Category Archives: Endangered species

Open letter to Blue Mountains communities: First round of objection-resolution meetings a positive step

Leadership Corner - Glenn Casamassa

On Dec. 14, 2018, Pacific Northwest Regional Forester Glenn Casamassa released the following “open letter” to the communities affected by the proposed Blue Mountains revised forest plan (Malheur, Umatilla, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests), including those who submitted formal objections or participated in objections resolutions meetings as part of the ongoing plan revision process.

See also:

https://yournorthwestforests.org/2018/11/21/forest-service-looking-to-listen-and-work-towards-resolution-in-blues-meetings/ 

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chris_french_baker_city

Chris French, Acting Deputy Chief, National Forest System, USDA Forest Service, listens to a participant in Blue Mountains Forest Plan revision objections resolution meeting at High School in Baker City, Ore. USDA Forest Service photo by Travis Mason-Bushman.

Dear Objectors, Interested Persons, and Blue Mountains Community Members,

I recently had the privilege of meeting many of you during the first round of objection-resolution meetings for the Blue Mountains Revised Forest Plans.  I want to sincerely thank everyone who participated.

Over 300 Objectors, Interested Persons, and public observers attended meetings in John Day, Pendleton, Wallowa, Baker City, and La Grande, Oregon.

I am grateful for the time and effort invested by each of you. I hope you will agree that this first round of resolution meetings was a positive step.

The meetings were led by objection reviewing officers based in Washington, D.C., with support and coordination from the Pacific Northwest Regional Office as well as the Malheur, Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests.

The goal for these initial meetings was to bring clarity and mutual understanding to the Blue Mountain Forest Plan objection issues.

The dialogue helped Forest Service leadership and staff to better understand your values, concerns, and views.

Spending time in Eastern Oregon improved much more than our understanding of the issues identified in the objections, though.

Through our initial discussions we also gained a deeper appreciation of local residents’ special relationships with the land.

We had it affirmed that, for many of those who live in and around the Blue Mountains, these national forests are not just places to visit and recreate – the forests are a vital part of your community life, identity, heritage, and livelihoods.

The Forest Service is striving to honor these special relationships in the Blue Mountain Forest Plan’s resolution process.

In doing so, we will better respect the views of many different community members – including our Tribal neighbors, the States of Oregon and Washington, County and other local government representatives, user groups, environmental groups, industry, and business – all of whom seek assurances that the Forest Service will protect their priority resources.

During the initial meetings the Forest Service heard a lot about a wide range of topics, including access; aquatic and riparian conservation; elk security and bighorn sheep; fire and fuels; fish, wildlife, and plants; livestock grazing; local government cooperation and coordination; public participation; social and economic issues; timber and vegetation; and wilderness, backcountry, and other special areas.

Digging into these topics in person gave the Forest Service the opportunity to explore issues that were not as prominent in the written objection letters.  From the dialogue, some issues appear to be close to resolution while others will require further discussion, so there will be more steps to take in this process.

The Forest Service knows that many topics are interrelated, and we will work to pull together the related topics for discussion in future meetings, so all of us can better see the connections and consider the trade-offs of potential resolutions.

The Forest Service also understands that not all Objectors and Interested Persons were able to attend the first round of meetings or have their voices represented by others.

So, as we navigate these next steps, the Forest Service will work ensure we are as inclusive as possible in future objections-resolutions meetings.

Over the coming weeks the reviewing officers will be studying the notes and reflecting on what we heard in the first round of resolution meetings and we will be helping the Washington Office in scheduling the next round of objections-resolutions meetings. We will be in touch again to announce the next steps.

Thank you for your contributions, and I look forward to making more progress together in the near future.

