Monthly Archives: September 2018

A walk on the wild side: Exploring the forest with your dog

A German Shepard poses against the view after a hike to a mountain ridge.

It’s a bright cool morning when a hiker arrives at the trailhead with great anticipation. The trail ahead is lined with huge trees towering over the cerulean sky. The only thing that could possibly make the experience better, for many recreation users, is to have their canine best friend along for the adventure.

Dogs are welcome in most areas throughout our National Forests, but there are some simple guidelines we ask dog owners to follow to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all who use these great public resources, including their furry friends.

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The underlying rule for people bringing their dogs into “developed recreation” sites — that means areas designated as trail heads, campgrounds, parking lots, interpretive trails, visitor centers, and so on — is that dogs need to be a leash six feet in length or shorter, or restrained in some other way, such as a crate or carrying case.

In most other forest areas— including areas of trails beyond the trailhead or outside a developed recreation area — there are typically no leash requirements.

That doesn’t mean owners are relieved of responsibility for their animal, or that an off-leash walk is recommended, or even safe for your dog.

“Know your dog, but also recognize that the changed environment can impact your dog in different ways. You can’t control the environment or the possible sensory stimulation your dog may experience on the trail,” Tanya Roberts, Manager of Training and Behavior at Oregon Humane Society, said. “It’s always best to keep your dog on a leash when you’re on an unfamiliar trail.”

Some campers aren’t dog lovers; they may have phobias or allergies that prevent them from being happy to meet an unrestrained pet.

“Learn as much about trails and campgrounds as you can before you bring your dog. Steep terrain, narrow trails, steel mesh bridges, and log climbs can make the hike very difficult for your dog,” Roberts said.

When hiking, uncontrolled dogs may wander off a path and encounter wildlife, with disastrous results for the animal or themselves.

Some dogs have little fear of heights; in areas with cliffs, gulches, canyons, caves, or big rocks, they may slip under railings or over a steep drop and get hurt — or worse.

Another way to protect your pet: Before heading outdoors, ensure all vaccinations are up-to-date and make sure you’re using flea and tick control. Make sure dogs are both wearing identification tags on their collar and are microchipped, in case they get lost. Bringing a recent photo is also good idea, so you can show it to others campers or a rangers if your dog does go missing.

In some forests, you may encounter areas that restrict access to domesticated animals outside of developed recreation sites. These restrictions may be in place to protect watershed health, municipal water systems, sensitive plant species, or other natural resources that could be damaged. For example, restrictions are in place on some parts of the Deschutes National Forest to protect the City of Bend’s municipal water supply.

“Bottom line, it comes down to being respectful to others, wildlife, and keeping your dog safe,” Logan Free, the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s developed recreation program manager, said.

Free is an avid hiker and dog owner, and enjoys helping others enjoy the outdoors successfully with their dogs.

Yielding on trails is a common friction point among recreation users, he said.

“A basic etiquette rule I’ve heard is ‘Wheels yield to heels,’ where bikers and OHVers yield to all other users, while hikers yield to horseback riders,” Free said. “Restrain your dog when others try passing and yield to others, as you don’t know if other hikers would enjoy Fluffy jumping up to greet them.”

Keeping your leashed on trails is recommended, even if it’s not required, Roberts said.

Maintaining a safe distance between your dog and other trail users, including those on bikes or horseback, protects not only other users but also your pet.

“It’s just not worth the risk of having your dog off leash. It could become a life or death situation if your dog runs around a corner on a trail and startles a horse. This can be very dangerous both for your dog and for the horseback rider,” she said.

While some dog owners are confident allowing their dog to roam off-leash because their pet is trained to follow voice commands, even well-trained dogs can behave unpredictably — especially in an unfamiliar area, Roberts said.

“Some people are concerned that their dogs won’t get as much exercise if they stay on a leash, but usually with all the new sensory input, dogs will come home very tired anyway,” she said.

Another source of human-dog conflicts are areas around developed recreation sites. Even leashed, a dog’s presence can interfere with activities like bird watching. Barking is also a common source of friction between dog owners and other visitors.

“The National Forests are for everyone to enjoy. If people encounter dogs that are interfering with their ability to enjoy public lands, a polite conversation with the dog owner is a good first step, if the issue isn’t serious or threatening; followed by a call to your local ranger district office if the problems persist, and a call to law enforcement if the dog is aggressive,” Free said.

If you encounter other dog owners, remember that they also may prefer your dog be leashed around their pet, Roberts said.

“There may be lots of possible reasons. Maybe a dog is recovering from surgery, and having other dogs jump on them could do real damage,” Roberts said.

And sometimes, the best way to ensure your dog enjoys your time outdoors is to leave them at home.

Before taking your dog on a hike, take the weather, and the distance and terrain into account, Roberts said.

“Watch out for heat,” she said. “Put your hand down on the terrain: if it’s uncomfortable for you to put down pressure on the ground because of heat or sharp terrain, it will probably also be for your dog.”

If your dog is younger, older, or hasn’t hiked before, start with shorter hikes so dogs can get familiar with the environment, strengthen supporting muscles, and toughen up the pads on their feet.

“Get your dogs’ heart checked by a veterinarian before attempting any hiking. Carry a first aid kit, especially if you have a big dog who you won’t be able to carry back to your car. With elderly dogs, it’s especially important that you know what the dog will encounter along the trail and how difficult it will be,” Roberts said.

For pet safety tips, first-aid, and more information about responsible recreation with dogs on National Forests, check out the FAQ at https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5351574.pdf.

Before your visit, contact the local Ranger district office for specific local considerations or recommendations.

And don’t forget to scoop your dog’s poop! “Leave no trace” should be your goal for pets (and people, too). Dog feces can take months to decompose, and may carry diseases and parasites that are dangerous to wildlife and contaminate water that humans rely on, as well.

“It’s lovely to see people being respectful and being aware of how their dogs may be impacting others around them,” Roberts said. “We need to encourage people to do things right.”


Source Information: Chris Bentley is the Website and Social Media Manager for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s Office of Communications and Community Engagement. He doesn’t have a dog… yet.

An icon, gone: Saying goodbye to the South Selkirk caribou herd

A mountain woodland caribou bull, in a snowy forest

An iconic Pacific Northwest species’ declining numbers has resulted in its quiet withdrawal from its last remaining historical habitat in the United States.

According to researchers, the Selkirk herd of woodland caribou, which lingered as one of the most threatened species in the U.S. for decades, has all but disbanded. After a harsh winter that disrupted a last-ditch recovery effort, just three female caribou remain.

