Author Archives: Editor

What’s the buzz about pollinators?

Within the past month, Walmart stores in Pendleton and Hermiston, Ore. joined 16 other Walmart stores in opening pollinator gardens on their store grounds.

It’s a small step that, multiplied across backyards and public spaces across the country, could make a big impact on the survival of the native insects that are such a critical part of our northwest ecosystems.

Be a friend to pollinators! Animal pollinators are essential to reproduction for 35% of the world’s food crops ,but they are disappearing. This animation explains what individuals can do to help pollinators in their own communities, and describes the varieties of pollinators. USDA video, via YouTube.

The issues facing native pollinators are daunting. While some species are able to thrive on food from many plants, others are highly specialized and depend on just a few plant species. In other cases, specific plants provide cover to hide from predators or preferred breeding grounds that a dependent insect species needs.

When those plants are replaced, by crops or invasive weeds, parking lots, or buildings, small patches of remaining habitat – and the insect populations they sustain – can get isolated from others of their kind. And while some of these smaller plant and insect colonies eventually adapt to these changes, others dwindle and eventually die off.

That’s a problem, because ecosystems are interdependent.

As the number and types of of pollinators decline, plants that rely on them may also decline – including plants that rely directly on the specialized pollinators that have adapted to thrive with them, and plants that simply rely on large numbers of pollinators generally to maintain a healthy degree of cross-pollination across a geographical area.

Specific pollinators or the plants that rely on them may also be an important food source for specific bird and animal species.

Improper use of pesticides is another threat to our pollinators.

While pesticides are an important and necessary part of protecting agricultural crops, and even native plants and trees from infestations by aggressive or invasive insect species, it’s important for users to follow application guidelines.

Applying too much product, watering too soon after pesticide applications, or applying pesticides under the wrong conditions can create residue, runoff, or drift, potentially causing harm to beneficial organisms well beyond the intended treatment area.

It’s not just highly-specialized species that are struggling. Honeybee populations have declined drastically in recent decades, in part due to a syndrome called “colony collapse disorder.”

Scientists are still studying what is causing hives to fail in such large numbers, but believe a range of cumulative stressors, which could include fungal infection, infestations by parasitic mites, habitat loss that requires bees to fly further to collect sufficient food for their hive, pesticide exposure, ultimately results in stressed, unhealthy bee colonies that can’t sustain sufficient numbers to stay warm and fed through the winter.

The Monarch butterfly, which the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife website calls “one of America’s most recognizable species in North America,” is being considered for Endangered Species Act protection.

The migratory butterfly’s numbers have plummeted during the past two decades, likely due in part to overall habitat loss and fragmentation, and especially from reduced numbers of the milkweed plants it relies on, particularly when breeding.

Many communities are joining the effort to protect pollinators by removing invasives and planting native species in parks and other public spaces, and even utility rights-of-way! You can research milkweed species that are native to your area at http://www.xerces.org/milkweed/.

Individuals can also help native northwest pollinators, and the plants and animals that depend on them, survive and thrive.

Flower beds and border gardens planted with of native plant species can be beautiful and beneficial to pollinators! Many pollinators are especially attracted to showy flowers, their favored source of food. Here in the Pacific Northwest, many of our native plants are highly ornamental. Even a small container garden, planted with native flowering plants, can creating a safe place for insects to stop, rest, and feed while travelling between larger areas of habitat. You can read more about how to build such a garden at https://www.fws.gov/midwest/news/PollinatorGarden.html.

Gardeners and professional growers can also help protect pollinators by using caution when planning for use of herbicides and insecticides (both organic and synthetic can impact beneficial insects or plants that they rely on).

For more information, visit: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/plantsanimals/pollinate/

For links to USDA research re: pollinators, visit: https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/economic-and-policy-analysis/natural-resources-analysis/pollinators/index

* Special thanks to Ron Kikel, visitor information assistant and conservation educator on the Mt. Hood National Forest, for providing the close-up photos below of some pollinators he’s recently encountered in and around Oregon. Thanks also to Chamise Kramer, Public Affairs Specialist for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, for the informative and shareable graphics.

