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.

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

ReichertRd (2)Do You Know Your Road Maintenance Responsibilities?

Small forest landowners own approximately 3.2 million acres of Washington’s forests — about half the private forest land in the state. These lands are covered with thousands of miles of forest roads, all of which require maintenance. Roads can be one of a landowner’s most expensive investments, and neglecting regular maintenance can lead to long-term problems and costly repairs. Neglected roads can also have a negative impact on public resources such as water quality and fish habitat when sediment from the road degrades water quality and smothers fish eggs. The additional sediment from the road also can block or damage stream crossings, which prevents fish from reaching upstream habitat. Washington State’s forest practices rules address these issues by defining road maintenance require­ments to minimize effects to water quality and fish habitat.

This month we begin a new feature on road maintenance requirements and programs to help you meet your obligations. We start with the basics:

The 1999 Salmon Recovery Act required all forest roads be brought up to new forest road standards as outlined in the Forests and Fish Report. To ensure that the road standards are met, the legislature established the Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plan (RMAP) process. The forest practices rules procedures direct small forest landowners to complete and submit a checklist RMAP for all Forest Practices Applications (FPA). The checklist is only completed for those roads that will be used for the harvest specified in the FPA. CORRECTION (1/24/2015): Landowners who own a total of 80 acres or less of forest land in Washington state are exempt from submitting a checklist RMAP for individual parcels of 20 acres or less. Checklist RMAP requirements apply to landowners who own 80 acres or less of forest land in Washington state and when the FPA is for a parcel containing 20 acres or less of forest land. Landowners are exempted from continuing checklist RMAP obligations after a property is sold.

The legislature, to address the unintended disproportionate financial hardships on small forest landowners, created a cost-share program to provide financial assistance to small forest landowners for the removal of fish blockages. This program, the Family Forest Fish Passage Program (FFFPP), shifted most of the financial burden from the landowner to the state of Washington and requires:

  • The state to provide 75 to 100 percent of the cost of correcting small forest landowners’ fish barriers.
  • Barriers be prioritized and removed on a “worst-first” basis.
  • Once the small forest landowner was enrolled in the program, they would only be required to fix their barriers when and if financial assistance was available from the state.

Together, the checklist RMAP and FFFPP created the framework to bring small forest landowner roads up to the standard of the Forest Practices Rules. However, the simplicity of the checklist RMAP creates reporting challenges related to the extent of roads on small forest lands, their condition and the status of required upgrades.

To address this, DNR has initiated a statewide Small Forest Landowner Forest Road Assessment Project. Staff are available to help small forest landowners review their road system, and provide information on road maintenance standards and financial assistance options for needed repairs.

For more information about the Small Forest Landowner Forest Road Assessment Project, please read Boyd Norton’s article titled “Simplified Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plan Goals” in this edition of the SFL News.

Next Month: Roads and Forest Ecology

Forest Legacies

Ken Miller, Member Small Forest Landowner Advisory Committee

Have you included your forestland in your estate planning? Hopefully you have and you’re comfortable with the plans you’ve made for your legacy. But if you still have concerns, there’s a new option for landowners without heirs or those that aren’t comfortable that their heirs will be able to manage your legacy appropriately.

Family Forest Legacies, LLC is a for-profit corporation that was formed and managed by family forest owners dedicated to promote and conserve sustainably managed family forests. Lands that are part of the corporation’s holdings will be provided professional management, with the proceeds from harvests distributed proportionally among the shareholders with the revenue directed to the individuals or entities you specify.

For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page or email info@familyforestlegacies.com for a personal contact.

Washington State University to Re-establish Forestry Major

WSU-logoIn December 2011, Washington State University (WSU) phased out its long-standing major in forestry. This change coincided with the merger of the former Department of Natural Resource Sciences and the former School of Earth and Environmental Sciences to form the School of the Environment in January 2012. Since then, the School of the Environment has replaced the existing undergraduate degrees/majors with majors in “Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Sciences,” “Environmental and Ecosystem Sciences,” and “Earth Sciences.” The unit has also hired several new faculty members over the past year in key areas. These and other changes have substantially strengthened program offerings and hold considerable promise.

As a part of the Washington State budget passed in the final days of June of 2013, WSU was mandated to re-establish its forestry major. After a year of work devoted to evaluating alternative approaches to re-establishing the forestry major on the Pullman campus, the college administration elected to establish a newly updated forestry major.