Kind regards,
Glenn Casamassa,
Pacific Northwest Regional Forester 



Source Information: Glenn Casamassa is the Regional Forest for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region, supervising operations and staff on all national forests and grassland in Oregon and Washington State. For more information about the Blue Mountains Forest Plan planning process and scheduled objections resolution meetings, visit: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/r6/landmanagement/planning/?cid=fseprd584707&width=full

The Wildlife Society’s Oregon chapter launches ‘Northwest Nature Matters’ podcast

Northwest Nature Matters logo

Northwest Nature Matters is a new podcast produced by the Oregon Chapter of The Wildlife Society (in partnership with Oregon Wildlife Foundation).

The people of the Pacific Northwest value beautiful natural scenery, clean air and water, and abundant fish and wildlife resources, John Goodell, podcast host and producer, said.

“Conservation is important to us, yet sourcing accurate scientific information can be difficult in this age of polarized content. The goal of the podcast is to serve as an antidote,” he said.

The podcast brings experts together for conversations around scientific information about natural history, conservation, and other natural resource issues here in the Pacific Northwest.

Three episodes at a time will be available online.

  • In episode 1, Dr. Tom Cade, a conservation biologist and founder of the Peregrine Fund, and Kent Carnie, a retired military intelligence officer and a leader in the North American falconry community, discuss the return of the Peregrine Falcon, which was de-listed from the Endangered Species Act in 1999
  • In episode 2, Jay Bowerman, a leading Oregon herpetologist and expert on the Oregon Spotted Frog expert, discusses the natural history and conservation of this currently threatened species, whose historical range extends from central Oregon to southern parts of western Washington.
  • In episode 3, Davia Palmeri, conservation policy coordinator with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, discusses the history of conservation, new challenges, and potential future of legislation regarding wildlife conservation policy in the U.S.

For more information, visit: https://www.myowf.org/nwnaturematters

To download episodes or subscribe:

In the News: Adriana Morales, Siuslaw NF district fisheries biologist

Adriana Morales, Hebo District fisheries biologist, Siuslaw National Forest, wears waders and poses with a depth measurement tool while collecting stream data

How does a girl from Bogota, Columbia, who grew up in a city set high in the Andes, fall in love with the ocean and end up working for the Forest Service in Hebo, Ore.?

The Skanner News recently profiled Adriana Morales, a district fisheries biologist for the Siuslaw National Forest, as part of a running series highlighting diversity in the Forest Service, and opportunities in the natural resources career fields.

Morales is passionate about working with partners to restore the Pacific Northwest’s salmon and steelhead habitat, which relies on the clean, cold streams supplied by forest shade and melting mountain snow.

She’s also dedicated to sharing her love of the natural world with others; she frequently conducts bilingual outreach events and opportunities that open outdoor experiences to youth from under-served communities.

From the story:

“We are sharing this planet … and we need to recognize and ensure that conservation, preservation and rational use of natural resources needs have a balance with the interest of the society, and with other animal and plant species, because this is our legacy for future generations,” Morales said.

Read more, at:
https://www.theskanner.com/news/northwest/27715-adriana-morales-makes-a-difference-as-a-usda-forest-service-fisheries-biologist

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Forest Feature: Bats

Close up of Big Brown Bats

Here in Your Northwest Forests, we’re batty for bats! These creatures of the night may have a spooky reputation – but bats are actually incredibly interesting animals who play an important role in maintaining the health of our forests, farms, and even help save human lives!

Close up photo of the face of a pallid bat

This pallid bat is being examined by a researcher. Pallid bats are found in dry areas across the western United States, including Oregon and central and eastern parts of Washington State. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Photo by Ann Froschauer.

Check out these bat facts –

Bats are the only mammals capable of true flight (other airborne mammals, like flying squirrels, can glide but can’t flap their wings to rise higher or increase their speed).

People sometimes use the expression “blind as a bat.” But, bats aren’t blind! However, some can also sense objects using echolocation, using high-frequency sound and then listening to the echos to create a “map” of the area their mind to navigate even when it’s too dark for them to see with their eyes.

Forest Service researchers discovered that bat’s wings can be used to identify individual bats—much like human fingerprints.