‘Land of Umpqua’ photo contest winners

A wildcat is spotted through the leaves. Courtesy photo by Lindsay Briley. Awarded First Place-Wildlife in the 2019 Land of Umpqua photo contest, sponsored by the Forest Service, City of Roseburg, and Bureau of Land Management.

ROSEBURG, Ore. (Oct. 1, 2019)  The Roseburg District, Bureau of Land Management and the Umpqua National Forest announced winners of the 2019 “Land of Umpqua” Amateur Photo Contest yesterday.

This past year, the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have been celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and National Trails Act.

Amateur photographers submitted a variety of photos featuring the beautiful landscapes and wildlife on BLM and Forest Service -managed lands from around the Umpqua River, Umpqua Valley and surrounding forests.

Photos submitted by amateur photographers were grouped and judged in several categories: “Fall Colors,” “Water,” “Waterfalls and Wilderness,” “Wildlife along Trails and in the Wilderness,” and “Pets on Trails.”

Congratulations to the winners!

Richard Krieger, Waterfalls and Wilderness-First Place

Winning entries, by category:

Fall Colors on Public Lands

  • 1st Place – Tiffni Curley – Roseburg
  • 2nd Place – Kevin Berhardt – Roseburg
  • 3rd Place – Jane Brown

Umpqua Wildlife along Trails and in the Wilderness

  • 1st Place – Lindsay Somers – Roseburg
  • 2nd Place – Lindsay Somers – Roseburg
  • 3rd Place – Tracy Moulden – Myrtle Creek

Water, Waterfalls and Wilderness

  • 1st Place – Richard Krieger – Ashland
  • 2nd Place – Amy Egli – Toketee
  • 3rd Place – Shanti-Rail-Chatfield – Oakland

Pets on Trails

  • 1st Place – Cheri Knott – Roseburg
  • 2nd Place – Lindsay Somers – Roseburg
  • 3rd Place – Kevin Berhardt – Roseburg

The winning photos are available to view at: http://bit.ly/2na3iGt. All photo submissions for the contest can be viewed at: http://bit.ly/2nSy72E.

The Roseburg District, Bureau of Land Management and the Umpqua National Forest hosted the photo contest as part of a multi-agency exhibit at the 23rd Annual Sportsmen’s & Outdoor Recreation Show held earlier this year.

Winners receive prizes, including free overnight stays at BLM and Forest Service campgrounds, as well as Smokey Bear -themed items.

The winning photos are also featured on the BLM and Forest Service Social media services.


Source information: Umpqua National Forest (via Facebook)

In the News: Outdoors industry growth outpaces overall U.S. GDP

An outfitter-guide from Orange Torpedo Tours leads a group of white water rafters on the north Umpqua River (Umpqua National Forest - North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo by Catherine Caruso (Pacific Northwest Region, Office of Communications and Community Engagement staff)

The Bureau of Economic Analysis, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, released a report that estimates outdoor recreation was a $427.2 billion industry, responsible for about 2.2 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), in 2017 – and that the sector grew by 3.9 percent that year, outpacing the rate of overall U.S. economic growth that year by more than 50 percent.

This was also the first year the BEA attempted to break out outdoor recreation statistics by state. Those numbers showed Washington and Oregon have outdoors industries that are relatively proportionate to the industry’s share of the U.S. economy, while northern New England (Vermont, N.H., Maine) and the Rocky Mountains region (Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah) rely more heavily on outdoor recreation as a percentage of their overall economy.

The Outdoors Industry Association has previously calculated the entire U.S. outdoors recreation industry could be as large as $850 billion annually, more than double GDP, if consumer spending on outdoor apparel, equipment that is manufactured overseas, and local travel is also taken into account, according to a related story on SNEWS, an industry trade magazine.

