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

Tami Miketa
Tami Miketa, manager, Small Forest Landowner Office

In this message, I am stepping away from my traditional forestry-related topics to speak about the critical issue we are all facing at this difficult time.

We are in the midst of some very uncertain and unprecedented times, and our level of anxiety is extremely high. The outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) may be stressful for people. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and can cause strong emotions in adults and children. Coping with stress will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger. Below are some tips and thoughts I have come across that have inspired me and I want to share with you.

First of all, we all need to focus on the good you’re doing for others. Always remember, by staying at home, you are doing your part in protecting the vulnerable people in your neighborhood and community who are at risk for the severe form of COVID-19. Indeed, knowing others will benefit from your decisions and health authorities are genuinely grateful for your efforts can make stressful situations easier to bear.

Don’t get stressed about being stressed. The more you resist stress, the worse it gets. Instead, interpret the extra adrenaline as having a high energy level or an energy burst. Perhaps you can use the energy and take a run, take a walk through your woods, or just feel it flow through your veins.

Keep things in perspective. Sure, there are big things going on now. However, our brains can make relatively small things look really big, too. Remember that your financial portfolio is not your life portfolio. Your ability to think, talk, walk, see, hear, and love are way more important than the current value of a financial investment. Our brains are unable to process many things at one time, so our full attention becomes focused on one problem. Gratitude is not a corny practice; it is bringing ourselves back to reality when we’ve lost perspective. Multiple times a day, list your blessings ― shelter, food, health (focusing on what is working, not just what isn’t working) and, most of all, the people in your life.

Reconnect with family and friends. In these times of social distancing, use and appreciate the time to read, write, get home tasks done, watch movies, play board games with the family, and connect. Remember the people far away who could use some interaction. FaceTime your family, call your aunt, or Skype your old college buddy. Make sure they are doing well, and if they’re not, lend an ear and your warmth.

Take care of yourself. Eat nutritiously, with plenty of veggies and some fruit, and get enough sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, don’t try too hard. Obsessing about how vital it is to get to sleep won’t get you back to sleep. Think of it as a perfect time to meditate. Going over thoughts again and again? Try writing them down.

Practice good mental health. It is important during any stressful event to check in with yourself and your own mental health. You cannot help take care of others until you have taken care of yourself.

Remember that the situation is evolving. Some decisions are easy: If you’re sick, stay away from others. If you have plans that are two months from now, and there’s no penalty for postponing a decision, remember that the right answer may become very clear by that time, so why stress now? On the other hand, if you’re responsible for organizing an event, canceling sooner rather than later will let others make better plans. Overall, remember that the importance of our community’s well-being should be more important than saving a few dollars.

Know how to deal with emotions and when to ask for help. Accept your emotions for now. Otherwise, you’ll get sad about being sad or anxious about being anxious. You don’t need to justify your emotions. Simplify them and let go of the metaphors you hear in songs and movies. Know it will pass. If it’s prolonged, please ask for help. Talk to a counselor and/or your primary care provider. Getting help when needed is a sign of maturity and wisdom. Don’t wait until you’re at wit’s end – get help early and often.

Include helping others as part of your COVID-19 game plan. As I mentioned earlier, it’s normal to think of protecting yourself and your family first. However, if things get difficult in your community, I encourage you to keep an eye out for how you can help others. Reflect on how you might contribute to the strength and well-being of others beyond your immediate family, particularly if things get worse. Of course, this would not mean ignoring guidelines around public safety, or foolishly exposing yourself. But do think of how you might help others.

Roll with the punches. Because the COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly evolving, every day brings something entirely new and unexpected. These disruptions to our cherished routines can be another big source of anxiety. Try to create new routines and new structure, and find new positivity to create comfort in the home. Sometimes, there are projects that we always wanted to do but never had the chance because we’ve been too distracted or busy. It might be the perfect opportunity to finally check boxes on that to-do list that we’ve been putting off.

Most of all, be kind and compassionate. We’ve evolved to take joy in helping others, connecting with others, and working in teams. The happiest people are not the richest ones but the ones who have learned to be compassionate. Think of the people closest to you and how you want them to be happy and healthy, and then bring those same thoughts and feelings to others. Be generous with your kind words and your kind deeds. We all will benefit, and so will you. COVID-19 is a wake-up call, and our salvation is in our compassion.

Asking someone if they are OK, leaving a note at the neighbors to see if they need something while you run to the store, sharing a supportive smile as you pass strangers on the street, these are all ways folks across America are showering acts of kindness on each other during these unprecedented times.

Here are some other ideas to help others:

  • Message and/or call to check in on friends and family. This is especially important for our senior and immunosuppressed communities. Remind them that they are not alone.
  • If you know of someone who needs resources (food, goods) but is unable to leave their home, you can send them a virtual gift card or order necessary items to be delivered directly to them (via online stores, grocery delivery, etc.).
  • Show gratitude for first responders, folks in medical fields, and those organizing food banks. You can do this by message, phone call, e-card, or the like.
  • Donate online to local non-profit organizations that are helping people through the crisis (food banks, shelters).
  • Writing gratitude letters is a great way to spread some kindness. Order postage online, and send a note to someone who could use a smile.
  • Do you miss connecting with people? Try coordinating virtual meet-ups and activities to give people some structure and fun. Virtual book clubs or game night, live-tweet movie/show watching, or any other activity that can be shared via social media and/or streaming.
  • Small businesses are taking a hit from lack of customers. To help with this, purchase gift cards that you can use at a later time, or gift to family or friends. The extra funds will help them keep their operations open. Check to see if they have opened an online shop with delivery.
  • Spend some time with your pet or walking neighborhood dogs. Maybe foster a pet if you would like some animal companionship.

