Monthly Archives: March 2018

Boaters: ‘Clean, drain & dry’ to halt free rides for invasives

Two men row a canoe across a large lake, with forest and mountain ridges visible in the background. A woman is seated in the center of the canoe, between the rowers.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — March 29, 2018  — The Washington Invasive Species Council and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are reminding boaters to “CLEAN, DRAIN and DRY their boats and equipment to prevent the spread of invasive species and minimize the time spent at mandatory boat inspections at state borders.

“The best way to keep our lakes and rivers clean and free from invasive species is to clean, drain and dry your boats and equipment,” said Justin Bush, executive coordinator of the Washington State Invasive Species Council. “We only have one chance to keep Washington free of these invaders, which wreak havoc on our environment, stop recreation and destroy water-based industries. Once here, invasive species are really hard and expensive to remove. We all must be diligent in making sure we protect our waterways.”

Aquatic invasive species are non-native animals, plants, microorganisms and pathogens that out-compete or prey on Washington’s native fish and other wildlife. They can harm the environment, hinder salmon recovery efforts and damage human health and businesses. They come to Washington from other states and provinces on trailers, boat hulls, motors, wading boots, fishing equipment and in many other ways. Once they become established in one lake or river, they can easily spread to more waters in Washington.

To protect Washington State waters, follow these steps:

Clean: When leaving the water, clean all equipment that touched the water by removing all visible plants, algae, animals and mud. Equipment includes watercraft hulls, trailers, shoes, waders, life vests, engines and other gear.

Drain: Drain any accumulated water from boats or gear, including the bilge and live wells and transom wells, before leaving the water access point.

Dry: Once home, fully dry all gear before using it in a different waterbody.

“If you are bringing watercraft from another state and think that your boat and gear may carry invasive species, we urge you to contact the Department of Fish and Wildlife before traveling home,” said Allen Pleus, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) Aquatic Invasive Species Unit Lead. “Call the state’s aquatic invasive species hotline (1-888-WDFW-AIS) and let us know where you used the boat. If there is a high risk, we can inspect your boat and possibly decontaminate it at little or no cost.”

It’s also the law. It is illegal to transport or spread aquatic invasive species and violators can face a maximum penalty of 1 year in jail and $5,000 in fines.

Mandatory Boat Inspections

To combat the threat, WDFW is ramping up mandatory inspection stations at our borders and high risk water bodies to make sure that infested watercraft don’t slip into Washington.

“There is so much at stake,” said Capt. Eric Anderson of the WDFW Enforcement program. “Invasive species, like quagga and zebra mussels, threaten Washington’s dams, farm irrigation systems, drinking water supplies and our precious natural resources.”

In 2017, WDFW opened two mandatory inspection stations at borders in Spokane and along the Columbia River at Plymouth, southwest of the Tri-Cities. WDFW checked more than 10,000 boats as they entered Washington. This year, the inspections stations will open in early spring and run until late fall.

“We are trying our best to keep invasive mussels out,” said Sgt. Pam Taylor, of the WDFW Enforcement program. “So if you are transporting watercraft into Washington, be prepared to stop!”

Also this year, WDFW has partnered with the National Park Service to provide greater protection of the Columbia River basin. An agreement between the two agencies gives national park rangers at Lake Roosevelt National Area authority to conduct boat inspection throughout the summer. This agreement is considered a groundbreaking move in the fight against aquatic invasive species and could be implemented at other national parks.

Mandatory Prevention Permit for Out-of-Staters

In addition to the inspection stations, people from out-of-state need to buy a WDFW Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Permit before using their boats and other watercrafts on Washington State waters. New this year, the permits can be purchased online. The prevention permit also is required by seaplane operators and commercial transporters of vessels.

“Preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species is serious business,” Pleus said. Researchers estimate that invasive zebra and quagga mussels alone could cost the power industry more than $3 billion, and industries, businesses and communities more than $5 billion nationwide over 6 years.”

“As a boater, your diligence in preventing aquatic invasive species will protect Washington’s water and ensure that future Washingtonians can experience the same water activities that you enjoy,” Capt. Anderson said.

“Washington State and the Pacific Northwest are the last area in the United States to be free of these invasive mussels, and we want to keep it that way,” Bush said. To protect the Pacific Northwest, tribes, the federal government, states and nonprofit organizations have come together to address this issue through research, inspection and decontamination efforts and rapid response exercises.

The Invasive Species Council, established by the Legislature in 2006, provides policy level direction, planning and coordination to combat and prevent harmful invasive species throughout the state. To learn more about how you can prevent the spread of damaging invasive species, visit the council’s Web site. Learn more about aquatic invasive species by visiting WDFW’s Web site.

LINK: https://www.rco.wa.gov/doc_pages/press/2018/180.shtml

Staff report, Washington Invasive Species Council & Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife PAO

FS awards citizen science funds to pika program

An American pika collects grass and flowers on a field of rocky talus

PORTLAND, Ore. — March 29, 2018 — Cascades Pika Watch is among the first programs awarded grants from the USDA Forest Service’s new CitSci Fund (Citizen Science Competitive Funding Program), the agency announced earlier this month.

The program is a partnership between Columbia River Gorge National Scenic area, Oregon Zoo, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, and several researchers to study the population pressures on the Gorge’s pika population. The U.S. Geological Survey is also partner in the research effort.

An American pika sits on a talus slope

An American pika sits on a talus slope, Aug. 12, 2014. U.S. Geological Survey photo by Will Thompson.

The American pika, or Ochotona princeps, looks like a cross between a mouse and a rabbit. Pika live on talus, or loose piles of rocks that collect on steep slopes; the pika found in the gorge are of special interest to scientists because they live at much lower elevations than other pika in the U.S.

In four years, Cascades Pika Watch has trained more than 1,000 volunteers to conduct pika surveys throughout the Cascade range. Many volunteers return to study the same sites every year.

