Monthly Archives: February 2019

In the news: Snowshoe with a Ranger at Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie

Shot of a group of snowshoes on feet, gathered in a circle.

Exploring the outdoors is a passion for Rhonda Miller and Mackenzie Williams, and they’re equally passionate about sharing it with others – which is why they lead the “Shoeshoe with a Ranger” program at Stevens Pass on the Mt. Baker-Snoquamie National Forest.

On weekends through March 31, USDA Forest Service wilderness rangers lead visitors on guided, interpretive hikes, using snowshoes donated by outdoor equipment partner REI. The goal is to introduce new visitors to the forest, and the sport – especially those who may not have the experience, equipment, or confidence to head out into the woods on their own.


“There’s all this public land and we want people to benefit from it,” Williams said. “And we want people to enjoy their forest in a way that’s sustainable and allows them to continue enjoying it for a long time.”

Full story, via the Everett Herald:

“Snowshoe with a Ranger” at Stevens Pass is offered Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and Sundays at 10 a.m. through March 31. For locations and links to online registration info, visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/mbs/news-events/?cid=FSEPRD609539.

Holden Mine: From Contamination to Recovery

WENATCHEE, Wash. –  Deep in the heart of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, a dramatic sight was unfolding on the landscape above Lake Chelan. For five summers, bulldozers, graders, loaders, and excavators worked to reshape a rock-strewn mountain side, hauling loads of mine waste tailings across a 90-acre cleanup site until, for the first time in more than 60 years, the once-toxic area around the former Holden copper mine was again able to sustain healthy native vegetation and wildlife.

Abandoned in 1957, the Holden Mine contaminated groundwater with five toxic metals including aluminum, cadmium, copper, iron and zinc. These heavy metals washed downstream, polluting water in Railroad Creek, a major tributary to Lake Chelan. The metals also created a hazardous, hard orange coating known as ferricrete on the stream bed.

Unstable waste rock and tailings piles from approximately 10 million tons of mined ore further compounded the problem.

Today, thousands of gallons of contaminated groundwater are treated each day, through an on-site treatment plant. A concrete barrier between the toxic tailings pile and creek will prevent water runoff from the pile and reduce the chance of future contamination.

The remediation effort cost nearly $500 million, which was paid by Rio Tinto – a global mining company which inherited the responsibility for the cleanup through acquisition of a successor company to the original mine owners.

The project was complicated by the mine’s remote location. Holden Village, a religious retreat on the shores of Lake Chelan, closed its doors to thousands of summer visitors it typically hosts in order to provide lodging for work crews during the massive cleanup effort.

Other partners included the Yakama Nation, Washington Department of Ecology and the Environmental Protection Agency, and the USDA Forest Service – which acted as the lead agency overseeing the remediation efforts, because the majority of the cleanup took place on National Forest lands.

Local officials estimate that in addition to cleaning up Railroad Creek and protecting it from future contamination, the restoration effort injected approximately $240 million into the local economy, through hiring of local construction crews and heavy equipment operators.

The project created eight permanent jobs at the water treatment plant, and an additional site manager position in Chelan, Wash.

In September, the Forest Service released a Five-Year Site Review which documents the cleanup effort to date, and outlines future monitoring and additional work that is required.

For more information: Visit www.holdenminecleanup.com


Source information: The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest encompasses more than 4-million acres in Washington state, extending from the Canadian border to the Goat Rocks Wilderness. Elevations range from below 1,000 ft. to over 9,000 ft., and the forest is very diverse – from the high, glaciated alpine peaks along the Cascade Crest, through deep, lush valleys of old growth forest, to the dry and rugged shrub-steppe country at its eastern edge. Precipitation varies from more than 70 inches annually along the crest to less than 10-inches at its eastern edge.

In the News: Record snows at Mt. Baker this ski season

A chairlift on a snowy mountain

Great news for western Washington-based skiers!