Remember, self-isolation measures are temporary. Like all other disease outbreaks, COVID-19 will pass, and life will return to normal. Because we don’t know when that day will come, we just have to wait it out. By following the guidelines issued by public health and practicing good hygiene and social distancing, we can help ensure the health care system doesn’t get overwhelmed all at once. The best way to manage anxiety is by focusing on the positive that we have around us right now.

I would love to hear some of the things that you’re doing to help yourself, your family, and your community. If you would like to share, please send me an email at tami.miketa@dnr.wa.gov and I will post them on our website at dnr.wa.gov/sflo.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel, and remember, we can do this!

Get to Know a Forester: Sean Alexander

This month, we are featuring one of our partners, Sean Alexander, the new WSU Extension forestry coordinator for Northeast Washington. Wherever you meet the third-generation Washingtonian, be it the forests or the lanes of the local bowling alley, he’s never too far away from pine. 

Greetings!

My name is Sean Alexander, and I am delighted to introduce myself as the new Northeastern Washington forestry extension coordinator for Washington State University. I will join the team led by Andy Perleberg and work closely with the DNR on education, outreach, and technical assistance.

I am currently completing my master’s degree at Washington State University in forest ecology and will begin working out of Colville in my new position within the next few months. As a third-generation Cougar (Go Cougs!), born and raised in the Tri-Cities, I am excited to serve the Eastern Washington forestry community.

At a young age, my father instilled in me a passion for the outdoors, whether it was fishing, boating on the Columbia River, or learning to shoot the BB gun (careful kid, you’re going to shoot your eye out).

In college, I figured out that I could connect my passion for nature to my future career. I completed two bachelor’s degrees, in wildlife conservation science and forestry. I was afforded many great opportunities, from conducting research in the Sierra Nevada to the slopes of Mount St. Helens. My master’s work is focused on silvicultural prescriptions on the Fremont-Winema National Forest of south-central Oregon. This area is dominated by dry pine and mixed-conifer forest types, very similar to Northeastern Washington.

While living in Pullman, I’ve had the opportunity to reconnect with the outdoors. Hunting has become a passion of mine, as it allows me to observe nature and helps me understand the requirements of providing food for the table. There is nothing better than sitting in a blind on a brisk fall morning, waiting for any movement down the draw, and watching the early activity of everyone else in the morning.

Sean Alexander, the new WSU Extension forester for Northeast Washington, is seen in his other natural habitat: a bowling alley.

I hope to begin exploring Northeastern Washington and continue to develop my hunting skills in this region, and the many other possibilities that this corner of the state has to offer. I’m an avid bowler, competing in the local Palouse Bowling Leagues, and I come from a big family, with 11 siblings and 12 nephews and nieces, so Thanksgiving is always a rowdy one.

I believe forestry is best conducted with an ecosystem approach, with a holistic view of many components to support sustainability and resilience. For example, protecting your home with fuels reduction, promoting habitat value, and maintaining economic sensibility can all be accomplished together. I look forward to working with landowners to accomplish these goals.

Since I was a little kid, I’ve always had a passion for helping others and a skill for educating and communicating. Being able to tie together my passion for forestry with my passion for education, while being able to serve the people of Washington, is truly the most rewarding job someone could ask for.

As I take the next step in my life, I am excited to set my roots and begin building a relationship with those who I get to serve. I am hopeful that I will be a strong resource for local landowners who desire to further develop their own skills in forest management, and together we can help build-up Washington’s forests.

If you’re going to be in Chewelah on June 26 for the forest field day, come by! I’d love to meet you and discuss projects you have going on and ideas you may have for extending education to the region. If not, feel free to reach out and say hello at sean.alexander@wsu.edu!

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

Tami Miketa
Tami Miketa, manager, Small Forest Landowner Office

Change is inevitable, and there has been one that we feel is significant within our agency.

DNR recently established a new Forest Health & Resiliency Division. This new organization within the larger DNR is focusing efforts to make forests across the state healthier, and in turn, more resilient to wildfires, climate change, drought, insects, and diseases.

This work is part of DNR’s Forest Action Plan and its 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan, aiming to reduce wildfire risk, boost rural economies, and improve the health of more than 1.25 million acres of Washington forests through a myriad of partnerships. These include state and federal agencies, tribes, private and commercial landowners, and others. The division provides services related to urban and community forestry, forest health monitoring, tree care advice and assistance, prescribed fire, the Good Neighbor Authority initiative, community wildfire preparedness and now, Forest Stewardship.

