In this edition of our SFL News, we want to highlight a special landowner. His name is Dave New, and he is the 2018 Washington Tree Farm Program’s Tree Farmer of the Year. Dave recently told me such an interesting story about the history of his family’s property, how they came into ownership, the struggles and challenges faced, and the true successes achieved so far. His story highlights the contributions made by a number of organizations helping him be a successful forest landowner.
All of these organizations have a similar mission – to keep small forest landowners in forests.
Dave’s story is a great example of cooperation and collaboration between organizations to help achieve the New family goals, and it really highlights the reasons why our organizations exist, especially the Small Forest Landowner Office.
When Dave’s family took over the ownership of their property, it was planned for subdivision into about 60 single-family lots. Luckily, through various circumstances, the property was saved from development. Through the help of a number of organizations (including ours), the New family has learned how tree farms benefit the environment and society in general, and the types of assistance that are available to private forest landowners to help them keep their land in forests.
After hearing his story, I asked him to write it down so we can share it with you, in the hopes that you are encouraged by Dave’s experiences to reach out to organizations, like us, that are available to assist you in the management of your forestland.
New Small Forest Landowner Demographic and Road Survey
The 1999 Salmon Recovery Act required all forest roads be brought up to new forest road standards, as outlined in the 1999 Forests and Fish Report, and established in the Forest Practices Rules.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR), in consultation with the Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) and the Department of Ecology (DOE), is required to monitor the extent, effectiveness, and status of small forest landowner roads. Also, as the agency responsible for carrying out provisions of the federal Clean Water Act in Washington State, the DOE monitors water quality to determine whether activities meet the state’s water quality standards.
DNR, in consultation with the Small Forest Landowner Office Advisory Committee, is required to develop a plan for evaluating the status of small forest landowner roads. DNR, DOE, and the Washington Farm Forestry Association (WFFA) developed an online road assessment survey in order to gain sufficient data to determine the status of forest roads on the properties of small forest landowners. Your information in this survey will help DNRs legislative request for increased funding for the Small Forest Landowner Office and will help to show that small forest landowner roads are well maintained and are not contributing significant sediment to our streams.
Thank you for supporting the Small Forest Landowner Office!
DNR Small Forest Landowner Office Programs
The DNR Small Forest Landowner Office was established in 1999 to promote the viability of small forest landowners in Washington state. The SFLO manages several assistance programs for landowners, including:
Family Forest Fish Passage Program (FFFPP)— A cost-share program that provides small landowners with 75 percent to 100 percent of the cost to remove fish barriers from their property. Enrolled landowners are not required to replace a barrier until the state determines that the barrier is a funding priority. Since 2003, the FFFPP has eliminated 401 fish passage barriers, opening up 924 miles of habitat for fish.
Forestry Riparian Easement Program (FREP)— Provides financial compensation to qualifying small landowners who are required to leave commercial timber in riparian buffers during timber harvests. Since 2001, The FREP has purchased 367 easements covering 5,868 of riparian forests.
Rivers and Habitat Open Space Program (RHOSP)— Formerly known as the Riparian Open Space Program, RHOSP purchases conservation easements from landowners with forested land that is located in a channel-migration zone and is critical habitat for state-listed threatened or endangered species. Since 2001, 18 conservation easements have been purchased protecting channel migration zones and critical habitat for state threatened or endangered species.
Forest Stewardship and Technical Assistance— Provides services and direct one-on-one assistance to forest landowners across Washington state. DNR Stewardship & Technical Assistance Foresters and Wildlife Biologist offer no-cost, non-regulatory, on-site visits to help landowners improve forests for timber production, forest health, wildlife and fish habitat, special forest products, aesthetics, and fire safety. Advice is customized to meet the landowner’s specific objectives. They also assist small landowners with forest practices-related questions and with the state’s Forest Practices Application process.
By Dave New, American (Washington) Tree Farm System, 2018 Tree Farmer of the Year
My wife Dar and I, our daughter Jennifer Parker, and her husband, Jeff Parker, are equal partners in a place we call “The River” on Pilchuck Creek in northern Snohomish County, Washington. Dar’s grandfather, Leroy Nourse, purchased this 160 acres of property in the early 1940s for family recreation.