The weather team at KING 5 in Seattle, Wash. reported Tuesday that Mt. Baker Ski Area on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest has received a record 437 inches of snow so far, this season – including 105 inches in February, alone.

And today, station staff Tweeted that Crystal Mountain ski area, also on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, received 11 inches of snowfall in the past 24 hours, and that Mt. Baker received an additional 8 inches of snow!

Reminder: If you’re headed to the Cascades, driving through any Pacific Northwest mountains, this season – remember weather conditions in mountain passes and at the summit can be very different than those at lower and coastal elevations, and also conditions further inland!

Long delays while waiting for avalanche conditions or severe weather to clear are common.

Be prepared! Make sure your vehicle has a full tank of fuel, traction tires and chains / traction devices, and warm clothing or blankets in case you find yourself stopped… or stuck.

In the News: Forest biologist discusses bighorn sheep on podcast

A bighorn sheep stands in a field

The Forest Service’s Mark Penninger, forest biologist for the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, discusses natural history and conservation of the bighorn sheep on Episode 6 of the
Oregon Chapter of The Wildlife Society’s Northwest Nature Matters podcast.

Called the “koepa” by the Northern Paiute people, the bighorn sheep is an icon of the mountain West; yet complex disease issues have stalled its complete recovery. Mark discusses the history of bighorn conservation, its life history, management, and how sheep conservationists are trying to solve pressing challenges to sheep recovery.  – from the Northwest Nature Matters episode page

Listen to the full episode here: http://nwnaturematters.libsyn.com/the-bighorn

The Northwest Nature Matters podcast is produced by the Oregon Chapter of The Wildlife Society, in partnership with the Oregon Wildlife Foundation.

Recent episodes have featured subject matter experts from state and federal agencies, academia, journalism, and environmental advocacy sectors for long-format conversations about conservation, natural history, and wildlife protection issues across the Pacific Northwest.

  • Episode 4, released last month, discussed the marbled murrelet – an Endangered Species Act -listed species, like the spotted owl, requires old growth forest for nesting habitat.
Northwest Nature Matters logo
The Northwest Nature Matters podcast was launched in 2018 to share long-format conversations with subject matter experts about wildlife and conservation issues affecting the Pacific Northwest region.

Related story: The Wildlife Society’s Oregon Chapter launches “Northwest Nature Matters” podcast


Source: The Wildlife Society seeks to inspire, empower and enable conservation, environmental and wildlife professionals to sustain wildlife populations and habitats through science-based management and conservation. The Oregon Chapter of The Wildlife Society is comprised of approximately 350 members from state, government, tribal, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations statewide.

Forest Feature: Beavers

A beaver swims across a stream

The busy, busy beaver is our February Forest Feature.

Beavers, or Castor canadensis, are sometimes called the “engineers of the wild.” They are probably best known for the elaborate dams they construct across streams, flooding surrounding wetlands.

A beaver sits upright, clutching something in its paws.
A beaver, photographed July 4 2007 by
Flickr user @sherseydc (Steve Hersey), downloaded Feb. 4, 2019. This image is shared with the owner’s provision under the provisions of a Creative Commons license (CC BY-SA 2.0).

A beaver dam creates a pond that provides habitat for the beavers, and for many other aquatic creatures. Deer and other animals may forage for grass and shrubs that grow in small meadows beavers have created by harvesting wood to build with.

The dams are built from wood, mud, and rocks. Beavers cut down small trees by chewing through them. They may even dig canals to float those trees back to their pond!

A large beaver dam on the Fremont National Forest is photographed in this file photo from the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region archive.

The beaver is the largest rodent that is native to North America. A typical adult beaver is more than 3 feet in length, if you include their broad, paddle-like tail, and weighs more than 40 pounds!

You might be surprised to learn beavers don’t live inside beaver dams. A beaver’s home is called a “lodge” and is typically a large mound, also made from branches and mud, located upstream from a dam.

Lodges can have multiple entrances, which lead to an above-water den inside. They even have “skylights” – small holes near the top that lets in fresh air.