This past August, our Forest Stewardship Program moved from the Forest Practices Division’s Small Forest Landowner Office to this new division. Moving the Forest Stewardship Program to the Forest Health & Resiliency Division better aligns the services available to small forest landowners, placing forest management assistance programs under the direction of one division – a division directly overseen by our State Forester, George Geissler. It will also improve the cohesion between DNR’s existing Forest Health Assistance Program in eastern Washington, the 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan for central and eastern Washington, the statewide Forest Action Plan, and DNR’s statewide Wildland Fire Protection Strategic Plan, all of which depend on working closely with Washington’s small forest landowners.

The Forest Health & Resiliency Division will provide the following services to small forest landowners:

  • Give holistic forest management advice and technical and cost-share assistance to encourage landowners in active management. This can improve overall productivity of their forests while leading to a healthier and more resilient environment.
  • Assist landowners in developing a personalized management plan that protects, improves, and restores the health, productivity, habitat quality, and sustainability of their forests.
  • Administer cost-share incentive programs for forest health and fuels mitigation in central and eastern Washington, thus reducing unhealthy and unnatural wildfire fuels.
  • Partner with the Washington State University Extension in providing education programs to small forest landowners statewide.

The Small Forest Landowner Office (SFLO), still within the Forest Practices Division, will remain a resource for small forest landowners who want help navigating forestry regulations and accessing Small Forest Landowner Office programs. The SFLO will continue to:

  • Help small forest landowners complete Forest Practices Applications and access the programs to conserve fish and wildlife habitat and water quality.
  • Manage the 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.
  • Manage the Forestry Riparian Easement Program (FREP), which provides financial compensation to qualifying small landowners who are required to leave commercial timber in riparian buffers during timber harvests.
  • Manage the Rivers and Habitat Open Space Program (RHOSP), formerly known as the Riparian Open Space Program, which 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.
  • Provide Regulation Assistance Foresters, a statewide resource to provide technical guidance to small forest landowners on forest practices-related issues and help them navigate the state’s Forest Practices Application process.

I am very happy to announce the Small Forest Landowner Office recently hired a state-wide Regulation Assistance Forester, Todd Olson. Todd comes into this position with extensive experience in DNR with 16 years in the Forest Practices Program as a Forest Practices forester and compliance monitoring field coordinator, and six years as a state lands forester. Todd will be located in Olympia, but will help serve small forest landowners across the state in providing technical guidance related to the state’s Forest Practices Rules and the Forest Practices Application process. Learn more about Todd in this issue of the SFLO News.

The two programs will work in close coordination to provide the services needed to small forest landowners. On the ground, things will remain basically the same – only better.

Family Forest Field Day Coming to South Sound

Come join other landowners for a day of learning in the woods!

Whether you own a “home in the woods” or many acres of land, this “out in the woods” educational event is packed with practical “how-to” information that you need to know.

Stewarding land is both rewarding and challenging. Successful management is due to the decisions you make and the actions you take. Attending the Family Forest Field Day will prepare you to plan and execute sound practices, enabling you to accomplish your management objectives, reduce risks, and protect your financial investment.

Don’t own land but are still interested in learning more about forests? Maybe you’re thinking about buying some forestland but want to see what you’re getting into?  All are welcome!

Check out the full class schedule!

When:                  Saturday, August 24, 2019

9 a.m-4 p.m. (gates open at 8 a.m.)

Where:                Wildcat Creek Tree Farm

72 Tornquist Rd. McCleary, WA 98557

Cost:                     $30 per individual or $40 for a family

One lunch included with each registration; additional lunches purchased for $10

Register online at Eventbrite or via mail.  Learn more about the class and mail-in registration options at the Field Day website.

Accommodations

Extension programs and employment are available to all without discrimination. Evidence of noncompliance may be reported through your local WSU Extension office. Reasonable accommodations will be made for persons with disabilities and special needs who contact Patrick Shults at 360-740-1213 or patrick.shults@wsu.edu at least two weeks prior to the event.


OTHER EVENTS

There are other events available to small forest landowners across Washington state, too:

Forest Health and Wildfire Seminars

What’s happening to our forests?

Increasing tree mortality and fire risk are serious threats to health and safety, water quality, and quality of life in Snohomish County. Dead and dying trees have proliferated throughout the county, especially with cedars, hemlocks, and maples. Wildfire and smoke are growing concerns. Could what happened in California happen here? Join local forest experts from the University of Washington and Washington State University at a free seminar to learn about what’s happening, why it’s happening, what it means for your property and your watershed, and what you should and should not be doing.

Upcoming offerings

Darrington – September 4

The Darrington seminar will be Wednesday, Sept. 4, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Darrington Community Center, 570 Sauk Ave., Darrington, WA 98241. Admission is free, and no pre-registration is necessary.

Shelton – September 4

The Shelton seminar will be Wednesday, Sept. 4, from 6-8 p.m. at the Mason County Auditorium, 2621 E. Johns Prairie Rd., Shelton, WA 98584. Admission is free; please pre-register so that staff can get an accurate head count. Contact WSU extension forester Patrick Shults at patrick.shults@wsu.edu or 360-740-1213.

Monroe – October 3

The Monroe seminar will be Thursday, Oct. 3, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Monroe Library, 1070 Village Way, Monroe, WA 98272. Admission is free, and no pre-registration is necessary.