Staffing needs and the curriculum for the program are being evaluated. WSU will seek accreditation of the forestry major by the Society of American Foresters as soon as possible. Keith Blatner, chair and professor of forest economics in the Department of Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University, has been appointed to guide this effort.

For additional information, contact Keith Blatner at 509-335-4499 or blatner@wsu.edu

Article reprinted from the DNR blog, Forest Stewardship Notes

Just About the Coolest Bird Around: the Pileated Woodpecker

Photo: G. Thompson

Photo: G. Thompson

Ken Bevis, DNR Stewardship Wildlife Biologist

Deep in the woods you catch a glimpse of a giant black and white bird flying through the canopy, dodging trees and disappearing behind a wall of big stems. Then you hear it: A jungle like cry from far away, or close by, you can’t tell:   Wikka, Wikka, Wikka Wikka…..   Or loud hammering sounds over there, in the trees, maybe up high, maybe down low. Wow. What was that?

If you were in a forested part of North America, it was probably a pileated (PILL-ee-ay-tid or PIE-lee-ay-tid) woodpecker, the largest living woodpecker in North America and a resident of mature forests. The birds are widespread in nearly all forest types as a result of increases in forest cover over the early and middle 20th century. The pileated is the only bird able to excavate deep into hard, dead wood due to their powerful neck and massive beak. Their deep square/oval excavations on trees and logs are quite distinctive, giving us solid evidence of where this remarkable critter lives.

Photo: K. Bevis

Photo: K. Bevis

Their presence profoundly influences and benefits the habitat of other animals, making them a keystone ecological species. Trees are basically big cylinders of dead wood and provide well insulated cover for nesting and resting animals – pileated excavations allow other animals to access the middle of the dead stem.

Like all woodpeckers, pileateds make cavities as a part of their courtship and nesting behavior. Each year new cavities are created and old ones are renovated. They lay 4 to 6 eggs each year, with both males and females caring for the young. They are devoted parents and the best time to see them is when they’re travelling to and from the nest cavity to feed their young.

Whether the cavities are new or old, once the pileated family is gone they’re used as nests and roosts by many other species including barred owls, wood ducks, flying squirrels, goldeneye ducks, flammulated owls, Douglas squirrels, bats and martens.

Live trees with heart rot are particularly excellent habitat for pileateds, as they can excavate into the center and hollow it out. Many pileated roost trees occur in hollow cedars in our forests, where multiple entrances are used to access the hollow core where the birds roost. Big trees make the best roosts because they can accommodate the birds’ 20-inch cavity depths.

The pileated woodpecker’s primary food source is carpenter ants. The ants form long-term colonies in the dead wood core of a live tree and our woodpecker whacks a big square hole into the tree to get them. These same holes can be used for many years. Carpenter ants are important insects in the forest ecosystem, so these trees are significant habitats at multiple levels.

Once last year I followed a deep chopping sound down into a draw while visiting a tree farm in Southwest Washington. The sound was below me on the slope, but because it was down in the brush I didn’t think it could be a woodpecker. Then I spotted movement and as I crept close I saw a pileated busily chopping on a leaning alder, 8” diameter, dead, soft, and likely full of insect larvae. Chips flew everywhere as the big black and white bird’s red crest bobbed in and out, whacking big chunks out of the snag, only a foot or two off of the ground. It was almost a down log. I got to within 15 yards and had a great view through my binoculars, when Woody woodpecker noticed me, he thought something was amiss and flew away.

This remarkable bird will tolerate human presence, but must have adequate numbers of big, dead woody structures nearby for nesting and roosting to establish and maintain successful territories. They sometimes occur in suburban settings, including backyards and parks. Home ranges have been shown to be somewhere between 1,000 and 4,000 acres, (1.5 to 7 square miles), so this big powerful flier is able to cover a lot of ground between feeding and roosting areas. Within that big territory, however, there must be some big dead wood, so please protect the dead wood on your property.

And in case you were wondering, Woody Woodpecker was indeed inspired by the pileated woodpecker. If you want to know more about this or other birds, check out All About Birds from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Simplified Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plan Goals

Boyd Norton, NW Washington Landowner Assistance Forester 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn 2001, the Forest Practices Board required all forest landowners to document the location and condition of all forest roads on their property. Landowners were also required to submit a “Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plan” (RMAP) that specified how and when landowners would correct deficiencies associated with the Forest Practice Rules for water quality and fish passage. Submitted plans were also required to address monitoring and maintenance of road condition.

