Category Archives: Articles

Early berry, mushroom seasons prompt permit reminders

Huckleberries growing on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in a Sept. 12, 2007 file photo. USDA Forest Service photo.

VANCOUVER, Wash. (Aug 20, 2019) —  Thanks to a mild summer season, huckleberry season is well underway in much of the Pacific Northwest, and fall mushrooms have arrived as much as a month ahead of normal in some areas.

The USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region reminds all forest users to “know before you go” and check with your local forest supervisor’s office or ranger district for applicable seasonal info and permit requirements before picking berries, mushrooms, or any other forest products on your favorite National Forest or Grassland.

The huckleberry grows throughout the Pacific Northwest, but the season begins and end at different times in across the region, as factors from latitude, to local climate even elevation play a role in when the berries ripen.

Free-use permits are available for non-commercial harvesting of many forest products on National Forests. The permits are issued at no cost, but the process allows natural resource managers to assess the demand for various forest products.

The permitting process also helps the agency ensure that berry pickers, mushroom pickers, and other harvesters of forest products are informed of any restrictions on they type or quantities of a particular forest product that can be collected by a single user, and what areas are protected or otherwise not being opened to harvests during the current season.

Commercial permits are required for any user seeking to harvest berries, mushrooms, plants, or any other forest products for resale.

On the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, for example, commercial huckleberry permits are currently available at all Ranger District offices, and at the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Headquarters. Commercial permits cost $60 for 14 days, or $105 for the season.  All people harvesting more than three gallons, or selling any quantity of berries, must obtain a commercial huckleberry permit. (Under Washington State law huckleberry buyers and sellers must also register their sales transactions.  For details, visit: www.fs.usda.gov/main/giffordpinchot/passes-permits/forestproducts).

A free-use permit is also required when harvesting berries for personal consumption.  There is no cost for free-use permits. To apply for and print a free-use huckleberry permit valid for approved areas of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, visit: https://apps.fs.usda.gov/gp.

Please note: Some areas of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest are closed to huckleberry harvesting.  These include the legislated Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, all legislated Wildernesses, and the “Handshake Agreement” area of Sawtooth Berry Fields.  In addition, a temporary closure to public camping will be in effect for the month of August in a small area of the Pole Patch huckleberry area. A map of areas open to personal picking and commercial harvesting will be provided with all 2019 permits, as areas open to harvest have changed this year.

For detailed information about forest products and permits on other forests, contact the Forest Supervisor’s office or District Ranger’s office for the forest you would live to visit.


Source information: Gifford Pinchot National Forest (press release)

Forest Service partners to extend outreach in Slavic community

USDA Forest Service staff, Slavic Family Media employees, and their families gather for a group photo following the signing of a partnership agreement July 17, 2019. The media company manages a number of Russian-language news and information platforms serving the Slavic community in and around Portland, Ore. and across the Pacific Northwest. Under the agreement, the group will assist the agency in translating and sharing Forest Service information about conservation, permits, fire prevention, recreation. volunteerism, and other public lands news and information for the Slavic community through spring, 2020. USDA Forest Service photo.

PORTLAND, Ore. (Aug 20, 2019) — The USDA Forest Service has signed an agreement with Slavic Family Media to expand the agency’s outreach to the Russian -speaking immigrant and refugee community in and around the Portland metro, which includes Multnomah County, Ore. and Clark County, Wash.

“Our community loves recreating, and they love to hike, camp, and enjoy day trips to harvest mushrooms and berries. Our goal as a community organization is to ensure make sure that our people our members have the proper information and resources to do so safely and legally,” Timur Holove, the media organization’s creative director, said. “We want to give our audience this valuable information in their native language so they can understand and take advantage of all the programs offered by the U.S. Forest Service,” some of which they may not have even known existed, he said.

To underscore the importance of this outreach effort to the agency, the agreement was signed live, on-air, by Nick Pechneyuk, Slavic Family Media chief executive officer, and Glenn Casamassa, Pacific Northwest regional forester, at the Slavic Family Media radio and television studios in Portland, Ore.

From left: Timur Holove, creative director for Slavic Family Media, Nick Pechneyuk, chief executive officer, and Glenn Casamassa, Pacific Northwest regional forester, on the set at Slavic Family Media radio and television studios in Portland, Ore. July 17, 2019. USDA Forest Service photo.