Most bats eat fruit or insects – but there are three species of vampire bat that bite and then drink the blood from larger animals, like cows and horses. That might sound creepy, but scientists have found powerful anticoagulant in their saliva that is now used to save human lives! The drug Draculin, named after Count Dracula (a fictional vampire often depicted as able to transform into a bat), is used to break up blood clots in people that have suffered strokes or heart attacks.

Bats also help humans in other ways:

A young Mariana fruit bat hangs upside-down

This young Mariana fruit bat looks at the world upside down. These endangered bats are among the largest bat species, called “mega bats,” or “flying foxes,” and are native to Guam and other Pacific Islands. US Fish & Wildlife Service photo by Anne Brooke.

They eat insect pests that cost farmers and foresters billions of dollars annually. In the U.S., researchers estimate bats save farmers $3.7 billion a year in reduced crop damage and pesticide use.

They’re also important pollinators for many fresh fruits and vegetables. Avocados, coconut palm trees, vanilla beans, papaya and agave are just some of the crops that rely on bats to help them produce things humans like to eat!

In the tropics, bats help spread seeds for many fruit trees, including figs, mangos, and bananas.

And bat droppings, or guano, are a powerful fertilizer used to grow crops around the world.

Bats need our help, too!

There are 47 species of bat in the United States, and more than half are either rapidly declining in number, or are listed as threatened or endangered species.

In the Pacific Northwest, a species called the Little Brown Bat is under threat from a disease called “white nose syndrome.”

This fungal infection, caused by Pseudogymnoascus destructans, interrupts their winter hibernation, leaving them weak and sick by spring – if they survive, at all.

If you visit caves or other places that bats like to roost, you can help by cleaning your clothing (including your shoes) before you enter, and after you leave, to prevent spreading the fungus that causes the disease to another location.

A little brown bat roosts in a cave.

A healthy little brown bat roosts in a cave in a Feb. 9, 2011 photo. White nose syndrome is a fungal infection that is threatening this species. The disease causes irritation (including a tell-tale white crust around the mouth and nose) that disrupts the bat’s winter hibernation, causing it to lose fat stores too quickly. This often kills the bat, starving them by the end of the winter, or leaving them weak and vulnerable to secondary infections when they emerge from hibernation. U.S. Fish & Wildlife photo by Ann Froschauer.

During the week leading up to Halloween, the USDA Forest Service joins conservationists, biologists, and educators around the world in celebrating “Bat Week.”

This year, Bat Week is Oct. 24-31, 2018.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, USDA Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees will be at the Oregon Zoo Oct. 27 & 28 to educate visitors and provide bat-week activities for guests of all ages. Find more info on the Your Northwest Forests event calendar.

Image of a bat, and text: Na-na Na-na Na-na Na-na BAT WEEK! #BatAppreciationWeek @ForestService

Bat Appreciation Week is Oct. 24-31, 2018! Visit the Oregon Zoo Oct. 28-29 to join the USDA Forest Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for a bat week celebration and educational activities.

Here are more ways you can celebrate Bat Week!

  • Turn out the lights! Light pollution affects insect populations, which disrupts the bats who feed on them at night.
  • Get familiar with all the different foods made possible by bats! Use the Bat Week Cookbook to make a delicious meal to share with your friends and family.
  • Check out this TedEd presentation by bat researcher Amy Wray: “I’m Batman” – https://ed.ted.com/lessons/i-m-batman-amy-wray
  • Build a bat house! Buy kits online from hardware and building supply stores (pro tip: look for designs certified by Bat Conservation International), or use these instructions from the National Wildlife Foundation: https://www.nwf.org/en/Garden-for-Wildlife/Cover/Build-a-Bat-House.
  • Plant a bat garden! Flowers can provide nectar or pollen that draws moths or insects North American bats like to eat. Bergamot, Smooth Pentesemon, and Choke Cherry are just some of the plants recommended in this sample plan, created by the Forest Service.
  • Host your own Bat Week party or event! You can find instructions for fun activities like making origami bats, bat party favors, bat-themed finger puppets and masks, coloring pages, and more at http://batweek.org/bat-week-tool-kit/.

