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

NOTE: The article “Ways to Connect: The Chehalis Basin Partnership and Lead Entity”   by Kirsten Harma, Watershed Coordinator, Chehalis Basin Partnership, was mistakenly attributed to another author when first posted in February 2017. Our apologies for this error.

In this edition of our quarterly newsletter, the Small Forest Landowner Office introduces a new series called “Ways To Connect.” This series will highlight several local partnerships or collaborative natural resources management efforts across the state that have formed as frameworks for local citizens, interest groups and government organizations to work collaboratively to identify and solve local natural resource issues.

The groups we will feature have diverse memberships: cities, counties, tribes, state agencies, federal agencies, and citizen stakeholders, among others. These partnerships enable local people to deal with the unique social, political and ecological problems their communities might face and find solutions ideal to their situation. Local partnerships are incredibly beneficial, not only for the health of the environment but also for the well-being of the stakeholders and the community.

Local partnerships generally share a few key assumptions:

  • Locals are better placed to conserve natural resources,
  • People will conserve a resource if benefits exceed the costs of conservation, and
  • People will conserve a resource that is linked directly to their quality of life.

When quality of life is enhanced, efforts and commitment to ensure the future well-being of the resource are also enhanced. Local partnerships also are hailed as a way to reduce conflict among stakeholders; build social capital; allow environmental, social, and economic issues to be addressed in tandem; and produce better decisions.

The natural resource challenges that face us today, from threats of forest conversion to water and air quality degradation, appear almost impossible to resolve through parties working in isolation. These partnerships may be unilateral, where people from similar backgrounds work collaboratively and cooperatively on a shared problem or opportunity, for example, a growers’ or fishers’ cooperative. They may be bilateral, where the partners come from two different backgrounds, for example, a rural land care group where partners, predominantly from a single primary industry group, work with government. Or they may be multilateral, where the partners come from several different backgrounds, as is the case with estuary, coastal and catchment management groups.

In this edition we introduce the Chehalis Basin Partnership. The Chehalis Basin Partnership was formed in 1998 to provide a framework for local citizens, interest groups and government organizations to work collaboratively to identify and solve water-related issues. Please read Kirsten Harma’s article and see how partnerships work in the Chehalis Basin and how partnerships may work in your own community.

By Tami Miketa, Manager, DNR Small Forest Landowner Office 

Ways to Connect: The Chehalis Basin Partnership and Lead Entity

Chehalis Basin Watershed Management Plan

Two local groups offer helpful information and other resources to Chehalis basin landowners concerned about watershed management, salmon recovery and other issues.

NOTE: The following article by Kirsten Harma, Watershed Coordinator, Chehalis Basin Partnership, was mistakenly attributed to another author when first published. Our apologies for this error.

Clean, abundant water is critical to all residents of the Chehalis River Watershed. Salmon are valued by recreational and tribal fishers and contribute to the local economy. Two local groups have been active over the past two decades ensuring that these natural resources are protected for generations to come. The following article shares information about the history of these groups, and what resources they can offer to small forest landowners.

Chehalis Basin Partnership

The Chehalis Basin Partnership’s founding members recognized that water can cause problems – whether there is too much of it or not enough in the right place at the right time. They also recognized that there were emerging opportunities for local input on managing water throughout an entire landscape. The Chehalis Basin Partnership formed in 1998 to bring people together to find ways to reach shared goals for water management in the lands that compose the Chehalis River Watershed.

The partnership prepared the Chehalis Basin Watershed Management Plan, which was adopted by member cities, counties, ports and the Chehalis Tribe in 2004. Key recommendations were preventing water quality degradation, ensuring that enough water remains in streams for human communities and wildlife, and developing approaches to keep agriculture and forestry on the land.

The plan recommends improving water quality through protecting healthy, high quality waterways so they don’t become impaired, and finding voluntary methods to clean up waterways and the lands that surround them. It recommends making sure there is enough water for people and fish through conducting studies to better understand the connection between water withdrawals from wells and the amount of water available in streams, and developing a ‘toolbox’ with information on flexible strategies for meeting water rights needs, among many other approaches.