“This agreement … is really another step forward in our commitment to shared stewardship, and expanding our engagement to broader audiences, like the Slavic family,” Casamassa said during the July 17 signing. “This is a great opportunity, for us, noth only for this generation, but for future generations as well, to be able to work together.”

The agreement that outlines how the two organizations will work together to bring information about the national forest system to the Russian-language speaking population in and around Portland, Ore.

“We’re providing information that we need disseminated to the Slavic population,” Shandra Terry, Forest Service regional program coordinator for community engagement and inclusion, said. “And what we are providing is information that they can use – about recreation, and special use permits for special forest products, such as mushrooms, huckleberries, Christmas trees – things that are special to this community. These are opportunities that public lands offer, and this demographic will now have better opportunities to access these public lands and services.”

Under the agreement, Slavic Family Media will translate information provided by the Forest Service into Russian, then communicate it via the company’s various Russian-language media platforms. These include television, radio, a website, social media, and print publications – including a newspaper, business journal, and a magazine that, combined, potentially reach more than 150,000 Russian -speakers across the Pacific Northwest.

Information will include conservation education, recreation, and land stewardship topics, wildland fire prevention and preparedness information, and information about special places on nearby National Forest lands, such as the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Mt. Hood National Forest, and the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Terry said.

From left: Shandra Terry, Forest Service regional program coordinator for community engagement and inclusion, and Glenn Casamassa, Pacific Northwest regional forester, pose with an example of a wildland fire prevention product that was translated into Russian while at the Slavic Family Media radio and television studios in Portland, Ore. for the July 17, 2019 partnership signing ceremony. USDA Forest Service photo.

The Slavic language family is diverse, consisting of languages that include Russian, Ukrainian, and Moldova. But many immigrants from former Soviet countries learned to speak, read, and write in Russian in school, or from family members who were taught in Russian and otherwise discouraged by that government from using their native language in public life, prior to the dissolution of the U.S.S.R.

After English and Spanish, Russian and Ukrainian are the 3rd largest language-group spoken in Oregon. Large Slavic communities are also present in Washington State, in the Seattle-Tacoma metro, and smaller populations of Russian-language speakers are found in several areas of rural Washington and Oregon.

In the U.S., English, is the language most often used for communicating government information, placing non-fluent speakers at a disadvantage when it comes to receiving information or from benefiting fully from public services – including public lands, and specifically opportunities available on National Forests and Grasslands.

Terry said that while working on this partnership and related Slavic outreach efforts, she’s learned many in the community deeply value opportunities to spend time in the outdoors, and are very interested in information that will expand their opportunities to access public lands.

“Fishing is a huge area of interest. So is finding places the family can gather, and make memories,” she said, noting that Christmas tree -cutting permits and the Every Kid Outdoors (formerly, Every Kid in a Park) program for fourth-graders have been a particularly strong draw in previous Forest Service engagements with Portland’s Slavic community. “They’re wanting to know more about what the regulations are, so they can access those places. We’ll be sharing a lot of information, about our special places and how to access them, so they can do that.”

Terry said she hopes the Forest Service’s partnership with Slavic Family Media will help more members of this community find connect with public lands stewardship and volunteer opportunities, as well.

“These are public lands. They are for everyone, and we are all responsible for them,” she said.

Regional Forester Glenn Casamassa will also deliver remarks to the Slavic community Sept. 1, 2019 at the Slavic Family Festival 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Gateway Discovery Park (10520 NE Halsey St.; Portland, Ore.). Casamassa will deliver his remarks at approx. 11 a.m. The agency will have employees present to provide forest user information throughout the day, and Smokey Bear is scheduled to make an appearance at the event.

From the Memorandum of Agreement (signed July 19):

  • National Forest System lands are open and welcoming to everyone.  Slavic Family Media and USDA Forest Service value the opportunity to communicate and highlight National Forest recreation opportunities, forest products, eco therapy, forest safety, smoke health, fire recovery information, conservation education, volunteer and employment opportunities and National Forest System events to audiences primarily in the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area through multimedia opportunities. 
  • The partnership between Slavic Family Media and the USDA Forest Service signifies our partnership and commitment to connecting Russian-speaking communities to national forest lands and Forest Service engagement opportunities. 
  • The USDA Forest Service is committed to shared stewardship to protect public lands and deliver benefits to the people and communities we serve in Oregon and Washington. 
  • Through Slavic Family Media, the USDA Forest Service aims to leverage its communications and reach the Slavic community through bilingual (Russian and English) print, radio, and social media platforms.  This partnership initially became effective in March 2019.

