Monthly Archives: February 2018

2017 fire season timeline released

flames rise from the brush beneath mature trees

PORTLAND, Ore. –  The Pacific Northwest Region of the USDA Forest Service has released a narrative and interactive map detailing the 2017 fire season in the Pacific Northwest. These products are designed to tell the complete story of the fire season through a visual and interactive narrative timeline of key events.

The 2017 fire season was long and arduous here in the Pacific Northwest. We spent a record 40 days at the highest level of preparedness (Level 5) – almost three weeks more than during the severe 2015 fire season. In addition, we had multiple fires that crossed state, regional and national borders prompting multi-jurisdictional and even bi-national fire management with our Canadian neighbors.

If the past several fire seasons have taught us anything, it is to be prepared for everything. Through these demanding seasons, we have learned that we cannot address the growing wildfire problems on our own. Rather, we must strive to collaborate in all facets of preparedness, prevention, response and recovery.

The 2017 Fire Narrative and Timeline tells the story of successes and challenges, and also addresses emerging technology and science that we piloted, such as the Quantitative Risk Assessment, Risk Management Assistance Teams and using Unmanned Aircraft Systems for infrared and reconnaissance flights.

The USDA Forest Service commissioned this narrative summary to capture the full story, not only for historical purposes, but to help the agency continue to learn from past experiences and prepare for future fire seasons.

In the face of changing climate and longer, more expensive fire seasons, the Forest Service is committed to working collaboratively with our partners to ensure communities are prepared and resilient.

To read the complete 2017 fire season narrative summary and view interactive timeline online, visit: https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/r6/fire-aviation.

Invasive Species Week

Illustration of Vin Vasive (a creature comprised of many invasive species), with text: "'What a beautiful state you live in. I could just eat it up.' Understand what you can do to stop me."

Invasive species week is Feb. 26-March 2, so we’re taking this opportunity remind everyone about the importance of keeping invasive species – including diseases, insects and plant pests – out of our water, fields and forests.

If you travel anywhere, you’re at risk of transferring invasive species. That can make the problem seem overwhelming, but there are ways you can make a difference.

 

Know before you go:

Firewood

Permit requirements often exist to help keep invasives contained, or stop the spread of disease. For example, firewood cut in Gold Beach Ranger District on the Rogue River-Siskayou National Forest must remain within the Sudden Oak Death quarantine area – an area of 519 square mile area in southwest Oregon. The disease, caused by the introduced water mold hytophthora ramorum, causes disease in more than 120 species of trees, shrubs, herbs and ferns and threatens the timber trade, the floral green industry, Christmas tree production and plant nurseries throughout Oregon.

To prevent the spread of Port-Orford cedar root disease (Phytophthora lateralis) and invasive weeds, firewood permits require vehicles be washed before entering the forest during the wet season, and be free of soil, seeds and plant parts that could transfer during the dry season.

A best practice for all firewood cutting is to cut local, buy local, and burn local.

Plants

Invasive plants are often introduced as ornamental flowers, trees, shrubs or vines that grow unchecked by predators or beat out competing plants in a new environment.

Knapweed, oxeye daisy, and butterfly bush are just some of the flowering plants on Washington’s top 100 invasive plants list.

Aquatic invasives

Other invasive species “hitchhike” vehicles, trailers, or boats and personal watercraft. This is especially true of invasive species that affect aquatic environments.

Zebra mussels are a freshwater mollusk that can form large colonies that block water pipes and damage underwater equipment. New Zealand mudsnails, water hyacinth, and several varieties of milfoil are also dangerous to local aquatic ecosystems.

Boaters can help by cleaning, draining and drying boats after each use to prevent introducing an invasive species from one area to a new body of water.

Wildlife

The fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans causes “white nose syndrome” in bats. The disease disrupts their winter hibernation, causing them to burn more calories. It also damages their wings. The combined effect is fatal to more than 90 percent of bats who contract it, for some species.

It’s been found on a limited number of bats in the Pacific Northwest so far, and the Forest Service is among the many agencies and organizations helping to monitor for signs the disease has spread, and educate those visiting the outdoors about the disease and risks.

One way you can help when visiting the outdoors is to make sure you’ve decontaminated your clothing and gear before entering an area where bats might roost, such as caves.

How we can help

The Forest Service works with state and local partners to help combat invasive species across our landscape. For example, in 2016, one of our projects treated 400 acres at Sandry River Delta and the Horsetail wetlands in Oregon to remove blackberries and reed canary grass.

In 2017, the national forests in Oregon and Washington cooperated with more than 100 different partners to control more than 52,000 acres of invasive plants that threatened to replace native vegetation, reduce forage for wildlife and livestock, and increase wildfire risks.