Forest Stewardship Coached Planning

A forestry course for landowners

Our flagship course will teach you how to assess your trees, avoid insect and disease problems, attract wildlife, and take practical steps to keep your forest on track to provide enjoyment and even income for years to come. In this course, you will develop your own Forest Stewardship Plan, which brings state recognition as a Stewardship Forest and eligibility for cost-share assistance, and may also qualify you for significant property tax reductions.

Upcoming Offerings:

 

Sitka Spruce Can Shepherd Your Cedars Toward Maturity

By Steve Townsend, tree farmer near Kapowsin

Editor’s note: Many small forest landowners in Washington attempt to plant Western red cedar, only to be thwarted by browse by animals, particularly deer and elk. Steve Townsend has used some unique strategies, and has written up his well-documented efforts here.

Starting with one Western red cedar and one Sitka spruce P+1 seedling per hole, we planted the plantation near Kapowsin in Pierced County in 2014.

The holes were spaced 12 feet apart, giving about 600 trees in 300 holes per acre. After allowing for roads, trails, slash piles, a building, and some other areas that could not be planted, the 17-acre plantation was stocked with 4,000 cedars.

The expectation was that the spruce, with their sharp needles, would deter the deer and elk from eating the cedar.

Generally speaking, the combination is working.

Cedar&Net.Spruce copy
Cedar treelings can also be planted adjacent to older spruce trees to protect them from browsing, as long as they are also protected by hard netting. (Steve Townsend)

There was some browsing the first year, but by year two the branches of the trees had become intermingled and the spruce were protecting the cedar as planned. Probably the most telling sign of success is in those pairs where the cedar has grown taller than the spruce; in many of these cases, the cedar has been browsed down to the height of the spruce, but no further.

About 95 percent of the spruce and 80 percent of the cedar survived the first summer in 2014. This led to some serious inter-planting in the years to follow.  In February 2015, 300 cedars were crowded in beside a spruce in places where the accompanying cedar had died.

Starting in 2016, and subsequently in 2017 and 2018, the surviving spruce were too well-developed to accommodate a new partner planted just inches away. As a consequence, the current method of replacement planting has been to place the cedar a foot or two away from the base of a protective spruce, and then to place a vexar net (aka rigid tubing) around the cedar to protect it from the animals until the branches of the spruce grow out to encompass it. In those areas where a cedar is desired and no spruce exists, the cedar is planted and netted on its own, much the same as one would protect the trees in a plantation of Douglas-fir.

CedarwithSpruceSkirt copy
The spruce trees can be topped at 4 feet high, so that they stop competing with the cedars for light but still protect their bases from rutting deer and elk. (Steve Townsend)

By fall 2017, many of the cedar were tall enough so that the spruce could be trimmed back to allow the cedar to be the dominant tree of the pair. Typically, while working with a pair of trees with the hand pruners, all double tops or suckers on the cedars were removed, and the tops of the spruce were cut off at a height of four feet.

The hope is that the spruce will live long enough to continue to provide some protection for the cedar against antler rub. This will be an ongoing process for the next several years as the plantation continues to develop.

This report would not be complete without mentioning the smaller browsers. Whereas the spruce does an effective job of protecting the trees from the deer and elk, they do not protect the cedar from the mice, voles, rabbits, aplodontia (mountain beaver), and other small tree-predators that attack from below. In the areas where these animals are prevalent, the tried-and-true vexar nets are usually effective.

CedarwithSpruce weevil
The spruce weevil damaged the top of this spruce tree. Many nursery spruces are susceptible to infestation, but that is OK in this setting because they still live long enough to protect the young cedar trees. (Steve Townsend)

It is also important to note that nursery-grown spruce tends to be very susceptible to the spruce weevil. Sooner or later, most of them become infected. This is of little concern if the spruce is ultimately scheduled to be eliminated, but it removes the option of allowing the spruce to grow to maturity on those micro-sites where a cedar does not seem to be viable.

CedarwithSpruce after
After five growing seasons, this part of the Kapowsin plantation shows all of the planting approaches mentioned in the article above. (Steve Townsend)

 

Get to Know Your Wildlife Biologist: Ken Bevis

Small Forest Landowner Office Manager Tami Miketa recently sat down with Ken Bevis, DNR’s stewardship wildlife biologist. The talkative traveling troubadour has bounced around Eastern Washington for more than three decades, and now spends his time teaching landowners across the state how to best create wildlife habitat in their forests. He’s almost certainly got more mileage on his state work truck than anyone else at DNR, and he’s never too far from a guitar.

Tell us a little about yourself, Ken.

Not too tall, not too big. Love the outdoors.

Noisy.

Musical.

I think I’m funny.

I’m originally from Virginia – I migrated west to Colorado at 23, then came to Washington. I have lived in Eastern Washington for 33 years in various places along the Eastern Cascades. I have been camping, hiking, fishing, hunting, bird-watching, etc., my entire life, starting with farm ponds and whitetail deer way back in Virginia.

Family camping trips, my folks, an influential uncle and the Boy Scouts were seminal in my life and career choices.

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

I have been in and out of natural resource jobs for more than 40 years. My family background of outdoor play and an inherent love of nature made declaring forestry my major at Virginia Tech easy. I was lucky to get to go to college right out of high school, and choosing that major shaped my future.

What sort of jobs have you had? Schooling?

