DNR’s Northwest Washington Stewardship Forester Receives Washington Outstanding Tree Farm Inspector Of The Year Award
At this year’s Washington Farm Forestry Association’s Annual Meeting, Boyd Norton, a long-time DNR employee, was awarded the Washington State Tree Farm Program’s Outstanding Tree Farm Inspector of the Year Award for 2017. The award recognizes Boyd’s decades-long service as an inspector and dedicated supporter of the Washington Tree Farm Program.
Washington’s Tree Farm program is a state affiliate of the American Tree Farm System, a national third party certification program for forest landowners who meet a strict set of internationally recognized standards for producing certified wood. The program’s Certified Tree Farmers are required to manage their lands in a sustainable manner according to an approved written forest management plan. Periodic re-inspections by tree farm inspectors like Boyd ensure continuing compliance with program standards.
Tree Farm inspectors volunteer their time and perform considerable outreach efforts and inspections to educate the public and private landowners about the benefits of sustainable forestry.
Boyd started his career at DNR in the South Puget Sound Region in the spring of 1975. By 1977 he’d been twice promoted and moved to Pacific County in what was then DNR’s Central Region. After 14 years and two more promotions, Boyd relocated to northwest Washington where he’s been ever since.
Boyd has worked in a variety of DNR programs over the years including State Trust Land Management, Forest Practices, and assisting small forest landowners both as a Small Forest Landowner Office field specialist and two positions in the Forest Stewardship Program. In all of his career experiences Boyd’s first love has been working with small forest owners. It was that dedication that led him to his current position as the DNR stewardship forester for the northern half of western Washington, including northwest Washington, central Puget Sound, and the north Olympic peninsula.
First known as “farm foresters” in the 1950s and 60s, then “service foresters” in the 70s and 80s, and since 1990 as “stewardship foresters, DNR employees have supported the Tree Farm Program and provided forest management advice to family forest owners for nearly 70 years. Boyd Norton’s achievement is particularly noteworthy, since he is one of only two remaining stewardship foresters in western Washington due to the current low funding for the program following loss of all state funds during the recession. and concurrently declining federal funding.
The American Tree Farm Program has its roots in southwest Washington with the certification of nation’s very first Tree Farm near Montesano in 1941. It subsequently grew into the nationwide program that it is today. More information about the program is available at www.treefarmsystem.org
The Forest Stewardship Program is a nationwide program delivered in partnership between the USDA Forest Service and state forestry agencies.
Congratulations to Boyd for this fabulous honor!
Focus on Local Partnerships and Collaboratives
In our February newsletter, I introduced a new series of articles we will be spotlighting in our feature “Ways To Connect.” We are highlighting several local partnerships or collaborative natural resources management efforts across the state that have been formed as a framework for local citizens, interest groups, governments and other organizations collaboratively identify and solve local natural resource issues.
In this newsletter, we will be highlighting the Chehalis River Basin Land Trust. The Chehalis Basin is one of the most diverse watersheds in the state, with major tributaries draining the Willapa Hills to the west, the Cascade foothills to the east, glacial prairies to the northeast, and the Olympic Mountains to the north. It is the largest basin in Washington state outside of the Columbia Basin, and drains over 2,660 square miles. The Chehalis River Basin Land Trust holds over 4,400 acres for conservation, protection, and restoration in this important basin. Read more about this fine organization in Kylea Johnson’s article, “Chehalis River Basin Land Trust: Get to Know Us.”
By Tami Miketa, Manager, DNR Small Forest Landowner Office
Tour a small, locally owned forest and learn about the biggest issues for local forests: threat of conversion, climate change, and biodiversity loss–with a focus on what landowners should know and actions they can be taking today to address these issues. Presenters will include Andrea Watts, a local forest landowner, science writer and editor on numerous forestry related issues; and experts in forest pathology, forest genetics and other disciplines from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.
Forest and Range Owners Field Days
These popular, out-in-the-woods, family-friendly events are designed for small forest landowners. They feature outdoor classes and workshops on tree planting, weed control, thinning, tree diseases, mushroom-growing and much more…
If you own wooded property, our flagship course will teach you how to assess your trees, avoid insect and disease problems, and attract wildlife. Experts will help you develop your own Forest Stewardship Plan to keep your woods on track to provide enjoyment and income for years to come.