BEA’s 2017 analysis found boating and fishing -related activity, at $20.9 billion, comprised the largest portion of GDP. That was followed by RV -related activities, a $16.9 billion segment of the market. Motorcycles and ATVs ($9.1 billion), hunting, shooting and trapping ($8.8 billion), equestrian-related activities ($7.8 billion), and snow-related recreation ($5.6 billion) also made up a sizable share of GDP related to the outdoors economy.

One of the fastest growing segments identified in the report was in the guided tours and outfitted travel secotr, which accounted for $12.9 billion of GDP in 2017. The arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food services combined contributed $112.9 billion to the GDP that year.

Full story:

Outdoor Recreation satellite account, U.S. and prototype for states, 2017 (BEA press release): https://www.bea.gov/news/2019/outdoor-recreation-satellite-account-us-and-prototype-states-2017

Outdoor recreation is growing faster than the overall U.S. economy, government report finds (SNEWSnet.com): https://www.snewsnet.com/news/outdoor-recreation-427-billion

Postcard: Ramona Falls (no exaggeration required)

A hiker stands on the footbridge at the base of Ramona Falls, Mt. Hood National Forest, Ore. Courtesy photo by Catherine "Cat" Caruso.

Like many Pacific Northwest residents, I didn’t actually grow up here. I often call myself a “northeasterner by upbringing, northwesterner by choice.” While I know firsthand the way one’s hometown maintains a powerful hold on their heart, I also never tire of finding reasons to love my adopted home.

So, when one of my younger brothers came to visit this month, I steered him towards the travel and tourism kiosk located in the baggage claim area at Portland International Airport. As an anime fan, I thought he’d be especially delighted by Travel Oregon’s colorful “Oregon. Only slightly exaggerated” campaign… and he was! But even my heart skipped a beat when I recognized one of the locations in the brochure as Ramona Falls.

I’d hiked there just two weeks earlier.

An image from the “Oregon, Only slightly exaggerated,” ad campaign (Travel Oregon)

It’s as beautiful as what you see in this illustration.

The area around the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, which includes the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Hood National Forest, is said to have the largest concentration of waterfalls in the United States.

Oregon’s most-famous waterfall is probably Multnomah Falls. My brother and I made a point to visit it during his trip; a spectacular sight, water plunging hundreds of feet to the pool below. It draws visitors from around the world, daily.

But to me, Ramona Falls is more beautiful.

The view looking up at the top of Ramona Falls. Courtesy photo by Catherine “Cat” Caruso.

Before I go any further, I want to share some words of warning: Ramona Falls is located in a wilderness area.

Never go into a wilderness without the ‘10 Outdoors Essentials!”

Outdoor Eseentials: Be prepared and carry these essential items any time you head out into the outdoors! 1. Appropriate footwear. 2. Printed map. 3. Extra water. 4. Extra food. 5. Extra clothes. 6. Emergency items. 7. First aid kit. 8. Knife or multi-purpose tool. 9. Backpack. 10. Sun hat, sunscreen, sunglasses.
Outdoor Eseentials: Be prepared and carry these essential items any time you head out into the outdoors! 1. Appropriate footwear. 2. Printed map. 3. Extra water. 4. Extra food. 5. Extra clothes. 6. Emergency items. 7. First aid kit. 8. Knife or multi-purpose tool. 9. Backpack. 10. Sun hat, sunscreen, sunglasses.

During my hike, I encountered many day hikers who seemed to take the lesson of 2017’s Eagle Creek fire, which occurred in the nearby Columbia River Gorge, to heart. During that fire, more than 100 day use visitors were stranded on the trail, and forced to undertake a long, difficult hike to safety.

But I also saw many people who not well-prepared, carrying only a bottle of water and whatever fit in their pockets.

As you approach the Sandy River, the trail is clearly marked with signs that warn about the dangers of crossing. Pay attention: If you can’t safely secure your child or pet to you and carry them across an improvised footbridge mad from a fallen tree or log without losing your balance, don’t try!