Watch the signing ceremony, here:

USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region and Slavic Family Media partnership signing; July 17, 2019.

Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region, Office of Communications and Community Engagement (staff report)

Forest Service, Oregon officials sign Shared Stewardship agreement

Four people ceremonially sign a document together

PORTLAND, Ore. (Aug. 14, 2019) — On Tuesday, state and federal forestry officials joined Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and James Hubbard, USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment in Salem, Ore., to sign a Shared Stewardship agreement between the state and the USDA Forest Service.

Oregon State Forester Peter Daugherty and USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Regional Forester Glenn Casamassa, building on years of strong state-federal partnership, also signed the agreement to seek even greater collaboration between the agencies..

Under this agreement, the Forest Service and Oregon Department of Forestry will work together to identify shared priorities and implement collaborative projects focused on healthy and resilient forested ecosystems, vibrant local economies, healthy watersheds with functional aquatic habitat, and quality outdoor opportunities for all Oregonians.

“Federal and state agencies face many of the same challenges, including longer and more destructive wildfire seasons; forests facing threats from insects and disease, and the need to ensure the continued long-term ecological and socioeconomic benefits our forests provide,” Casamassa said. Pacific. “Working together in a spirit of shared stewardship, we are better prepared to tackle these challenges on a landscape scale.”

The Forest Service and the State of Oregon have a long history of working together, including coordinated fire protection and grant programs to cooperatively manage forest health issues across all forest lands in Oregon.

In 2016, the Forest Service signed a Good Neighbor Authority Agreement with the State of Oregon to increase the pace and scale of forest health and restoration projects.

Now, there are Good Neighbor projects underway on every national forest in the State of Oregon.

The Forest Service and Oregon Department of Forestry are working more closely and effectively on a wide variety of projects, including forest restoration, watershed restoration projects, timber sales, and other fuels reductions projects.

In May, the Forest Service signed a Shared Stewardship agreement with the Washington Department of Natural Resources.

With this newly signed Oregon agreement, the Forest Service anticipates working even more effectively with state partners, on a landscape scale, across the Pacific Northwest.

Video:
via @YourNorthwestForests on Facebook


Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region (Office of Communications and Community Engagement)

Old-growth forests may shelter pockets of biodiversity after severe fires

A northern spotted owl perches on a tree limb.

CORVALLIS, Ore. (July 2, 2019) New findings show that old-growth forests, a critical nesting habitat for threatened northern spotted owls, are less likely to experience high-severity fire than young-growth forests during wildfires.

This suggests that old-growth forest could be leveraged to provide valuable fire refuges that support forest biodiversity and buffer the extreme effects of climate change on fire regimes in the Pacific Northwest.

A recent study published in the journal Ecosphere examined the impact of the Douglas Complex and Big Windy fires, which burned in the Klamath-Siskiyou region of Oregon during July 2013, a drought year.

The fires burned through a long-term study area for northern spotted owls.

Using information on forest vegetation before and after the fires, along with known spotted owl nesting areas, researchers had an unprecedented chance to compare the impact of wildfire on critical old-growth nesting habitat.

“On federally managed lands, spotted owl nesting habitat is largely protected from timber harvest under the Northwest Forest Plan, but wildfire is still a primary threat to the old-growth forest that spotted owls rely on for nesting habitat,” Damon Lesmeister, a research wildlife biologist for the USDA Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station, said. “The loss of spotted owl nesting habitat as a result of severe fire damage could have significant negative impacts on the remaining spotted owl populations as well as a large number of other wildlife species that rely on these old forests.”

Old-growth forests have more vegetation than younger forests. Researchers expected that this meant more fuel would be available for wildfires, increasing the susceptibility of old-growth forests to severe fire, high tree mortality, and resulting loss of critical spotted owl nesting habitat.

However, the data suggested a different effect.

Lesmeister and his colleagues classified fire severity based on the percentage of trees lost in a fire, considering forest that lost less than 20% of its trees to fire as subject to low-severity fire and those with more than 90% tree loss as subject to high-severity fire.