Find more Bat Week ideas at http://batweek.org/can-make-difference/.



Source information: Forest Features highlight a new Pacific Northwest species (or sometimes 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 more information about this topic, or other ways the Forest Service can help incorporate Pacific Northwest environmental education and forest science in your classroom, email us at YourNorthwestForests@fs.fed.us.

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

A mountain woodland caribou bull, in a snowy forest

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

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

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

A taxidermy caribou head and antlers

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

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

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

As winter approached in late 2017, they were ready.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then, it snowed.

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

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

The snow kept falling.

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

No one knows what happened, after that.

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

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

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

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

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

Now, the herd’s future is uncertain.

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

A mountain woodland caribou bull, in a snowy forest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Cascade Head SRA trails public meeting Sept. 27

A grassy, triangular peak rises from cliffs dotted by evergreen trees and exposed dirt and rock, with ocean visible beyond it.

CORVALLIS, Ore– Sept. 3, 2018 – The Cascade Head Scenic Research Area Coordination Team invites the public to help develop a proposal for a sustainable trails plan for the Cascade Head Scenic Research Area. Community members are invited to attend a public meeting to learn about and share thoughts on recreational access and to complete an online survey.

Recreational use at Cascade Head has increased, presenting  new challenges and opportunities with the trail system, trailheads, and parking areas.

“In order to develop a proposal that meets the needs of visitors, landowners, and land managers, we’d like to hear from our neighbors and other interested citizens early in the process,” Deb Wilkins, Hebo District Ranger, said.

The public open house will be held Thursday, September 27, 2018, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Lincoln City Community Center, 2150 NE Oar Place, Lincoln City, OR 97367. This open house is the first of multiple opportunities people will have to learn about and provide input on the project from proposal development through any possible decisions.

A brief survey has also been developed for the public to provide feedback regarding trail use, how people access the trails, improvements that could be made, and how the trail system can be best designed to allow for recreational use and still protect the incredible natural resources of this special area. The survey can be found at www.surveymonkey.com/r/CHSRA.

The Coordination Team is a group of land managers, which includes the USDA Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, Westwind, Lincoln City Parks & Recreation, and Cascade Head Ranch. The team is receiving technical assistance and facilitation throughout this planning process thanks to a grant from the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program.

The 9,670 acre Cascade Head Scenic-Research Area was established by President Ford on December 22, 1974 “to provide present and future generations with the use and enjoyment of certain ocean headlands, rivers, streams, estuaries, and forested areas, to insure the protection and encourage the study of significant areas for research and scientific purposes, and to promote a more sensitive relationship between man and his adjacent environment.”

The coastal headland provides critical habitat for native prairie grasses, rare wildflowers and the Oregon silverspot butterfly and provides recreational, research, educational, scenic, and estuarine resources, which have national significance.

Press release: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/siuslaw/news-events/?cid=FSEPRD590797

Ocean waves are seen rolling up on a sand beach through the coastal mist from an overhead vantage point along a steep, rolling hill featuring alpine grasses, wildflowers, and evergreen trees.

View from Cascade Head Overlook, Siuslaw National Forest, in an undated USDA Forest Service photo.


Source information: Siuslaw National Forest public affairs staff

Bog-dwelling beetle spotted on Olympic NF

A beetle crawls on a piece of moss.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Aug. 24, 2018 –  An Olympic National Forest biologist and a pair of Student Conservation Association student interns have documented the first known site for the Beller’s ground beetle (Agonum belleri) on the Olympic Peninsula.

Karen Holtrop, a USDA Forest Service wildlife biologist, Student Conservation Association interns Karen Guzman and Conor Cubit, and employees of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, found the beetle while conducting surveys for the beetle at the the Cranberry Bog Botanical Area in the Dungeness watershed, located on the Olympic National Forest,in June.