I’m sharing this from my own experience: Many people bring their dogs on this hike; I assumed I’d one of them, and it was a mistake. While I believed my young pup had done enough work on a balance beam to handle a log crossing, I failed to account for how much he likes to swim. While the current was safe – though, still quite strong – against the body of an adult human, it was much too deep and too swift for my Siberian Husky. Intellectually, I’d known the river can be dangerous, emotionally, it left me far more nervous for some of the small children I saw on this trail after I’d jumped into the current myself and fought to haul 65 pounds of wriggling, wet dog to the shore.

Shortly after this photo was taken, he jumped into the river for the second time. He’s cuter than he is bright. He’s also no longer invited on hikes with unimproved water crossings. Courtesy photo by Catherine “Cat” Caruso.

Signs that warn about the dangers of river crossings are posted alongside this trail for a reason: hikers have died here, after flash floods caused by heavy rainfall, in 2004 and 2014.

It’s easy be lulled into a false sense of security when you see others navigate a risky situation successfully; I know, I made the same mistake.

My advice is to read trip reports, check weather listings, and use more caution than you think you need to. Just because nothing seems to have gone wrong for many others, doesn’t mean it can’t.

Still: At the right time of year, when the river crossing is approached with appropriate caution and care, the Ramona Falls loop trail is a beautiful hike.

The 7-to-8 mile loop has a relatively gentle grade, with a cumulative 1000 feet of elevation gain.

The trail culminates with a spectacular view from the base of Ramona Falls, which really do look like something out of a fairy tale; truly, they need no exaggeration.

Children play at the base of the “real” Ramona Falls; Mt. Hood National Forest, Ore., which needs no exaggeration. Courtesy photo by Catherine “Cat” Caruso.

More information:

Ramona Falls trail # 797 – Mt. Hood National Forest:
https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/mthood/recarea/?recid=53460

The Enchanting Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge – Travel Oregon https://traveloregon.com/only-slightly-exaggerated/the-enchanting-mt-hood-and-columbia-river-gorge/


Source information: Catherine “Cat” Caruso works in the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region Office of Communications and Community Engagement. When she’s not editing the “Your Northwest Forests” blog, she’s usually shopping for fur-repellent office wear. She considers her outdoorsmanship skills to be “average,” which means there’s a 50 percent chance yours are better – but also, an equal chance that they’re worse.

Field Notes: Backpacking Gifford Pinchot NF with Outdoor Asian

Participants during an Outdoor Asian hiking trip on Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. The trip was supported in part by the USDA Forest Service. Courtesy photo by Deepak Awari.

Jay Horita is a Youth & Community Engagement Specialist for Northwest Youth Corps, supporting the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region. Here, he shares notes from a weekend backpacking experience with Outdoor Asian, a nonprofit whose goal is to encourage and study the participation of Asian and Pacific Islanders in the outdoors.

Participants pose for a group photo during an Outdoor Asian hiking trip on Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. The trip was supported in part by the USDA Forest Service. Courtesy photo by Deepak Awari.
Participants pose for a group photo during an Outdoor Asian hiking trip on Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. The trip was supported in part by the USDA Forest Service. From left: Jay Horita, Alvin Loong, Alice Cao, Chris Liu, Yewah Lau, Mumtz Mesania, Reina Miyamoto, Natalie Balkam, Deeshi Donnelly, Cheryl Truong, and Depak Awari. Courtesy photo provided by Deepak Awari.

On Friday, August 30th 2019, eleven members of the Outdoor Asian community from the Oregon and Washington chapters drove up a pothole-ridden and rocky Forest Service road to the Glacier View Trailhead in the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest.

After a hot meal of noodles, we hit the sleeping bags to prepare for the next day’s backpacking adventure. 

Participants hike a trail downhill during an Outdoor Asian hiking trip on Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. The trip was supported in part by the USDA Forest Service. Courtesy photo by Deepak Awari.
Participants hike a trail downhill during an Outdoor Asian hiking trip on Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. The trip was supported in part by the USDA Forest Service. Courtesy photo by Deepak Awari.