They found that old-growth forest was up to three times more likely to burn at low severity — a level that avoided loss of spotted owl nesting habitat and is generally considered to be part of a healthy forest ecosystem. 

“Somewhat to our surprise, we found that, compared to other forest types within the burned area, old-growth forests burned on average much cooler than younger forests, which were more likely to experience high-severity fire. How this actually plays out during a mixed-severity wildfire makes sense when you consider the qualities of old-growth forest that can limit severe wildfire ignitions and burn temperatures, like shading from multilayer canopies, cooler temperatures, moist air and soil as well as larger, hardier trees,” Lesmeister said.

Because old-growth forests may be refuges for low-severity fire on a landscape that experiences moderate to high-severity fires frequently, they could be integral as biodiversity refuges in an increasingly fire-prone region.

Leveraging the potential of old-growth forests to act as refuges may be an effective tool for forest managers as they deal with worsening fire seasons in the Pacific Northwest.

The study was a collaboration between researchers Damon Lesmeister and David Bell, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station; Stan Sovern and Matthew Gregory, Oregon State University; Raymond Davis, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region; and Jody Vogeler, Colorado State University. 


Source information: USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station (press release). The research station – headquartered in Portland, Ore. – generates and communicates scientific knowledge to help people make informed choices about natural resources and the environment. The station has 11 laboratories and centers located in Alaska, Washington, and Oregon and about 300 employees. Learn more at https://www.fs.usda.gov/pnw/

Siuslaw NF seeks outfitter-guide proposals

A dune buggy ferries passengers touring a sandy path through a portion of the Siuslaw National Forest.

(Permisos para guías y proveedores de equipamiento: information en español)

CORVALLIS, Ore. (July 29, 2019)  USDA Forest Service officials are seeking proposals from individuals, businesses, or organizations interested in offering outfitter or guiding opportunities on the Siuslaw National Forest.

This request for proposals, or RFP, is not a formal application process. The RFP is intended to determine the level of interest and identify next steps for issuing outfitter and guide special use permits to interested parties.

Outfitters and guides – who typically offer opportunities such as gear and equipment rentals or recreation experiences led by an expert guide to paying customers – are required to have a special use permit issued by the Forest Service to operate on national forest lands and waters.

Depending on the level of interest expressed in response to this request for proposals, the process for issuing special use permits may be competitive or noncompetitive.

“Outfitters and guides are important partners,” Dani Pavoni, recreation lead for the Siuslaw National Forest, said. “They help open the doors to experiences for people who may not have the skills, experience, or equipment needed to do it on their own, and they help people experience the national forest in new and exciting ways. ”

Pavoni said the forest’s leadership is especially committed to connecting children with nature and partnering with organizations who provide quality outdoor opportunities, and especially encouraged outfitter and guides offering programs that serve youth and historically under-served populations or communities to submit proposals in response to the forest’s RFP.

Proposals are being accepted through Sept. 20, 2019.

More information and proposal documents can be found here.

Questions about special use permits and this request for proposals can be directed to Chris LaCosse, forest recreation specialist, at (541) 271-6017 or SM.FS.SiuNFComment@usda.gov.


Source information: Siuslaw National Forest (press release)

Fire season safety tips for smoke-sensitive persons, drivers

Smoke blowing over a roadway nearly obscures USDA Forest Service wildland fire truck (WA-OWF E644) and a wildland firefighter from the camera's view.

While the “fire season” is off to a slower-than-normal start in many parts of the Pacific Northwest, fires like the Milepost 97 are here and ready to remind fire isn’t the only seasonal hazard to watch for. There are also two, other, closely related risks faced by our firefighters and our community during the season: smoke and motor vehicle traffic.

Even small fires can send a lot of smoke into nearby roadways. Sometimes, even smoke drift from distant fires can create enough haze to reduce visibility. That reduced visibility is a risk to pedestrians, other motorists (including those in or responding to disabled vehicles along the road shoulder), and even firefighters working nearby.

If you’re traveling in areas with nearby fire activity, be careful and use extra caution. In addition to reduced or poor visibility, you may encounter heavy equipment and firefighting trucks on the road. Drive carefully, slow down, and give plenty of space to firefighters and fire vehicles. Use extra caution when driving in smoke-filled conditions; debris, disabled vehicles and pedestrians may be concealed from view until you’re vehicle is just a few feet away.

