred to reduce the possibility of competition with the trees. If the mix is formulated in the Pacific Northwest it’s usually free of non-native plants and some vendors will add shrub seeds such as blue elderberry, cascara, serviceberry, or other native fruit producing shrubs to the mix. It’s important to ensure that a significant proportion of the mix are natives, and that none of the ingredients have the potential to spread as the latest pest species. Knotweed was deliberately introduced as an ornamental!

Several northwest companies now prepare a variety of wildlife seed mixes for different localities throughout Washington. Some farm stores stock “wildlife mixes”, but you should compare the species mix and percentages with other recommendations before seeding. For information on what mix, type preparation and sources of seed try your local conservation district, WSU Extension, or contact DNR’s Landowner Assistance Wildlife Biologist Ken Bevis at Ken.Bevis@dnr.wa.gov

Seeking Information about Western Cedar Borer, a Significant Pest of Western Red Cedar

Karen Ripley, DNR Forest Entomologist

Western cedar borer tunnels in red cedar branch.  Photo: M. Lloyd

Western cedar borer tunnels in red cedar branch. Photo: M. Lloyd

The Western cedar borer (Trachykele blondeli), or “red powder worm,” is a flat-headed wood boring beetle that causes a problem called “wormy cedar.” A 1928 bulletin describes, “Hundreds of the finest standing trees of the western red cedar … in the Pacific coast region of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia have a large proportion of their timber riddled by the flattened, oval worm holes. … These holes wind through the sapwood and heartwood of the main trunk of infested trees and render the timber almost worthless for the higher grade uses such as shingles, cooperage, doors, furniture, finishing, cabinetmaking, shipbuilding and other high grade products.” (Burke).

Modern uses for cedar such as utility poles, finished lumber or export wood continue to be compromised due to this insect, even though the strength of the wood is not always significantly reduced. Using infested wood for rough-sawn fencing may be an option, depending on the amount and visibility of the degradation.

Adult cedar borers are between 11 and 17 mm long (roughly 0.5 inches), bright emerald green with a golden sheen, and have several darker spots on the wing covers. While their life cycle is fairly straight forward, the signs of infestation are very difficult to spot. During May and June, adult beetles lay their eggs on the thin-barked upper surfaces of living branches of western red cedar. When the eggs hatch, the slender, grub-like larvae chew into the branches and tunnel toward and into the tree trunk. The larvae mine horizontally and vertically along the annual growth rings, but occasionally cross the grain. The tunnels are packed with wood colored boring dust. Tunnels are usually less than 6 meters (19 feet) long, but can extend as far as 13 meters (42 feet)!

Adult western cedar borer.  Photo: S. Valley

Adult western cedar borer. Photo: S. Valley

Larvae require 2 to 3 plus years to reach maturity, then pupate inside a larger cell they have cut within the wood. Adult beetles chew out of the trees in early spring, feed on cedar foliage for several weeks, mate and lay eggs.

Infested trees appear normal and healthy, but they may have small, oblong exit holes where adult beetles have emerged. The main way to detect western cedar borer infestation is to cut off branches where they meet the trunk. If that part of the tree is infested, dust-packed larval mines may be seen in the exposed knot faces.

Although this insect is reputed to be associated with low elevation western red cedar, information about its specific occurrence is rare. There may be several closely related beetle species or subspecies present in the West, especially in drier forests where cedar gives way to cypress and juniper. Professional cedar log buyers may have key experience and local knowledge about the distribution and impacts of these cedar borers, but overall information is limited. An informal request for information resulted in a number of comments about host selection factors and distributions:

  • “We don’t see them rapidly moving. But once they are in a stand it seems they never leave.”
  • “The greatest infestations occurred where trees had been damaged by previous logging or storms. It was my conjecture that damaged or weakened trees were more susceptible.”
  • “It seems to be an increasing problem…some seem to think the recent below-average precipitation may play a role.”
  • “Eastern Washington and Idaho are essentially worm free in my experience.”
  • “Worm was not a problem on the Mt. Hood National Forest regardless of elevation, but from about Eugene south worms were very prevalent up to 3,000 feet; above 3,000 feet worms were generally not an issue in the Willamette National Forest. Worm on the lower elevation private timber lands in the Willamette Valley was common everywhere from Albany south.”
  • “In general worm has the greatest chance of occurring at low elevation.”
  • “Proximity to salt water was not always a predictor of worm. The Coos Bay area was very wormy, but from Newport north to Astoria worm was generally not a problem.”

I would like to gather as much information as possible in the hope of developing a research proposal or reporting system to better understand both historic and recent activity and infestation locations. If you have experience with “wormy cedar” on your property or through your forestry job, please contact me, Karen Ripley, karen.ripley@dnr.wa.gov, 360 902-1691. Thank you in advance for sharing your knowledge.

For more information see:

The Western Cedar Pole Borer or Powder Worm. H.E. Burke. USDA Technical Bulletin No. 48, February, 1928

Western Cedar Borer. R.W. Duncan. Forest Pest Leaflet No. 66. Pacific Forestry Centre, Canadian Forest Service. April 1995.

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.

  • Liberty Lake (Spokane County) – Wednesday evenings, starting September 16
  • 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.

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.

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