This trip was the very first of its kind for Outdoor Asian in many ways: the first backpacking trip, the first multi-chapter collaboration event, the first trip occurring in wilderness areas of two public land agencies.

Trip leaders Chris Liu and I spent much time planning a positive, fun, challenging, and educational backpacking adventure for eleven Outdoor Asians. 

Participants prepared food, including some traditional asian dishes, during an Outdoor Asian hiking trip on Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. The trip was supported in part by the USDA Forest Service. Courtesy photo by Deepak Awari.
Participants prepared food, including some traditional asian dishes, during an Outdoor Asian hiking trip on Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. From left: Chris Liu, Reina Miyamoto, Natalie Balkam, and Deepak Awari. The trip was supported in part by the USDA Forest Service. Courtesy photo provided by Deepak Awari.

We deliberately chose a diverse meal plan, which ranged from instant noodles to elaborate dahl and roti from scratch (rolled out on our Nalgene bottles!), to showcase the vast diversity of Asian backpacking food options.

Our goal was to ensure the participants realized they don’t have to give up their culinary heritage on trips into the back country! Thinking back to my early years in back country adventuring, I remember trips where all I ate were dehydrated mashed potatoes and tortillas, so it was great to treat everyone to familiar foods. We even had a rare tea blend, a Yuzu Green tea, to enjoy throughout the trip. The food brought us closer together, helping make the trip feel more like a family adventure.

Participants get a lesson in reading topographical maps during an Outdoor Asian hiking trip on Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. The trip was supported in part by the USDA Forest Service. Courtesy photo by Deepak Awari.
Participants get a lesson in reading topographical maps during an Outdoor Asian hiking trip on Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. From left: Jay Horita, Yewah Lau, Mumtaz Mesania, Reina Miyamoto, Natalie Balkam, Alice Cao, Cheryl Truong, Chris Liu, and Alvin Loong. Courtesy photo by Deepak Awari.

Besides giving everyone a great backcountry experience, Chris and I also wanted to talk about a range of important topics from Leave-No-Trace principles to Wilderness First Aid. Some even had the chance to practice wilderness first aid by patching each others’ blisters and hot spots!

Participants compare trail footwear during an Outdoor Asian hiking trip on Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. The trip was supported in part by the USDA Forest Service. Courtesy photo by Yewah Lau.
Participants compare trail footwear during an Outdoor Asian hiking trip on Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. The trip was supported in part by the USDA Forest Service. Courtesy photo by Yewah Lau.

Our group included seasoned public land stewards, from biologists to district rangers, who shared their experiences working for the USDA Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service.

Those uninitiated to public land management got a crash course on the differences between National Forest land (where we started the hike) and National Park land (where we ended it).

Participants during an Outdoor Asian hiking trip on Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. The trip was supported in part by the USDA Forest Service. Courtesy photo by Deepak Awari.
Participants during an Outdoor Asian hiking trip on Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. The trip was supported in part by the USDA Forest Service. Courtesy photo by Deepak Awari.

Crossing the boundary from the Glacier View Wilderness into Mt. Rainier Wilderness was a special moment!

For me, the ultimate trip highlight was arriving at the Gobblers Knob fire lookout tower, where Mt. Rainier (or Tahoma, one of many Native American names for the mountain) peaked its glacier-covered summit through the clouds.

The mountain was spectacular and humbling. The lakes and meadows we visited were calming. The stars gave us perspective. The wilderness gave us the best backdrop to share our experiences as Outdoor Asians and develop our connection to a life outdoors.

Outdoor Asian participants pose atop a rocky outcrop during an August, 2019 backpacking trip through Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. Courtesy photo by Yewah Lau.
Outdoor Asian participants pose atop a rocky outcrop during an August, 2019 backpacking trip through Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. Courtesy photo by Yewah Lau.

In future trips, we hope to address how all public lands (indeed all lands in the Americas) were cared for by the diverse tribes, groups, and nations of Native Americans; and still are, in many places.