Follow these tips to keep yourself and others, including firefighters and smoke-sensitive loved ones, safe!

  • If your travel plans require you to drive on routes that are impacted by fire or firefighting activity, consider alternate travel dates and/or routes.
  • If you must drive, pay close attention to road closures and warnings.
  • Be alert! Fire activity and subsequent operations can change quickly.  Adapt driving patterns accordingly and always yield to emergency responders.
  • Navigation applications on smart phones or other devices (GPS / maps) may not accurately reflect changing conditions. Watch out for changing local conditions and detours.
  • Plan ahead. If you live in a fire-prone area (which is all of us, in the Pacific Northwest!), keep your gas tank filled at least 3/4 full at all times. Maintain a clean air filter, and carry paper map or road atlas to assist you in travelling in areas with limited cell phone reception. Bring an extra cell phone charger (and battery back-up); make sure you have a spare tire and jack; and carry extra water, food, a first aid kit and a blanket in your vehicle at all times.
  • Remove unnecessary flammables from the vehicle, such as containers of gas and oil.
  • Stay calm and focus on driving tasks. Drivers should not be texting, taking photos or video footage, no matter what is unfolding around them!
  • Keep headlights “on” for safety when driving.
  • Keep vehicle windows closed when travelling through smoke, and close all exterior air vents; set air conditioning to the “recirculation” setting.
  • Smoke-filled air can also impact health at home, particularly for young children, the elderly, and for people with chronic heart or lung conditions such as asthma, emphysema, and COPD. If possible, maintain a “clean room” at home in which air can be filtered by an appropriately-sized filtration system; ideally, a True HEPA filter rated to remove 99.97% of particles of .3 microns or larger, paired with an activated charcoal filter to trap volatile organic compounds. (An air ionizer may also be helpful, but discuss your plans with a doctor as not everyone is a good candidate. Those with sensitive lungs should only run an ionizer while away from home to avoid breathing ionized particles, and people who are sensitive to ozone should not use ionizers).
  • Plan ahead! It’s important for everyone to have an emergency evacuation plan, but it is especially important for those with special needs, pets, or who do not have access to a motor vehicle to plan ahead. Find advice on emergency preparedness planning at RedCross.org and at Ready.gov.

Planning travel, and need the latest traffic, smoke and safety updates? These websites can help!

Why are bark beetles attracted to heat-stressed trees? Alcohol, new study says

Close-up image of a red turpentine beetle (Dendroctonus valens).

Foresters have long known that trees under stress from fire injury are vulnerable to bark beetle attacks. Now, Rick Kelsey and Doug Westlind, researchers with the Pacific Northwest Research Station, have developed a model that explains how physiological changes cause heat stress in woody tissues, even after exposure to less-than-lethal fire temperatures, and produce a chemical signal that attracts some bark beetles.

When heat disrupts normal cell functions, the tree produces ethanol as a short-term survival strategy.

And if enough ethanol accumulates, mixes with volatile organic compounds in the tree’s resin, and is released to the atmosphere, the combination has proved to be a strong attractant for red turpentine beetles.

A man in protective hat, vest inspects a tall, hanging series of cones.
Retired Forest Service scientist Rick Kelsey collects bark beetles captured in funnel traps following a prescribed fire in Oregon. Understanding the interplay between tree response to heat stress and certain insects can help forest managers design fuel-reduction treatments to achieve specific outcomes. USDA Forest Service photo.

Kelsey and Westlind showed that ethanol interacts synergistically with 3-carene, a dominant ponderosa pine resin monoterpene. In a trapping study, red turpentine beetles were more attracted to lures combining ethanol and 3-carene than lures with ethanol or 3-carene alone.

Understanding ecosystem responses to fire can help managers characterize forest health and plan for post-fire management.

The results also hold promise for developing simple ethanol detection methods for monitoring tree stress.

Real-time feedback on ethanol levels could help forest managers quickly assess which trees to cull after a fire, and which to leave in place.

Learn more in the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station’s Science Findings 217, at https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/58195.