“In the wake of the Eagle Creek Fire, it’s especially important that we collect data on our unique pika population,” Dr. David Shepherdson, Oregon Zoo deputy conservation manager, said.

The 2017 fire burned through the pika study area; citizen scientists will work with the Forest Service to document any changes to the pika population, habitat, and identify factors that played a role in any changes observed.

Data gathered before and after the fire will be especially valuable in helping researchers understand how large disturbances impact the pika, and related species.

“This… grant provides a wonderful opportunity for the public to be involved… (and) hopefully instill a natural resource interest and ethic to other members of their family and friends,” Brett Carre, Wildlife and Fisheries biologist for Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, said.

An American pika peeks out from a rocky talus slope

An American pika peeks out from a rocky talus slope in the northern Cascades mountain range in an Aug. 8, 2017 photo. U.S. Geological Survey photo by Aaron Johnston.

Carre joins the Pika Watch project this year as the Forest Service lead for research funded by the grant.

He said citizen science projects, like the pika project, offer to get members of the public interested in, excited about, and more knowledgeable about how science guides forest planning and natural resources management decisions.

“It’s the best way for a conservation ethic to be perpetuated,” he said. “The way to get people to sustain and preserve natural resources is by getting them involved.”

The Forest Service’s CitSci Fund was established this year, under the provisions of the 2017 Citizen Science Act (Section 402 of the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act).

“Citizen science” involves the public in scientific research, and offers unique opportunities to capitalize on the enthusiasm of volunteers, educate the public, and engage citizens in science conducted by federal agencies for the benefit of all Americans.

For example, NASA’s Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 project recruits citizen scientists to help analyze images collected by a radio telescope in search of a hypothesized 9th planet orbiting beyond Neptune in our solar system. In it’s first year, participants did not find any new planets, but have found 17 previously undiscovered brown dwarf stars.

For this first year, the Forest Service’s CitSci Fund received 172 applications for funding from citizen science projects across the country.

Each project is co-led by a Forest Service employee and a partner organization staff member, and designed in a manner that requires volunteers provide meaningful contributions to the scientific process – such as project design, data collection, or conducting experiments.

The agency selected six projects to receive up to $25,000 each in CitSci funds.

In addition to the Cascade Pika Watch award, Rocky Mountain Wild and the Denver Zoo also received funds to study a population of American pika in their alpine ecosystem habitat on the White River National Forest in Colorado.

***

American pika:

Citizen Science:

USDA Forest Service — Pacific Northwest region staff report

An American pika collects grass and flowers on a field of rocky talus

An American pika collects grass and flowers to stockpile its winter food supplies in this Aug. 9, 2014 photo by Will Thompson, U.S. Geological Survey

We don’t play with fire… we put it to work!

A low-intensity, prescribed fire creeps through a wooded area, consuming dry brush and grasses while leaving upper tree branches and crowns untouched.

Smokey Bear teaches us not to play around when it comes to wildfires; instead, the Forest Service and other land management agencies are now putting fire to work to help keep western forests healthy, productive, and even make them safer for surrounding communities.

Find out what makes fire in the West unique, including the importance and benefits of healthy fire to forest ecosystems, in this Untamed Science video, produced with assistance from the USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station and Western Forestry Leadership Coalition.

For more information, check out How the West Was Burned: A Tale of Wildfires and Ecosystems in the American West on the Untamed Science website: http://www.untamedscience.com/biology/ecology/ecology-articles/western-wildfires/

Above: Fire creeps through a wooded area during a prescribed burn conducted as part of the Greater La Pine Basin Cohesive Strategy Project in an undated USDA Forest Service photo. The project is a collaborative effort between the Deschutes National Forest and local communities to address the threat of wildland fire across jurisdictional boundaries, increase forest resiliency on a landscape level, restore dry, fire-adapted forest habitat, and ensure high-quality water in the upper Deschutes River basin.

Oregon beach bound? Seasonal snowy plover protections in effect

A pair of western snowy on coastal sand

CORVALLIS, Ore.March 23, 2018 — Oregon beachgoers are asked to help recovery efforts for the threatened western snowy plover by respecting nesting areas and beach restrictions during nesting season, March 15 through Sept. 15.

Beachgoers may see signs and ropes that identify sensitive western snowy plover nesting areas. and will need to adhere to any posted restrictions.

Four juvenile western snowy plovers on the sand

Juvenile western snowy plovers at Oregon Dunes, Siuslaw National Forest in an undated photo. USDA Forest Service photo by Adam Kotaich.

These federally protected shorebirds nest on open sand along Oregon’s beaches.

Nests, and especially chicks, are well-camouflaged.

During nesting season, human disturbances can flush adult plovers away from their nests as they attempt to defend their young from the perceived predator. Left alone too long, eggs or chicks can die from exposure, predators, or people.

“We’re making great strides in reversing the downward slide of this species,” Cindy Burns, wildlife biologist for Siuslaw National Forest, said. “But it takes all of us, so we hope people will do their part to understand nesting season rules and to share the beach this spring and summer.”

Signage for Oregon Dunes Trail and Shorebirds Nesting area. Vehicles, bicycles, camping and dogs are prohibited on the beach March 15 to Sept. 15 annually, and pedestrians are limited to walking on wet sandy areas, only.

Signs warn visitors about restricted activity at a known western snowy plover nesting area on the Oregon Dunes, located in the Siuslaw National Forest in an undated USDA Forest Service photo.

Certain beaches, listed here (Oregon dunes only) and here (coastwide), are known plover nesting areas.

On these beaches, the dry sand and dunes are closed, except along official trails, to protect eggs and chicks.

Visitors may see roped off areas within these plover management areas, which serve to protect the most sensitive habitat; however, all dry sand on both sides of the rope is closed, except on designated trails.

Wet sand areas on the designated beaches remain open to foot and equestrian traffic, but no dogs, kites, drones, camping, bicycles, or motor vehicles are allowed.

Western snowy plover nesting areas collectively comprise only about 40 miles of Oregon’s 362 miles of shoreline, but are spread out along the entire coast.