I have worked for state and federal agencies and the Yakama Nation, and a university. Each job has been a stepping stone, and it has been an amazing ride so far.

My first forestry job was with the Virginia Division of Forestry in 1978 as a summer intern, where I learned about loblolly pine management and southern Virginia culture.

I migrated west after a divorce some personal changes, and worked for the U.S. Forest Service in Colorado on trails and timber crews for five years, before coming to Washington to study spotted owls in 1986. “The owl” was just becoming an issue and I was one of the first people to work with them on the east slope of the Cascades.

For several years, I worked on the Cle Elum and Naches ranger districts in the East Cascades, surveying and studying spotted owls. We would go out in the forest at dusk, and work on survey routes until 2 or 3 a.m., while no one else was out there. We saw lots of wildlife.

ken bevis woodpecker
DNR stewardship wildlife biologist Ken Bevis explains how to preserve habitat for birds on forest lands during a forestry field day in Arlington. A woodpecker — Bevis’ favorite forest creature — is seen in the background. (Photo courtesy Ken Bevis, DNR)

I had attended graduate school at Central Washington University and studied woodpeckers in managed and unmanaged forests. There weren’t many studies of woodpeckers in Northwest forests, so it was a good opportunity.

Upon graduation in 1994, I went to the Yakama Indian Nation and back to owls, where I was a biologist supporting the on-reservation timber program. We surveyed and studied the owl to help the tribe layout timber sales that included habitat areas. We used to catch owls and put radios and bands on them. We caught quite a few!

I went to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in 1998 and became a habitat biologist responsible for forestry-related issues and permitting for the south-central East Cascades area. I assisted DNR Forest Practices staff in reviewing and sometimes modifying forest practices permits across a large area with LOTS of timber harvest activities. I got to know the forests of Kittitas and Yakima counties really well.

I then moved up to the Methow and became the watershed steward for WDFW, assisting with salmon recovery efforts, working as a coordinator/grant writer/meeting attendee/outreach specialist. I learned a lot about fish, river restoration, riparian habitats, and small-scale politics.

In 2013, I came to DNR as the Stewardship Wildlife Biologist. This job is my favorite of my whole career. I get to meet people all over the state, give presentations, attend and teach workshops, write, and apply all that I have learned over the years.

What do you emphasize when talking to small landowners?

Habitat diversity is the key. More diversity will mean more diverse wildlife.

I want people to maintain habitats for as many species as possible. I want them to be knowledgeable and motivated to improve and protect our rich and diverse wildlife habitats. My task is to understand where my clients are right now, and help them become better stewards of their habitats. I will constantly point out valuable habitat features to any audience, and craft my delivery to them as I see fit.

I like to emphasize habitat features, by which I mean natural elements such as big dead wood (snags and logs), ephemeral wetlands, the shrub layer (brush), and canopy complexity. I emphasize retention of larger-diameter dead wood (snags and logs), healthy and robust shrub species, reduction of the nastiest noxious weeds (Scotch broom – yuck!), and retention of big trees and patches of older forest components.

I want to be a catalyst and conduit to get people to do more for habitat on their forest land. I use the tools of education and motivation.

Education is filling a blank spot in someone’s knowledge, but motivation is moving them to do the thing that education informs. My job is to help fill in those blanks – and to encourage people to act.

If they are concerned about wildlife, and educated about the habitat needs of our native species, then they can act on their land. This is how our work can help support preservation of biodiversity today.

I want landowners to better learn what they have and encourage protection and development of it.

Why do you think our work is important? 

There are a lot of acres held by our small forest landowners. Cumulatively, we can have a great impact on the landscape, one piece at a time. Our small forest landowners are active land stewards, often living on their forest and caring deeply for the health and quality of their land and habitats.

The world is in the midst of an extinction crisis, driven by human population and climate change. Our small forest landowners can actually make a difference and help with conservation of many species.

What is your favorite kind of critter and why?

They are all my favorites, but if I had to pick one, it would be the pileated woodpecker. They live in mature forest habitats (sometimes in patches dispersed), feed in big dead wood, have amazing charisma, and fill a keystone role in the forest ecosystem. And they have a cool call.

I am a singer/songwriter and even wrote a song called “King of the Woods,” inspired by pileated woodpeckers. (Can I do a shameless plug? (ed. note: fiiiiiiiine) – Check out my website at KenBevis.com.)

ken bevis wolverine
Another satisfied customer: This tranquilized wolverine shows off its tracking collar and some affection to Ken Bevis. (Photo courtesy of tranquilized wolverine)

What kind of legacy would you like to leave from your work here?

I want to leave a body of work that stands beyond my tenure with DNR, and provide tools that help maintain biodiversity in the face of this modern onslaught. I want to know that I made a difference and gave people something to work with that wouldn’t have been there without me.

And I want to have a good time and remind people that nature is a great teacher.

You can contact Ken at 360-489-4802 or by email at Ken.Bevis@dnr.wa.gov,and he’ll be glad to help you with questions and help you with habitat on your small forest lands.

Watering Seedlings: Does it Make Sense?

By Matt Provencher, DNR Western Washington Stewardship Forester, matthew.provencher@dnr.wa.gov

Over the past few years, drought has been in the news, with Washington state seeing several years both warmer and drier than normal.