Ethanol dissipation mechanisms: diffusion, sapflow, and metabolism with relative rates at ambient conditions. Ethanol is metabolized by alcohol dehydrogenase to acetaldehyde (Zanon et al. 2007), which is converted by aldehyde dehydrogenase to acetate, which is converted by acetyl-CoA synthase into acetyl-CoA (MacDonald and Kimmerer 1993, Gass et al. 2005). The latter can enter the tricarboxylic acid or glyoxylate cycles or be used to synthesize lipids depending on heat damage to membranes and enzymes. Ethanol dissipation mechanisms: diffusion, sapflow, and metabolism with relative rates at ambient conditions. Ethanol is metabolized by alcohol dehydrogenase to acetaldehyde (Zanon et al. 2007), which is converted by aldehyde dehydrogenase to acetate, which is converted by acetyl-CoA synthase into acetyl-CoA (MacDonald and Kimmerer 1993, Gass et al. 2005). The latter can enter the tricarboxylic acid or glyoxylate cycles or be used to synthesize lipids depending on heat damage to membranes and enzymes.
As ethanol accumulates in the tree, it immediately begins to dissipate via (1) diffusion, (2) sapflow, and (3) metabolism. Each process is affected differently by the heat-stress mechanism the tissues and whole tree experience. USDA Forest Service illustration (originally published at https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/67/5/443/3746565).

Source information: USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station (Science Findings 217). The research station – headquartered in Portland, Ore. – generates and communicates scientific knowledge to help people make informed choices about natural resources and the environment. The station has 11 laboratories and centers located in Alaska, Washington, and Oregon and about 300 employees. Learn more at https://www.fs.usda.gov/pnw/

Wallowa-Whitman NF closes area to camping due to abuse

Deep ruts and tire tracks amidst torn-up forest meadow grass.

BAKER CITY, Ore. (July 25, 2019) — The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest has determined that a temporary closure to camping is needed in a small area of the forest due to ongoing resource damage.

This damage is the result of long-term occupancy of the area, and the closure is intended to allow vegetation in the damaged areas time to become reestablished.

Multiple complaints were received from multiple sources. On further investigation, a number of issues, including septic holes, discarded litter and personal belongings, deep ruts in meadows and wetlands, and other forms of abuse from un-managed long term camping, were documented by Forest Service employees.

The Huckleberry Creek Area Closure affects approximately 240 acres of the Whitman Ranger District, located south of Sumpter along Forest Road 1090, and prohibits overnight camping in the area until July 24, 2021, unless rescinded earlier.

A legal description and map of the closure area is included in the Forest Order, which can be viewed at the Whitman Ranger District office in Baker City or at https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/FSEPRD645413.pdf.

Forest and district leadership thank local residents and the public who brought this to our attention, so that further damage did not occur.

For more information about the closure order, contact the Whitman Ranger District at (541) 523-6391.


Source information: Wallowa Whitman National Forest (press release)

After a century’s absence, migratory steelhead return to Beaver Creek

three migratory steelhead are pictured swimming in turbulent waters

LA GRANDE, Ore. (July 29, 2019) Earlier this summer, Tim Bailey and Winston Morton of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife were looking for signs of spawning steelhead in the headwaters of Beaver Creek southwest of La Grande. 

They’d surveyed miles of the creek, tediously making their way over downed trees, rocks, and slippery stream banks while scanning the streambed. 

Then they found four redds, depressions in the river gravel made by fish to lay their eggs. 

This simple discovery represents a breakthrough for migratory steelhead, which had not been able to reach the headwaters of Beaver Creek for over 100 years.

A migratory steelhead leaps from the water in an effort to clear a rocky outcrop blocking it's passage upstream.
Human development that blocks migratory steelhead access to historical habitat, as well as poorly-designed passages that create strong currents can tire young fish expose them from predators, have resulted in several species being listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Courtesy photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Migratory steelhead are amazing fish. After they are born and raised in cold freshwater streams, they will swim hundreds of miles to feed and grow in the ocean. Then they swim back to the stream of their birth to reproduce. 

For many thousands of years, steelhead followed this life cycle in the Grande Ronde River and its tributaries, including the headwaters of Beaver Creek.

That changed a century ago with the construction of the Beaver Creek Dam and four water diversions in the La Grande municipal watershed.

Steelhead and other migratory fish could no longer swim past the dam and diversions to reach the high-quality spawning and rearing habitat in upper Beaver Creek. 