“Visitors will have access to hundreds of miles of beaches without these seasonal restrictions,” Laurel Hillmann, ocean shores specialist for Oregon State Parks, said. “By planning your trip, you can enjoy the coast and help keep this sensitive bird safe.”

A nest of brown-speckled snowy plover eggs is difficult to see, even while almost entirely exposed on a sandy beach, surrounded by coastal vegetation.

A western snowy plover nests can be extremely difficult to see on the dry sandy beaches where the shorebird nests, as seen in this undated photo. Chicks reach fledgling age about one month after hatching. National Park Service photo.

Visitors to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area are encouraged to review this map to identify unrestricted recreation areas.

Information on riding motor vehicles on the sand can be found here.

Information about what Oregon coast beaches are open to dogs is available here.

The western snowy plover is a federally protected shorebird.

Nesting areas within the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area include the following (signs are posted at all nesting beach access points):

  • Baker/Sutton beaches
  • Siltcoos estuary south to within a ½ mile of Sparrow Park Road, which includes:
    • Oregon Dunes Day Use beach
    • Tahkenitch Creek estuary
  • Ten Mile Creek estuary, starting from ¼ mile south of the Douglas/Coos County line to the Coast Guard south off-highway vehicle (OHV) trail

Detailed information about nesting restrictions and site locations, as well as links to resources from Oregon State Parks, can be found on the Siuslaw website at www.fs.usda.gov/siuslaw.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed western snowy plovers as a threatened species in 1993. Habitat loss from invasive plants, as well as human disturbances, including litter and discarded food scraps that attract predators, have contributed to the birds’ decline.

The Oregon Dunes Restoration Collaborative is working with land managers to develop and implement a restoration strategy as well as raise public awareness about the need to restore the dunes ecosystem for snowy plover, rare plants and animals, and the unique recreation opportunities offered here.

By Lisa Romano, USDA Forest Service – Siuslaw National Forest
and
Laurel Hillman, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department

A western snowy plover stands on the sand

The western snowy plover is a small shorebird distinguished from other plovers by its small size, pale brown upper parts, dark patches on either side of the upper breast, and dark gray to blackish legs. During the breeding season (March through September), plovers can be seen nesting along the shores, peninsulas, offshore islands, bays, estuaries, and rivers of the United States’ Pacific Coast. This undated photo displays a bird in its winter plumage. US Fish and Wildlife Service photo.

Weekend Dog Mountain visits to require new permit

USDA Forest Service logo

STEVENSON, Wash. — March 26, 2018  To address safety concerns along Washington State Route 14 in the Columbia River Gorge, the U.S. Forest Service – with partners at Washington State Department of Transportation, Skamania County, and the Skamania County Chamber of Commerce. – is launching a new permit system at the Dog Mountain Trailhead for weekends during the peak use season, March 31- July 1.

As visitation at Dog Mountain has increased in the last decade, so have safety concerns. On weekends and holidays during the wildflower season, hikers often park and walk along SR 14, where high-speed traffic, narrow shoulders, and limited site distances create challenging situations for pedestrians and motorists alike.

“We’re trying this new approach to enable people to connect with this cherished trail while reducing safety challenges,” Lynn Burditt, area manager for Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, said. “We worked in partnership with local organizations to come up with this solution.”

Beginning this year, Skamania County offers a weekend shuttle service to reduce parking congestion at the summit. All visitors riding the shuttle on weekends from March 31 to July 1 will receive a Dog Mountain visitors permit when they ride. Seats are available on a first come, first served basis, at a cost of $1 per trip, or $2 roundtrip. Bus drivers will provide trail system permits to visitors upon arrival at Dog Mountain Trailhead. Each permit will be good for one individual on the day it is issued. More information about the shuttle schedule can be found at https://www.facebook.com/SkamaniaTransit/Shuttle.

For weekend visitors during the peak use season (March 31 to July 1) who do not use the shuttle, there will be 165 permits available per day through the national online reservation system at www.recreation.gov, costing a $1.50 non-refundable reservation fee per permit. Those parking in the lot at Dog Mountain Trailhead will also need to pay a per car recreation fee of $5 per day, or display a valid Northwest Forest Pass or Federal Interagency Pass, which is an existing requirement. Please note that parking is limited at the trailhead, and obtaining a permit does not ensure a parking spot.

“We’re hoping this new approach will offer a win-win by encouraging visitors to use the county shuttle service while also making SR 14 safer for visitors,” Skamania County Commissioner Chair Tom Lannen said, on behalf of the Skamania County Board of Commissioners.

Hikers should carry a printed permit or electronic copy of their permit, as Forest Service will check for permits at the trailhead.

Dog Mountain Trail System includes Dog Mountain Trail (#147 and #147C), Dog-Augspurger Tie Trail #147A, and the lower portion of Augspurger Trail #4407.

For more information, call 541-308-1700 or visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/crgnsa/hikedogmountain.

The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area encompasses 292,500 acres of Washington and Oregon, where the Columbia River cuts a spectacular river canyon through the Cascade Mountains. The USDA Forest Service manages National Forest lands in the National Scenic Area and works with the Gorge Commission, states, counties, treaty tribes, and partners to protect and enhance scenic, natural, cultural, and recreational resources of the Columbia River Gorge while encouraging local economic development consistent with that protection.

Learn more about Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area at www.fs.usda.gov/crgnsa or follow us on social media at facebook.com/crgnsa or www.twitter.com/crgnsa.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

New Permit System to Address Public Safety Concerns at Dog Mountain, Washington

Why is the U.S. Forest Service implementing a permit system at Dog Mountain?

The permit system is designed to protect public safety. On weekends during the wildflower season, the Dog Mountain Trailhead parking lot overflows and visitors park and walk along Washington State Route14 (SR-14) to access the trail system. With high-speed traffic, narrow shoulders, and limited site distances along SR-14, pedestrian traffic creates a serious public safety concern. Our partners at Washington Department of Transportation and Washington State Patrol have asked the Forest Service to take action to address these safety concerns. The permit system will reduce overflow parking occurring along SR-14 in the vicinity of Dog Mountain Trailhead by encouraging use of shuttle services provided by Skamania County.