An intern sets beetle traps

Student Conservation Associaton intern Karen Guzman sets an insect trap during a survey for Beller’s ground beetle at the Cranberry Bog Botanical Area on Olympic National Forest June 14, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo by Karen Holtrop.

Beller’s ground beetle is a wetland-dependent ground beetle that is regionally listed as a “sensitive species” by the USDA Forest Service.  The agency lists species as “sensitive” when there’s a concern regarding the species population numbers, density, or habitat.

A woman examining a beetle in a specimen jar.

Annabelle Pfeffer, an intern working with the USDA Forest Service, holds a Beller’s ground beetle specimen during an earlier survey, May 3, 2018. USDA Forest Service file photo by Karen Holtrop.

The beetle was suspected to live on the Olympic National Forest, but that had not been confirmed until now. It is usually found in sphagnum bogs at a range of elevations, from sea level to alpine.

Threats include habitat destruction from urban development, logging, water-level alteration, peat-mining, and pesticides, and climate changes affecting bog water levels or seasonal duration periods.

The Beller’s ground beetle is also known to live on the Mt. Hood National Forest, and is also believed to be present on the Gifford Pinchot and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forests — although this has not yet been confirmed.

The Olympic National Forest conducts regular surveys for wildlife, fish, and botanical species. Surveys are usually done in cooperation with state and federal agencies, tribes, non-government agencies, citizen volunteers, and others.

This summer, surveyors also confirmed the presence of the Makah copper butterfly on the forest.

Information gathered by such surveys not only documents where habitat for species can be found, but also helps identify locations for and the success of restoration efforts. For example, Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly, a federally endangered species was discovered to have returned to an area of the peninsula, following planting of native vegetation in its historical habitat as a result of a wildlife survey.

Interns prepare to survey for beetles in a spaughnum bog.

Karen Guzman and Conor Cubit, Student Conservation Association interns working with the Olympic National Forest, surveyed for Beller’s ground beetle on the forest’s Cranberry Bog Botanical Area June 27, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo by Karen Holtrop.


Source information: Olympic National Forest: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/olympic/learning/?cid=fseprd587761

Forest Feature: Bears

A black bear, stands in a meadow, looking to the left of the photographer.

Perhaps no species is as associated National Forests as Smokey Bear, who’s served as the USDA Forest Service’s fire prevention “spokesbear” since 1944.

Smokey celebrates his birthday August 9th, and we’ve selected the bear as our August Forest Feature in his honor!

Bears are smart, curious, and almost always searching for food.  They have an excellent memory, their eyes are as good as a human’s (and better at night), and their sense of smell is seven times better than that of a bloodhound.

Visitors to northwest forests must take precautions to make sure these wild animals stay wild!

A Black Bear cub sits atop a tree branc

A Black Bear cub sits atop a tree branch in an undated photo. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo by Courtney Celley.

There are three species of bear that are native to the United States – black bears, grizzly bears, and polar bears. Black bears are found in Washington and Oregon. Grizzly bears are also native to northern Washington, though currently they are not found here in large numbers. There are no polar bears in the Pacific Northwest.

Be “Bear Aware” – store food, garbage, and scented items indoors, or use bear-resistant canisters or storage lockers when you are the outdoors, at least 50 feet from your campsite. Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee -certified bear canisters and campground-provided storage lockers meet the requirements for bear-resistant food and attractant item storage on National Forests.

Store food and any scented items that can attract bears, including toothpaste, soaps and lotions, insect repellent, sunscreen, anything that’s been used to store, cook or eat food (including dishes, utensils, bottles, cans and wrappers), bathroom trash, and petroleum products (including fuels). If your travels will take you into a National Park, check ahead to make sure your bear-resistant canister is approved for park use. (Remember how we said bears are smart, and remember what they learn? Some bears living in heavily-visited areas, such as National Parks, have figured out how to open many bear canisters).