Southwest Washington, locations and dates to be announced, Fall 2017. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Stevens County, location and date to be announced, Fall 2017. Contact email@example.com
Invasive Forest Weed Control Field Practicums, 2017–2018
These practicums are completely field based and centered around hands-on learning. Learn to identify and control some of the most common invasive weeds that cause economic and environmental damage in forests using chemical (including organic-approved) and non-chemical control options
TIES TO THE LAND: A Facilitated Workshop on Succession Planning
Keeping Family Forests, Farms, and Ranches in the Family
Few challenges that family forestland owners, farmers, ranchers, and other land-based family businesses face are more important than the issue of passing the business and its land base on to the following generation. Many small landowners want to preserve their family lands but don’t know how to involve family members in ownership and operation of their small land-based businesses.
This facilitated workshop focuses on ways to maintain family ties to the land from generation to generation, and is a mix of presentations and practical exercises to help families address tough issues. Each family will receive a copy of the Ties to the Land workbook which is designed to help families continue to improve and direct their communications at home. Topics covered will also be relevant to professionals working with landowner families. More information is available on the Ties to the Land website.
For more information, contact Andy Perleberg, (509) 667-6540, firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: Dates and locations for Ties to the Land workshops are determined by community interest. Contact Andy Perleberg at WSU Extension, 509-667-6540, or email email@example.com for more information (and to campaign for us to schedule a class near you).
The Washington Geological Survey, in partnership with the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral industries, has published a Homeowners’ Guide to Landslides. It is available on the Washington Geological Survey’s webpage for download at no charge.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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
One of the greatest joys of owning forestland must be encountering wildlife—the swish and leap of a deer’s rump as it vaults a down log, flickering, silvery trout in forested streams, and drumming grouse often heard but rarely seen. Take a walk with any small forest landowner, and you’ll hear these stories, even from those who don’t list wildlife habitat as their primary reason for owning forestland.
If you’re among the 60 percent of small forest landowners who list “Nature/Biodiversity” as one of your primary reasons for holding forestlands, you certainly value those encounters. A new publication by the Woodland Fish and Wildlife Publication Project, entitled Family Forests and Wildlife: Vigorous Forests and Healthy Wildlife, offers key information on enhancing wildlife’s access to food and water, providing protective cover and enough habitat space. Family Forests and Wildlife gives resources for finding further information and guidance for how one might identify which species are resident.
Active management of your forest land can preserve and enhance habitats for our nearly 400 species of forest associated wildlife in Washington. Many people wonder where to begin in regard to better managing their lands for habitat. Here are a few ideas:
Just like a forester doing a stand inventory, do the same with wildlife. Keep a log of your wildlife observations: species, date, time, specific location on the property, and behavior observations. Over the years this log will provide fascinating information about what animals frequent your property and how they survive. Changes may be noted over time. For example, some areas of our state commonly have elk on private forest lands, some do occasionally, and other areas, such as southwest Washington state, are seeing declines due to hoof rot and other factors. Migratory bird arrival and departures can be noted by the first or last observation of species such as the beautiful Western tanager or yellow-rumped warblers. This information can form the basis for many habitat decisions that follow.
Add wildlife habitat features to the stand maps of your property. Note areas with small wetlands, snag patches, concentrations of rich fruit-bearing shrubs, or well-used travel ways for deer and elk. These features will also change with time, and adding this data layer to your plan is both interesting and useful.
I was pleased to co-author Family Forests and Wildlife: Vigorous Forests and Healthy Wildlife with two of my colleagues from Oregon. This free online publication from the non-profit Woodland Fish and Wildlife Project offers key information about enhancing wildlife access to food and water, providing protective cover and sufficient habitat space. It also lists resources for finding further information and guidance for identifying which species are resident on your property.
Like other publications from the project, Family Forests and Wildlife can be viewed and downloaded for free at woodlandfishandwildlife.com. You’ll find that the project has many more excellent resources for landowners who want to learn how to protect and enhance fish and wildlife habitat on their lands.
Top 10 Tools for Wildlife
Keep forests as forests
Leave or create down logs
Leave or create snags
Retain legacy structures such as big old trees and stumps
Leave standing live trees for future legacy structure recruitment
Provide safe access to water
Leave or recruit hardwood and fruiting shrubs across the landscape
Leave or recruit hardwood trees across the landscape
Boyd Norton, NW Washington Landowner Assistance Forester
Before we start, I’d like to thank everyone who participated in our forest road design and maintenance survey. The results are being used in a legislative report addressing small forest landowners’ progress in meeting the Forest Practices Rules for road maintenance and abandonment. We hope the report will help us make some gains in providing you assistance with maintaining and improving your forest roads!