Most importantly, we celebrated our shared connection to the land across all cultures. The Forest Service is, like most things, ephemeral in comparison to the mountain and its landscapes.

Forest Service, Hydro Flask partner to protect

Carolyn Miller, a wildland fire engine crew member assigned to Newberry Division, Deschutes National Forest, receives a water bottle distributed by a member of the forest's fire and aviation team Aug. 7, 2019. The bottle was one of 3,000 reusable water flasks provided by the Hydro Flask company, headquartered in Bend, Ore., to Forest Service firefighters serving in the Pacific Northwest during summer, 2019. The donation was part of a public-private partnership between the company and the agency to support firefighter health and safety while reducing the waste associated with bottled water packaged in disposable, single-use bottles. The Forest Service's National Greening Fire Team seeks to reduce waste on fire incidents to net zero by the year 2030. USDA Forest Service photo by Kassidy Kerns, Deschutes National Forest Public Affairs staff.

The USDA Forest Service and Hydro Flask have embarked on a unique partnership to protect firefighters working to protect Your Northwest Forests, and protect our environment at the same time!

The Forest Service’s National Greening Fire Team partnered with the Bend, Ore. -based company, which provided 64 oz reusable, thermal-shielded water bottles to thousands of firefighters serving throughout Washington and Oregon this summer, at no cost to the firefighters and minimal cost to the agency.

Staying hydrated is critical to conducting any outdoors activity safely. It’s especially critical for wildland firefighters, who are often required to work in direct sunlight on the hottest days of summer, wearing protective clothing and boots, often while performing physically arduous work like clearing a fire line with hand tools, sometimes just inches away from hot coals or even an actively-burning fire.

The partners hope that putting durable, reusable, thermally-protected water bottles in the hands of firefighters will help reduce the use of disposable plastic bottles on fire-related incidents.

Isaac Crabbe, engine crew member, Kate Averett, wildland fire module crew member, Carolyn (Rolyn) Miller, engine crew member, Cason McCain, fire operations supervisor, Dave Robertson, assistant fire management officer for operations, and Ted Adams, wildland fire module captain, all assigned to the Newberry Division, Deschutes National Forest, display reusable water bottles they received Aug. 7, 2019 as a result of a USDA Forest Service partnership with the Bend, Ore. -based Hydro Flask company to support local firefighter health and safety while helping the agency's National Greening Fire Team achieve its goal of zero net waste on fire incidents by 2030. USDA Forest Service photo by Kassidy Kerns, Deschutes National Forest Public Affairs.
Isaac Crabbe, engine crew member, Kate Averett, wildland fire module crew member, Carolyn (Rolyn) Miller, engine crew member, Cason McCain, fire operations supervisor, Dave Robertson, assistant fire management officer for operations, and Ted Adams, wildland fire module captain, all assigned to the Newberry Division, Deschutes National Forest, display reusable water bottles they received Aug. 7, 2019 as a result of a USDA Forest Service partnership with the Bend, Ore. -based Hydro Flask company to support local firefighter health and safety while helping the agency’s National Greening Fire Team achieve its goal of zero net waste on fire incidents by 2030. USDA Forest Service photo by Kassidy Kerns, Deschutes National Forest Public Affairs.

“Thanks to Hydro Flask, over 3,000 firefighters on incidents throughout the Pacific Northwest will receive a reusable water bottle, contributing to the National Greening Fire Team’s goal of waste minimization on incidents while maintaining high standards of firefighter safety and wellness,” Lara Buluc, Sustainable Operations and Co-Climate Change Coordinator for the USDA Forest Service, said.

The National Greening Team is working towards a goal of producing no net waste on agency-managed fire incidents by the year 2030.

The partnership is a way for HydroFlask, which is based in Bend, Ore., to show it’s commitment to local firefighters, Phyllis Grove, vice president for marketing and ecommerce for Steel Technology LCC (HydroFlask’s parent company), said in a prepared statement.