With so many invasives to defend against, you might wonder how effective these efforts are. The answer? Very! For example, rapid detection of and response by the Washington State Dept. of Agriculture prevented and infestation following  introduction of citrus longhorn beetle (CLB), Anoplophora chinensis, in 2001. The beetles, which arrived in Tukwila, Wash. via a shipment of bonsai trees, were eradicated through the application of insecticides and a 1/2 mile, 5-year quarantine area from which potentially infected plants could not be removed without a permit.

Gypsy moths are one of the most destructive forest pests in the United States, where the moths have defoliated millions of acres and killed thousands of acres of trees in northeastern states. A single egg mass can produce 1000 catepillars, and each catepillar can eat more than a square foot of foliage each week before it pupates into an adult moth.

In the Pacific Northwest, the Forest Service has helped combat new gypsy moth infestations for decades, providing technical expertise and financial support to statewide monitoring and eradication efforts of Asian and European gypsy moths that have prevented the moths from becoming established in Oregon and Washington for decades.

How you can help leave hungry pests behind!

  • Don’t transport living plants, cuttings, or fresh produce before checking if a quarantine area is in effect or a permit is required. Moving? Consider gifting your houseplants to a local friend instead of taking them with you, especially if they’ve been stored outside.
  • Make sure any hay and animal feed you buy is certified weed-free.
  • Clean shoes, clothes, gear, vehicles, trailers, and boats after every use, before introducing these items to a new environment.

For more information:

Oregon Invasive Species Council 
https://www.oregoninvasivespeciescouncil.org/

Washington Invasive Species Council
https://invasivespecies.wa.gov/

USDA Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS)
https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/resources/pests-diseases/hungry-pests/?utm_keyword=home

USDA Forest Service National Invasive Species Program 
https://www.fs.fed.us/invasivespecies/

USDA Forest Service Region 6: Invasive Species Program (Forest & Grassland Health) 
https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/r6/forest-grasslandhealth/invasivespecies

Umpqua NF employee is agency’s Federal Engineer of the Year honoree

close up of Steve Marchi, an engineer assigned to the Umpqua National Forest, USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Region

ROSEBURG, Ore. – February 27, 2018 – The Federal Engineer of the Year Award, sponsored by the National Society of Professional Engineers, Professional Engineers in Government, honors engineers employed by a federal agency that employs at least 50 engineers worldwide.

Steve Marchi, USDA Forest Service, Umpqua National Forest engineer, was recognized as the UForest Service’s agency winner during the 2018 Federal Engineer of the Year Award ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., February 23, 2018.

As an agency winner, he, along with 30 other esteemed engineers nationwide, was a finalist for the Federal Engineer of the Year.

Steve Marchi stands next to a banner for the Federal Engineer of the Year awards

Steve Marchi, and engineer assigned to the Umpqua National Forest, USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region, was an agency-level honoree at the Federal Engineer of the Year 2018 awards ceremony. Agency honorees are also finalists for the Federal Engineer of the Year award, presented annually by the National Society of Professional Engineers. Courtesy photo.

Typically, the honor is reserved for a current employee, either civilian or military, who is either a licensed professional engineer or engineer in training and who works at a federal agency that employs at least 50 engineers worldwide.

“I nominated Steve for his many professional achievements and organizational engagement as well as his continued attention to learning,” said Emilee Blount, Director of Engineering, Technology and Geospatial Services for the U.S. Forest Service in Washington, D.C.

Blount served as keynote speaker for the ceremony.

Marchi previously received another national award in 2017 in recognition of his outstanding work in integrating different work areas and projects both inside and outside of the Forest Service.

Marchi holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from University of Idaho (1997) and is a registered professional engineer in the State of Ohio. He began his career with the U.S. Forest Service in 1993 on the Payette National Forest in Idaho. Marchi began working on the Umpqua National Forest in 2011 after working 10 years on the Wayne National Forest in southeast Ohio.

By Cheryl Caplan, Umpqua National Forest

R6 Forester: Soaring fire costs limit funds for other work

Leadership Corner: Jim Peña; Regional Forester, USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Region

By Jim Peña, Pacific Northwest Regional Forester  – 

Firefighters burn grass and brush along a dirt road to block oncoming fire

Firefighters conduct burnout operations to establish a fire line while fighting the 2017 Chetco Bar fire on Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in Oregon. USDA Forest Service photo (via InciWeb)

The 2017 wildfire season was unprecedented in terms of dollars spent, acres burned, and the increased duration of wildfires. Even now, months later, we’re still feeling the impacts from these fires, especially financially.

As wildfires grow more severe – and costly – the USDA Forest Service is struggling to adequately fund projects that are important to our communities because of soaring firefighting costs.