In 2003, the legislature recognized that the RMAP requirements could be causing unforeseen, unintended and disproportionate financial hardship for small forest landowners. To minimize these impacts, a simplified process was implemented that:

  • Eliminated the requirement for small forest landowners to submit written road maintenance and abandonment plans, along with the reporting requirement for progress on road upgrades.
  • Allowed small forest landowners the option to correct fish barriers on their own or enroll in the state funded barrier removal program (Family Forest Fish Passage Program).
  • Exempted landowners who own a total of 80 acres or less of forest land in Washington from submitting a checklist RMAP for individual parcels of 20 acres or less.

So how do you know if your roads meet the small forest landowner requirements?

For assistance or to participate in the statewide RMAP assessment, please contact Boyd Norton at: boyd.norton@dnr.wa.gov, 360-854-2839 (office), 360-742-6825 (cell).

Events, Workshops and Publications

Seminars

Native Trees – WSU Extension Forestry Specialist Kevin Zobrist will present a slide show of native trees in western Washington and discuss their characteristics.

  • Stanwood – Saturday January 31, 2015

Good Roads and Forest Health – The second of a four-part series for Skagit County forest landowners introduces the principles of forest hydrology and forest road planning/maintenance. Topics will include: forest hydrology 101; forest road planning, design and maintenance; funding and technical assistance programs. Following an indoor presentation, participants will join technical experts for a site tour to see how good road maintenance and construction can provide benefits to a forest.

  • Sedro-Woolley – Saturday, February 28, 2015, 9:30 am to 5 pm. Pre-registration required. The cost of this workshop is $15 and includes lunch.

Workshops

Forest Owners Winter School – A hands-on, all-day event with class choices ranging from chainsaw maintenance (bring your saw!) to wildlife habitat, plant ID, native land use, wildfire planning, timber management and more.

  • Colville – February 21, 2015, 9 am to 5 pm. Pre-registration required. For more information, contact Andy Perleberg at 509-667-6540 or via email at andyp@wsu.edu

Forest Stewardship Coached Planning – WSU’s flag-ship course will teach you how to assess your trees, avoid insect and disease problems, and attract wildlife. State experts will help you develop your own Forest Stewardship Plan to keep your woods on track to provide enjoyment and income for years to come.

  • Thursday evenings February 12, 2015, to March 26, 2015 6:00-9:00 p.m. Online
  • Tuesday evenings starting March 31 in Monroe

Forestry Classes at the 2015 Country Living Expo – Classes include Chainsaws 101 For Women, Edible Mushroom Cultivation, Native Trees of Western Washington and more.

  • Stanwood – Saturday January 31, 2015. Registration required.

Forest Owners Field Days – Mark your calendars for next summer’s field days. June 20, 2015 (Cle Elum) and August 15, 2014 (Francis).

Online Classes

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

Timber Tax Update for the 2014 Tax Year – This webinar is designed to help woodland owners, foresters and their tax advisors prepare for the filing of their 2014 federal tax returns. In addition to providing useful tax tips and covering the latest changes to tax law, the webinar will also cover tax deductions, timber income reporting, 1099-S filing, basis, loss, and filing Form T.

  • Thursday Feb 5, 2015, 11:00 a.m. to Noon (2:00 to 3:00 pm US/Eastern)

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.

Dead Trees Give Life

Ken Bevis, DNR Stewardship Wildlife Biologist

Our grand trees reaching for the sky are really just skeletons and straws…

Tree cross sectionBut what is a tree? It is just a narrow layer of living tissue over a dead skeleton of fiber. Living cells only cover a very narrow outer layer of the conical cylinder(s) of wood. Some of that wood acts to move water upward and nutrients down, but most of the wood simply holds the tree in the sky.

The bark is dead too, protecting the fragile living cambium layers just beneath it. Here is where life resides. The vascular cambium layer grows in both directions creating xylem wood to the inside, and phloem towards the outside. The narrow phloem layer conducts nutrients down to the roots from the photosynthesis going on in the crown. The xylem moves water upwards from the roots. Another layer of living tissue, the cork (or bark) cambium, is just under the outer protective bark. It grows only outward, and produces the bark itself. The leaves (needles are leaves too) grow out of the living ends of branches and are supported by this miraculous stem system. That’s it.