How can a trail permit system reduce safety concerns on a highway?

The permit system will encourage the use of Skamania County shuttle services while reducing the number of vehicles parking at Dog Mountain Trailhead and nearby areas along SR-14 on Saturdays and Sundays during the high use season. Only 165 visitors per day will be issued a permit to access the trail system via personal vehicle; the remaining visitors will be required to use the shuttle to obtain a permit.

When will permits be required for the Dog Mountain Trail System?

On Saturdays and Sundays from March 31, 2018 to July 1, 2018 each individual using the Dog Mountain Trail System will be required to obtain a permit. The system includes the Dog Mountain Trail #147 and #147C, the Dog-Augspurger Tie Trail #147A, and the southern portion of the Augspurger Trail #4407 between the Dog Mountain Trailhead (on State Route 14) and the intersection with the Dog-Augspurger Tie Trail #147A. Hikers on the system will be required to carry a hard copy permit or electronic proof of purchase.

How do I obtain a permit and what is the cost?

There are two options for obtaining a permit.

  • Option 1. Permits are available on a first come, first served basis for visitors who ride the Dog Mountain shuttle service operated by Skamania County. The shuttle costs $1.00 per person each way ($2 roundtrip per person), and it runs on weekends from March 31 to July 1. The shuttle schedule can be found at https://skamania.org/public-transportation/. Drivers will provide trail system permits to visitors upon arrival at Dog Mountain Trailhead. Each permit will be good for one individual and is only valid for the day it is issued.
  • Option 2. Another option is to reserve a permit through the national online reservation system at https://www.recreation.gov at the cost of $1.50 (non-refundable reservation fee) per permit. Visitors should print and carry their permit or carry electronic proof of purchase. There will be 165 permits available per day (for Saturdays and Sundays from March 31 to July 1).

Will there be permit-free or fee-free days?

No permits will be required on weekdays from March 31 to July 1 or for use outside of permit season. Recreation use fees apply every day of the year except fee free days. In 2018, the remaining fee free days include June 9 (National Get Outdoors Day), Sept. 22 (National Public Lands Day), and Nov. 10 – 11 (Veterans Day Weekend).

How will the reservation system be enforced?

Forest Service staff will check for proof of permits at the trailhead and along the trail. Visitors using the Dog Mountain Trail System without a permit may be issued a violation notice. Visitors who access the permit area via shuttle bus will be given a permit upon arrival at the trailhead. Visitors with online reservations are asked to print and carry a hard copy of their permit (or at a minimum, carry an electronic proof of purchase). Please remember that cell phone coverage and cell phone battery life may affect your ability to produce electronic proof of purchase.

Why is the Forest Service limiting use at Dog Mountain when so many trails in the Columbia River Gorge are closed because of the Eagle Creek Fire?

The Forest Service has been working with our partners at Washington Department of Transportation, Washington State Police, Skamania County Chamber of Commerce, and the Gorge Tourism Alliance to develop a permit system that allows for the continued public use and enjoyment of the Dog Mountain Trail System while also providing for visitor safety along State Route 14. Visitors who are unable to reserve a permit online, can access the Dog Mountain Trail System via shuttle from the Skamania County Fairgrounds.

Why is the Forest Service implementing a permit system to address safety concerns versus other, less restrictive approaches to site management?

The Forest Service and our partners have been working to address safety concerns related to congestion, parking, and traffic management along SR-14 for years. This season, safety concerns are further elevated as a result of Eagle Creek Fire and the associated closure area. The Forest Service and State Parks are already seeing an increase in use at trailheads on the Washington side of the Gorge as hikers looks for alternatives to popular trails within the fire closure area.

Past efforts have included the following:

  • Trailhead parking lot improvements to allow for safe passage of shuttle buses and emergency vehicles.
  • Partnering with Skamania County to provide and promote shuttle services.
  • Partnering with Friends of the Columbia Gorge to develop the Trailhead Ambassador program and expand education efforts at the Dog Mountain Trailhead.
  • Partnering with Washington Department of Transportation and Washington State Patrol to manage parking and enforce existing regulations.
  • Partnering with Travel Oregon to develop and promote the Ready, Set, Gorge informational campaign in an effort to reduce congestion at popular areas and during peak times.

In addition to these ongoing efforts, the Forest Service is applying for grant funding through the Federal Lands Access Program to study the feasibility of relocating Dog Mountain Trailhead. Our partners are also applying for FLAP funding to initiate a congestion mitigation study for the SR-14 corridor and primary recreation areas.

The permit system is an additional tool that we feel is needed to address public safety concerns in the near future. There will be opportunities to monitor the permit system’s effectiveness and make adjustments as needed.

Do permit requirements apply to outfitters and guides?

No. Outfitters and guides are not authorized to use the Dog Mountain Trail System on weekends during the high use season. Permit holders can continue to access the site on weekdays when permits are not required.

Do I need a permit if I access the trail system from the northern trailhead (instead of the Dog Mountain Trailhead on SR-14)?

Yes. All visitors entering the permit area on weekends between March 31st and July 1st are required to carry a permit regardless of where they access the trail system.

Can I reserve a space on the Dog Mountain shuttle?

Shuttle services are only available on a first-come, first-served basis.

How often does the Dog Mountain shuttle run?

Skamania County provides shuttle service between Skamania County Fairgrounds and Dog Mountain Trailhead every half hour between the hours of 7:30 AM and 4:30 PM on weekends between March 31st and July 1st. On days when the shuttle buses are operating, the last departure from Skamania County Fairgrounds will be scheduled at 1:30 PM and the last pickup at Dog Mountain Trailhead will be at 4:30 PM. Visitors are encouraged to plan their trip accordingly. Approximate hiking time for the Dog Mountain Trail System is three to six hours.