Each year, firefighting costs consume more and more of the USDA Forest Service’s budget. In 1995, firefighting costs accounted for 15% of the USDA Forest Service budget. In 2017, it was 57%. At the rate things are going, firefighting will consume 67% of our budget by 2021. This means less money for other priority USDA Forest Service programs and services, including recreation, visitor services, and much-needed fire prevention work that reduces the risk of catastrophic wildfires in the first place.

The USDA Forest Service is the only federal agency that is required to fund its entire emergency management program through its regular appropriations. This includes wildfires that are truly natural disasters—lightning starts rapidly driven by wind that burn faster and more intensely than firefighters can control.

Two chinook helicopters fly over a field with water buckets dangling below each aircraft.

Chinook Helicopters from the Oregon Army National Guard use hanging buckets to collect water for aerial drops in support of fire fighting efforts on the Chetco Bar Fire in Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest September 13, 2017. U.S. Government Photo (via Inciweb)

In the Pacific Northwest, this funding model means that projects designed to actually decrease the severity of wildfire are being delayed, deferred maintenance is growing for recreation sites and critical infrastructure, and roads damaged from fire or storms are going un-repaired.

This means that trash goes un-emptied, toilets uncleaned, and we are forced to make hard decisions on whether we can safely keep roads and recreation sites open. These funding challenges directly impact our ability to provide excellent and safe visitor experiences.

The USDA Forest Service is dedicated to fostering the productive and sustainable use of your national forests and grasslands. If you can’t use and enjoy your public lands to the fullest, that’s a problem.

While the USDA Forest Service is working more closely with partners and volunteers to leverage resources and accomplish more than we could by ourselves, our current fiscal path is simply unsustainable.

The USDA Forest Service deeply appreciates the ongoing work of Congress to pass new legislation to reform the way wildfire suppression is funded. A commonsense approach would let us get back to the work we care about most – meeting the many different needs of the communities we serve, for the benefit of generations to come.


Source Information: Jim Peña is the Regional Forest for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region. He supervises operations and staff on all national forests and grassland in Washington State and Oregon.

Cattlemen restore pioneer-era windmills

Close up of a windmill.
A windmill stands in a field.

A pioneer-era windmill installed at a well on Crooked River National Grassland, recently restored by members of the Gray
Butte Grazing Association. Courtesy photo

MADRAS, Ore. – Volunteers from the Gray Butte Grazing Association have restored a pair of pioneer-era windmills to their original places above the Crooked River National Grassland.

The windmills are believed to date back to the late 1800’s, when pioneers maintained homesteads on the rolling hills just south of Madras.

Both windmills are visible from Highway 26 and are some of the last reminders of that history still visible on the landscape.

Before the restoration, years of exposure had taken their toll, said Tory Kurtz, rangeland management specialist for the Ochoco National Forest and Crooked River National Grassland. The windmills chained to keep them from spinning, and some of the blades were missing.

After a windstorm in 2013, the public took notice and the cattlemen began making plans to restore the windmills. Thanks to their efforts, the windmills have been returned to their original places above the Joe Weigand Well and Dalton Grant Well, and are the last two working windmills on the grassland.

By Patrick Lair, Ochoco National Forest and Crooked River National Grasslands PAO

Forest Feature: Wolverines

A wolverine roams among rocks.

What is a wolverine? It’s not surprising if you don’t know, you’ve probably never seen one in the wild! Our February Forest Feature, the wolverine (scientific name: gulo gulo), is only very rarely seen in Oregon and has only recently returned to Washington State.

If you are looking for a wolverine, the first thing you need to know is that a wolverine is not a wolf – but they can be fierce fighters, especially if you’re an animal the wolverine thinks might make a good snack! Wolverines usually eat leftovers from what other animals have killed, or catch small mammals to eat. But they can hunt much bigger animals, such as deer and even elk.

Despite their similar names, wolves and wolverines don’t get along very well. Wolverines will usually move out of an area if a pack of wolves moves in.

Wolverines are a member of the mustelidae – or weasel – family. They’re related to badgers, ferrets, and otters. They lived in the North Cascades and Wallowa Mountains, but many were killed by trappers who didn’t want to compete with them for the smaller animals that trappers caught to sell. The wolverine’s fur wasn’t very valuable – in fact, one of the animal’s nicknames is “skunk bear” because of its rough fur and musky smell.

In the 1950s, the wolverines had nearly disappeared from the Pacific Northwest. But in the 1990s, wolverines from Canada began to move south, into the north Cascade mountains in Washington State. The species remains listed as threatened in Oregon, where it once lived in the Wallowa mountains

Today, scientists are using remote cameras, radio collars and satellites to track individual wolverines, and learn about where they live, roam, and hunt. Biologists have learned that wolverines really like cold weather, like that found in the mountains. Female wolverines raise baby wolverines, or kits, in dens they create by tunneling through snow.