But when something goes horribly wrong for the plant, and the living tree dies, all of this already dead tissue that has been

Loup Loup pass near Twisp, burned in 2014.

Loup Loup pass near Twisp, burned in 2014.

protected by plant functions (such as sap), begins to be fully acted upon by various biological agents. That sweet cambium goes first, eaten by insects and fungus right away. And patient fungi will work slowly on woody tissue to break it down into basic elements that cycle through the ecosystem. This takes time, and fungal action varies by climate and moisture. For example, wood decomposition rates for dry east Cascades forests are very different from those for wet, west side forests. Obviously some dead wood decay occurs on living trees (hollow stems for example), so the fungus is after the wood all of the time.

Dead wood, sometimes LOTS of dead wood, is foundational to forest ecosystems. The roles played by standing and lying dead wood include nutrient cycling, water retention, soil stability and habitat, among other functions. Our understanding of this complex set of ecological processes continues to grow.

Old fire scarred snag with Douglas squirrel cone cache.

Old fire scarred snag with Douglas squirrel cone cache.

Dead trees are created in pulses over time. Single or small groups of trees can die in mature forests, killed by fungus, wind, competition between trees, or insects. A root rot pocket, for example, can kill an expanding circle of susceptible trees. These small clusters of rotting stems can be a haven for many forest species. Pileated woodpeckers, with their distinctive oval excavations, and the flying squirrels that use their cavities or entrances to hollow trees, can have habitat havens in such places.

And what about fire? When forests burn, trees die. Sometimes large numbers of trees are killed all at once, sometimes across vast areas. It’s a fact. Particularly in hot fires in dense fuels; cambium cooks and needles fry. Conifers are particularly flammable and can go up in spectacular crown fire. This is not always bad news for wildlife. For example, some birds, such as the black-backed and three-toed woodpeckers are specifically adapted to utilize fire killed trees. Browse species usually recover and provide improved habitat for ungulates such as deer and moose in a few short years. But wood is left, and dead trees will stand for many decades. Blackened stems can be found in mature forests throughout Washington making us wonder, “When did this burn?”.

A burned sea of black, dead stems causes us to think we must DO something immediately. Not necessarily.

Post fire recovery is a complicated process that requires time and care to help the forest heal. Some trees will survive and

Twenty-year-old burn on Sherman Pass in NE Washington.

Twenty-year-old burn on Sherman Pass in northeast Washington.

form the core for the new stand. Dead trees have many important roles and are an integral component of the regenerative process after a fire. They offer some shade to seedlings trying to become established. Roots, although dead, provide soil stability. When the trees fall, (which can occur immediately, or much, much later), down logs help hold the soil in place, provide decaying organic material and habitat for many species such as chipmunks, small birds and snakes. Small mammals are particularly important to forest recovery due to their role in dispersal of colonizing plant seeds and fungal spores that inoculate soils with important microorganisms. Nutrients are released into the system as a result of chemical changes in vegetation and soil. Fire effects can be profound.

Dead trees are critical habitat for many wildlife species, providing nesting and feeding sites for woodpeckers and other cavity dependent species, as perches for song birds, and down logs for ground level habitat. This is true in for stands after fires and in recovered forests where old, burned snags and logs persist for many years.

Salvage logging, if done carefully, can recover lost value from timber crop trees, reduce future fuel loading and enable access to burned areas through roads and skid trails. But it can also damage fragile burned soils and accelerate erosion and weed infestation. Removing dead trees that could help stabilize the soil and provide habitat can sometimes actually inhibit long-term forest health and recovery. Removing dead trees may be necessary for protection of infrastructure such as buildings, or along roads where falling trees could pose safety hazards, or to gather monetary value from trees otherwise destined for harvest. However, dead trees generally do not need to be removed to help the forest recover. Overall, the forest often recovers best when the dead trees remain, especially the larger ones, and nature is allowed to take its course.

Dead trees are beautiful and stark reminders of the fury and healing properties of nature. Ponder their grandeur in the wake of fire and death. Leave them standing as functional landmarks to the power of nature and critical pieces in the puzzle of the forest ecosystem.