“This win-win opportunity supports the Team’s vision of achieving net zero waste at incidents,” Buluc said.


USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region staff report

Hiking safely with mountain goats

A man with Mountain Goat on Mt Ellinor Trail in the Olympic National Forest in Washington. May 4, 2016. USDA Forest Service photo. For Mountain Goat Safety Guidelines: www.fs.usda.gov/detail/olympic/home/?cid=stelprdb5412239

How does one hike safely with mountain goats?

Step one: Back away, slowly.

Catching a glimpse of a goat perched high on the side of a craggy hillside or cliff is a welcome sight to many hikers and other recreational users of Your Northwest Forests.

But as the number of people using the forests increases, there’s also an increased risk of human-wildlife encounters that pose a threat to both humans and goats.

Three mountain goats are harnessed to a hoist line as they are transported below a helicopter to a handler, who waits to unharness the goats in the bed of a flatbed truck. The goats were sedated, blindfolded, then brought to this landing zone for veterinarian care prior to transport National Forests in the north Cascades mountains for release in native habitat. National Park Service Photo John Gussman.
Three mountain goats are harnessed to a hoist line as they are transported below a helicopter to a handler, who waits to unharness the goats in the bed of a flatbed truck. The goats were sedated, blindfolded, then brought to this landing zone for veterinarian care prior to transport National Forests in the north Cascades mountains for release in native habitat. National Park Service photo by John Gussman.

At places like Mount Ellinor on the Olympic National Forest, where the goats don’t naturally range (they were introduced to the area by hunters), salt they need to live is scarce.

Goats have been known to seek out humans, sometimes aggressively, in search of their food, sweat, and even urine.

In other forests, some mountain goats have grown accustomed to curious people getting too close and lost their fear of humans, with similar results.

While several agencies are working to relocate some goats to areas where they naturally range, it’s important to prevent all wild goats from becoming habituated to human contact, so they can remain wild without posing an undue threat to humans’ safety.

To protect wildlife from negative impacts of human contact:

  • Keep your distance! Stay at least 50 yards away from all mountain goats – about half the length of a football field.
  • If a mountain goat approaches, slowly move away from it to keep a safe distance.
  • If it continues to approach, try to scare it off by yelling, waving a piece of clothing, or throwing rocks.
  • Never surround, crowd, chase, or follow a mountain goat.
  • Do not feed mountain goats (or allow them to lick your skin, clothes, or gear, which may have absorbed salt from your sweat).
  • If you need to urinate while hiking, move far from the trail to avoid leaving concentrations of salts and minerals trailside, or contributing to the accumulation of minerals in one place.

Source information: Olympic National Forest (website)

In the News: ‘We’ve got your goats’

Captured mountain goats from Olympic National park being delivered to a staging area where they are cared for by veterinarians and then transported in refrigerated trucks to the northern Cascade Mountains for release. National Park Service Photo by J. Burger.

One of the most unique sights in Your Northwest Forests is recent scenes of mountain goats in blindfolds, hoisted high above the forest floor by helicopter.

It’s part of a multi-agency effort to relocate the goats from Olympic National Forest and Olympic National Park in Washington, where they’re not a native species to Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, also in Washington. At the first location, the goats have approached and even attacked hikers while seeking salt, which they can’t easily find there. In the new location, natural salt deposits are plentiful and a diminished local population of goats expected to benefit from an expanded selection of mates.

Recently, KIRO-TV 7 featured four high-flying minutes of mountain goat video, in a behind-the-scenes look of the relocation effort.

Full story: https://www.kiro7.com/news/local/goat-relocation-in-olympic-national-forest-an-in-depth-look/979637777

Seeking ground less traveled: how elk respond to recreation

A female elk wearing a telemetry collar in the Starkey Experimental Forest and Range, Ore. The collar enabled scientists to track the animal’s movements in response to different types of recreation by volunteers wearing GPS units while riding all-terrain vehicles, mountain bikes, horses, or on foot. Courtesy photo by Leslie Naylor; Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Department of Natural Resources.