The goal of keeping forestry and agriculture on the land was included in the watershed plan because these land uses contribute significant benefits to the basin environment and economy. Forestry and agriculture constitute the least intensive use of land by people within the watershed, and provide benefits to water quality and quantity. For example, forests act as a natural storage facility by helping retain water from rainy seasons into drier ones. The plan recommends developing policies and economic approaches that encourage preservation of forest and agricultural lands, and educating the broader public about the connection between land use and water and the importance of these land uses to our economy.

The plan’s goals and recommendations have become more relevant that ever in the decade since the document was first released. The Chehalis Basin Partnership is working to achieve the vision laid out the Chehalis Basin Watershed Management Plan through member organizations and volunteer efforts around the basin: but there is a lot more still to be done.

The Chehalis Basin Partnership meets monthly to share information about priority water resource topics and to exchange ideas on Plan implementation. Over the past year, the group has hosted presentations on the Department of Ecology’s water rights curtailments issued for the basin in May, DNR’s Forest Practices program, and opportunities and challenges for agriculture in the basin. Interested citizens are always welcome to attend. If you there is a water-related topic you would like to learn more about, feel free to suggest it to the Partnership’s Coordinator for inclusion in a future meeting.

For the meeting schedule and information on speakers and presentation topics, see the “Events” tab on the Chehalis Basin Partnership’s webpage at: www.chehalisbasinpartnership.org

Chehalis Basin Lead Entity

Another priority identified in the Chehalis Basin Watershed Management Plan is making sure conditions exist in our streams and rivers to support sustainable runs of wild salmon. After the state of Washington passed salmon recovery legislation in 1998, a local committee convened to take on the task of writing a plan for salmon habitat restoration and protection, and then finding on-the-ground, voluntary, community supported projects that can best implement that plan. This group, the Chehalis Basin Lead Entity, brings together technical experts that can identify scientifically sound restoration projects, and community members that ensure projects align with local social, cultural and economic values.

Chehalis River Basin Watershed

Private landowners have a number of opportunities to participate in managing and restoring the Chehalis River Basin Watershed .

The Chehalis Basin Lead Entity has the important role of getting salmon recovery funding to public and private landowners to conduct voluntary restoration and protection work on their land. Since 1999, they have helped get funding to 141 projects around the watershed.

Types of projects eligible for funding include:

  • Correcting barriers to salmon migration (e.g., barrier culverts)
  • Planting native shrubs and trees on stream banks
  • Installing large woody material to create habitat in a stream
  • Protecting key habitat areas through property acquisition or easement

The Lead Entity sends out a call for project applications in early February each year, with final funding approval by a state panel occurring in December. If you have an idea for a salmon habitat restoration project on your land, contact the Lead Entity Coordinator for information about how to proceed with developing your project idea.

The committee also is looking for new volunteers who have a passion for protecting salmon and healthy watersheds. Contact the Lead Entity Coordinator if you would like to serve on the project review team.

To learn more about the Chehalis Basin Lead Entity, visit them online at www.chehalisleadentity.org

By Kirsten Harma, Watershed Coordinator, Chehalis Basin Partnership

GPS Know-How: Tools and Tips for Owners of Forestland

Riparian Easement Forester Whitney Butler

DNR Riparian Easement Forester Whitney Butler using a Garmin 64st. Photo: Chris Briggs/DNR.

Can the GPS (Global Positioning System) be an effective and useful tool for the small forest landowner? At a recent WSU Extension Family Forest Field Day in Sequim, Wash., I had the opportunity to speak with several small forest landowners who are using their smartphones, mapping software and certain GPS devices in a variety of ways on their properties.

The manner in which a GPS device is useful for landowners will depend on the landowner’s goals and needs. Also important is the amount of forestland owned and the individual’s familiarity with their property and its natural resources. During our discussion a few common topics and questions surfaced, including GPS accuracy, locating property lines, anticipating the impacts of stream buffers to proposed timber harvest areas, and identifying resources and recreation opportunities.