The last-remaining herd of woodland caribou in the U.S. ranged from north-eastern portions of Colville National Forest in Washington State and lower British Columbia. The herd struggled for years, challenged by everything from habitat loss and freeway development to predators and even snowmobiles in its south.

A taxidermy caribou head and antlers

The antlers from one of the last South Selkirk mountain caribou were recovered after the animal was injured by a vehicle strike on Canada’s Highway 3, and subsequently killed by an unknown predator (bear or wolf). They are displayed in the Kalispel Tribe of Indians Dept. of Natural Resources office, The herd was stabilized at around 50 individuals for more than a decade, but declined sharply from 47 in 2008 to just 11 by 2017. As of spring 2018, only three caribou from the herd remain, all female.

In recent years, state, and federal agencies and their Canadian counterparts began working with the Kalispell Tribe of Indians and Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, and private organizations launched an ambitious plan they hoped would help the herd restore its rapidly diminishing numbers; building an enclosure to house pregnant female caribou each winter to protect them and their offspring from human harassment and predators, during the winter months.

Volunteers spent months collecting and drying hundreds of pounds of lichen, the caribou’s preferred winter food.

As winter approached in late 2017, they were ready.

And then, record-breaking snowfall buried the fence. The caribou left the pen, and rejoined their herd. Before the season, there were just nine caribou were counted in the preceding census. The following spring, surveyors found only three – all females. A bit later, they confirmed that none of the tree were pregnant.

The caribou herd’s ability to replace itself naturally was gone; and with it, the Selkirk herd’s future is in doubt.

“We mourned, we all had a period of grieving. We were distraught,” Ray Entz, Director of Wildlife and Terrestrial Resources for the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, said. But all is not lost, he said. “We see this as an opportunity to redouble our efforts, to get it right.”

The mountain-dwelling woodland caribou is not extinct. But the numbers don’t look good. A few dozen more herds exist, all in Canada. They too are in rapid decline; their total number is estimated at fewer than 1,400, down from 1,900 just ten years earlier.

Why did the caribou’s begin to disappear? Over-hunting in the early 20th century is believed to have caused steep losses. But habitat fragmentation from other human-influenced activities may have further complicated the species’ ability to recover.

As development, logging or fire broke up larger swaths of forest, deer populations may have grown – attracting predators and increasing their numbers, who found the caribou to be easy prey.

Mike Borysewicz, a wildlife biologist, at his office on the Colville National Forest,

Mike Borysewicz, a wildlife biologist for the Colville National Forest, has worked on caribou protection and monitoring for years. The South Selkirk herd, the last remaining woodland mountain caribou in the U.S. which ranged in British Columbia and the forest’s Salmo Priest Wilderness, is now considered “functionally extinct” in the U.S. with just three female caribou remaining in the herd as of mid-2018. The caribou remain endangered in Canada, where about 1400 caribou are thought to remain.

On the Colville National Forest, forest rangers distributed pamphlets, advising snowmobilers to look out for caribou tracks when riding off-road to avoid stressing caribou and prompting them to run, or even to abandon a ridge entirely after repeated encounters.

The forest, especially the Salmo Priest Wilderness, was actually a sanctuary for the herd, Mike Borysewicz, a wildlife biologist for the Colville National Forest, said.

“Most of the habitat on the U.S. side is … at elevations above 4,000 feet, on wilderness or National Park land,” Borysewicz said. “Essentially, what that’s meant is that the timber stands that were suitable for caribou haven’t been disturbed.”

In Canada, British Columbia wildlife managers launched an aggressive lethal removal program to protect the South Selkirk, and other caribou herds, from wolves.

But the South Selkirk herd was especially vulnerable to losses. It’s range is separated from other herds; by roads, by development and logging. It’s own range is also divided, by Highway 3 – one of Canada’s busiest cross-continental highways.

In early 2009, when the herd’s numbers hovered around 45 animals, three caribou died in traffic collisions on the busy east-west route. Several more were killed in a single collision with a semi-truck.

When the herd’s numbers dwindled to less than two dozen, wildlife managers began discussing the possibility of augmenting the herd with caribou from other parts of Canada.

An earlier effort to relocate caribou from healthier herds to augment the South Selkirk population, shortly after the species was listed for U.S. Endangered Species Act protection in the 1980s, was not successful.

“We’ve learned a lot since then,” Borysewicz said.

Those earlier transplants were introduced to the Selkirk mountains via a “cold release” released into the herd’s traditional range. Without members of the herd on hand to lead them to forage, the newcomers wandered away from the protection of the herd – taking their potential contributions in numbers and reproductive potential with them.

Today, wildlife managers would conduct a “warm release” that introduces newcomers to the herd in a more controlled manner, giving them the opportunity to be fully integrated into the group before being released from, he said.

But first, the coalition of organizations working to save the herd had focused their attention the other side of the equation – stabilizing the number of pregnant females and calves.

In 2008, the Nature Conservancy of Canada acquired the Darkwoods Conservation Area, a wilderness reserve deep in the heart of the herd’s winter range.

The organization began working with natural resources managers for the Kalispel Tribe in Washington State and the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho to build a maternal pen for the herd.

IMG_1091“That’s kind of why we (the tribal agencies), are in the middle of this. It’s easier working across the international boundary,” Entz said. “It’s going to take all of us.

He and Bart George, the Kalispel Tribe’s lead wildlife biologist, helped supervise construction of a “maternal pen,” 19 acres of walled-off wilderness on the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s land.

The tactic has been used elsewhere to support declining caribou populations by protecting reproductively-active females and their young. Pregnant caribou and their newborns were especially likely to fall prey to predators, because the cows leave their herd until they’ve calved.

A USDA Forest Service regional cost-share grant helped pay for the pen’s construction.

Hundreds of volunteers worked with the Selkirk Conservation Alliance to collect and dry nearly 300 pounds of “Old Man’s Beard,” a soft, airy lichen resembling Spanish moss that makes up the caribou’s preferred winter diet.

In 2017, the first caribou were netted by helicopter and released into the pen for what was to be the first of a three-year trial.

Then, it snowed.

“We had double the average snowfall in that part of the Colville. You just can’t plan for that,” Borysewicz said.

First, the shelter provided to house guards who would watch over the penned cows, collapsed under the weight of the snow. The guards were forced to abandon their post for the season.

The snow kept falling.

It piled in drifts so tall the caribou, with their snowshoe-like hoofs, eventually would have needed only to step over the 15-foot tall fence to slip back into the forest.

No one knows what happened, after that.

Maybe animal predators, stressed by the deep snowfall, exacted taken an unusually high toll on the herd that year.

Accidents or poaching could have taken some members from the herd.