Summer is here and timber is moving from the forest to the mills. Our mild winter and spring has made it possible to access higher elevations and cross normally wet areas earlier than in normally wet years. While it may seem like it’s rushing the season, summer is the best time to start thinking about the condition of your roads and preparing for fall and the return of wet weather.
So take a walk and check your roads!
For active haul roads, make sure that:
Cut slopes within harvest units have been cleared of logging debris.
Logging debris has been removed from the ditches.
Bare cut and fill slopes are ready for seeding or to cover with straw to prevent erosion.
Cross drains are functional and their inlets are cleared of debris.
Damaged cross drains and crossings for typed waters have been repaired or replaced and energy dissipaters installed where needed.
Water bars are functional and tied into the ditch, skewed across the running surface and delivering runoff to stable soils. Water bars also need to be deep enough to control run off and allow for reforestation access.
Landing debris is in a stable location.
Gates or other barriers are installed or planned for to prevent access.
For existing and inactive roads, check that:
Gates and other barriers are functional and don’t need repair.
Ditches are free of woody debris and functional.
Cross drains and water bars are functional. Driveable water bars have been maintained to keep run off from over-topping and eroding the road surface or fill slope.
Undersized cross drains have been replaced or removed (minimum diameter 18” in western Washington, 15” in eastern Washington).
Culverts in seasonal and perennial non-fish habitat streams (Ns, Np), are clear of debris and designed to pass flows from a 100 year storm event.
The road surface is graded, crowned, outsloped and in a condition to prevent sediment from entering a typed water.
Type F water crossings are free of debris. Crossings planned for use in the near future, should be able to carry flows from a 100 year flood event, as well as allowing passage of fish in all life stages.
Heather Hansen, Washington Farm Forestry Association
Is your timberland enrolled as designated forestland or open space timberland for property tax purposes? Have you heard from your County Assessor about disqualifying a portion of your land from one of these programs? Have you purchased land and had difficulty getting it enrolled in one of these programs?
If so, you are not alone and we want to hear your story. We have heard from members across the state about difficulty getting and keeping land enrolled in current use taxation programs. The intent of these programs is to encourage forestry and support all of the functions that timberland provides. Washington Farm Forestry Association is working with the Department of Revenue to ensure the programs are implemented accurately and fairly across the state.
The following counties have merged the open space timberland program into the designated forestland program: Chelan, Clallam, Cowlitz, Ferry, Grays Harbor, Island, Kitsap, Kittitas, Klickitat, Lewis, Pacific, Pend Oreille, Spokane, and Whatcom. In all other counties, the programs remain separate. The programs are similar. Contiguous timberland totaling five acres or more is eligible for these programs.
The more stories we hear from affected landowners, the better we can address concerns. Please contact Heather Hansen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-705-2040.
Key points for landowners
If a landowner receives a Notice of Removal from the County Assessor, it must specify why the land is being removed from the program.
Preferential tax treatment is granted in part because of the assumption that excise tax will be paid at harvest time. You must plan to harvest; however, there is a great deal of latitude about when, how and how much you may wish to harvest.
There is no requirement to open your land to the public.
The landowner must fulfill the restocking requirements in the timber management plan submitted with the application. As long as the landowner follows the timber management plan, the land should not be removed from the program. You do not need to hire a forester to write your plan. You can write it yourself or with help from a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Landowner Assistance Forester, your Conservation District or WSU Extension.
If you receive a Notice of Removal, contact your County Assessor’s office. Many concerns can be resolved by sharing information. If that does not work, appeal to your County Board of Equalization. There is no cost (except your time). You do not need an attorney. All it takes is a letter explaining why you think your land qualifies for the program. Do pay attention to dates; there is a deadline for appealing.
It states on the Notice of Removal that the owner can apply for reclassification as either open space land or agricultural land. In some cases, these other categories may be a better fit. If the landowner applies for reclassification, no compensating tax is due.
If land is voluntarily removed from the program, compensating taxes must be paid.