Recreation on public land is increasingly popular in the Pacific Northwest. But recreation management requires balancing opportunities for people to enjoy the outdoors with mitigating the effects on wildlife and other natural resources.

Recreation and wildlife managers who are grappling with these issues asked scientists to quantify the impacts of motorized and non-motorized recreation on elk.

In Science Findings # 219, the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station explores recent research in Oregon that sought to measure how elk respond to various human, and especially recreation-based, activities.

Elk are highly valued for hunting and viewing by the public. As large herbivores, they also play a critical role in many ecosystems of the Intermountain West.

A large fenced area within the Starkey Experimental Forest and Range in eastern Oregon provided a unique setting for assessing how a wide-ranging species like elk respond to four types of recreation.

Real-time data recorded by telemetry units worn by people and elk alike allowed scientists to establish a cause-effect relationship between human movements and activities and elk responses.

Scientists found that elk avoided areas where humans were recreating. All-terrain vehicle use was most disruptive human-initiated activity, followed by mountain biking, hiking, and horseback riding.

When exposed to these activities, elk spent more time moving rather than feeding and resting.

The findings build on earlier studies, which suggested that frequent disruptions and movement to avoid human contact increase mortality rates for newborn elk.

Researchers also found that such disruptions effectively reduce the total amount of usable habitat available for elk herds.

Land managers can use this information to assess trade-offs between multiple, and often competing, land uses. When combined with planning efforts that include stakeholder engagement, this research may offer a clearer path forward on balancing human and wildlife needs on National Forests and other public and privately-held lands.


Source information: Science Findings is published monthly by the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station. To search past issues, visit: https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/.

Engineering answers for Spirit Lake

An aerial view to the south of Mount St. Helens in 1982 as another lahar—melted snow and volcanic rock (think wet cement)—occurred. When the lahar encountered the debris blockage from 1980, part of it flowed into Spirit Lake (bottom left), while the rest flowed west into the Loowit Creek drainage that flows into the upper North Fork Toutle River. USGS photo by Tom Casadevall.

In Science Findings #218, “The Spirit Lake Dilemma: Engineering a Solution for a Lake with a Problematic Outlet,” USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station writers explore new research into the future repair or replacement of an outflow tunnel at Spirit Lake, on Mount St. Helens.

The eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980 fundamentally transformed the surrounding landscape, triggering geophysical processes that are still unfolding.

Spirit Lake, with Mount St. Helens, Washington, in the background (2015). A debris avalanche triggered by a volcanic eruption on May 18, 1980, blocked the lake’s natural outlet. A tunnel was built to safely remove water from the lake and minimize the risk of catastrophic flooding to communities downstream. Maintaining the tunnel is expensive, so long-term solutions are being explored. USDA Forest Service photo by Rhonda Mazza.

Among them was a debris avalanche caused by the eruption, that blocked the outlet from Spirit Lake to the North Fork Toutle River.

To prevent the rising lake level from breaching the blockage and potentially flooding communities downstream, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built an outlet tunnel to maintain safe lake levels.

However, the tunnel must be periodically closed for repairs, during which time the lake level rises.

Prolonged closures, combined with increased volume from melting rainfall and snow in the spring, could allow the water level to rise high enough to breach the natural dam.

In 2015, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest commissioned a study to assess risks associated with alternative outlet options.

A team consisting of researchers from the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, the U.S. Geological Survey, and Oregon State University authored the study.

At the team’s request, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted a dam safety risk-assessment of long-term solutions: maintaining the existing tunnel, rehabilitating the tunnel, creating an open channel across the blockage, or installing a buried conduit across the blockage.

The assessment determined that there is no risk-free way to remove water from Spirit Lake, but the likelihood is generally low that these solutions will fail.

With this information, the Forest Service is moving forward with developing a long-term solution to managing the Spirit Lake outlet.


Source information: Rhonda Mazza is a public affairs specialist for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station, which publishes Science Findings. Find past Science Findings at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/.

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