I work for a private civil engineering firm in Bellingham, dealing primarily with land development, Dar is a retired teacher, Jenn is a licensed engineering geologist working for the DNR in Sedro-Woolley, and Jeff is a licensed geologist working for a private geohydrology firm. Jenn and Jeff have two boys, ages 4 and 6. We all live in Bellingham, 40 miles to the north.
Dar’s uncle, Bob Nourse, owned the property for about 50 years. He always shared it with the extended family. As Dar was growing up in Seattle, her family went nearly every weekend to The River to tend the garden and camp out on the river. She has fond memories of this big part of her childhood.
When Dar and I first met as students at Western Washington University in Bellingham in the early ’70s, her mother, Nina Hoyt, would bring her a big box of vegetables from the garden on most weekends in the summer and fall. She continued doing this after we were married.
When Uncle Bob died in 2004, he had 10 heirs to whom he left two pieces of property, a 40-acre farm and a 160-acre plot, and a grand total of about $300 cash. As it turned out, all of the heirs except Dar and Nina wanted cash and not property. We did not see how we could keep but a small portion of the property. We took the property out of the open space classification and put it up for sale.
After selling the 40-acre farm near Lake Stevens, we entered a sales contract with a reputable local developer for the 160-acre River property. He submitted an application to Snohomish County to subdivide it into about 60 single-family lots. The county accepted the application and they were proceeding towards preliminary plat approval and ultimately, development as a subdivision.
Then, in 2007 three things happened: 1) the price of gas went over $4 per gallon, 2) Boeing was poised to leave Everett, and 3) the Navy was evaluating the future of their Everett base. These things lead to a complete halt of residential property sales in northern Snohomish County. The developer was holding his own and making all of his payments to his bank, but then the recession hit and his bank began to fail. They called in all of their commercial loans, and the developer liquidated all of his assets at a time when there was no market for them. He lost everything and went out of business.
Dar and Nina then made an offer that was acceptable to the other heirs that saved The River from development. However, to be able to afford the taxes, we needed to get the property back into open space. As most of the property was forest, it made sense to put it in forested open space. Because of changes in the open space laws since the 1970s, we now needed to prepare a forest management plan. This is good public policy, and I now support it.
At the time, none of us knew anything about forestry. We hired Pete Blansett, a consulting forester with S. A. Newman out of Everett, to do this work. After walking the property, he told us that we had an over-mature stand of mostly red alder that either needed to be logged soon or it would go to waste, making reforestation much more difficult.
Over my career in land development, I have seen land owners get into trouble when they tried to do things where they did not have expertise. I was not going to attempt to manage the logging myself. We hired Pete to obtain the forest practices permit, write a timber sale prospectus, put the sale out for bid, and manage the timber harvest and subsequent replanting for us. We harvested 62 acres in late summer of 2013. The site was prepared for planting in September 2014 and replanted in early 2015.
In the meantime, we have continued the 60-year tradition of planting a garden at The River and spending most weekends there. We have added a small orchard with apples, peaches, pears, plums, cherries, figs, raspberries and blueberries. We spend a great deal of time there tending the dahlias, weeding the vegetables, throwing sticks and balls for the dogs, or walking down to the river with our two grandsons to soak our feet in the water. We press apple cider two or three times in the late summer and early fall with a group of friends. We walk down to the river to watch the salmon return in the fall. Every year, we plant a large pumpkin patch, and late every October we host a pumpkin party where the grand kids, about 80 others of all ages come enjoy The River, have a treasure hunt and carve pumpkins to take back to the city.
In years gone by, the Conservation District assisted farmers in moving streams out of their fields. This place was no exception. Grandpa Nourse ditched a tributary stream to Pilchuck Creek, moving it to the edge of two fields to create about 15 acres of pasture. He and Uncle Bob used the fields to run cattle and grow hay. However, the lower section of this diked stream silted in over time, causing the stream to spill over the dike and splay out in the lower field. The stream lost all definition in reed canary grass.
One weekend in December 2012 after a big rainstorm, we walked down to the lower field to discover that a run of coho salmon had stranded themselves in the field, having been unable to find a channel. The fish were easy pickings for the eagles and ravens waiting in the trees.
In April 2013, as a part of the forest practices permit process, Pete Blansett and I met Wayne Watne of the Washington Dept of Fish & Wildlife on site for the hydraulic project approval that was a necessary part of the state Department of Natural Resources’ forest practices application.