Where can I catch the shuttle bus to Dog Mountain Trailhead?

The Dog Mountain shuttle will provide service from Skamania County Fairgrounds in Stevenson, WA at 710 SW Rock Creek Drive, Stevenson, WA 98648. More information can be found at https://skamania.org/publictransportation/.

Can I bring my dog on the shuttle with me?

Leashed dogs are allowed on the Dog Mountain shuttle buses. Owners must be in control of their pets at all times. Please consider leaving your dog at home if you have concerns about them being on a crowded shuttle bus with other pets and people.

Will there be security at the shuttle pick up/drop off lot?

There is limited security at the shuttle pick up/drop off lot. Visitors are discouraged from leaving valuables in their cars and/or in plain sight.

Can I reserve a permit online? How far in advance?

Permit reservations can be made online beginning March 14, 2018 at 10 a.m. Eastern Time. Permits will be issued as people apply for them (first come, first served). Demand for online permit reservations is expected to be high, so reserving a permit in advance is recommended.

How do I reserve a permit?

Similar to making a camping reservation, making an online permit reservation and payment is easy. The system will accommodate advance and day-of reservations (dependent on availability). Each individual is limited to purchasing four online permits per day per order.

How do I verify that I’ve reserved a permit online?

You will receive an email confirmation and are encouraged to print and carry the paper copy or carry an electronic copy. Forest Service employees will be monitoring compliance with permit requirements at the trailhead and along the trail.

If I reserve a trail system permit online, am I still required to purchase a recreation pass to park at Dog Mountain Trailhead?

Yes. Dog Mountain Trailhead is a recreation fee site. A daily, per-vehicle fee of $5.00 is charged for use of the Dog Mountain Trailhead facilities. Visitors can pay the daily fee on-site or online at https://yourpassnow.com/parkpass. Annual passes such as the Northwest Forest Pass and other interagency senior, military, and Every Kid in a Park passes are accepted as alternate forms of payment. Note that this fee is in addition to $1.50 administrative fee charged for ticket purchase.

If I show up at Dog Mountain Trailhead without a permit reservation, can I get one on the spot?

The Forest Service cannot issue permits “in the field” at Dog Mountain Trailhead. If space is available and you are able to get cell service and get online, you can reserve a permit from the trailhead and carry electronic proof of purchase while on the trail.

Will reservation and recreation use fees be used for maintenance of the Dog Mountain Trail System?

The $1.50 administrative fees are used for administration of the reservation system, which is contracted under Recreation.gov. Recreation use fees, however, are used for facility maintenance, visitor services, and trail maintenance at fee sites throughout the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

If I purchase my permit online, am I guaranteed parking at the trailhead?

Online permit reservations do not guarantee parking at the trailhead. The numbers of permits available online is based on parking lot capacity and average group size numbers for the Dog Mountain Trailhead, so the need for overflow parking should be minimized. The Forest Service will monitor conditions at the trailhead and adjust the number of online permits available if needed.

What should I do if I have a permit reserved and the trailhead parking lot is full when I arrive?

Visitors should park only in designated spaces and allow room for emergency vehicles and shuttle bus access. The Forest Service and our partners at the Friends of the Columbia Gorge will reserve some additional parking spaces each day and will make them available as needed to accommodate visitors who have reserved a permit online and arrive to find the parking lot full. For your safety, please remember that parking along Washington State Route 14 (SR-14) to access the Dog Mountain Trailhead is discouraged and visitors parking illegally may be fined and towed. Walking along the railroad tracks is both dangerous and illegal.

What if I need to cancel my reservation?

The online $1.50 reservation fee per permit is non-refundable. Reservations may be cancelled up to the day of the visit. Because there are a limited number of permits issued each day, you are encouraged to cancel your reservation if you cannot use it, so it is available for others.

“Era of Megafires” at World Forestry Center, April 11

Paul Hessburg speaking from a stage in front of projectors displaying images of a pine cone in a forest

PORTLAND, Ore. — March 15, 2018. — The U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station will bring a 60-minute, live multimedia presentation, “Era of Megafires,” to the World Forestry Center, in Portland, Ore. April 11, at 6 p.m.

The presentation is designed to educate and inform audiences across the West so they may better discuss how to find solutions to the risks that wildfires pose to their communities.

The number of large, severe wildfires has been increasing in the last decade. Megafires are wildfires that burn more than 100,000 acres and may be destructive to human communities, wildlife habitat, and natural resources. To convey the conditions that lead to megafires and how they might be managed or mitigated, Paul Hessburg, a research landscape ecologist with PNW Research Station, partnered with North 40 Productions and the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center to produce this presentation.

The presentation is intended to stimulate discussions of how current science relates to community experiences with wildfire. “Era of Megafires” explains how current fire conditions were inadvertently created, and it describes megafires as a core social issue with ecological explanations. Throughout the presentation, tools are identified for land managers and homeowners, which if applied strategically, can reduce the future severity and impacts of wildfires.

“A future without wildfire isn’t an option,” Hessburg says. “The good news is that we have tools that give us choices about how to better co-exist with fire and smoke. Do we want fire in large indiscriminate doses, or in small doses that benefit the forest and reduce risks to communities?”

To register for the event:

Registration is required. To RSVP, visit https://www.pdxcityclub.org/calendar/?eid=8572.

The presentation is co-hosted by City Club of Portland, The Nature Conservancy, Oregon Forest Resources Institute, North 40 Productions, and the World Forestry Center.

Presenter:

Paul Hessburg, a research landscape ecologist based at the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station’s Forestry Sciences Laboratory in Wenatchee, Wash.

Panelists:

Kirsten Aird, Cross Agency Systems Manager for the Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention Section in the Oregon Public Health Division

John Stromberg, mayor of Ashland, Ore.

Ryan Huago, senior forest ecologist for The Nature Conservancy’s Oregon chapter.

Moderator:

Lisa Gaines, director of the Institute for Natural Resources (INR), headquartered at Oregon State University.