Or perhaps, the deep snows that typically offered the caribou their best protection from danger were what betrayed them, burying them in an avalanche, somewhere where their bones may never be found.

For the communities and agencies, organizations and individuals who had banded together to save the South Selkirk Herd was as devastating, if not entirely unexpected.

“They were an accessible and readily available food source when times were tough, and caribou sustained plenty of people in valley because they were readily available. Part of the problem we have now is they are so readily hunted, by predators and people,” Entz said.

Now, the herd’s future is uncertain.

It seems likely some caribou will eventually be relocated – either new animals will be brought to the Selkirk mountains and introduced to the remaining three members in hopes of reviving the herd, or the remaining Selkirk caribou will be joined with another struggling herd in hopes of bolstering its numbers.

A mountain woodland caribou bull, in a snowy forest

A mountain woodland caribou bull. US Fish and Wildlife photo.

Biologists have fitted them with radio collars this spring to track their movements, and are hopeful the remaining caribou’s movements could lead them to an answer about what happened to the rest.

While the future for the South Selkirk herd is grim, those involved in the recovery attempt said their efforts were not wasted.

“The lichen will keep for a while, that effort is not a lost cause. Once it’s dried and stored, it has a long shelf life,” Mike Lithgow, Director of  Information and Outreach for Kalispel Tribe’s Dept. of Natural Resources, said.

With recovery, there’s hope that one day, caribou will once again venture south to the Colville National Forest and the Salmo Priest Wilderness as long as the habitat remains in place to receive them.

“This is not the end, it’s the beginning of a new fight,” he said.

Entz said he’s more than more than hopeful there’s still a future for the mountain caribou, whether in the South Selkirk mountains or beyond them.

“We aren’t going quietly into the night. We’re going down fighting,” he said “They took care of the tribe when it needed them. Now it’s our turn to take care of them.”


Source information: Catherine “Cat” Caruso is the strategic communication lead for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s Office of Communications and Community Engagement, and edits the “Your Northwest Forests” blog. You can reach her at ccaruso@fs.fed.us.

Baker Lake “Road to Trail” opens for public comment

A narrow, woodland trail.

SEDRO WOOLEY, Wash. – September 19, 2018 – The USDA Forest Service, Mount Baker Ranger District is initiating public scoping on the Baker Lake “Road to Trail” project, a proposed project within the Upper Baker Lake Watershed.

The agency is evaluating alternative trail locations to maintain access to the Baker River trail and Baker Lake trail along the Baker River while ensuring natural river and floodplain processes are protected and that future trail infrastructure investments are less likely to be lost or damaged due to periodic flooding.

The river has damaged the Baker Lake Road a number of times in the past; currently there is a damaged section of road prior to the trailhead’s parking area. This effort will determine which trail relocation alternative provides the greatest certainty for long term recreation access, which also maintains or restores river and floodplain processes in addition to being economically feasible now and into the future.

In an effort to reduce paper use, the Forest will emphasize electronic correspondence throughout this project. Please include with your comment: 1) a valid e-mail or mailing address, and 2) your document format preference. The project website will be the primary avenue through which the Forest Service provides information about the project. That website is: www.fs.usda.gov/goto/mbs/projects, under the heading “Baker Lake Road to Trail Project.”

Electronic comments are preferred. Email comments to: comments-pacificnorthwest-mtbaker-snoqualmie-mtbaker@fs.fed.us with the subject line, “Baker Lake Road to Trail Project.” Include your comment in the text of the actual e-mail message, or attach a plain text (.txt), rich text format (.rtf), PDF (.pdf), or Word (.doc or .docx) file containing your comment to the email.

Written comments can be mailed or delivered in person to the Mt. Baker District Ranger office:

Mt. Baker District Ranger Office
(attn: Erin Uloth, District Ranger)
810 State Route 20
Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284-1263

If you prefer paper copies of project documents, or for more information regarding the project, please contact Jeremy Gilman, Project Team Leader, at (360) 854-2633 or jmgilman@fs.fed.us.


Source information: Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest staff report. The press release is available at https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/mbs/news-events/?cid=FSEPRD596225.

Fighting fires with fire: Prescribed fires restore healthy balance in forests

A firefighter with a radio monitors walks through brush in an area being treated by prescribed fire

As another hot, dry summer of fighting wildland fires winds down, National Forests and other Pacific Northwest land managers have begun to turn their attention to prescribed fires, or fires intentionally set to perform ecological work on the landscape.

Fire is an essential, natural process, having shaped the landscape for thousands of years, releasing, and recycling nutrients from vegetation, duff, and soil layers, improving the overall health of plants and animals.

In the Pacific Northwest, forests evolved to experience periodic fires that can thin overgrowth on the forest floor and make space for larger, healthier trees. On forests and grasslands, some invasive species may prove vulnerable to fires, while some native species actually require fire to release or germinate seeds.

“Prescribed fire is the right fire, in the right place, for the right reasons,” Rob Allen, fire staff officer for the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest said. “It’s a proactive step- a choice to put fire to work for our communities and forests rather than just fight against it year after year.”

A stand of trees previously treated with prescribed fire.

After a prescribed fire on the Ochoco National Forest, Oregon, mature trees enjoy healthier spacing, while charred wood from dead trees provides wildlife habitat and fast-growing grasses and low-growing vegetation removed by quickly return to the area. USDA Forest Service photo.

Land managers have increasingly embraced prescribed fire as a management tool in recent years, as research began to point to an increasing number of larger, hotter “mega-fires” in the region that are believed to be fueled, in part, by a century of fire management decisions encouraging suppression of all fires — including the smaller, lower intensity fires, such as those set naturally by lightning during the cooler, wetter months.

Paul Hessburg, a scientist for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station estimates prescribed fires (and management of suitable natural fires) need to occur at six times recent rates to restore the “historical fire regime” to forests in Washington and Oregon.

In Central Washington, firefighters from seven agencies across the state will manage prescribed fires across central Washington, including the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, as part of a formal training exchange (TREX). Sponsored by the Fire Learning Network, TREX provides a unique opportunity for fire personnel from across the region to learn about prescribed fire and forest health across agency boundaries. Land managers from multiple agencies plan to burn up to 950 acres during the two-week TREX, and up to 5300 acres across the eastern Cascades this summer.

A low-intensity prescribed fire burns grass and brush while leaving larger trees intact.

A prescribed fire burns “low and slow” across an area on the Colville National Forest, Washington. Large, healthy trees with thicker bark may lose lower branches, but typically survive low-intensity fire, while smaller trees, brush, and diseased trees are typically burned away. Some native Pacific Northwest tress, grasses and wildflowers trees depend on fire to propagate, or have fire-resistant seeds that thrive in spaces where fires have cleared competing non-native species and seeds. USDA Forest Service photo.