Although there are many options to choose from, a prominent example of a user-friendly GPS device is one of the Garmin 64 series models. These units are usually in the $200-$350 range, maintain a relatively simple layout for the casual user and are associated with Basecamp mapping software, a free application for Mac/Windows computers that comes pre-loaded with various basemaps (satellite imagery, topography, etc.). Smartphones also come with built-in GPS receivers and typically have some kind of navigation software preloaded (Google Maps, Apple Maps, etc.).

  • Accuracy: Garmin 64 series devices are highly accurate and now utilize both GPS (U.S. based) and GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System, Russian based) technology, with many users reporting accuracy down to ten feet. Capable of tapping into over 24 satellites, the devices maintain strong signals even through dense tree canopies, brush and inclement weather. GPS receivers in smartphones also are capable of accurate readings with the help of available cellular networks.
  • markers of existing property lines.

    A GPS device can help you find markers of existing property lines. Photo: Chris Briggs/DNR.

    Property Lines: A Garmin 64 series device can be useful for locating the edge of your property by guiding you to existing marked property lines and corners. Look for blazed or painted trees, old flagging and/or metal posts. I recommend taking a compass with you or using the compass app on your smartphone. This will help to orient yourself with the direction you’re traveling and where you are in relation to your destination (most maps and GPS devices are automatically oriented north). It is important to note that only a formal survey completed by a professional licensed surveyor can be legally used to identify the true location of a property line.

  • Timber Harvest and Stream Buffers: Dropping waypoints every 50 feet along the length of a known fish stream, perennial stream or protected wetland perimeter can help you get a sense of how the applicable no-harvest riparian or wetland buffer will impact the location of your potential forest roads, landings and harvest unit size and shape. Viewing the waypoints on your computer (through Basecamp for example) can help you develop your management and harvest strategy. The complexity of your proposed timber harvest and your level of comfort navigating Washington state’s Forest Practices Rules may lead you to consider hiring a consulting forester to complete your harvest. For a directory list of consultant forestry companies from the WSU Extension Forestry page click here.
  • Unique Features: Perhaps you know of a unique tree or rock formation on your property that you’d like to build a trail to for a memorable picnic spot. Using your Garmin, take a waypoint at the site, or on your smartphone tap and hold your finger once on the screen of your navigation app to drop a pin. This will allow you to easily find or direct others to that spot again and plan your connecting trail and surrounding management plans accordingly.
  • Tracks: Another useful tool on Garmin devices, Tracks, allows you to continuously collect data on your path traveled in the form of a viewable polyline. This can be useful for tracking what and how much ground you’ve covered on your property. Consider using Tracks to map the outer edge of a wetland, calculate acreages, and/or create maps of existing trails or roads by viewing and editing the tracks in Basecamp.

The short- and long-term goals of your property and forestland should dictate whether or not a new GPS device is a practical tool for you. The more diverse your property is, the more likely it is that a device like one of the Garmin 64 series models can help you organize the features of your landscape to further define your forest management goals and priorities.

By Chris Briggs, Riparian Easement Forester, DNR Small Forest Landowner Office, chris.briggs@dnr.wa.gov 

Pile it on! Habitat Piles for Wildlife

Habitat pile n

Habitat pile near Cle Elum in Kittitas County. Photo: Ken Bevis/DNR.

The basic needs of wildlife: food, water, space and cover. We all ponder how to provide these on our small forest lands?

Food is based on plant diversity, which can feed herbivores of various types, which in turn feed carnivores. Water is from creeks, puddles, ponds or simply vegetation. Space, well, they work out their territories.

And, finally, there is cover: a critical place for animals to rest and raise their young, and a place to escape from predators and save energy for the next effort at survival. Different wildlife species use many types of cover according to their size and life histories. These can include terrain features, such as ridgelines to break the wind, rocky outcrops, tall grass, hollow trees, dense brush, logs and accumulations of vegetative material in thickets. These occur in nature but we also can manipulate these features to benefit wildlife.

In nature, a blown-down tree can be a cover oasis for many critters; down logs a home for many, many decades. These natural concentrations of down and near-ground dead wood are a boon for wildlife.