The Pacific Northwest Research Station—headquartered in Portland, Ore.—generates and communicates scientific knowledge that helps people make informed choices about natural resources and the environment. The station has 11 laboratories and centers located in Alaska, Washington, and Oregon and about 300 employees. Learn more online at http://www.fs.fed.us/pnw.

Text reads

The “Era of Megafires” presentation April 11, 6 p.m. at World Forestry Center in Portland, Ore. will feature a panel led by Dr. Paul Hessburg, USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station.

Ochoco NF reminds visitors to give new foals space

A wild horse nurses a foal in a grassy forest meadow.

PRINEVILLE, Ore. — March 24, 2018 — The Ochoco National Forest reminds drivers and other visitors travelling through the Big Summit Wild Horse Territory, located east of Prineville, Ore., to slow down when passing groups of horses, and to give newborn foals some space as they work to stand up and assimilate to the herd.

This is the time of year when horses have moved down to lower elevations. The majority of pregnant horses will giving birth to new foals in spring or early summer (March through June).

Earlier this month, a foal was born in a ditch along Forest Service Road 22 near Ochoco Ranger Station, about 20 miles east of Prineville, Ore. When Forest Service staff arrived to check on the situation, the foal had gotten up and moved away with its band, but the incident caught the attention of numerous visitors.

“I know it is tempting to want to intervene when you see a new baby horse, but please give it space. The best thing you can do is keep moving to your destination and contact the Ochoco National Forest if you are concerned,” Tory Kurtz, the forest’s wild horse program manager, said.

The forest has established an email account for members of the public to report sightings of wild horses within the Big Summit Territory to assist land managers with tracking and understanding herd movements.

The public is encouraged to email horse sighting reports and photos to bigsummitwildhorses@gmail.com.

For those interested in volunteering with the Ochoco wild horse program, a volunteer information day is scheduled in May. For more information, contact Stacey Cochran, Discover Your Forest community engagement director, at (541) 383-5530.

To learn more about the Big Summit Wild Horse Territory, visit: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/ochoco/specialplaces/?cid=fseprd488281

By Patrick Lair, USDA Forest Service – Ochoco National Forest and Crooked River National Grassland

a wild horse, nursing a foal

A horse nurses her foal in this July 29, 2015 USDA Forest Service photo. The horses are part of the Lookout Mountain herd of wild horses, which live on the Ochoco National Forest.

 

Glide Wildflower Show, April 27-28

Close-up of a drawing of purple Kalimopsis fragans flowers by Jennifer Curtis, from the 2018 Glide Wildflower Show poster.

The Glide Wildflower Show is April 28 and 29, 2018 at the Glide Community Center in Glide, Ore.

Forest Service botanists will be among those helping identify more than 600 flowering plants gathered from local forests and fields by volunteers for display.

Local businesses and organizations organize a variety of wildflower-themed community events during the show weekend.

Find news about the exhibition and related events on the show’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Glide-Wildflower-Show-377053879003054/.

Website: http://www.glidewildflowershow.org/.

2018

Secretary Purdue thanks Congress for fire funding fix

Wildland fireghter trains water from a hose on blazing tree stump as sparks fly
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue in an undated USDA photo

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue. USDA photo.

WASHINGTON D.C — March 23, 2018 —  U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue expressed his appreciation for the work of Congress in approving a bipartisan fix for the way the USDA Forest Service is funded for fighting wildfires today.

Secretary Perdue had advocated for the change since taking office in April 2017.

Congress included the solution in the FY 2018 Omnibus Spending Package, which has been signed into law by President Donald J. Trump.

“Improving the way we fund wildfire suppression will help us better manage our forests. If we ensure that we have adequate resources for forest management, we can mitigate the frequency of wildfires and severity of future fire seasons,” Perdue said

DZD9m6qWsAAFSsjInterim USDA Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen thanked Secretary Purdue for his efforts in meeting with Congress to support the bipartisan effort.

“This solution will allow us to focus on getting work done on the ground more consistently to improve overall forest health and keep wildfires from threatening lives, homes, and communities,” she said.

Press release: https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2018/03/23/secretary-perdue-applauds-fire-funding-fix-omnibus?utm_source=&utm_medium=&utm_campaign=

Further afield: Spring wildflower preview

There’s a saying, April showers bring May flowers. But even in March, any color that punctures winter’s gloom makes us wonder “when will the wildflowers arrive?”

Wildflower season brings big crowds to the region’s most accessible mountain meadows, which are renowned for producing dense displays of short-lived summer blooms.

Beginning March 31, 2018, Skamania County will provide shuttle service on busy weekends at Dog Mountain in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area to help alleviate traffic that created parking and safety issues, and visitors who don’t use the shuttle on those dates will need a Forest Service permit before they go.

More information: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/crgnsa/fire/?cid=FSEPRD572962.

Mark Skinner, regional botanist for the Forest Service – Pacific Northwest region spring, 2018 seems like a relatively typical wildflower season so far, in that the first spring flowers don’t seem to be significantly ahead or behind schedule in most areas.

But it’s notoriously difficult to predict when flower displays will “peak,” he said.

“Any place you go there are things that bloom early and there are things that bloom late. There are irises blooming the second week of April on the Umpqua (National Forest), but the lilies aren’t going to bloom until early July,” Skinner said.

Some of the first spring flowers in the northwest arrive as early as late winter, such as the blossoms on native cherries and other fruit-bearing bushes and shrubs.

The glacier lily, Erythronium grandiflorum, is among of the first flowers that emerges at higher elevations, appearing as snowbanks retreat in sub-alpine areas.

A Pacific Dotted Blue butterfly perches on a bluehead gilia blossom

A Pacific Dotted Blue butterfly perches on a bluehead gilia blossom at Marys Peak on the Siuslaw National Forest in this undated Bureau of Land Management photo.

One such area, Mary’s Peak, on the Siuslaw National Forest, is known to be an excellent site for spring flower spotting.