Drought stress is apparent in forests, and people are taking notice. There have been some recent articles in Forest Stewardship Notes and the Small Forest Landowner News regarding the impact that this can have on trees.

drought weakened tree ken bevis
The central tree in this forested stand near Everett was likely weakened by drought. (Photo by Ken Bevis, DNR)

The relatively wet July we’ve just experienced isn’t enough to change things too much.

Concerned landowners may be watching their newly planted seedling succumb to drought. More and more are asking me, “Should I water them?”

Amy Grotta, who works for the Oregon State University Forestry and Natural Resources Extension for Columbia, Washington and Yamhill counties there, wrote a great blog on this very question in July 2018, which you can read here. What she wrote very much applies to landowners here in Washington. I’ll summarize her thoughts and add some of my own …

In general, in a forested environment, the answer to the question “Should I water my seedlings?” is no. After all, it’s not even practical in many instances. But even if you have a relatively small acreage with a relatively small number of trees, there are still things to consider when deciding whether to water.

First and foremost are weeds or other competing vegetation. If you’re watering those along with your trees, you may be doing more harm than good. Second, how are you affecting natural root development? Amy’s article refers to a study that looked at this question, and some evidence shows that supplemental watering promotes shallow root growth. In other words, the roots stay higher in the soil profile and won’t grow deep enough to access moisture found deeper in the ground. This could potentially lead to the trees being water-stressed even in non-drought years.

doug fir drought kill ken bevis
This Douglas-fir near Olympia was likely killed by drought conditions. (Photo by Ken Bevis, DNR)

If you feel like you need to water your seedlings anyway, Amy has some good tips in her article to try to make it successful. The trick is to water slowly to ensure that the water is getting down deep into the soil and not running off, along with controlling competing vegetation.

As Amy states in her article, it’s important to remember that Douglas-fir is well adapted to dry summers – and that many, many trees are planted every year, and the vast majority of those survive without any watering.

More important than watering to forest landowners is to know their site and ensure they are planting the proper tree for that site. This means planting an appropriate species from the correct seed zone, the appropriate stock type for the conditions, planting to and maintaining an appropriate density of trees, and using microclimates such as planting on the north side of stumps or downed logs. And don’t forget about managing the competing vegetation to ensure that the trees are getting the water and nutrients from the soil!

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

Changes in the Small Forest Landowner Office

As the saying goes, the one thing in life that is certain is change.

Tami Miketa
Tami Miketa, manager, Small Forest Landowner Office

That is true, even for the staff in the Small Forest Landowner Office. As of April 30, our beloved Northwest Washington Forest Stewardship and Technical Assistance Forester, Boyd Norton, will be hanging up his increment borer for good. Yes, after 43 distinguished years, Boyd is retiring from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.

I can’t say enough about the huge service that Boyd has given to so many landowners, providing them with his breadth of forestry expertise to manage their forest land in order to meet their personal objectives. I am always receiving emails and phone calls from landowners regarding the outstanding customer service Boyd provides, and I thank him for the beneficial impact he has had on the Forest Stewardship Program. Although we in the Small Forest Landowner Office will miss him greatly, we wish him the very best in his retirement, because he so deserves it!

Starting May 1, Matt Provencher will cover Stewardship and Technical Assistance services across Western Washington. He can be reached at 360-902-1494, 360-819-7143 (cell) or matthew.provencher@dnr.wa.gov.

Get outdoors!

The first day of spring is here and the days are getting longer and warmer, and hopefully we can soon finally put our heavy coats and gloves in the back of the closet.

I found some inspirational tidbits online that I enjoyed and wanted to share with you. I hope this gets you thinking about the joys of spring.

Warmer temperatures mean you can spend more time outside without freezing your feet off, which is great for mental health. Across the seasons, research has found that taking walks in nature slows your heart rate and makes you more relaxed, but some research indicates that there is something special about spring’s effect on your brain. A 2005 study from the University of Michigan linked spending 30 minutes or more outside in warm, sunny spring weather to higher mood and better memory.

That same University of Michigan study found that spending time outside in the sunny spring weather isn’t just a mood booster, it actually can change the way people think. The researchers found that being outdoors broadened participants’ minds, leaving them more open to new information and creative thoughts.

While it’s important to keep moving no matter what the weather, research shows that working out can be more beneficial if you do it outside. A 2011 study found that, compared with an indoor workout, exercising outdoors in nature increased energy levels, made people feel revitalized, and decreased tension, among other positive effects. People who worked out in the fresh air also tended to say they enjoyed the experience more and would be likely to repeat it, suggesting that using nature as your gym might help you stick with your exercise regimen. While those benefits probably extend to winter, too, it’s a whole lot easier to stomach the idea of a run once the weather warms up.

No wonder why the majority of small forest landowners are happy and healthy!

Update on the Small Forest Landowner Office Programs

We are coming to the end of our program funding biennium so I want to give you an idea of the huge accomplishments the Small Forest Landowner Office programs have attained to date.

Family Forest Fish Passage Program

The Family Forest Fish Passage program (FFFPP) helps landowners replace culverts and other stream crossing structures that prevent trout, salmon and other fish from reaching upstream habitat. Road culverts and other structures that are aging, too small, or improperly installed can block fish from reaching their spawning grounds, and young rearing salmon from reaching the ocean. The program funds the replacement of eligible barriers with new structures.