Many species are naturally associated with down wood and branchy habitats on the ground. Numerous small mammals such as voles, chipmunks, squirrels will use down wood and piles. Their predators show up — long tailed weasels, marten and fisher — and use this material both for cover and as a hunting ground. Amphibians and reptiles, salamanders, lizards and snakes, will live in and around down wood as it provides similar benefits. Many birds will use these woody sanctuaries for cover and nest alongside down logs and under piles of branches on the ground. Bears and cougars cuddle up to down wood and rest in thickets.

lage skash pile

If left alone, a large slash pile may become a sheltering and foraging area for many types of wildlife. Photo: Ken Bevis/DNR.

In managing forest land, we often generate large quantities of loose woody material; slash, in other words. The enormous volume of woody branches and trees stem pieces that present a disposal dilemma to landowners and managers also represents a rich, and routinely overlooked, opportunity for wildlife habitat enhancement. This material can be consolidated and provide much needed cover in a managed forest setting.

Build a pile

Can we mimic this habitat feature on our small woodlands? Absolutely! One particular wildlife friendly landowner in Northwest Washington said to me after I had expressed admiration for her numerous piles, “The quickest thing you can do to benefit the most species of wildlife is build a pile.” I think she is correct.

And there are some best practices for building these piles, but first, some terminology for what I like to call “habitat piles.”

brush pile

Over time, casually thrown together brush piles will collapse and become less inviting to wildlife. Photo: Ken Bevis/DNR.

Slash Pile – Unconsolidated logging debris, usually piled with a large machine and often in very large concentrations, thanks to today’s mechanized logging operations. Often burned, leaving a large sterilized patch of earth, (at least in the short term). If simply left alone, a slash pile can become a valuable habitat feature over the long term.

Brush Pile – Small diameter branches and shrub cuttings piled into a dense mass. Although often burned by landowners, an intact brush pile will provide good habitat for a few years. As decay works on the material, brush piles tend to collapse and all interstitial space is lost in a relatively short time, thus reducing the habitat value for many types of wildlife.

constructed habitat pile

With some forethought given to its construction, a brush pile can become a home to several generations of wildlife, including squirrels and hare. Photo: Ken Bevis/DNR.

Habitat Pile – A deliberately constructed edifice, often using materials produced by land management activities. A habitat pile uses design criteria to optimize wildlife use and assure longer term viability of the habitat structure. Deliberately located, constructed and maintained over time.

Any pile can be good habitat for a period of time. Old slash piles often have considerable evidence of wildlife use. Leave them when you can. And I always encourage landowners to create some piles and maintain them.

Guidelines for piles

Here are a few best practices to build piles that attract and support desirable wildlife:

Quantity: As a target, I suggest two piles per acre, about 100 feet apart, preferably in clusters of three to allow birds and small mammals to live in more than one pile. In dry country where fire is a concern, make sure the piles are not placed under trees where they could act as ladder fuels for fire.

Design: The goal is to create a long-lived structure with internal openings for wildlife to use. Therefore, larger material goes into the lowest layers forming the base while smaller material (such as small branches) goes over the top. You’ll also want the pile deep enough so provide wildlife secure cover in the middle of the pile.

Wood suspended above the ground dries out and rots more slowly than wood touching the moist ground so look for creative solutions, such as building around a log, stump, rock pile or other base structure (get creative and try using cinderblocks or other materials). This will provide a basis for the hollow core of the structure and help these spaces persist for a longer time as the wood decays.

habitat pile under construction

This future habitat pile near White Salmon will become a home to wildlife for many years. Photo: Ken Bevis/DNR.

If using small diameter logs from a tree thinning, place them in several triangular-shaped piles next to each other so as to create a tunnel-like structure (chipmunks love this). Use these piles as the base and proceed to put criss-crossing layers at least 3-5 deep above the base. More layers are better. Neatness is not necessary.

Top the structure with layers of fine branches at least 18” deep, or 6-10 layers. Green branches are generally ok, with one exception. Avoid using green ponderosa pine boughs between January and August to avoid creating a breeding ground for ips bark beetles. If you have larger stems, try to dry them out as much as possible before creating your pile. Once the pile is dry and established, risk from “bad bugs” is gone.

