Restoring Forest Health, One Neighbor at a Time

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.

forest health strategic plan coverThe 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.

For more information on the 20-year Forest Health Strategic Plan, visit

By Julie Sackett, Forest Health Division,

Printing an Activity Map for Your Project

Dear tree farmers, loggers, foresters, general readers, and those folks that are apparently reading this article all the way in northern Europe and New Zealand (our stats don’t lie):

In our last newsletter, my predecessor promised salvation from the frustrations involved in creating, and occasionally losing, an editable Forest Practices Application (FPA) in portable document format (PDF). Well, how did he do? Did it work? Send me an email and let me know.

For this article, we’re moving on to mapping.  A crucial (and legally required) element of any FPA, your map shows where and how you’ll be doing whatever it is you’ll be doing — logging, building roads, etc. We get many calls here about the activity map and I intend to show you how to successfully create and print one of your very own. To start:

1  Navigate to DNR’s Forest Practices Forms and Instructions webpage.

2. Before opening the map itself, be sure you have your computer’s popup blockers disabled, otherwise when you go to print nothing will happen. I assure you, it’s frustrating. To disable popup blockers follow these instructions.

3. Once the pop-up blocker situation has been handled, click “Print an Activity Map,” which is found in the list of links under the first heading on the page (see Figure 1).

Figure 1
Figure 1

4. When the map image first appears, you’ll see our standard disclaimer statement. After clicking “Accept.” look in the upper left hand corner of the map, for the button “Map Themes” (Figure 2).

Figure 2
Figure 2

5. Click the down-arrow in the box next to Map Themes to display the various themes. Then choose “Activity Map” from the list (Figure 2-a, Map themes menu).

Figure 2-a
Figure 2-a: Map themes menu.


6. Next (and this is crucial!), you need to input the legal description of your property (Township-Range-Section). Enter this information in the appropriate boxes on the top right of the screen (circled in Figure 3). You must input them one number at a time; sometimes it takes a few seconds for the next box to catch up. If you don’t have this information readily available, you can find it through your local county tax assessor database. If you don’t input your legal description, and just zoom to your property, the print option will not work.

Figure 3
Figure 3: Township, Range and Section boxes.

7. After you enter your legal description and press “Enter”and the map should zoom to the section in which your property is located. Now, it’s time to PRINT! Click the printer icon in the top menu bar, and the “Print Map” box will pop-up. Press “Print” in the lower right of that box. (Figure 4).

Figure 4
Figure 4: Print options


8. The map will pop-up in a separate tab or window; it sometimes takes a few minutes to appear. Printing through this system automatically scales your map at 1”-1000’, which is the legally required scale. From here, it’s incumbent on you, the proponent, to find your property and map your harvest unit according to the standards laid out in the FPA Instruction Manual (Figure 5).

Figure 5
Figure 5: Map selection to print

Hopefully this worked and alleviated some of the headaches you may have experienced with printing these activity maps out. If not, send me an email and I’ll try and help you navigate the process.

by Matt Provencher, Technical Assistance Forester, DNR Small Forest Landowner Office,

Landscape-Based Forest Stewardship Planning for Chehalis Basin Forest Landowners

Chehalis River watershed forest

Do you have questions about managing your forestland property? Do you need assistance or are you interested in developing a forest stewardship/management plan for your property? Are you interested in attending landowner educational programs and events?

The Chehalis Basin Landscape Scale Restoration Project, a US Forest Service-funded project developed and implemented by Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Washington State University Extension, and the Grays Harbor Conservation District, aims to increase assistance to “family forests” in the Chehalis River Watershed. The Chehalis Basin-Landscape Scale Restoration Project will provide technical forestry assistance, local educational programs, and help with the development of forest stewardship plans for small forest landowners. The goals of the project are to increase the number of sustainably managed family forests using written forest management plans, educate landowners about watershed-wide resource conditions, and tie individual landowner objectives to landscape-scale resource management objectives.

Forest Stewardship
Forest Stewardship is a nationwide program providing advice and assistance to family forest owners.

A master forest stewardship plan will be used as the framework for the development of individual plans for participating landowners located within the Chehalis River Watershed. The master plan will provide information and assistance pertaining to landscape-level issues and guidance to achieve both individual and watershed-wide resource objectives. It also will help guide landowner education and encourage watershed-wide coordination and implementation of sustainable forestry practices.

What is Landscape Stewardship?

Solving issues affecting our forests often requires a joint effort across property boundaries and ownership types. Landscape stewardship involves collaboration among stakeholders in an identified area to help address landscape-level resource issues of mutual concern. A landscape stewardship approach proposes to collaboratively address landscape-scale challenges that threaten the health, productivity and sustainability of the natural resources within a given area. The Chehalis Watershed landscape stewardship effort encourages coordination of technical assistance and incentives for landowners to meet watershed-wide resource objectives.

Landscape Objectives

The Washington Statewide Forest Resource Assessment and Strategy (Forest Action Plan) has identified the Chehalis River Watershed as a high priority area because it contains the largest stock of salmonid species  and greatest total number of fish miles of stream for any given watershed in Washington state. The Forest Action Plan also identifies the upper and lower Chehalis watersheds as a high priority landscape because they contain a large portion of forestland identified as long-term working forests. These areas provide a high level of ecosystem services in regards to conserving biodiversity. They also help mitigate the negative environmental effects of increasing conversion of forestland in the area due to population growth.