Who is eligible?

  • A private, or small forest landowner: You harvest less than 2 million board feet of timber each year from lands you own in Washington
  • The culvert is on forestland and associated with a road: The land is capable of supporting a merchantable stand of timber and is not being used for anything incompatible with growing timber.
  • The structure is on a fish-bearing stream: Any stream wider than 2 feet in western Washington (3 feet in eastern Washington) with a gradient less than 20 percent is considered potential fish habitat.

To date, the FFFPP has eliminated 397 fish passage barriers opening 934 miles of habitat. Check out the 2018 Family Forest Fish Passage Program Implementation Report at dnr.wa.gov/publications/ffpp_report_2018.pdf

Forestry Riparian Easement Program

The Forestry Riparian Easement Program (FREP) is a voluntary program that reimburses landowners for the value of the trees they are required to leave to protect fish habitat. The program provides compensation for at least 50 percent of the timber value and applies to trees adjacent to streams, wetlands, seeps, or unstable slopes.

You may qualify if you are an eligible small forest landowner and:

  • You own either a parcel larger than 20 contiguous acres or more than 80 forested acres in Washington state
  • You harvest less than 2 million board feet of timber on average, per year
  • Your timber harvest would be next to a stream, river, wetland, lake, or pond
  • Your harvest does not convert the qualifying land to a use incompatible with growing timber

To date, the Forestry Riparian Easement Program has purchased 366 conservation easements covering a total of 5,868 acres.

Rivers and Habitat Open Space Program

The Rivers and Habitat Open Space Program is available to eligible Washington state landowners who would like to sell a permanent forestland conservation easement to the state.

Two types of land are eligible for the program:

  1. Forestland habitat critical for state-listed threatened or endangered species (critical habitat)
  2. A specific type of river habitat called unconfined channel migration zones (CMZ), which are islands of timber within a river channel that is actively shifting

To date, the Rivers and Habitat Open Space Program has protected 1,117 acres of important habitat through 19 conservation easements.

Forest Stewardship and Technical Assistance Program

The Forest Stewardship and Technical Assistance Program can help forest landowners assess resource conditions and forest health, identify potential problems and opportunities, and discover recommended management practices to help them achieve their management objectives. The program can help landowners develop and implement a Forest Stewardship Plan to guide future management and help them qualify for financial assistance, current use taxation, recognition, and certification programs.

This program also assists small forest landowners across Washington state with questions related to the state’s Forest Practices rules and the Forest Practices Application/Notification (FPA/N). The program can provide understanding on both the Forest Practices rules and the process in general.

The Small Forest Landowner Office currently staffs three stewardship and technical assistance foresters (one in Northwest Washington, one in Southwest Washington and one in Eastern Washington), as well as one statewide fish and wildlife biologist. Collectively, these foresters and biologist provide assistance to more than 1,000 landowners across the state each year!

Get to Know a Forester: Matt Provencher

matt provencher
Matt Provencher, the Small Forest Landowner Office technical assistance forester for Southwest Washington.

We recently sat down with Matt Provencher, a New England native whose love of white pine has followed him to Western Washington. Provencher works as the Washington State Department of Natural Resources’ stewardship and technical assistance forester for Southwest Washington, assisting landowners with land management questions and guiding them through the Forest Practices Application process. He talks about why he got into forestry, the importance of forest management and his (lack of) success as a fisherman, among other topics.

Tell us a little about yourself, Matt.

I was born and raised in Manchester, New Hampshire. After college, I began my move out west with a stop in Idaho before landing in Washington. I met my wife in Washington — we were married in 2010. We’ve settled in Shelton, where we have lived in the same house for 10 years now. We have two dogs, three cats and eight (soon to be 14) chickens.

My family still lives in New Hampshire, with my parents, brothers and extended family all living within 45 minutes of the house I grew up in.

matt provencher dog

During my downtime, I enjoy spending time with my wife and two dogs. Occasionally, I throw a line in the water from my boat to attempt to catch bass. I do a lot of casting, but not a lot of catching …

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

I began my career in 2004 with the U.S. Forest Service as a timber marker. I grew up in a city of over 100,000 people on a small, quarter-acre city lot. My time in the woods as a child was mostly recreating, specifically going camping with my family in the White Mountain National Forest in Northern New Hampshire.

I remember being 15 or 16, camping in the White Mountains pondering my future (as all teenagers do, right?) and thinking to myself, “I could work here.” So I started researching careers outdoors and landed on forestry.

Though I never did work in the White Mountains, I’ve had the pleasure of working in the woods in Maine, West Virginia, Idaho, and Washington.

What sort of jobs have you had? Schooling?

I began my schooling at the University of Maine in the fall of 1997. I originally began as a dual bachelor major in forestry/wildlife management. After one year, I dropped wildlife to focus on forestry. I received my bachelor’s degree in May 2002. In August of that year, I began attending West Virginia University to receive a master’s degree, which I did in May 2004.

After graduation from West Virginia, I got offered a job with the U.S. Forest Service in Idaho City, Idaho. I bought a truck (which I still have today), and drove across the country from West Virginia to Idaho in fewer than two days to make it to the job on time. I worked there from May 2004 to October 2005.