Here is some wisdom from our own Glen Kohler, DNR bug expert extraordinaire:

“Bark beetles feed and breed in the inner bark layer (phloem). They prefer dead material like slash and downed trees because it is not defended by pitch and it produces more offspring. There are a few bark beetles like Ips pine engravers and Douglas-fir beetle that are notorious for building up damaging outbreaks in freshly killed branches and trees. Fortunately, green branches and downed trees are only useful to them for one season because they can’t survive in dry phloem. Pine material over 3” diameter pose a risk for outbreaks of Ips pine engravers in eastern Washington. Smaller branches cut or broken from August through December will likely dry before beetles fly in spring.

Large pine stems will not dry in a few months, so are still a risk. Anything to speed drying like cutting into firewood lengths or bark removal will reduce risk. Avoid leaving green pine boughs between January and July. There are no aggressive bark beetle species that builds up damaging populations in dead non-pine conifers under 8” diameter.”

So using green ponderosa pine logs can potentially create a reservoir for bark beetles, but this doesn’t always happen. If there are already beetles apparent in the local and adjacent stands, this risk is higher. Often, with great quantities of thinning material, it is a risk landowners are willing to take.

Working strictly by hand, make the piles 12 to 15-feet in diameter and 6 to 8-feet high, with enough material to provide a core that has openings for small animals to use for cover. This size can be constructed by hand, and will optimize the “edge effect” of the pile. Larger piles are excellent, and if you have access to a machine, make them 20-feet by 20’ and 10’ high, but still using the same principles of larger material in the core.

On mechanized logging landings, ask your contractor to put aside a separate pile of larger woody pieces for you to use later. (This is also a great source of firewood so you don’t have to look to your snags — also great for wildlife habitat — for fuel.)

Smaller piles are fine, too. Consolidating branches into dense little teepees around stumps and logs can provide some cover for some small animal.

sparrow on habitat pile

Habitat piles aren’t just for mammals. Birds like this sparrow look to habitat piles for their abundant sources of food. Photo: Ken Bevis/DNR.

Habitat piles can work very well with thinning regimes. Contractors can be directed to create and leave some piles with the material they are disposing of anyway. We help many landowners who have overstocked, dense stands of timber that wonder what to do with all the material produced by their thinning projects. Saving a few of these piles, but burning, chipping or scattering the rest, is a good way to enhance wildlife habitat while accomplishing the objectives of the thinning.

I have heard anecdotes about cougars leaping out of piles being worked, turkeys nesting in them, lots of squirrel cone caches and lots of perching songbirds. Send me your stories and photos of what you saw in your habitat pile.

Habitat piles are a great tool for providing homes for many small wildlife species on your woodlands.

By Ken Bevis, Stewardship Wildlife Biologist, Washington State Department Natural Resources. 

For more information, to tell Ken a pile/critter story, or to schedule a Stewardship visit to your property, please contact him at: Ken.Bevis@dnr.wa.gov or call him at (360) 489-4802

 

Reporting Drought Related Tree Damage – Why and How?

Drought damage to hemlock tree.

Drought damage to hemlock tree. Photo by DNR

In the November 2016 issue of the Small Forest Landowner Newsletter, DNR forest entomologist Glenn Kohler reported on the impacts to conifers following the 2015 drought. The drought was the most severe in Washington in several decades and had significant influence on the availability of water, especially the water available for growing trees. This lack of water caused stress and damage in conifers of various ages, sizes and species. Branch and top dieback, foliage loss, entire tree mortality and an increased level of damage caused by secondary bark beetles were observed in both 2015, 2016 and, likely, 2017.

Recently, the State Agency Climate Adaptation Forum held in Lacey, Wash., provided representatives from state agencies and other organizations an opportunity to talk about their experiences and responses associated with the 2015 drought. Representatives from the Washington Department of Natural Resources, Department of Ecology, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Agriculture and several smaller organizations attended. Many resource professionals agreed that the unusually hot and dry weather conditions observed in 2015 are likely to occur with increasing frequency in coming decades.