On the Malheur National Forest in northeast Oregon, land managers have announced plans to burn parcels ranging from 150 to 4,000 acres, as weather permits, this fall.

On the Siuslaw National Forest, located on the central Oregon Coast, firefighters will burn “slash,” piles of debris and limbs that have accumulated throughout the year from timber sales and large scale restoration projects, to reduce the risk of these debris becoming fuel for wildland fires. All burning will be administered and overseen by trained firefighting personnel.

“This is the ideal time,” Dan Eddy, Siuslaw National Forest deputy fire staff officer, said. “The ground is damp from recent rains making it an effective way to remove non-merchantable wood debris before it can become a hazardous fuel in the dry summer months.”

Firefighters will also conduct prescribed burns in the Drift Creek area, (6 miles east of Waldport), and off Forest Service Road 52 in the Tidewater area (12 miles east of Waldport), on the Siuslaw National Forest.

Safety and smoke are the two concerns most people raise when they hear about plans for prescribed fires in their community.

That’s understandable, Allen said. “Clean air matters to all of us.”

A firefighter uses a drip torch to set fire to brush

A firefighter uses a drip torch to set fire to brush during a prescribed burn on the Klamath Ranger District on the Fremont-Winema National Forest, Oregon April 26, 2013. USDA Forest Service photo

Each prescribed fire represents many weeks of planning and preparation. Prescribed fires are managed using techniques that reduce fire intensity and smoke, such as careful site selection and attention to air and ground moisture,  atmospheric pressure, and wind.

Because firefighters choose the place, time, and conditions under which prescribed fires occur, they typically have much less impact on the surrounding community than wildland fires that aren’t planned.

Over time, land managers believe having more prescribed fires will reduce the amount of smoke experienced by communities, by preventing or limiting the size and intensity of wildland fires that occur on previously burned acreage.

More information:

Learn more about why fire on is needed on Pacific Northwest landscapes – and how prescribed fires can help in –  at https://www.north40productions.com/eom-home/.

Preparedness, helicopter crew rescue family from wildland fire

A Forest Service helitack crew prepares to evacuate a family trapped by the Crescent Mountain fire at Louis Lake on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Wash., Aug. 1, 2018. Courtesy photo by Justin Gerard.

Disaster can strike out of the blue in the backcountry. And when it does, preparation can make the difference between life or death.

Justin Gerard experienced that first hand during the Crescent Mountain fire on the Okanagon-Wenatchee National Forest last month.

Gerard said he and his family they won’t soon forget the experience – or their dramatic rescue by a Forest Service helitack (helicopter, fire attack) team.

The Crescent Mountain fire was one of several fires set by a lightning storm on July 29, 2018. The fire was small – less than 10 acres – when the Gerard family set out for Louis Lake on July 31st.

But overnight, conditions changed, producing extreme fire behavior; the fires grew 18 times their size in less than 24 hours.

On Aug. 1, the Gerards were hiking back from their overnight trip to the lake when they realized a smoke column that had been visible over the distant hills was suddenly much closer, and blocking the trail ahead. The family found themselves five miles from safety, surrounded by steep terrain, and with no easy path to escape.

After the fire, the fire’s Incident Command team determined the fire had moved down the mountain and across the trail they were hiking on in less than 40 minutes; too fast for anyone to outrun, especially a family with children and pets. In the days following their rescue, the fire continued to expand, sometimes by more than 4000 acres per day.

Fortunately, the Gerards were well-prepared for a trip to the backcountry. That advance preparation helped the family of six – and their three dogs – escape, without injuries.

But Gerard said he also has some “lessons learned” from the experience that will better prepare him for the possibility of wildland fires and other emergencies during his next wilderness trip.

Question: When you planned your trip, were you aware that there was fire activity in the area?

Answer: “I wasn’t aware in the beginning. Typically we don’t hike in August because of the fires, but we had been trying to hike to Louis Lake for a while. I called the Ranger District before leaving. They informed me about fire activity in the area, but there were no closures for the Lake Louise trail. At that time I think the fires were about 10 acres and had firefighters on them. When we arrived to start our trip there was no smoke that would indicate a fire was close by.”

Q: How do you prepare for outdoor trips?  When did you start using a satellite messenger device and do you utilize it regularly?

A: “I have four kids, ranging from age 8 to 18. We decided about three years ago to purchase the device. We thought it was a good thing to have in case of emergencies when out in the woods. Typically, I tell my parents where we are going, what our timelines are, and where we plan to camp. We give an “OK” signal when we start and send out an “OK” when we stop for the night. Sometimes I’ll use the tracking feature. My family and friends can go on the share page and track our movement. I have it programmed to send an alert signal if we haven’t moved in over four hours.”

“Hiking gear can be expensive. When you look at the cost involved of having an emergency beacon, it is relatively inexpensive compared to the peace of mind it brings and safety it provides for your family. It is a good thing to have especially if you are out by yourself.”

“All the kids know how to operate the device, and we always keep it in the same location on my pack. We talk about emergency scenarios with our family so everyone knows their role in case something goes wrong. The more you can prepare yourself for situations in the backcountry, the better you will be. In this case, I learned it is good to have a signal mirror.”  

Q: Tell me about what was going through your mind when you realized you and your family were in a dangerous situation?

“We had a great day at the lake fishing and swimming. We got up the next day and had breakfast. I spent the morning tapping up my children’s feet because they were breaking in new boots. We were planning to head out that day. Once we were heading down the trail I looked up and spotted the smoke column. I couldn’t tell how far away the fire was, but knew the wind was blowing in our direction. At that point we decided to turn around. I tried to keep everyone calm. We came up with a plan to return to the scree field.”

“Because we had moved locations and were unsure if the SOS signal was sending our new location, we decided to hit the button again — not realizing that our current location was already being sent. Hitting the button a second time canceled our emergency alert. Fortunately, my emergency contact went to the incident and alerted Forest Service officials that something was wrong.”

“I’ve spoken to numerous people that have SPOT devices (a brand name of emergency locator and messaging devices) and not many of them knew if you press the SOS a second time it cancels your emergency alert. This is very important to know.”

Q: What was it like to interact with firefighters from the helitack crew?

“They were wonderful. Top-notch professionals. They were calm and communicated very clearly with a great attitude. They did their job very well. They offered us food and water. They kept the kids calm while providing good instructions on what we needed to do.”