We needed to build a bridge across the stream to access the timber sale site. Wayne pointed out some young Coho near the bridge site. I mentioned to him stranding we had observed the previous year, and expressed a desire to fix the stream. He suggested contacting the Snohomish County Conservation District (SCCD). I did, and since then we have been working with Christen Marshall, Ryan Williams and Carson Moscoso of the SCCD staff to perfect a conservation reserve enhancement program easement.
Using my civil engineering background, field survey information provided by the District, stream flow tools available online from the United States Geological Survey, and WDFW stream channel guidelines, I designed a channel through the field. This new channel was permitted and constructed by the SCCD.
Subsequently, we planted about 30 acres of stream buffer with Washington Conservation Corps crews, volunteers and school groups. We constructed the channel in 2016, and began stream buffer planting the following winter. Maintenance and replanting has been ongoing since then. SCCD awarded us a Conservation Leadership Award in the fall of 2016 for this effort.
Dar and I joined the Washington Farm Forestry Association so that we could better know about forestry and how to deal with our property. Because we live in Bellingham, our most active affiliation has been with the Whatcom County chapter. I have attended almost every evening and weekend forest visits sites sponsored by the Whatcom Chapter. Tom Westergreen is has been the facilitator on these visits. I have learned a lot from him and from his coaching of the owners on these site visits.
Through WFFA, I learned about WSU Extension Forestry, and the many courses they offer. I took the WSU Forestry Extension coached planning class and was able to rewrite our forest management plan with the assistance of Kevin Zobrist, Lauren Grand of WSU Extension, and Boyd Norton of DNR. Boyd was the inspector who ultimately certified our tree farm.
When I was writing the management plan, the conservation reserve program easement was still in the planning stages. Part of our new forest management plan included planting of areas along Pilchuck Creek and the adjacent floodplain. The August 2015 windstorm hit us hard, knocking over a number of large trees. The thought of cleaning up after the downed wood (mostly cottonwood) and replanting a large area was very daunting. We ultimately included these areas in the CRP easement, and the SCCD crews planted red cedars and hemlocks in the understory along the streams. We are truly grateful to have acquired the continuing assistance of the SCCD in this non-commercial part of our property.
I also took the WSU Extension “Ties to the Land” class, where I learned about succession planning. This led to us creating a limited liability company through which we now share the ownership and will pass it on to our grandkids. It gives us peace of mind to know that they will not have go through what we did when Uncle Bob died.
We have hosted WSU Extension events, including one on forest practice and hydraulics permitting, and one on noxious weed control. (How else could you get people to pay money to come and remove weeds from your property!?)
One Christmas, Dar gave me a wildlife camera. We now have three we regularly place on various parts of our property just to see what or who comes by. The “Desperately Seeking Goldilocks” picture of three bears is one of the best shot to have come from this.
Tom Westergreen and Boyd Norton both asked if we have had any damage from the bears. I can’t say that we have. Our bears don’t seem to have learned that behavior. Our biggest problem is with deer browsing and rubbing their antlers on the young trees.
When we received the 2018 Washington State Tree Farmer of the Year Award this past May, I recognized by name all of the people and entities mentioned above. If the contribution of even one of them had been missing, we would not have received the award.
It was in honor of their assistance that I held an open house on July 21 to showcase not just a tree farm and its benefits the environment and society, but also the types of assistance that are available to private forest landowners. To their credit, the WFFA Whatcom Chapter, Upper Puget Sound Chapter and state organization; Washington Tree Farm Program; WSU Forestry Extension; Snohomish County Conservation District; Washington Association of Conservation Districts Plant Materials Center; and DNR Small Forest Landowners Office all jumped in to help. We had great publicity, material assistance, and representatives to share what each organization does. There was a good turnout, and visitors were genuinely interested and asked good questions.
One of my favorite Yogi Berra saying is, “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Ten years ago, I knew nothing about forestry or forest management. Whenever I have been given an opportunity to learn more, or to get help to better manage our property, I have taken it.
I do not consider myself a forestry expert by any means, but I have at least learned to ask the right questions of people who are in the know.