The area is a Forest Service-designated special botanical area.

“It’s a little earlier of a season than other spots in the Cascades, on higher peaks, and it’s also easy to access,” Lisa Romano, the forest’s Public Affairs Officer, said.

The Marys Peak day use area and parking lot are located alongside the largest of the mountain’s five sub-alpine fields, with a dirt road a path around the summit’s other meadows, a rock garden and a streambed, where a variety of other flowers can be found.

If you’re up for a more of a challenge, Tatoosh Ridge on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington, offers views spectacular views of Mount Rainier beyond exuberant summer flower displays in July.

Longtime northwest hiker Jay Stern filed trip reports from the trail on nwhikers.net in 2016 and 2017.

meadow filled with wildflowers

Bands of colored flowers dominate the landscape in this Tatoosh Ridge meadow, photographed by hiker Jay Stern during a July 16, 2017 trip to Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Originally published on nwhikers.net by the photographer (used with permission).

He recommends waiting until the July snow melt is well underway, bringing hiking poles, plenty of water, and watching other hiker’s trip reports if you are trying to time your trip around “peak color.”

“It’s worth the effort,” Stern said. “But that first section, the first two miles are going to be steep… you’re going to work for it.”

For a less intense hike, Willamette National Forest botanist Ryan Murdoff suggests the Tire Mountain trail, where visitors can find Washington lily (Lilium washingtonianum), wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca), vanilla leaf (Achlys triphylla), field chickweed (Cerastium arvense), Oregon Sunshine (Eriophyllum quamash), broadleaf lupine (Lupinus latifolius), and other wildflowers. The trail leads into the Pacific Crest Trail system and is also open to horseback riders and mountain bikes.

For access to a variety of hikes and an expansive assortment of wildflowers, public affairs specialist Chiara Cipriano suggests the Iron Mountain, also located on Willamette National Forest.

More than 300 species of wildflowers grow in the area, and nearby trailheads offer several hiking options.

Two popular routes include the short summit hike, which leads to a viewing platform, and the Cone Peak trail, a longer trail but at a a gentler grade that takes hikers through several meadows.

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest botanist Helen Lau likes to send flower-seekers on a scenic driving tour: from Reecer Creek Rd. in Ellensburg, Wash., to Forest Service Rd. 3500 on the forest, and then follow the road up Table Mountain.

“The diversity of habitats within this drive are wonderful,” Lau said.

Wildflowers paint a red and green swath along the rocky edge of Soda Creek

Wildflowers paint a red and green swath along the rocky edge of Soda Creek on Deschutes National Forest in this undated USDA Forest Service photo.

Visitors who time their trip right can see forested roads carpeted with yellow balsam root (Basamorhiza sagittatta), dotted with showy phlox (Phlox speciose), and brightly-colored penstemon species. At higher elevations, they’ll find rugged, rocky meadows studded with brightly colored blossoms.

Cheryl Bartlet, a botanist based on the Olympic National Forest, also suggested a forest drive; Forest Road 24 to Lake Cushman, outside Hoodsport, Wash.

“It’s accessible to everyone, and is very easy to get to,” she said.

On their way to the lake, travelers pass cliffs and rocky areas supporting a diverse mix of summer wildflowers, including harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida), Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum), blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia parviflora), seablush (Plectritis congesta), farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena), checker lily (Fritillaria affinis), yarrow (Achillea millefolium), columbine (Aquilegia formosa), and sticky cinquefoil (Drymocallis glandulosa).

“Every spring, there’s a pretty spectacular display of seep monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus) and chickweed monkeyflower (Erythranthe alsinoides) on the cliff faces,” Bartlet said.

Just watch out for the equally-bountiful poison oak along the roadway, she warned; wait to reach the lake before getting out to enjoy the scenery, or extend your trip by following trails from the Dry Creek, Mt. Rose or Mt. Ellinor trailheads.

Three Peaks Botanical Area, located in the upper Wynoochee River watershed along Forest Service Rd. 2270, is another top spot for wildflowers on the Olympic Peninsula.

The area was designated as a botanical area to protect ancient stands of Alaska yellow cedar (Callitropsis nootkatensis), but is also home to wet meadows that support a particularly diverse mix of species, such as the yellow-flowered sedge (Carex anthoxanthea) and northern Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia palustris), Bartlet said.

Yellow, red and blue wildflowers in a grassy field.

An array of primary colors make this grouping of wildflowers stand out at Starvation Ridge, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in this undated USDA Forest Service photo.

Other species include elephant’s head (Pedicularis groenlandica), pale larkspur (Delphinium glaucum), sticky false asphodel (Tofieldia glutinosa), arrowleaf groundsel (Senicio triangularis), Canadian burnet (Sanguisorba canadensis), marsh violet (Viola palustris), broad-leaved Caltha (Caltha biflora), leatherleaf saxifrage (Leptarrhena pyrolifolia) and yellow willowherb (Epilobium luteum).

Visitors may even catch a glimpse of Bartlet’s favorite flower, the common butterwort; a small plant, with a purple flower rising from a bundle of yellow-green leaves and one of the Pacific Northwest’s few native carnivorous plants.

The leaves secrete a digestive enzyme that slowly dissolves small insects, and it’s scientific name, Pinguicula vulgaris, means “greasy little fat one.”

“What’s not to love?” Bartlet said.

For earlier blooms, Patrick Lair, public affairs officer for the Ochoco National Forest, suggests visiting the Big Summit Prairie, near Prineville, Ore.

Wildflowers on Big Summit Prairie

Wildflowers abound on Big Summit Prairie, Ochoco National Forest, in this undated USDA Forest Service photo.

As early as April, visitors can find pink desert shooting stars (Dodecatheon conjugens) and lavender grass widow flowers (Olsynium douglasii).

In May and June, yellow wooley mule’s ears (Wyethia mollis) and purple camas flowers (Camassia quamash) begin to bloom in the fields, while pink and white bitterroot blossoms (Lewisia rediviva) emerge on the dry, rocky flats.