By documenting the damage observed in our trees during the 2015 drought, we can better learn how to prepare for and guide management fore the future events. If you are interested in reporting drought damage observed on your property, please include as much of the following information as you can:

Minimum information
  • Host/species affected
  • Damage symptoms (branch flagging, top dieback, entire tree mortality, low needle retention, etc.)
  • Location information: GPS reading or address
Additional information
  • Approximate age of tree affected
  • Size of trees affected (diameter and/or height estimate)
  • Other damage agents present (none, Douglas-fir bark beetle, root disease, unknown)
  • How many trees affected (exact number if known, otherwise estimate, few, many)
  • How many acres affected
  • County where damage observed
  • Notes on site characteristics (be as specific as possible; residential property, highway roadside, adjacent to field, forested area, floodplain, forest edge, etc.)
  • Soil characteristics (rocky, well-draining, deep, shallow, poor, etc.)

Please send this information to Amy Ramsey at amy.ramsey@dnr.wa.gov or Washington DNR, 4th Floor, Wildfire Division, PO Box 47037, Olympia, WA, 98501

McCleary Coached Planning Course a Huge Success

coached planning

DNR and WSU Extension offer multi-week courses for landowners interested in developing forest management plans.

WSU Extension and Washington DNR recently concluded an 8-week coached planning course in Grays Harbor County where 31 families improved their understanding of forest ecosystems, the importance of active forest management and how to become even better stewards of their own forestland. The course covered a multitude of topics, including forest ecology, management and health, wildlife habitat and the harvest of non-wood products such as edibles.

Field Day Learning About Wildlife

Class participants were enthusiastic about what they learned and excited to implement these newly acquired skills and understanding across their forestland. We’d love to have you join us at one of our upcoming courses.

The next scheduled Forest Stewardship Coached Planning course starts on Saturday March 11 in Friday Harbor (San Juan County). More information about this course.

Unfortunately, the 2017 Online Coach Planning class is full. Check the WSU Extension Forestry calendar web page for future offerings of this and other classes — online or face-to-face — and find links to publications, videos and other resources.

Log Prices and Outlook

composite log prices

DNR Composite Log Prices, Source: DNR Economic & Revenue Forecast, Fiscal Year 2017, Second Quarter, November 2016

This figure presents prices for Douglas-fir, hemlock and DNR’s composite log. DNR’s composite log price is calculated from prices for logs delivered to regional mills, weighted by the average geographic location, species, and grade composition of timber typically sold by DNR. In other words, it is the price a mill would pay for delivery of the typical log harvested from DNR-managed lands. (NOTE: The mix of factors behind these prices may or may not be similar to those of small forest landowners.)

Readily visible on the graph is the decline in the premium for Douglas-fir—due in large part to Chinese demand fortifying hemlock prices. Also readily visible is the drop in prices from late 2014 to early 2016. The price of a ‘typical’ DNR log moved up sharply from a two-year plateau in 2013 to $591/mbf in 2014. However, prices declined through 2015 to average $521/mbf. The decline in log price is primarily due to the slowdown in demand from China and ample regional supply of both logs and lumber. A price decline was largely foreseen, though the depth of the drop was unexpected.

Log prices in 2016 were expected to be slightly higher than 2015 prices, held back by the same issues plaguing lumber prices, and then to begin increasing in 2017. Prices thus far have averaged $531/mbf.

Outlook

A continuing downside risk for forecasting prices is the state of timber and lumber demand from China. While it seems that a decrease in demand has largely been accounted for in the current market prices, and the export volumes of logs and lumber has largely stabilized, the Chinese economy continues to have issues. There is continuing concern that the slowdown in China could become dramatically worse.

In a previous forecast, DNR noted that the expiration of the Softwood Lumber Agreement posed a major downside risk to the forecast because the expiration of tariffs might allow a flood of cheaper Canadian lumber into the US, suppressing domestic prices. Though the expiration of the SLA has likely held down prices, it has not resulted in the dramatic price drops that some feared. Current expectations (as of November 2016) are that the SLA situation will cause a counter-seasonal increase in prices this autumn, which will fall back until early in 2017.

From the DNR Quarterly Economic and Revenue Forecast, November 2016