It is our goal to keep and pass The River on to future generations so that this one small stretch of woods and stream can be managed in an environmentally friendly way into the future, and to provide the family with a modest amount of income at various times along the way.
“We’d be up to our eyeballs in (organic) debris if those guys weren’t at work!”
Richard Zabel, Executive Director of the Western Forestry and Conservation Association
“Dr.” Zabel is remarkably insightful in his commentary on the role of decomposers; those amazing organisms that break down material in ecosystems. Forests need a lot of these, acting continuously, for our forests contain an enormous amount of organic material ultimately produced by photosynthesis. A normal west side forest in the Pacific Northwest contains somewhere between 330 and 790 tons/ acre of standing biomass**. That’s a lot. And all of this material must eventually decompose into foundational elements, feeding the nutrient cycles and ecology of our forests.
Wow. Just wow. Good thing this stuff breaks down.
Ever hear of “charismatic mega-fauna”? These are creatures that easily capture our attention; critters like grizzly bear, elk, mountain goats or cougars. These animals usually function at high levels in the food chain, eating plants or being eaten out on the Serengeti of our imaginations.
Now, back to decomposition. It is one of the most important ecological functions going, keeping our nutrient cycling going and feeding the plants and fungi of the world. The animal the esteemed Zabel was referring to is:
Our own banana slug! Now that’s charismatic mega-fauna.
They are the second largest slug in the world, growing up to 12 inches long — but most are between 4 and 6 inches long. They come in a variety of colors, such as olive green, gray with black spots, yellow, even white. Local areas may have similar color patterns*, which could be adaptation in action. They occur in moist forests all along the Pacific coast of North America.
There are four funky stalks on their head. The upper ones are eye stalks for light reception, and the lower ones are chemical receptors used to “taste” the environment. Racing slugs at the University of California Santa Cruz (home of the Fighting Banana Slugs) open their breathing hole wide when competing****. It is on the right side of the animal, called the pneumostome, and allows the single lung to open and gather oxygen when the slug is working hard. (Yes, even slugs hurry sometimes.) Otherwise, in normal relaxed slug mode, they get enough oxygen through their wet, mucous-covered skin.
Speaking of slime, banana slugs have a magnificent tool in their mucous coating. They have glands all over their body that provide this slick and slimy multi-purpose coating. It protects them from dehydration, and allows them to cover themselves in a ball of the gooey stuff to hole up during dry spells. (That’s why you don’t see them out and about in the heat of summer.)
Ever wonder how slugs cruise along so gracefully? They don’t actually crawl across the forest floor at all. They lay down a trail of perfect slime to slide over, and that let’s them move with a certain undulating grace. It is at once slippery, and sticky, and allows them to climb vertical surfaces. And the slime is full of chemical signals telling other slugs which way they went, and whether they might be a potential mate. They even eat mucous to replenish their own supplies.
Banana slugs, despite their savory name and appearance, have very few predators thanks to this mucous. It apparently tastes bad and few animals have developed a taste for it. Raccoons will sometimes roll them in dirt to cover the slug (and the flavor?) and then have slug sushi, but mostly, they are left alone. Slug slime is a miracle, multi-purpose substance!
Banana slugs never have to worry about getting a date either: Not because they are so wonderfully handsome/beautiful (although they are in their own mollusk-y way), but because they are hermaphrodites. Yes, slugs are both boy and girl at the same time. They do look for a mate during the wet spring, and exchange sperm in an amazing mating ritual involving hanging by slime threads, exuding their enormous sex organs, and intertwining in, well, a rather sensuous manner (check out the you tube of Richard Attenborough watching their European cousins, the Leopard slugs). And afterwards, Romance? Commitment? Nope. Each slug goes off separately and lays eggs in moist, rotting wood, leaving their kids to their own fates. Slugs don’t do family or child care, so the hatched-out miniature slugs are on their own from day one. No divorces or day care bills for banana slugs!
Most significant to us, banana slugs eat detritus (rotting plant material) and mushrooms. They are important players in the forest ecosystem as nutrient and material recyclers, breaking complex plant matter down into basic components that can further move in the ecosystem. ***
So next time you see a groovy, big banana slug cruising along in your forest, treat it with a little respect and admiration. They are on duty for all of us, doing critical ecosystem functions with little fanfare and appreciation.