The Olympic National Forest’s Brown Creek Nature Loop circles a beaver pond, seen here in an April, 2017 USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region photo.

Beavers live in colonies of up to a dozen beavers, and a colony may have several lodges!

During the winter, beavers take a break from all their busy building. In places where it gets very cold, beavers will store food for winter at bottom of their pond, or swim out under the ice to harvest underwater plants.

After a few years, when beavers have eaten most of the food and felled the closest trees around their dam, the colony will begin looking for a new home. Once abandoned, the beaver’s dam quickly deteriorates and the pond recedes, revealing a new wetland or meadow covered with rich, newly-fertilized soil where plants will quickly grow.

Did you know?

  • A beaver’s front teeth are very strong, and are sharpened by their chewing.
  • Beavers have bad eyesight, but a strong sense of smell and very good hearing. They do most of their construction work at night.
A beaver chews on saplings at the Mendenhall Glacier Viewing Center in Alaska. USDA Forest Service photo.
  • A beaver has furry paws on their front legs that are good at grabbing and holding building materials, and webbed toes on their back feet that are excellent for swimming.
  • Beavers warn each other of danger by slapping their wide tails against the water.
  • A beaver’s tail also helps them balance when carrying building materials, and steer themselves while swimming.
  • A beaver can hold its breath while underwater for up to 15 minutes.
  • Beavers’ building benefits the environment in many ways, including protecting endangered salmon and their habitat. Young salmon and trout find protection from predators in the complex currents and mazes of logs and branches surrounding beaver lodges and dams. Debris piles leftover from former beaver dams and lodges also protects the streams and creeks running through them from erosion.

Education resources:

Video, info and fact sheets:

Activities:


Source information: Forest Features highlight a new Pacific Northwest species (or sometimes, a family, order, kingdom, or genus) each month as part of the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s regional youth engagement strategy.

If you’d like fact sheets, activities, or links to other educational resources about this topic – and for information about other ways the Forest Service can help incorporate environmental education and forest science in your Pacific Northwest classroom – email YourNorthwestForests@fs.fed.us.

Op-Ed: Thank you, communities, partners and volunteers, for all your support during government shutdown

Leadership Corner - Glenn Casamassa

The five-week government shutdown was a trying time for Forest Service employees and their families. Our partners, volunteers, permittees, and contractors were also impacted, as well as many businesses and communities closely tied to national forests and the work we do.

On behalf of the Forest Service employees across the Pacific Northwest, I want to thank everyone who stepped up to help and support our employees and the national forests during this challenging time.

We are grateful and touched by this outpouring of support. Citizens and businesses offered assistance to help employees make ends meet and care for their families.

State and local agencies chipped in to help protect and maintain recreation sites.

Dedicated volunteers came out in droves and partners carried on our shared conservation work.

Times like this underscore the importance of shared stewardship. Our shared commitment to public lands – and each other – drives everything we do.

Today, we are more interconnected and interdependent than ever before.

The opportunities and challenges we face transcend boundaries and impact people beyond the jurisdiction of any single agency or organization.

That’s why we are committed to working across boundaries in shared stewardship with states, partners, and local communities to support each other and accomplish shared objectives.

We’re glad to be back at work doing what we love – caring for the land and serving people.

We are currently assessing the shutdown’s impacts and determining how best to adjust to ensure we continue to deliver the services the public expects.

We will engage our partners and local communities in these conversations as we adapt and move forward together.

Service is one of our bedrock values.

We are heartened and humbled to know that when the need arises, our communities, partners, and the public we serve are here for us, too.

We thank you wholeheartedly for your support and look forward to continuing our work together in shared stewardship.


Glenn Casamassa,
Pacific Northwest Regional Forester
 


Source Information: Glenn Casamassa is the Regional Forest for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region, supervising operations and staff on all national forests and grassland in Oregon and Washington State. For more information about the agency’s Pacific Northwest Region (Region 6), visit: www.fs.usda.gov/r6.