If your application to enroll land in one of the programs is denied, the assessor must allow you to be heard. If issues are not resolved, this denial can also be appealed to the Board of Equalization.
If you have questions or concerns about designated forestland, open space timberland or other open space programs, please let us know.
What the Law Says
RCW 84.33.010: It is this state’s policy to encourage forestry so that present and future generations will enjoy the benefits which forest areas provide such as enhancing water supply, minimizing soil erosion, minimizing storm and flood damage, providing habitat for wildlife, providing scenic and recreational spaces, maintaining land areas whose forests contribute to the natural ecological equilibrium, and providing employment and profits to its citizens and raw materials for products needed by everyone.
RCW 84.33.035: “Forest land” means any parcel of land that is five or more acres or multiple parcels of land that total five or more acres that are devoted primarily to growing and harvesting timber. It includes land used for incidental uses that are compatible with the growing and harvesting of timber as long as those incidental uses do not total more than ten percent of the land. Incidental uses may include a gravel pit, a shed or land used to store equipment and any other use that does not interfere with growing and harvesting timber. It does not include a residential home site.
To be eligible for the program, a landowner must have a timber management plan. This plan may be prepared by a trained forester, or any other person with adequate knowledge of timber management practices.
State law does not specify what must be included in the plan.
Ken Bevis, Landowner Assistance Fish and Wildlife Biologist and Jim Bottorff, Retired Landowner Assistance Fish and Wildlife Biologist
If you’re looking for ways to attract wildlife while continuing to protect your land, think about seeding grasses and wildflowers. Seeding with a wildlife forage mix is an excellent habitat management practice that yields quick results and is well suited to small woodland timber management activities. Ideal locations for seeding include skid roads, the edges of logging roads, landings, and log decks where slash was burned. It can yield quick results that can improve over time as the seed becomes established. All the seed needs is sunlight, moisture, a little mineral soil, and off it goes!
When the weather cooperates and seeding is successful, noxious weeds don’t have time to get established and the new plants’ root mass slows erosion. Game (deer, elk, turkey) and non-game animals (songbirds, amphibians) are drawn to planted areas to feed directly on the plants and seeds, as well as the insects that the flowers attract. A variety of smaller animals may also use the cover to rest and rear their young.
Application and Care
Seeding can be done by hand-spreading a few pounds of seed after forest management activities are done, or using basic farming techniques such as tilling, adding soil amendments (including fertilizers), and even irrigation. In general, the more work you put into preparing the soil generates greater results for wildlife, but with proper timing and moisture, hand seeding can work as well.
Forage seed mixes are usually sown at the rate of about 8 to 20 pounds per acre, but if you’re only seeding a narrow strip along the skid road or a small area of the landing, an acres’ worth of seed will go a long way. As a rule, the seed should be sown in the spring, or late enough in the fall so the seeds won’t germinate until spring – you can even spread seed on top of the snow in early spring. Remember that the seed will need warm days, nights above freezing and water to germinate and grow before the summer dry spells or winter weather. It’s also a good idea to keep enough seed to re-sow any bare spots the following growing season.
Make sure you control any noxious weeds that are present before you sow you wildlife mix. This can add time and effort to the project, but it’s a critical step if the weeds are present. Your local weed control board can be a wealth of information and assistance on controlling these noxious weeds. Most of these weed species have little or no value to our desired wildlife.
Wildlife mixtures usually contain annual and perennial grasses and about one-third legumes, including some clovers, trefoil, and/or alfalfa mixtures. The legumes are particularly good wildlife forage. It’s important to avoid seeding where tree planting has occurred to reduce the possibility of competition with the trees. If the mix is formulated in the Pacific Northwest it’s usually free of non-native plants and some vendors will add shrub seeds such as blue elderberry, cascara, serviceberry, or other native fruit producing shrubs to the mix. It’s important to ensure that a significant proportion of the mix are natives, and that none of the ingredients have the potential to spread as the latest pest species. Knotweed was deliberately introduced as an ornamental!
Several northwest companies now prepare a variety of wildlife seed mixes for different localities throughout Washington. Some farm stores stock “wildlife mixes”, but you should compare the species mix and percentages with other recommendations before seeding. For information on what mix, type preparation and sources of seed try your local conservation district, WSU Extension, or contact DNR’s Landowner Assistance Wildlife Biologist Ken Bevis at Ken.Bevis@dnr.wa.gov