And when I searched on Slug Songs, there’s even a video of dancing slugs. Who’d a thunk it!
Send me photos and stories about the wonders of wildlife, and your own Encounters of the Slug kind, in your forests!
*Source: Slater Museum blog post, “The Pacific Northwest is Slug Country”, July 2016.
**Stewart T. Schultz (1990). The Northwest Coast: A Natural History. Portland, Oregon, Timber Press.
**Waring, RH, and JF Franklin. (1979). Evergreen coniferous forests of the Pacific Northwest. Science 204: 1380-1386.
**Waring, RH, (1982) Land of the giant conifers. Natural History 91(10):54-63.
*** Wikipedia and various other sources for cool facts about slugs.
**** I’m not sure if they really do this but it seems like a good idea and probably has happened down there sometime!
This spring and summer, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) received numerous reports of dead or damaged Douglas-fir trees throughout the state. Symptoms include entirely red crowns in saplings and red tops or scattered red branches in trees. The damage is more common in dry lowland areas and sites with well-drained soils.
DNR forest health specialists examined Douglas-firs with these symptoms and found unexpected levels of attack by several species of bark beetles such as Douglas-fir engraver, (Scolytus unispinosus), Douglas-fir pole beetle (Pseudohylesinus nebulosus), and another engraver beetle, Scolytusmonticolae, that has no common name.
These beetle species are normally considered ‘‘secondary’ because they typically infest trees that are first weakened by a larger, primary issue such as root disease, fire damage or drought stress. Secondary beetles can damage trees under stress but normally lack the capacity to kill live, healthy trees.
Douglas-firs have been particularly affected by Washington’s abnormally hot and dry summers over the past three years. Back-to-back drought years are stunting the health of Douglas-firs, leaving them less able to fend off insect attacks.
These conditions have allowed secondary bark beetle species to establish in healthy Douglas-firs and boost beetle populations, causing significant damage or even killing some trees. Secondary bark beetles mostly prefer to attack small-diameter trees, yet recent investigations have found them in stems of larger diameter trees as well, which is historically uncommon.
Consider the following to prevent or manage secondary beetle attacks in Douglas-fir:
Keep forested stands thinned so that remaining trees can access more of the water stored in soils
Irrigate and mulch high-value yard or park trees during prolonged periods of drought
Avoid fertilizing trees, as this can increase foliage growth and the need for more water
Do your homework before applying pesticides:
Some systemic pesticides can be applied as a preventative measure for high-value trees
Pesticides are not effective at controlling beetles in trees that have already been attacked
Consider hiring a licensed pesticide applicator to ensure the proper selection, timing and application of pesticides
Unfortunately, pheromone treatments, such as those used to deter the more aggressive Douglas-fir bark beetle (Dendroctonus pseudotsugae), are not available to combat these minor bark beetle species.
For more information on forest health in Washington, go to www.dnr.wa.gov/ForestHealth or contact DNR’s forest health staff at 360-902-1300.
Forest health conditions in Washington state have been in decline for decades, contributing to catastrophic and uncharacteristically severe wildfires – and the state’s Department of Natural Resources is reaching out to partners, including small private forest landowners, to work toward a solution.
Insect pests, disease, invasive plants and animals, human development, climate change, past forest management practices, and a lack of adequate active management have, in combination, created a perfect storm for poor forest health and wildfire risk.
Healthy forests are vital to clean water and air, the economy, carbon sequestration, fish and wildlife habitat, and recreational opportunities. But without significant intervention, the problems our forests face will continue to compound. To restore health to our forests, DNR has developed a 20-year Strategic Forest Health Plan committed to treating 1.25 million acres of unhealthy forestland in Central and Eastern Washington by 2037.
The plan is unprecedented in its scope and application. It embraces an all-lands, all-hands approach, recognizing that solutions for improving forest health must span property lines and government jurisdictions. Coordinating forest health treatment efforts with all willing forest landowners in high-priority watersheds is a key part of the forest health plan. DNR worked on the plan with more than 30 agencies, interest groups and organizations, representing private, state and federal forest landowners, state agencies, tribes, the forest industry, universities and conservation groups.
One of DNR’s key landowner groups is you, the small private forest landowner. Our agency has foresters on staff to provide you with forest health evaluations, technical assistance and cost-share programs to help offset the expense of forest health treatments.