“There were some conversations about if we would be able to bring the dogs on the helicopter. The crew went above and beyond to allow us to bring our dogs. We were very grateful and appreciative that they trusted us enough to control the dogs on the flight. I would have understood if we had to leave the dogs. We left it up to them to decide. They did a great job being straight-forward during this difficult time.” 

Q: What is your advice to others that plan to recreate in remote locations?

“Even if you have a SPOT device, if there is any way to leave additional information for your emergency contacts it will help you out. Leave specific information about your party, medical information, where you are going, and when you will be out. This will help search and rescue find you faster. Just because you hit the SOS button doesn’t mean a helicopter rescue will come right away. You still need to be prepared mentally and have contingency plans to keep yourself safe.”

“Make sure you know where you are going. Call ahead to the Ranger District. Understand if you hike in dry months you need to have situational awareness. There can be lightning storms that quickly ignite fires. Hike at another time when fire danger is lower. We broke our rule of not hiking in August and we got caught.”

While Type 3 firefighting helicopters and crew aren’t normally utilized for rescue operations on incidents, federal employees have flexibility to deviate from SOPs when human lives are at stake.

 “We’re grateful that the decision was made to utilize the helicopter to get us out,” Gerard said. “People that have the ability to think on their feet and the experience to make sound decisions were vital to helping us. They took a risk for us and we think they should be recognized for their efforts.”

What went right?

  • The Gerards were aware that it is fire season. They checked fire weather and with a Ranger station, to help them make a decision about whether it was OK to hike. They knew the area and were able to quickly make a new plan and escape to safer terrain.
  • The 10 essentials. The family was well prepared for a backcountry trip, including warm, dry clothing, food, and camping gear, in case they’d had to shelter in place overnight. They also carried an emergency locator, which all family members were trained to operate.
  • The family had trip plan and a designated emergency contact who followed their progress, and was prepared to seek help.

What went wrong?

  • Conditions can change quickly – in this case, overnight. While you can’t plan for everything, consider the worst-case scenario before deciding how much risk you are prepared to tolerate.

Lessons learned?

  • Know your gear. Although the Gerards were careful to ensure all family members were trained to send a distress signal using their emergency beacon, they inadvertently cancelled their first distress call when they tried to send a second request after changing their location. Justin Gerard said he is reaching out to friends who rely on similar devices to share his lessons learned in case they ever find themselves in a similar situation.

Source information: Evan Burks, White Mountain National Forest (on fire assignment in support of the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region Fire & Aviation office). Photos provided by Justin Gerard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every Kid in a Park: Free forest passes for 4th graders & their families

A group of children on a plain of lava rock examine a sign about volcanic eruptions as a Forest Service employee explains the history of the area.

PORTLAND, Ore. –  September 20, 2018 – It’s back to school time! And with the start of the new school year, it’s also time for all fourth graders and their families to claim their free Every Kid in a Park pass, which allows free entry into all federal parks, forests, and recreation areas for a full year.

Starting September 1st, fourth graders can print out a paper voucher for free entry into all federal lands by visiting the Every Kid in a Park website at www.everykidinapark.gov.

Students and their families can also redeem their paper voucher for a plastic pass at any Forest Service customer service location (such as Ranger District offices and visitors centers) where passes and permits are sold. For office locations, visit www.fs.usda.gov/r6/.

The voucher and passes are valid for the entire school year, September 1, 2018-August 31, 2019.

The Forest Service is partnering with schools and educators across Oregon and Washington to plan Every Kid in a Park events in local communities and distribute passes at back-to-school events this fall. For more information on upcoming Every Kid in a Park events, contact your local forest.

Teachers or adults who engage fourth-graders through a youth-serving organization can find more resources, print paper passes for students, and find activities and lesson plans, at www.everykidinapark.gov/get-your-pass/educator.

About the Every Kid in a Park program:

Today, more than 80 percent of American families live in urban areas, and many lack easy access to safe outdoor spaces. At the same time, kids are spending more hours than ever in front of screens instead of outside.

The Every Kid in a Park initiative encourages valuable opportunities to explore, learn, and play in the spectacular places that belong to us all and aims to inspire future generations to serve as stewards of these places.

Research shows that children ages 9-11 are at a unique developmental stage in their learning where they begin to understand how the world around them works in more concrete ways.

By targeting fourth graders, the program works to ensure every child in the U.S. has the opportunity to visit and enjoy their public lands by the time he or she is 11 years old.

For more information, visit www.everykidinapark.gov.

More information:

Press releases: english | español | русский

Frequently Asked Questions: english | español | русский


Source information: The USDA Forest Service – 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 U.S. Forest Service in the Pacific Northwest, and to find passes & permit information, please visit www.fs.usda.gov/r6.

Field Notes: 自然に触れる大切さ (The Significance of Nature)

A man and woman pose holding pine cones.

Jay Hideki Horita is a resource assistant in the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s Office of Communications and Community Engagement. In this “Field Note,” he shares his first week on the job, which he spent working with a pair of Japanese Exchange students volunteering at the region’s Portland, Ore. office.

“As a new Resource Assistant with the Northwest Youth Corps and the U.S. Forest Service, I knew much of my job as a Youth & Community Engagement Specialist would be to act as a liaison between the Forest Service and improve information and access to the agency’s services for under-served communities in Oregon and Washington.

“I didn’t know that this would mean using my experience as a Japanese-American who is fluent in Japanese in my first week on the job!

“As a participant in the Resource Assistants Program, folks like me have an internship of at least six months, after which we have a shot at becoming a permanent employee of the Forest Service. It’s one of the ways the Forest Service is trying to attract a younger and more diverse workforce.

“Recently, the Forest Service hosted two volunteers from Musashino University 武蔵野大学at the agency’s Regional Office in downtown Portland. The students were studying in the U.S. as part as an exchange program, and required to complete a volunteer service project while they were here.

“My first assignment, as a recent graduate – more importantly, Japanese-language speaker, was to guide our new volunteers during their time with us in Portland.

“During job interviews in Japan, one often explains their motivation, or 切っ掛け (kikkake), for applying to an organization or company.

A man and woman pose holding pine cones.

Kousuke Yoshia (left) and Yukime Nakajima (right) hold Douglas Fir cones on a hike at the Hoyt Arboretum in Portland, Ore. (Sept. 2018). USDA Forest Service photo by Jay Hideki Horita.

“For Yukime Nakajima and Kousuke Yoshida, their motivation aligns with many others who choose to work or volunteer for the Forest Service; an interest in forests, wildlife, and nature in general.