Chehalis Basin landscape-level resource objectives include:

  • Conserve working forests
  • Protect forests from threats to health, productivity and sustainability
  • Enhance and restore fish and wildlife habitat
  • Improve water quality/quantity
  • Maximize wood fiber production
  • Enhance public benefits from trees and forests
  • Biodiversity and habitat conservation

Project Location

The Chehalis River Watershed is a landscape dominated by working forestland. Highly productive soils coupled with considerable annual rainfall support excellent tree growth throughout the watershed. Forest ownership consists of a mixture of state, private, tribal and federal lands.

Timber, fishing and tourism are important industries in Aberdeen and rest of Grays Harbor County.

Private forestlands consist of both industrial timberland and non-industrial private forestland (small forest landowners). Industrial timberlands tend to be devoted primarily to commercial timber production while non-industrial forestland properties tend to be managed for a variety of objectives including timber production, recreation, wildlife habitat and aesthetics. The majority of forests in this region, including those of the Chehalis River Watershed, have undergone some form of management. A series of timber harvests followed by both natural and artificial reforestation have been recorded on most, if not all, timberlands within the watershed. Current timber types consist largely of even-aged Douglas-fir plantations, scattered hardwood production, and areas of mixed hardwood and conifer species.

The Chehalis River Watershed, with the exception of the Columbia River, is the largest river watershed in Washington, covering an area of approximately 2,613 square miles or 1,672,915 acres. The Chehalis River originates in the Willapa Hills and generally flows northwest, eventually depositing into Grays Harbor Bay at Aberdeen, approximately 125 miles downstream from its headwaters. The terrain ranges from relatively flat lowlands to rolling foothills to steep mountainous bluffs within the southern Olympic Mountains. Elevation ranges from sea level to around 5,000 feet above sea level, at its highest point within the Olympic National Forest. The watershed is home to an estimated 140,000 residents in seven counties (Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Mason, Thurston, Lewis, Cowlitz and Pacific). Several major river systems occur within its boundaries including the Chehalis, Humptulips, Hoquiam, Wishkah, Wynoochee, Satsop, Black, Skookumchuck, Newaukum and Elk rivers.

Benefits for Participating Landowners

Landowners who choose to take part in the project can receive:

  • Information and assistance for landscape-level issues and guidance to achieve both individual and watershed-wide resource objectives.
  • Assistance developing individual forest stewardship plans that meet Washington State Integrated Forest Management Plan Guidelines & Template, 2017.
  • Opportunities to attend educational programs including field days, winter schools and coached planning classes.
Julie Sackett, stewardship forester, DNR Small Forest Landowner Office
Julie Sackett (left), stewardship forester, DNR Small Forest Landowner Office.

For additional information regarding the Chehalis Basin Landscape Scale Restoration Project effort and/or to schedule a site visit please contact David Houk, service forester, Grays Harbor Conservation District (360) 249-8532 or or Julie Sackett, stewardship forester, DNR Small Forest Landowner Office (360) 902-2903 or *


* If you own forestland outside the Chehalis River Watershed and are interested in developing a forest stewardship plan, attending an educational event, or are in need of forestry technical assistance, feel free to contact us.

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

Boyd Norton, DNR Stewardship Forester
Boyd Norton, DNR Stewardship Forester for northeast Washington.

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.

Tami Miketa, Manager, Small Forest Landowner Office (SFLO)
Tami Miketa, Manager, Small Forest Landowner Office

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

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

Events, Workshops and Publications

Forestland Resiliency – Meeting Future Challenges

Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017
72 Tornquist Road, McCleary, WA 98557
No charge to attend but reservations are requested

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…


Forest Stewardship Coached Planning

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.

  • Preston (King County) starting Sept. 12, 2017
  • Sedro Woolley (Skagit County) starting Sept. 28, 2017
  • Southwest Washington, locations and dates to be announced, Fall 2017. Contact
  • Stevens County, location and date to be announced, Fall 2017. Contact


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

Practicum 1
Arlington – Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017
9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Future practicums:


Managing Red Alder

This two-day workshop (which includes a field trip) for property owners will take a comprehensive look at the challenges and opportunities that red alder presents to landowners.

Arlington  Oct. 6-7, 2017


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.

Ilwaco – Saturday, Oct. 21  115 Lake St, Ilwaco.

For more information, contact Andy Perleberg, (509) 667-6540,

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 for more information (and to campaign for us to schedule a class near you).


Find schedules and information about upcoming education opportunities on the WSU Extension Forestry website:


New Publication: Homeowners’ Guide to Landslides

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.

Find out more about landslides in Washington.


Pile it on! Habitat Piles for Wildlife

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Build a pile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guidelines for piles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wildlife Habitat is One of the Joys of Owning Forestland

Natural cover
Natural cover helps wildlife shelter from predators. Photo: Ken Bevis.

By Ken Bevis, Wildlife Biologist, DNR Small Forest Landowner Office,

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:

Barred owl with garter snake.
Barred owl with garter snake. Photo: Ken Bevis/DNR.

Gather information

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.

Map features

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 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
  • Maintain well-vegetated riparian buffers