We are eager to connect with you, so please call us at 509-925-8510 if you own forestland in Adams, Asotin, Benton, Chelan, Columbia, Douglas, Franklin, Garfield, Grant, Kittitas, Klickitat, Lincoln, Walla Walla, Whitman, and Yakima counties; or 509-684-7474 if your forestland is in Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille, and Spokane counties, or the northern portion of Lincoln County. When you call, ask to speak to someone from the Landowner Assistance Program.
By Rob Lionberger, DNR Stewardship Forester for Eastern Washington
If you are reading this article, you are likely a small landowner who lives in or near the forest. It is also very likely that fire has shaped what you see on your land and in the forest around you as a whole, and that fire exclusion has played a large role in generating the forest conditions you consider natural today.
Our views on fire and its role in forest health have changed much in recent years, and it is time to ignite a conversation about what role it has on your property. In an upcoming series of these articles, I would like to explore various aspects of fire; how it interacts with us on the landscape, from both a utilitarian and an ecological point of view.
I will examine fire behavior and how a fire moves through a landscape, how to prepare your home and outbuildings in the fire environment, issues related to fire prevention and suppression, prescribed fire and small private landowners, and smoke effects and management.
From an ecological perspective, we will examine the history of fire in our forests before settlement, fire as an agent of disturbance and change, the role of fire in a healthy forest, fire’s effect on the landscape, how it can be used as a tool, and how fire suppression has shaped the forest. I hope to spark your interest in these and other topics through the coming newsletters as we examine them with the small forest landowner in mind.
Rob Lionberger is a professional forester who just completed his 30th season fighting wildland fires. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in forestry with an emphasis on fire ecology from the University of Montana.
The Chehalis River Basin is second in size only to the Columbia within the state of Washington. It contains over 2,500 square miles of land dedicated to industrial, agricultural and natural resource uses. Considering its size, diverse array of land management, and high water demand in the area, it’s no surprise that the Chehalis Basin is considered a priority area for protection by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. With that priority in mind, the Washington State University Extension and the DNR Small Forest Landowner Office have partnered to develop outreach and educational programming in the region for small forest landowners.
The Chehalis River Basin contains some of the world’s most productive timberland, attracting a large population of small forest landowners with a variety of objectives. Healthy riparian ecosystems are a natural byproduct of active forest stewardship, so small forest landowners, stewardship and clean water are inextricably linked. This is the message of the new Extension Forester for WSU in Southwest Washington, Patrick Shults, who was hired to promote, educate, and train forest stewards within the basin.
A little about Patrick: He’s not from here but is extremely excited to be living in the Pacific Northwest. He and his wife moved from Michigan last winter, escaping the frigid cold and pounding snow of the Upper Great Lakes for the soft rain and cool ocean air of the coastal forests. An avid hiker, fisher, and craft beer enthusiast, Patrick has been feeling very much at home in Western Washington.
Patrick came to the extension forester position at WSU after finishing his master’s degree in forestry at Michigan State University, where he researched agroforestry and sustainable nutrient cycling. Prior to that he also received a bachelor of science degree in forestry at MSU, getting experience in public outreach and education, habitat restoration, urban forestry, and writing management plans for small forest landowners through working with nonprofits, universities, and consulting foresters.
Patrick knows that while many forest owners are primarily interested in growing timber, the SFL community is diverse and many have other goals in mind either in tandem with or excluding timber production. He hopes to use his range of experience to help meet this diverse set of needs and landowner interests for small forest management in Southwest Washington.
With this motivation in mind, Patrick will be promoting educational programming like Forest Stewardship Coached Planning, Family Forestry Field Days, and other workshops and classes. As previously mentioned, they will focus heavily on landowners in the Chehalis River Basin, but he also hopes to provide resources and programming to forest owners throughout Southwest Washington.
He aims to maintain an open door and invite the public to express their concerns and interests, while working hard to prioritize education on pressing issues like forest health, writing stewardship plans, and promoting research-backed forestry practices. His upcoming events include a Forest Stewardship Coached Planning in Chehalis and an Alder Management Workshop in Raymond. Learn more about Patrick and Extension Forestry events coming up in Southwest Washington online at forestry.wsu.edu/sw.