Citizen scientists in Utah are helping professional researchers by volunteering to check the cameras while they walk or run on trails. In Idaho, high school students helped a Microsoft engineer and state biologists build electronic pumps that spray a scent that attracts wolverines to the cameras. And here in the Pacific Northwest, grizzly bears at Woodland Park Zoo in Portland, Ore. helped test the boxes that house those lures and cameras to make sure they are bear-proof!

Did you know?

  • Wolverines are just returning the the Pacific Northwest, but they are also found in many other parts of the world. The largest numbers of wolverines are found in Canada, northern Europe, western Russia, and Siberia.
  • Wolverines sense of smell is so strong, they can sniff out carrion, their typical winter food, through up to 6 feet of snow!
  • A single wolverine’s range (the territory they roam) can extend up to 600 square miles.
  • During a 10-year study, researchers from the Forest Service and Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife tracked 14 wolverines using radio telemetry collars. They named the wolverines: Melanie, Mattie, Mallory, Chewbacca, Chance, Dasher, Hobbes, Xena, Sasha, Rocky, Eowyn, Kendyl, Special K, and… can you guess the last one? It’s Logan, of course!

Lesson plans:

This American Land (PBS science series, produced in partnership with the National Science Foundation)

http://www.thisamericanland.org/lesson-plans/the-wolverine

Ring of Darhad: Mongolian Wolverine Expedition (National Geographic)

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/media/ring-darhad/ 

Forest Features highlight a new Pacific Northwest species (or sometimes, an order or genus) each month as part of our regional youth engagement strategy. If you’re an educator who would like more information about incorporating Pacific Northwest environmental and forest science in your classroom, email us at R6Update@fs.fed.us.

USDA Forest Service waives fees in honor of Presidents’ Day

USDA Forest Service logo

Portland, Ore. – The USDA Forest Service will waive fees at day-use recreation sites in Oregon and Washington on Feb. 19 in honor of Presidents’ Day.

“Public lands in the Pacific Northwest offer nearly unlimited opportunities for year-round recreation,” said Jim Peña, Pacific Northwest Regional Forester. “We hope this fee-free day encourages new and repeat visitors to come out and enjoy their national forests.”

This fee waiver includes many picnic areas, boat launches, trailheads, and visitor centers. Concession operations will continue to charge fees unless the permit holder wishes to participate. Fees for camping, cabin rentals, heritage expeditions, or other permits still apply. The fee waiver does not apply to SnoParks although they might be located on national public lands. The SnoPark permit program is sponsored by the States of Oregon and Washington.

The USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region manages more than 2,400 developed recreation sites, over 24,000 miles of trails, 51 Wild and Scenic Rivers, and two national monuments. No fees are charged at any time on 98 percent of national forests and grasslands, and approximately two-thirds of developed recreation sites in national forests and grasslands can be used for free. To find a recreation site near you, visit our interactive recreation map.

Mark your calendars for the following USDA Forest Service fee-free days in 2018:

  • June 2, 2018: National Trails Day
  • June 9, 2018: National Get Outdoors Day
  • Sept. 22, 2018: National Public Lands Day
  • Nov. 11 – 12, 2018: Veterans Day Weekend

The Pacific Northwest Region consists of 16 National Forests, 59 District Offices, a National Scenic Area, and a National Grassland comprising 24.7 million acres in Oregon and Washington and employing approximately 3,550 people. To learn more about the USDA Forest Service in the Pacific Northwest, please visit www.fs.usda.gov/r6.

2017 Annual Report highlights Forest Service regional accomplishments, contributions

cover of the 2017 USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Region annual report.

Portland, Ore. – The Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region has released its 2017 annual report and digital story map, highlighting many of the agency’s accomplishments and contributions across Oregon and Washington.

“National forests benefit communities across the Pacific Northwest in countless ways, from economic benefits, recreation opportunities, clean drinking water, habitat for fish and wildlife, and so much more,” said Jim Peña, Pacific Northwest Regional Forester. “We are proud to share this year’s annual report which showcases the work we accomplish with partners, local communities, and the public we serve.”

2017 Pacific Northwest Region highlights from the report include:

  • More than 550,000 acres of restoration and fuels reduction work completed by national forests with the help of partners and local communities.
  • 581 million board feet of timber harvested, enough to build 34,000 homes.
  • 15.3 million recreation visits to national forest land generated over $730 million in visitor spending in local communities and supported over 6,000 jobs.
  • $10.8 million in revenue from recreation fees invested to improve recreation sites.
  • 135,000 youth engaged through Forest Service education and conservation programs.
  • 3,200 volunteers contributed over 330,000 hours of service (an $8 million value).
  • And much, much, more!

The annual report is available as a PDF and interactive story map at: https://go.usa.gov/xnsUs.