Monthly Archives: April 2019

Forest Feature: Sturgeon

Close up image of Herman the Sturgeon's face, in profile

Imagine you’re swimming in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge, and you open your eyes and see a 8 ft shadow lurking in the depths.

No, it’s not a shark, it’s a sturgeon – the Acipenser transmontanus!

This ancient family Acipenseridae dates its lineage back to the Triassic period (245-805 million year ago). Despite human interference and over-fishing, it still clings on to existence across the world’s many rivers.

Some examples of the species look absolutely wild… just look at this Chinese paddlefish!

Illustration of a long, slender fish with gray scaled and a long, sword-like face.
Psephurus gladius, also known as the Chinese paddlefish, Chinese swordfish, or elephant fish, is critically endangered in its native China. It is sometimes called the “Giant Panda of the Rivers,” not because of any physical resemblance to a giant panda, but because of its rarity and protected status.
Image from the Muséum d’histoire Naturelle – Nouvelles Archives du Muséum d’histoire Naturelle (public domain).

In the Pacific Northwest, we have two species of sturgeon – the White Sturgeon and Green Sturgeon.

If you visit the Bonneville Dam fish hatchery, located in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, you can meet Herman the Sturgeon, an 11 ft 500 lbs fish who, at 79 years old, is only middle-aged for a sturgeon but also represents, possibly, the closest living genetic relative to ancient dinosaurs.

Close up image of Herman the Sturgeon's face, in profile.
Herman the Sturgeon does a “swim-by” for visitors to the Sturgeon Viewing and Interprestive Center viewing pond, July 21, 2012.
Photo by Sheila Sund (used with permission via Creative Commons 2.0 general attribution license – CC BY 2.0. All other rights reserved).

Herman and some of his less-famous sturgeon buddies can be viewed, up close and personal, in a viewing pond at the Sturgeon Viewing and Interpretive Center, which includes a viewing window for looking beneath the surface of the two-acre pond that is home to Herman, a number of smaller sturgeon, and some trout.

Herman the Sturgeon, viewed through an underwater viewing window April 15, 2018. He's a bottom-dwelling fish.
Sturgeons are a family of prehistoric bottom-feeder cartilaginous fish dating back to the Mesozoic and known for their eggs, which are valued in many world cuisines as caviar. White Sturgeons are native to the Pacific Northwest of North America, with significant populations in the Columbia River, Lake Shasta, and in Montana. 
Photo by Wayne Hsieh (used with permission via Creative Commons 2.0 general attribution license – CC BY 2.0. All other rights reserved).

What other wild creatures inhabit Pacific Northwest forests?

If you’d like to visit and find out, follow our Forest Features every month, or visit a National Forest in Washington or Oregon.

Go. Play. It’s all yours!


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.

Colville NF revised forest plan objection resolution meetings April 24-26

A moose roams in a meadow on the Colville National Forest in Washington state, in this Oct. 5, 2013 file photo. USDA Forest Service photo.

COLVILLE, Wash. –  Objection resolution meetings regarding the proposed revisions to the Colville National Forest’s Forest Land Management Plan (“Forest Plan”) are scheduled for April 24-26, 2019 in Colville, Wash.

Meetings will take place April 24 and 25, from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. each day, at Spokane Community College – Colville; and April 26, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the Stevens County Ambulance Training Center.

The meetings are open to the public for observation.

Discussions during the meeting will be opened to eligible objectors (those who filed during the objection-filing period, which closed Nov. 6, 2018) and interested persons granted recognition by the reviewing officer after submitting a letter of interest during the advertised notice period (which closed Nov. 26, 3018). If you believe you have status as an objector or eligible person but have not been notified, or if you have other questions about the forest planning or objections process, contact
hollyahutchinson@fs.fed.us.

Background:

The 60-day objection-filing period began on September 8, 2018, after the Forest Service published its legal notice in The Seattle Times, which is the newspaper of record for Regional Forester decisions in the Pacific Northwest Region of the Forest Service in the state of Washington. The objections-filing period closed on November 6, 2018. View submitted objections here.