“Their assignment seemed simple enough: to help develop social media and other conservation education material by researching related pictures, quotations, and facts for 25 topics. The 25 topics ranged from universal themes like “employment” and “rivers” to more culturally-specific terms, like ‘Woodsy Owl’ and ‘Smokey Bear,’ ‘trail work,’ ‘wilderness,’ ‘mushroom foraging,’ and ‘veteran employment.’

“To understand these, the volunteers dove deep into the complicated history and culture surrounding U.S. land management.

“I asked Yukime what her favorite term was, and she expressed her affection for “Holiday Trees.” She was intrigued – and delighted – to learn that each year since 1970, the Forest Service provides the U.S. Capitol with a carefully chosen conifer, now known as “the People’s Tree.”

“These trees often complete cross-country trips to the National Mall in Washington D.C., where they are decorated with ornaments created by residents of the state where the trees originate.

“This charming tradition marries the Forest Service’s efforts with those of the many volunteers involved.

“The tradition also manifests more locally; the Forest Service encourages the public to harvest their own Christmas trees from National Forest -lands across the U.S., offering Christmas Tree cutting permits for only $5.

“Our two volunteers were delighted to hear about these traditions, as Christmas tree-harvesting is unheard of in Japan; indeed, Christmas itself is a holiday seldom celebrated in their country, as either a secular or religious holiday.

“Kousuke was surprised to learn about the darker history of land management in the United States. When looking at a map of Oregon, he asked me about the large tracts of reservation land.

“The ensuing conversation focused on the U.S. government’s displacement of and systemic discrimination against Native Americans and how this dark history laid the groundwork for public land management in the United States, including our national forests and parks.

“Through our work, our volunteers gained a more comprehensive and realistic understanding of the federal government’s role in U.S. land management.

“They also learned about the Forest Service’s more recent efforts to right these wrongs and to share perspectives often left out of the standard environmental education curriculum.

A woman and man pose with forestry hand tools

Yukime Nakajima (left) watches as Kousuke Yoshia (right) poses with a trail work tool while learning about forest recreation work. (Sept., 2018). USDA Forest Service photo by Jay Hideki Horita.

“Other terms, like ‘trail work’ or ‘wilderness,’ were completely foreign to our guests, who are both residents of Tokyo — Japan’s capital, and one of the worlds most densely populated cities.

“They learned about the creation of wilderness areas, and the trail work crews employed to maintain the nation’s many trails.

“We had sobering discussions about the accessibility of outdoor spaces for city residents across the world; in a mega-metropolis like Tokyo, these accessibility problems are often magnified.

“For their final day, the volunteers hiked the nearby Hoyt Arboretum, a 189-acre forest preserving 6,000 plant specimens from around the world. There, they gained a behind-the-scenes perspective on land management work.

Portland Parks & Recreation Trails Coordinator Jill Van-Winkle gave them a tour of the Arboretum’s facility, and the two experienced wielding a ‘double-jack’ and ‘Pulaski,’ among other classic trail work tools.

“Next, they visited the World Forestry Center, where they learned about the diverse forests across the world, including those in their home country Japan.

“Throughout these two weeks, both the Forest Service and the volunteers gained much insight into cross-cultural conservation work.

“As their journey in Oregon concluded, Yukime and Kousuke said they’d miss the Pacific Northwest’s vibrant landscapes, and wished they could stay longer.

“As the day ended, we said our final farewells in true cross-cultural spirit: with a big hug, and a low bow.

“When I asked Yukime what message she plans to bring home, she offered the phrase自然に触れる大切さ, which roughly translates as “the significance gained from nature.”

“She said she was moved by the love and care that people place on wilder places in this country and how nature gives its humans a way to understand love, care, and significance.

“For the many who live, work, and play in outdoor spaces – whether in the city or beyond – perhaps the same sentiments are true after an early morning wildlife sighting, an afternoon walk in the woods, or even an evening outdoors playing basketball on the blacktop, in a park surrounded by some of the trees that comprise Portland’s urban forest.”

A man and woman pose holding certificates outside the entrance and sign for the World Forestry Center Discovery Museum

Kousuke Yoshia (left) and Yukime Nakajima (right) at the World Forestry Center in Portland, Oregon (Sept., 2018). USDA Forest Service photo by Jay Hideki Horita.

More information:

USDA Forest Service – Resource Assistant Program:
https://www.fs.fed.us/working-with-us/volunteers/resource-assistants-program


Source Information: Jay Hideki Horita is a resource assistant in the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s Office of Communications and Community Engagement.

In the News: Portrait of a Fire Camp

firefighters study a map laid on the hood of a wildland fire truck

“Essentially, for every major fire that is fought in this country, a small city needs to be set up — often on the edge of the wilderness — to support the effort. It is a huge logistical challenge…”

Oregon Public Radio’s “Think Out Loud” spent a few days this summer in one such “tent city” near Grants Pass, Ore., where USDA Forest Service  – Pacific Northwest Incident Management Team 3 was set up, managing firefighting efforts on the Natchez and Klondike Fires on the Rogue River-Siskiyou and Klamath National Forests.

The result is a detailed exploration of life inside a fire camp, with the people who spend their summers supporting wildland firefighters out on the line. (The audio story is nearly a full hour, but its worth the time to listen all the way through).

Listen, at OPB.comhttps://www.opb.org/radio/programs/thinkoutloud/segment/fire-camp-firefighters-incident-command/

More information: For more information about the Klondike and Taylor Creek fires, visit Inciweb: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5998/. For the Natchez Fire, visit https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5948

A child's artwork, depicting a wildfire on a hill above a town, signed "Malin, Age. 10." The note reads: "Thank you firefighters! Keep it up! Know you're loved! We're so grateful! Thanks for keeping us safe!"

A thank you note to wildland fire crews working on the Klondike Fire, from a child in Cave Junction, Ore. The note reads: “Thank you firefighters! Keep it up! Know you’re loved! We’re so grateful! Thanks for keeping us safe!” and is signed by “Malin, Age. 10.” Photographed Aug. 11, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo.

Wild & Scenic Rivers Act 50th Anniversary: Rafting rapids and tying flies on the North Umpqua River

Fly fishermen practice with a guide on the North Umpqua River

People seem to agree there is something special about the North Umpqua River.

The water is sometimes blue and sometimes green, and so clear you can see through to the smooth stones of the riverbed, below. The current, alternately placid and rapids, tumbles under bridges and over boulders as it winds through a modest canyon and across portions of the Umpqua National Forest.