In November 2005, I began my career with DNR. I was an inmate crew supervisor from November 2005 to October 2007, and then a state lands forester from October 2007 to February 2012. In February 2012, I began as the Compliance Monitoring Field Coordinator, collecting data on compliance rates for the Forest Practices program. In July 2014, I started work as the Conservation Easement Forester for the Forestry Riparian Easement and Rivers and Habitat Open Space programs. Finally in November 2017, I started as the Stewardship and Technical Assistance Forester for Southwest Washington.

What do you emphasize when talking to small landowners?

There can be so much to emphasize.

Ultimately, I think it would be active management — being active in deciding what you want your forest to be. This doesn’t mean clear-cutting, but it means deciding what you want and actively promoting that. This could be a timber harvest, but it could also be controlling invasive species, creating wildlife habitat, or improving aesthetics.

Modern forest management has led to similar genetics among the individual trees and very often monocultures, which nature can’t sort of out as easily through the self-thinning process as it could historically. That, coupled with movement of wood from different areas of the country (or world) and forest fragmentation through development, means non-native and invasive plants and bugs are here, and probably here to stay. Our native forests can’t always win the battle against these invaders.

Humans may have helped create the problem, but we can also be part of the solution. Be active in the management of your forest!

Why do you think our work is important? 

Forests are a critical resource in our state, country and globe. They are complex and dynamic. Proper management of these resources can help society by providing the benefits that they expect, from clean air and water, to carbon storage to wood products such as lumber and paper.

Small forest landowners account for almost one-third of the forest land owned in Washington, a huge number!

I enjoy helping small forest landowners gain a better understanding of their forest, helping them identify their goals and objectives for their property, and then helping them achieve those goals. By helping landowners become better stewards of their property, we help ensure that Washington’s forest will provide benefits for society for generations to come.

What is your favorite kind of tree and why?

Western White Pine. When I was growing up in New Hampshire, all conifer trees were “pine” trees. As I learned the difference, I learned that the conifer towering over the hardwood forests of New England are eastern white pine.

When I first moved to Washington, I was working in the Belfair area and western white pine is relatively common there. (I was too far south for white pine in Idaho.) Even though it doesn’t tower over the forest like it can in the northeast, it was a reminder of where I came from.

You can contact Matt at (360) 819-7143 or (360) 902-1494 or by email at Matt.Provencher@dnr.wa.gov and he’ll be glad to help you with questions and provide guidance for your small forest lands.

Voluntary Agreements Protect Fishers, Forest Owners

Our friends with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) sincerely value and appreciate partnering with landowners to conserve native species. Enrolling non-federal lands in the Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) program for the fisher (Pekania pennanti) is an important contribution towards fisher recovery in Washington.

Fishers are the native weasel of low to mid-elevation forests. They are a medium-sized weasel, about the size of a house cat, a rich chocolate-dark brown in color and live in complex forest habitats full of down wood, snags and large trees. (Body length, about 36” with tail, and weight, 8-10 pounds). They are slightly larger than marten, who tend to live at higher elevations.

The program also benefits enrollees by granting them regulatory assurances in the event that the fisher becomes listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). If you’re not already enrolled, it’s not too late to enter your lands into this vital program.

In September 2018, the Northern District Court for California overturned the 2016 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) decision to withdraw their proposed rule to list fishers under the ESA. The result is that the fisher is once again a candidate for listing. USFWS is required to re-review the proposed listing rule and publish findings by September 21, 2019. In the event that fishers in Washington become listed under the ESA, no additional measures will be required for enrollees beyond what is agreed to in a CCAA. This court ruling re-emphasizes the advantage to landowners of enrolling in the CCAA.

It is important to note that if the fisher does become listed under ESA, enrollment in the CCAA will no longer be available to landowners. Here are the compelling benefits of enrollment in the CCAA:

  • Regulatory assurances are granted to enrollees should USFWS decide to list the species under the ESA. Experience with other species shows that federal regulators may decide to list the species upon re-evaluation of existing threats, or if recovery efforts do not meet expectations. In Washington, expectations for successful fisher recovery partly hinge on the success of the CCAA program.
  • Enrollment in the CCAA provides a conservation benefit to Washington’s growing fisher population and will contribute significantly to recovering the species in our State.
  • If a CCAA participant ever decides to sell enrolled lands, potential buyers have the option to keep the land enrolled, should they choose. This option could be a selling point, especially if fishers are ESA-listed when the property goes up for sale.
  • Some landowners sign up for programs like this because of additional benefits. For instance, certain grants and cost-share programs award preference points to landowners that take part in agreements that benefit wildlife. Enrollment in a CCAA can also be used in marketing strategies, because some buyers of wood products prefer to deal with sellers that are in programs to conserve wildlife.
  • In general, the CCAA requires landowners to follow conservation measures that have minimal to no effect on the way they can use and manage their lands. Realistically, there isn’t much of a downside of being enrolled in the program.

If you have had any questions about enrolling your land into the CCAA, or are reconsidering an existing enrollment, we hope these points are helpful as you make a decision.  If you have further questions, please contact WDFW’s Gary Bell at 360-902-2412 or gary.bell@dfw.wa.gov.