The Forest Service has published the revised Forest Plan , supported by a Final Environmental Impact Statement. The draft Record of Decision and other supporting documents are available on this website.

The purpose of the revised Forest Plan is to provide an updated framework to guide the management of approximately 1.1 million acres of National Forest System lands in northeastern Washington.

The revised Plan replaces the existing 1988 Plan, addressing changes in local economic, social, and environmental conditions over the past 30 years.

The proposed revision honors the time and energy invested by diverse interests since the plan revision process began in 2004. The Forest Service received 926 letters containing over 2,000 comments regarding the draft EIS in 2016. In response to substantive formal comments, and following further public engagement in 2016-17, the Forest Service modified the preferred alternative (“Alternative P”) to better reflect public input on recommended wilderness, livestock grazing, and recreation.

Before the final decision is made on the revised Forest Plan, the Forest Service follows the requirements of 36 CFR 219.5 for a pre-decisional administrative review, which provides an opportunity for the resolution of objections.

Visit the Objection Reading Room to view eligible objection letters. These letters were received or postmarked by the deadline (November 6, 2018) and met the objection filing requirements. The Reviewing Officer sent a notification letter to each eligible objector to confirm acceptance of their objection for further review.

Eligible objectors have an opportunity to participate in objection-resolution meetings, and will also receive a final written response from the Reviewing Officer after the review is complete.

Written requests for recognition as an interested person (36 CFR 219.57) must meet the requirements and were required to be submitted by 11:59 pm EST on November 26, 2018. (Please see the legal notice in The Seattle Times for more information).

Eligible interested persons who have been granted recognition by the Reviewing Officer will be able to participate in discussions with Objectors and the Reviewing Officer related to issues on the meeting agenda that interested persons have listed in their requests.

The meetings also are also open to observation by the public.

For documents, updates, and additional information about the Colville National Forest Land Management Plan (“Forest Plan”) revision process, visit: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/colville/landmanagement/planning/?cid=stelprd3824594


Source information: Colville National Forest staff report.

Evolving toward shared stewardship

Leadership Corner - Glenn Casamassa

As an organization that has a value around interdependence, it is important for us to create experiences for peer-learning and building collective understanding around key concepts we want to move out on.

Recently, our Pacific Northwest regional leadership team had the amazing opportunity to learn side-by-side in an interactive forum with our district rangers, research and Washington Office colleagues, state partners, and some tribal representatives to explore what Shared Stewardship means, where it came from, and how it will apply to our work all the way down to the district level.

We have heard interest from other regions and stations so we hope we can soon expand our knowledge in this arena beyond even our own regional borders.

One of the things we explored was how Shared Stewardship may be a new term for many, but it is certainly not a new concept. The evolution toward Shared Stewardship represents the convergence of several factors over the last decades—new authorities and policies that govern our work, new and expanded science that informs it, and our own internal exploration and discovery of Who We Are and how we need to show up in community.

Shared Stewardship Gallery Walk: Values-based. Purpose-driven, Relationship-focused. This image shows highlights in the USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Region's journey to a Shared Stewardship approach to public lands, from 2000 to present.
Shared Stewardship Gallery Walk: Milestones in the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s journey to a Shared Stewardship approach to public lands, from 2000 to present. Click image to open a larger version in a separate window. – Graphic by USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region.

We explored how our Shared Stewardship approach will build on the strength of our existing partnerships and collaborative groups in the region that have matured over this same time period. And we were clear that we will need to embrace new ways of doing business and different ways of being.

Together we heard from our state partners directly and learned how they are uniquely positioned to convene stakeholders across communities to evaluate the needs and agree on cross-jurisdictional planning areas.  We started to lay out the vision for our Oregon and Washington Shared Stewardship agreements that will be signed with the states this spring and we discussed how to share decision space with governors’ offices and state agencies to set broad priorities together based on the holistic needs and values of our communities, state forest action plans and other tools.  We also worked in small groups to workshop projects ideas at the state scale to not only meet our essential timber volume and fuels acres treated goals, but also integrate them with the our other priorities that our states, tribes and communities are telling us are important, like recreation, access, and infrastructure.  