Why it’s special it’s harder to pin down; or rather, the reasons are as varied as those who are drawn to its sun-dappled, tree-lined banks.

two kayakers paddle downriver

Outfitter-guides lead groups of white water rafting and kayaking enthusiasts down the north Umpqua River towards Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018. A 34-mile stretch of the river is designated for recreation under the federal Wild and Scenic River Act, which celebrates it’s 50th anniversary this year. 

For fishing guide Dillon Renton, the special nature of the North Umpqua River is deeply rooted in the river’s century-old ties to fly-fishing.

A 33-mile stretch of the river was federally designated as a Wild and Scenic River in 1988. The act, which passes the half-century mark later this year, identifies rivers to be managed and protected to preserve outstanding wild, scenic, or recreational values.

For the North Umpqua River, the list includes water quality, fisheries, recreational opportunities, cultural significance, and overall scenic value.

“It’s quite different from other rivers, in terms of ease of access. You can pull right off the highway and start fishing, in some places,” Janie Pardo, a Forest Service realty specialist on the North Umpqua Ranger District and manager of the river’s outfitter-guide program, said.

A fishing guide helps a woman practice casting from a sandbar along the North Umpqua River

Fishing guide Dillon Renton helps visitors Rob Lynn and Shelley Phillips practice their cast at a Bureau of Land Management day use area on the banks of the north Umpqua River July 19, 2018.

Fly fishing is what the north Umpqua is most famous for – specifically, the wild Columbian steelhead.

The river attracted fly-fishing sportsmen beginning in the 1920s. Anglers pursued wild Columbian steelhead from its banks; including some famous names like Zane Gray and Jack Hemingway.

Catching the fish is notoriously difficult. Some anglers even call it “the graduate school of fly-fishing,” Jim Woodward, who co-owns the Steamboat Inn with wife Melinda, said.

Fishing is what drew the Woodwards to invest in the half-century old fishing lodge on the banks of the river, about two years ago. The couple met while working together at another resort, but dreamed of running a lodge of their own.

The owner of Steamboat Inn discusses fishing flies

Jim Woodward, owner of Steamboat Inn, discusses the history of fly fishing for wild steelhead on the North Umpqua River July 20, 2018. The inn, built in 1957 has operated on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) for more than 60 years, and is the successor to the North Umpqua Lodge, which operated from 1934-1952. Prior to that, the site was home to a fishing camp established by Maj. Jordan Mott in 1929, and also used by angler Zeke Allen.

“We walked in, and we were like, ‘this is it,’” Melinda Woodward said.

But like the fish that ply its waters, the river valley’s weather can also be fickle. Just months into the Woodward’s first season, a lightning storm set wildfires across surrounding portions of the north Umpqua National Forest.

a fishing fly with black and white skunk fur

A Green Butt Skunk fly lies on a table at the Steamboat Inn July 20, 2018. The fly pattern was specifically created for fishing wild steelhead on the North Umpqua River by Dan Callahan, a founder of the Steamboaters – a private flyfishing and conservation organization founded for the protection of the river and its fishing heritage.

Some fires burned right up to the river’s banks. Officials closed the highway, then the river, north of the lodge. And what visitors the lack of traffic and river didn’t kill, the smoke drove away.

“We called it our ‘trial by fire,’” Melinda Woodward said. “If we could get through that, we can make it through anything.”

A chef plates entres while a member of the waistaff assists in the kitchen

Justin Smith plates entrees in the kitchen at the Steamboat Inn July 20, 2018.

Justin Smith grew up in Glide, Ore. and is the first in four generations of his family not to work in logging.

In the 1980s, before the Endangered Species Act was passed, fishing was how his family filled their freezer during lumber mill strikes.

His first job was working in the kitchen of the Steamboat Inn, and cooking became his career. For several years, he worked Portland, specializing in farm-to-table cooking, before returning to the inn last year as its chef.

In late July, summer squashes and wild morels were featured alongside cocktails and desserts that were made with local berries.

The fishing library at Steamboat Inn

The fishing library at Steamboat Inn, pictured here on July 20, 2018. The inn’s ties to a century of fly fishing and wild steelhead runs on the North Umpqua river are apparent in the historical photos and fishing equipment on display, the decor, and the inn’s extensive library of books on fly fishing, many by authors known to have fished on the river.

Smith was mid-transition, from the last of the winter vegetables to summer fare – a phone call from one of his farmers to let him know she had fresh tomatoes and peaches meant he’d be pivoting to new menu items as soon as his order arrives.

“I’m going to have a ton of beets left over, but that’s OK,” he said. “I’ll pickle them, and then we can serve them this winter.”

Smith spoke of “his vendors” much the same way Renton spoke of favorite fishing holes – with a note of local pride, tempered with the slightly guarded tone of a secret not readily shared.

“I want the flavors to remind people of where we are, and what this place is,” he said. “That’s where the morels come from, the berries. As much as we can, it’s all local.”

A fly fisherman on the banks of the river

Rob Lynn practices his cast at a Bureau of Land Management day use area on the banks of the north Umpqua River July 19, 2018. Attempting to catch steelhead on the North Umpqua River is sometimes referred to as the “graduate school of fly fishing.”

One thing that isn’t on the menu is wild steelhead from the North Umpqua River. The fish is protected, and today all fishing for it is catch-and-release.

That doesn’t stop fly fishermen from coming from all over to test their skills against the famous fish. They don’t have the river to themselves, though. The anglers share the river with a growing community of boaters, primarily drawn to opportunities for whitewater rafting and kayaking.

The fishing guides, suited in waders and wielding flies and rods, are out from sunup to around 10 a.m., when the rafting parties begin to gather at places like the Boulder Flat boat launch. Many anglers return in late afternoon, and continue to fish until dusk.

rafters paddle downriver through rapids

Outfitter-guides lead groups of white water rafting and kayaking enthusiasts down the north Umpqua River towards Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018.

But in the middle of the day, it’s boaters who rule the river, paddling kayaks or swooping over rapids in rafts along much of the Wild and Scenic recreation corridor.

Portions of the river are managed by the Forest Service, and others by the Bureau of Land Management.

rafters listen to safety instructions

A group of rafters listen to a Sun River Tours outfitter-guide give safety instructions at the Boulder Flat boat launch on the North Umpqua River, Umpqua National Forest in Oregon July 20, 2018. A 34-mile stretch of the river is designated for recreation under the federal Wild and Scenic River Act, which celebrates it’s 50th anniversary this year. USDA Forest Service photo by Catherine Caruso (Pacific Northwest Region, Office of Communications and Community Engagement staff)

Land managers describe the river corridor by dividing it in five sections, each roughly five or six miles in length.