For information about forest stewardship on private lands, and opportunities for cost-share thinning projects in Eastern Washington to help protect property from the next fire event (it’s not if, but when), please visit the Department of Natural Resources Small Forest Landowner Office at www.dnr.wa.gov/sflo. And feel free to contact me with questions or observations about dead trees, or any other habitat issues at ken.bevis@dnr.wa.gov .

Message from the Manager of the Small Forest Landowner Office – Climate Resilience

Tami Miketa, Enhancing the Climate Resilience of America’s Natural Resources

We know small forest landowners work hard every day to do what’s right on the land, and ensure they continue to provide the clean air, water, wildlife habitat, and forest products from their lands. Recently, the President and his Administration recognized this and committed to helping landowners do even more to keep forests healthy, intact, and producing products that are also good for the environment. The report recognizes the role that private forests and forest products play when it comes to enhancing the climate resilience of our precious natural resources. Below is more information on the report and a summary of the strategies to make the nation’s natural resources more resilient to a changing climate.

On October 8, 2014, the White House CouCEQ Logoncil on Environmental Quality released its Priority Agenda for Enhancing the Climate Resilience of America’s Natural Resources. The document outlines executive actions and public/private programs to mitigate climate change and represents a comprehensive commitment by the federal government to support resilience of our natural resources. In addition to identifying both large and small forest lands as important in absorbing carbon dioxide, the report discusses special markets, investing in wood construction, natural resource conservation actions, new tax policies, and forest inventory.

The report identifies four strategies to make the nation’s natural resources more resilient to a changing climate. Each strategy documents significant progress and provides a roadmap for action moving forward. Below are highlights of these strategies:

  1. Foster climate-resilient lands and waters — Protect important landscapes and develop the science, planning, tools, Duckabushand practices to sustain and enhance the resilience of the nation’s natural resources. Key actions include the development of a Resilience Index to measure the progress of restoration and conservation actions and other new or expanded resilience tools to support climate-smart natural resource management. Agencies will identify and prioritize landscape-scale conservation opportunities for building resilience; and fight the introduction and spread of invasive species. Throughout, agencies will evaluate resilience efforts to inform future actions.
  2. Manage and enhance U.S. carbon sinks — Conserve and restore soils, forests, grasslands, wetlands, and coastal areas that store carbon. Maintain and increase Sherman9-KenBevisthe capacity of these areas to provide vital ecosystem services alongside carbon storage such as clean air and water, wildlife habitat, food, fiber, and recreation. Key actions include the development of improved inventory, assessment, projection and monitoring systems for important carbon sinks and the development of estimates of baseline carbon stocks and trends to inform resource management. A number of actions will secure the continued health of the nation’s natural resources that provide carbon biosequestration, including forests, agricultural lands, and inland and coastal wetlands.
  3. Enhance community preparedness and resilience by utilizing and sustaining natural resources — Harness the benefits of nature to protect communities from harm and build innovative 21st century infrastructure that integrates natural systems into community development. Federal agencies will take action to encourage investment in natural infrastructure to improve resilience and enhance natural defenses through new federal guidance on ecosystem services assessment, an actionable research agenda, rigorous program evaluation, and expanded decision support tools and services. Federal agencies will increase assistance to states, tribes and localities interested in pursuing green storm water management solutions and will expand partnerships that reduce wildfire risk and protect critical drinking water supplies, promote irrigation efficiency and water efficiency, launch coastal resilience research projects and create decision support tools for local communities to manage their coastal resources.
  4. Modernize federal programs, investments, and delivery of services to build resilience and enhance sequestration of biological carbon — Ensure that federal programs, policies, trainings, and investments consider climate resilience and carbon sequestration, and organize the delivery of federal science, tools and services to help resource managers, landowners, and communities optimize their natural resource management decisions in a changing climate. Agencies will incorporate resilience into natural resources planning and management across all existing operations and programs. Climate-smart practices will be reflected in land acquisition programs and financial assistance programs. Agencies will develop agency-specific principles and guidance for considering biological carbon in management and planning decisions. Agencies will enhance coordination among existing regional resilience information and services operations to better meet the needs of American communities, and strengthen the federal workforce through training to build the climate literacy and capability of natural resource managers. Targeted training and grant assistance to tribes will help prepare indigenous communities for the impacts of climate change and support the development of tribal climate adaptation plans to enhance community resilience.

For more information on specific executive actions and private/public/nonprofit sector commitments that support resilient natural resources and the communities that depend on them, click the link to the Council for Environmental Quality fact sheet.