Forest Service employees and state partners workshop project ideas in small groups during the agency's Pacific Northwest Region's recent Shared Stewardship meeting with regional leadership and partners. USDA Forest Service photo by Chris Bentley.
Forest Service employees and state partners workshop project ideas in small groups during the agency’s Pacific Northwest Region’s recent Shared Stewardship meeting with regional leadership and partners. USDA Forest Service photo by Chris Bentley.

Given the strong history of collaboration in our region and the strength of our existing Good Neighbor Authority agreements, we also spent some time exploring how Shared Stewardship is different and here’s what I would offer on that account:

  • Shared Stewardship with the States will elevate planning and decision-making from the national forest level to the state-level when appropriate. Together Forest Service and the states will use scenario planning tools to assess opportunities, risks and alternatives for managing the risk, and set priorities for investments that will bring the most bang for the buck.
  • It will use new and existing science to do the right work in the right places at the right scale.  Instead of random acts of restoration, we will share decisions and place treatments where they can produce desired outcomes at a meaningful scale.
  • It will take full advantage of our capacity for shared stewardship across shared landscapes using all of our tools and authorities for active management. We will work with the states and other partners, including local communities, to choose the most appropriate tools tailored to local conditions.

As we embrace Shared Stewardship, we are also being intentional in creating a safe, supportive and resilient work environment because it is a determining factor in our ability to invite others into shared stewardship work with us—and as the Chief says, that’s what Shared Stewardship is—an invitation.

Once the agreements are signed this spring, the region is exploring how to develop more forums and workshops alongside our state partners and with our on-the-ground workforce to start sharing the priorities and planning projects across boundaries, at scale that lead to real progress.  So…stay tuned for more!

Glenn Casamassa,
Pacific Northwest Regional Forester

Panelists discuss natural resources research during the USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Region's recent Shared Stewardship meeting with regional leadership and partners. USDA Forest Service photo by Chris Bentley.

Panelists discuss natural resources research during the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s recent Shared Stewardship meeting with regional leadership and partners. USDA Forest Service photo by Chris Bentley.

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. (Originally published April 10, 2019, at: https://www.fs.fed.us/blogs/leaders-perspective-shared-stewardship).

Forest Service scientist helps defend amphibians against exotic health threat

The eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens), rests on a rock in its natural environment.

Avian influenza, rabies, mad cow disease, and even chronic wasting disease are animal diseases that make the headlines because of their threat to human health, and the ease in which they spread among animals, regions – even countries. But nongame wildlife diseases are less known.

Although an alert for global amphibian declines began almost 30 years ago, it took another decade for ecologists to realize that diseases were a top threat to amphibians.

Today, the groundwork laid by studying earlier threats may make a difference for hundreds of North American amphibians that could be in danger from an exotic pathogen that is hitchhiking along global trade routes, and may soon appear on this continent.

Learn more about Bd [Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis], the emergence of Bsal [B. salamandrivorans], and the international task force that’s researching this new fungal pathogen – tied to amphibian die-offs in multiple places around the world, and a multispecies disease threat to amphibian biodiversity, including more than 200 likely vulnerable species in North America – and Deanna “Dede” Olson, the Forest Service research ecologist who helped launch a task force dedicated to protecting these amphibians from the Bsal and related threats, in Science Findings #214 (a publication of the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station): https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/sciencef/scifi214.pdf.

Did you know: Bsal and other exotic infections or diseases are most likely to be introduced to a new ecosystem via an infected amphibian or carrier imported as a pet. You can help prevent exotic diseases from spreading by ensuring you purchase pets only from reputable breeders or suppliers, and that they raise only certified disease-free, legally-imported animals. For more information, visit www.salamanderfungus.org/.

A roughskin newt (Taricha granulosa) on moss. Photo courtesy of Elke Wind (all rights reserved)
A roughskin newt, Taricha granulosa, on moss. Photo courtesy of Elke Wind (all rights reserved)

Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station