Each segment is dominated by unique scenery, from basalt columns in the first segment, Boulder Flat to Horseshoe Bend), to old growth forest and water falls on the fourth, Boulder Creek to Susan Creek, and smooth running river interspersed with rapids that ranging from a relatively gentler Class IIs and IIIs to challenging Class IVs and Vs.

From overhead, rafters paddle downriver

Outfitter-guides lead groups of white water rafting and kayaking enthusiasts down the north Umpqua River towards Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018. 

Visitors can raft or kayak on the river without a permit, or access the river through one of several companies with outfitter-guide permits (check out the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s new outfitter-guide finder).

“As outfitter-guides, we’re really ambassadors for the river,” Erik Weiseth, owner of Orange Torpedo Trips, said.

A kayaker paddles through rapids

Outfitter-guides lead groups of white water rafting and kayaking enthusiasts down the north Umpqua River towards Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018. A 34-mile stretch of the river is designated for recreation under the federal Wild and Scenic River Act, which celebrates it’s 50th anniversary this year. USDA Forest Service photo by Catherine Caruso (Pacific Northwest Region, Office of Communications and Community Engagement staff)

Not everyone has the confidence or tools to take up a new outdoors activity on their own. Outfitter-guides provide the gear, and the expertise, to try something new — and do it safely, he said.

The company also operates tours on the Rogue River, one of eight rivers designated 50 years ago, when the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act first passed.

A wildflower

A wildflower grows on the banks of the north Umpqua River, through the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) at Horshoe Bend campground July 20, 2018.

The inherent tension between maintaining the natural wonder visitors value when visiting outdoor spaces, while introducing more people to those special places, is one that he, like others who work along the river, is sensitive to.

“But these places won’t survive, if people don’t know them and appreciate them,” Weiseth said. “As outfitters and guides, we provide an accessible way for people to do that.”

Recreation on the

From left, April Clayes, her son Gil Sidro, and sister Sierra Vandonk enjoy lunch at the Falls Creek Falls trailhead on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018. 

At the Falls Creek Falls trailhead, April Clayes, her son Gil Sidro, and sister Sierra Vandonk enjoyed a family picnic after a short hike to the falls.

“(Gil) first came here when he was a baby, and we come back every so often,” Clayes said. “It’s a nice hike, not too steep… it’s special to us. He has memories of his grandpa on this trail, with him.”

A mossy tree

Moss drapes from a tree on a river bank behind Steamboat Inn along the North Umpqua River on the Umpqua National Forest July 20, 2018.

Behind the Steamboat Inn, guests took in the sights and sounds of the river while dining on the restaurant’s patio as Melinda Woodward reflected on what drew her, and her husband, to the North Umpqua River.

What makes the river unique might not be something that can be shared, only experienced, Woodward said.

“There is something special about this river. I don’t know how to put it into words. One guest said ‘if there’s any magic left, it’s here,'” she said.

More information:

A river cuts through a steep canyon

The North Umpqua River’s rapids drop to class II as the river approaches Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018.


Source information: Catherine “Cat” Caruso is the strategic communication lead for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s Office of Communications and Community Engagement, and edits the “Your Northwest Forests” blog. You can reach her at ccaruso@fs.fed.us.

National Public Lands Day – National Forests are fee-free Sept. 22!

kids walk through a meadow towards a treeline of Douglas Fir

National Public Lands Day is Sept. 22, and day use access to all National Forests in the Pacific Northwest and around the country will be fee-free that day to celebrate, and to help ensure everyone has the opportunity to enjoy America’s public lands.

Fees will be waived at day-use recreation sites this Saturday in Oregon and Washington. This fee waiver includes many picnic areas, boat launches, trailheads, and visitor centers. Concession operations will continue to charge fees unless the permit holder chooses to participate. Fees for camping, cabin rentals, heritage expeditions, or other permits still apply. To find a recreation site near you, visit our interactive recreation map.

This year is the 25th annual National Public Lands Day, and outdoor enthusiasts will be out in full force, giving back to the community by investing in their favorite outdoor places by giving their time and sharing the many recreation and stewardship opportunities on our public lands.

This year’s National Public Lands Day will focus on resilience and restoration.

Every day, natural disasters and extreme weather, human activities, and a host of other factors take their toll on our public lands, threatening the health and wellbeing of the people and wildlife who depend on them. Public land managers, volunteers, and others who steward these special places work tirelessly to restore these areas, make them more resilient to future threats, and ensure that people and wildlife continue to enjoy them for years to come.

Volunteer projects to commemorate the event have been organized on many Pacific Northwest national forests, including:

  • Wild & Scenic Rivers Act 50th Anniversary cleanup
    Klickitat Wild & Scenic River and Trail; Lyle, Wash.
    Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018
    In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Forest Service is hosting a community cleanup along the lower Klickitat River. Information booths will share will help inform the public about Wild and Scenic River designation. The cleanup will take place along the river banks, on the Klickitat Trail, and at river access sites. For more information, contact: Lisa Byers, at lisambyers@fs.fed.us or (541) 308-1729
  • “A Healthy Forest” kick-off event
    Cape Perpetua Scenic AreaYachats, Oregon 
    Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
    In partnership with AmeriCorps, National Civilian Conservation Corps, and youth groups such as the Boy and Girl Scouts of America, the Forest Service will host the kick-off event for the Agents of Discovery Cape Perpetua Scenic Area “A Healthy Forest” Mission. Visitors and local families from Corvallis and Eugene are encouraged to participate. Spanish language assistance will be available. For more information, contact: Vicki Penwell, at vpenwell@fs.fed.us or (541) 707-0761

Many more National Public Lands Day volunteer projects are being held across Oregon and Washington. Projects include planting trees, building and repairing trails and bridges, removing trash and invasive plants, refurbishing historic structures, monitoring wildlife, and restoring natural habitats. To find a volunteer event near you, check with your local forest.

“We’re grateful to the many volunteers and partners who help us care for their public lands,” said Glenn Casamassa, Pacific Northwest Regional Forester. “This Saturday, whether you’re volunteering in your local community or enjoying the great outdoors, we hope you’ll join us in celebrating all that our public lands offer.”

Celebrated annually in September, National Public Lands Day brings together volunteers, agencies, and partner organizations to connect people to public lands in their community, inspire environmental stewardship, and encourage use of public lands for education, recreation, and general health.

Last year, more than 200,000 National Public Lands Day participants volunteered at over 2,600 sites across the nation, contributing $18 million in public land improvements. To learn more about National Public Lands Day, visit www.neefusa.org/npld.

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 U.S. Forest Service in the Pacific Northwest, please visit www.fs.usda.gov/r6.


Source information: USDA Forest Service and the National Environmental Education Foundation

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