In June and July, look for western blue flag (Iris missouriensis), coastal larkspur (Delphinium decorum), giant red paintbrush (Castilleja miniata), Oregon checkermallow (Sidalcea oregana), and arrow-leaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata), and Peck’s mariposa lily (Calochortus longebarbatus var. peckii) – a delicate blossom with round, blue-lavender petals that grows only in the Ochoco Mountains.

Fireweed bush grows on a rocky ridge above a lake

A cluster of fireweed grows on Harry’s Ridge, above Spirit Lake, at Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument in an undated USDA Forest Service photo.

For a longer drive, the forest’s Paulina District created a “Scabland Tour” that maps an all-day trek through several forest habitats. The route includes juniper and pine forest, wet meadows, and rocky scabland, views of the Snow Mountains, and a spectacular array of wildflowers, including Arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamhoriza sagittata), mule-ears (Wyethia amplexicaulis), Sagebrush mariposa lily (Calochortus macrocarpus), lupine, and tapertip onion (Allium acuminatum).

In southwest Oregon, the T.J. Howell Botanical Drive through Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest offers several vantage points for viewing wildflowers and unusual plants, including Eight Dollar Mountain Botanical Wayside, Days Gulch Botanical Area, Josephine Camp, and Little Falls Trail.

Howell’s saxifrage (Micranthes howellii) and Howell’s mariposa lily (Calochortus Howellii) can be seen at various locations. Both named for Thomas Jefferson Howell, one of the state’s earliest botanists.

Another of the Northwest’s few carnivorous species, the California pitcher plant (Daringtonia californica), is found in wetland areas.

The forest’s Rough and Ready Flat Botanical Area is another area known for unusual plants, including several rare, threatened and endangered species.

Three Fingered Jack rock formation with flowers in the foreground

Wildflowers pepper the field beneath Three Finger Jack at Canyon Creek, Deschutes National Forest in an undated USDA Forest Service photo.

McDonald’s rock-cress (Arabis macdonaldiana), a federally listed endangered species, Hooker’s Indian-pink (Silene hookerii), and the two-eyed violet (Viola ocellata) are among the more unusual blooms, and appear alongside more common species like nodding arnica (Arnica cordifolia), coast larkspur (delphinium decorum), and western buttercup (Ranunculus occidentalis). Flowers begin to emerge in March, with peak blooms in later April through May.

Further north, the Sauk Mountain day hike on Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest offers 1500 feet of elevation gain over two miles, with sweeping views of sub-alpine meadows, North Cascades mountain peaks, and the Skagit River valley.

Trailhead parking tends to fill up on weekends during peak wildflower season, so mid-week hikes are recommended. The mountain’s wildflower season is typically peaks in late July.

Wildflowers skirt the shore of Crescent Lake

Wildflowers skirt the shore of Crescent Lake on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in this undated USDA Forest Service photo.

And although Heather Meadows is better known as home to Mount Baker ski area, forest staff  say it’s also an excellent setting for wildflower hikes in late July, when the snow pack briefly recedes.

The Fire and Ice interpretive trail includes a 100 yard, accessible paved path with seating and an overlook, while Artist Ridge trail is a one mile loop featuring fields of Alaska bell-heather (Harrimanella stelleriana) and species like Avalanche Lilies (Erythronium montanum), broad-leaf lupine (Lupinus latifolius) and spreading phlox (Phlox diffusa).

The Bagley Lakes trail features a 3/4 mile path, with waterfalls and wildflowers along the route.

Green Mountain, accessible via Suiattle River Rd. (Forest Service Rd. 26) off State Route 530, is another popular hike on the forest. Its wildflower season peaks in mid to late July, and is best visited mid-week to avoid crowds.

Wildflowers along Kettle Crest trail

Wildflowers grow along the Kettle Crest Trail, Colville National Forest in an undated USDA Forest Service photo.

In northeast Washington, the 44-mile Kettle Crest – South trail, part of the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail on the Colville National Forest, offers numerous opportunities for wildflower seekers, as it follows the ridgeline over multiple peaks. One highlight is the White Mountain trailhead, located 30 miles outside Colville, Wash.

Kettle Crest – North also features numerous mountaintop meadows along the route.

For non-hikers, the portion of State Route 20 from Usk to Cusick, Wash., near Colville National Forest, features plentiful flowers along the roadway in mid-to-late May. The route is paved and passable by passenger vehicles.

If you have a vehicle capable of driving off-road (pick-up truck or SUV), consider entering the forest via Iron Mountain Rd. (Forest Service Rd. 9535) outside Addy, Wash. in late May or early June. Look for a rocky outcrop about 1 mile southwest of the junction with Forest Service Rd. 300, for “a stupendous view of the Colville Valley, north and south,” Franklin Pemberton, the forests’ public affairs officer, said.

Highlights include prairie stars (Lithophragma parviflora), desert parsley and biscuitroot species (Lomatium sp.), and shooting stars (Dodecatheon hendersonii), plus “a few surprises,” he said.

But while flowers are a great way to get people excited about the outdoors, regional botanist Skinner believes sometimes people focus too much on timing trips in search of peak blooms, and overlook the flowers blooming all around them, every day.

Glide Wildflower Show; April 28-29, 2018 in Glide, OR. Suggested donation is $3.

The Glide Wildflower Show is April 28-29 in Glide, Ore.

“We have one of the outstanding floras of the world, with plant diversity being especially rich. We’ve got hundreds of species found nowhere else, and some of the most spectacular forests in the world. It’s a fantastic place for plants.” Skinner said.

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One place visitors are guaranteed to see plenty of wildflowers is at the Glide Wildflower Show, April 28 and 29, at the Glide Community Center in Glide, Ore. Forest Service botanists will be among those helping identify more than 600 flowering plants gathered from local forests and fields by volunteers for display! Find news about the exhibition and related events on the show’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Glide-Wildflower-Show-377053879003054/

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