A man looks out at a concrete weird under construction along a streambed.
A concrete weir under construction as part of the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project. Just two years after construction, fish biologists have found signs of migratory steelhead returning to the river for the first time in a century. Courtesy photo: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife)

To solve this problem, several local, state, and federal entities teamed up to implement the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project.

When the construction crew broke ground in June of 2017, the project had been in various stages of planning for 20 years.

Why did it take so long?

Designing a structure to provide fish passage up to, and down from, the Beaver Creek Dam was a significant engineering challenge. The structure had to be low-maintenance and work without electricity; it also had to accommodate high flows in the spring as well as low flows later in the summer.

A series of precast concrete weirs is laid into the Beaver Creek streambed.
A series of precast concrete weirs under construction as part of the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project. Courtesy photo by Anderson Perry & Associates Inc.

The City of La Grande worked with a local civil engineering firm, Anderson Perry & Associates, to evaluate several alternatives for a fish passage structure, and other project partners provided technical feedback.

They ultimately landed on a one-of-a-kind solution: a series of 59 precast concrete weirs (little dams). Each weir weighs 27,000 pounds and had to be constructed off site.

Stacked one-by-one along about 400 feet of the dam’s eastern spillway, the weirs create a staircase of resting pools that allow fish to jump & swim up and over the top of the dam.

To date, there are no other fishways like this in the Pacific Northwest.

Construction workers install a series of precast concrete weirs in a temporarily-drained stream bed.
A series of precast concrete weirs under construction as part of the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project. The 2017 installation of 59 weirs provides a series of resting pools for fish to swim up to, and down from, the Beaver Creek Dam. Courtesy photo by Anderson Perry & Associates Inc.

Implementing the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project took a total of $1,125,700 and vital contributions from several partners:

  • The City of La Grande provided technical expertise, project funding, and grant administration.
  • Anderson Perry & Associates of La Grande provided engineering design and construction project management.
  • Lindley Contracting of Union constructed the project, including the fish passage structure, upgraded several intake structures, and replaced worn out utility infrastructure.
  • Grande Ronde Model Watershed facilitated project funding, including $150,000 from the Bonneville Power Administration, as well as technical feedback that contributed to the enhancement of the project.
  • The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board contributed $150,000.
  • The Oregon Water Resources Department provided $600,000 in grant funding.
  • The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife provided expert advice, design review, and project monitoring.
  • The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest provided environmental analysis, planning, technical feedback, and implementation support.

“I’m grateful for the collaborative effort put forth by everyone involved,” Kyle Carpenter, La Grande’s director of public works, said.  “The wealth of knowledge and experience that we all pooled together, along with our cooperative move-it-forward mentality, were invaluable in the successful completion of this project.”

“The La Grande Municipal Watershed provides some of the best drinking water in the world, straight from our National Forest,” Lee Mannor, water superintendent for the city of La Grande, said.  “Now we also provide some of the best native fish habitat in the world.  That is something we can all be proud of when we turn on the tap.”

“The Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project was a special one for our team,” Brett Moore, P.E., with Anderson Perry & Associates, Inc., said  “The City of La Grande asked us to help them solve a unique engineering design problem, which is always rewarding.  This project also gave us a chance to be part of something much bigger right here in our own backyard.”

“This is a testament to nature’s resilience,” Jesse Steele, interim director of the Grande Ronde Model Watershed, said.  “I’m looking forward to more success stories as we continue to connect and restore habitat in the Grande Ronde Basin.”

“After more than 100 years away, migratory steelhead now have access to over 14 miles of pristine spawning and rearing habitat above the Beaver Creek Dam, and they are moving back in,” Tim Bailey, a fisheries biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said.  “Finding those first four redds was an important milestone, and I expect we will find even more in the future.”

“It really made my summer when I heard that steelhead were once again spawning in upper Beaver Creek,” Bill Gamble, district ranger for the La Grande District, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, said.  “There is a lot of credit to go around. We in the Forest Service were just privileged to work with so many great partners over the years to help make the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project a reality. This is another win for our local restoration economy – where habitat restoration projects are driving more investments and jobs while improving everyone’s access to natural resources.”

An Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife employee, in the foreground, inspects a portion of Beaver Creek being restored for improved fish passage.
An Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife employee, foreground, inspects a portion of Beaver Creek being restored for improved fish passage. Courtesy photo by Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

For more information, please see the article, “Reconnecting the Habitat Dots,” published in Ripples in the Grande Ronde and the La Grande Observer in the summer of 2017.


Source information: Wallowa Whitman National Forest (press release).

Umpqua NF enacts 14-day limit on some campsites

An elaborately constructed long-term campsite, including a cast iron tub perched above a stone fire circle and a wooden structure likely used by a long-term camper for washing and drying clothes.

ROSEBURG, Ore. (July 28, 2019) The Umpqua National Forest has implemented a 14-day limit on overnight camping in several areas that had previously been available for longer-term camping on the Tiller Ranger District.

Several other areas of the forest are also closed to long-term camping due to increased visitation or environmental damage from long-term camping; long-term camping limits were adopted for several sites on the Cottage Grove District by a closure order issued last year, and several locations on the North Umpqua District are also closed to long-term camping.

Long-term camping at both developed and non-developed (dispersed) campsites that are easily-accessible and in locations that are popular with visitors has increased significantly in recent years, limiting opportunities for other campers seeking to use these sites and increasing the risk of damage to surrounding natural resources from irresponsible recreation practices, according to a press release from the forest to announced the changes.

A developed campsite in an evergreen forest, equipped with a carved log picnic table, fire ring, and cleared flat ground.
A developed campsite on the Tiller Ranger District; Umpqua National Forest, Ore. USDA Forest Service photo by Lance Sargent; district recreation manager.

“Some of these sites are very popular with visitors, and there aren’t a lot of places suitable for camping, so it really limited access,” Lance Sargent, recreation manager for the Tiller Ranger District, said.

Areas of Tiller Ranger District subject to the new long-term camping closure order include the Forest Service Road 28 and South Umpqua Road corridor, the Forest Service Road 2823 corridor, and the Forest Service Road 29 / Jackson Creek Road corridors.

Acker Rock is visible above a break in the treeline, with a branch of the Umqpua River system visible in the foreground and an unpaved forest road winding alongside the stream.
A view of Acker Rock, from one of the road corridors now subject to a 14-day limit on overnight camping. USDA Forest Service photo by Lance Sergeant.

The Devils Flat, Threehorn, Three C Rock, Black Canyon, Skookum Pond and Falcon Creek campgrounds, and the Cow Creek Trailhead, area also affected by the long-term camping closure order.

The new long-term stay limits have been enacted in an effort to protect Forest resources and visitor health and safety, said Kathy Minor, Tiller District Ranger, said.

“Visitors and Forest staff are experiencing an increase in health and safety risks, as well as the potential for unsafe water quality,” Minor said. “By limiting camping to 14 days, all forest visitors will also have a fair and equitable opportunity to visit and enjoy the Umpqua National Forest.”

An abandoned campsite, littered with tarps and large quantities of visible trash.
Risks to wildlife and natural resources include trash from abandoned camps, human-caused defoliation or deforestation in the surrounding area, erosion or soil disturbances beyond designated camping areas, and water or soil contamination from inadequate sanitation and waste handling. USDA Forest Service photo by Lance Sargent.

The areas affected don’t have running water, toilets, or other facilities sufficient for their use as long-term campsites, as longer stays increase the likelihood of negative impacts to natural resources, including removal of vegetation from areas, user-created trails, improper disposal of human waste and other refuse, and damage to soils as a result of long-term camping when such facilities or other management and oversight isn’t present to monitor their use, according to the forest’s press release.

Review a copy of the forest closure order here.

Forest visitors with site-specific questions should contact the Tiller Ranger District ranger station’s visitor information desk, at (541) 825-3100.

For more information about the Umpqua National Forest, call the Forest Supervisor’s Office at (541) 957-3200 or visit www.fs.usda.gov/umpqua.

An elaborately constructed long-term campsite, including a cast iron tub perched above a stone fire circle and a wooden structure likely used by a long-term camper for washing and drying clothes.
This campsite includes signs of both protracted long-term use, and resource damage (the branches used construct the laundry station show clean cuts, indicating they may have been cut from live trees, rather than gathered as dead wood or from blow downs). USDA Forest Service photo by Lance Sargent (recreation manager, Tiller Ranger District).

Source information: Umpqua National Forest (press release)

« Older Entries