A black bear and cub take shelter in a tree.

A black bear and cub take shelter in a tree in an undated photo. USDA photo by Clint Turnage.

If you encounter a bear:

  • Do not run. Remain calm. If you are with a group of people, gather together and pick up small children.
  • Face the bear so you can watch it’s behavior and back away slowly while talking calmly (this will help you identify yourself to the bear as a human)
  • If the bear continues to approach, make yourself as large and imposing as possible – stretch your arms overhead and make as much noise as you can.
  • If a black bear charges you, stand your ground and use bear spray to deter the attack.
A grizzly bear

Grizzlies are a threatened species. Their habitat includes northern Washington State, although it is very rare to see one there. Undated U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo.

Did you know?

  • Black bears have been in North America for over 2.5 million years.
  • Grizzly bears were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1975. Today, there are approximately 1,200 to 1,400 grizzlies in four of the lower 48 states; Washington State, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.
  • Lewis and Clark were the first known Americans of European descent to report the sighting of grizzlies in modern times. Clark recorded in his journal that he saw a “white bear.” After talking to Native Americans about the animal, he learned the the grizzly bear is distinct from the American black bear.
  • Both black bears and grizzly bears climb trees. Black bears, especially, are excellent climbers – some even make their dens in trees.
  • A grizzly bear’s “hump” is all muscle, to help power their digging. They get their name from the whitish or gray “grizzled” hairs interspersed with their brown fur.
  • Black bears aren’t always black! They can also be brown, blond, cinnamon, or rust colored.
A bear hibernates inside a hollowed-out log.

A male bear is seen hibernating in a den on Mount Hood Jan 27, 2014. USDA Forest Service photo.

Links:


Forest Features highlight a new Pacific northwest species (or sometimes family, order or genus) each month as part of the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region’s regional youth engagement strategy. If you’re an educator who would like more information about incorporating Pacific Northwest environmental and forest science in your classroom, email us at R6Update@fs.fed.us.

In the News: Oregon Silverspot is back at Saddle Mountain

A orange and brown butterfly rests on a white flower

A population of Oregon Silverspot butterflies has been reestablished on Saddle Mountain, in the Oregon Coast Range, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports.

The Oregon Silverspot is one of three butterfly species in the Pacific Northwest federally listed under the Endangered Species Act. Two of the six known remaining populations of Oregon Silverspot are on the Siuslaw National Forest, at Mt. Hebo and Cascade Head.

Read more, at:
https://www.opb.org/news/article/threatened-silverspot-butterflies-saddle-mountain/

Forest Feature: Butterflies

A blue butterfly is perched on a purple thistle flower.

In July, our Pacific Northwest “Forest Feature” is the butterfly. Butterflies, like moths, are species of insects in the order Lepidoptra.

A gray-green butterfly with red-orange spots blends in against green woodland ground foliage.

A Clodius Parnassian butterfly is camouflaged against green foliage in the South Fork Skokomish watershed, located on the Olympic National Forest, June 7, 2016. USDA Forest Service photo.

Nearly 200 species, representing seven families of butterfly, are found in the Pacific Northwest – Hesperiidae, Lycaenidae, Nymphalidae, Papilionidae, Pieridae, Riodinidae, and Satyridae.

Moths are also members of the Lepidoptra order, but, there are some differences between them and their butterfly cousins: Butterflies have thready antennae with a knobbed or hooked tip, while a moth’s antenna may be thready or feathered, but will tapers to a point at the end. Both moths and butterflies hatch as caterpillars, but moths will cover their cocoon in fiber, soil, or leaves; a butterfly transforms to its adult form inside a smooth-coated chrysalis. Butterflies fly during the day, while moths are usually active at night.

Three butterflies native to the Pacific Northwest are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. The Oregon Silverspot (Speyeria zerene hippolyta) is federally listed as threatened, while the Taylor’s Checkerspot (Euphydryas editha taylori) and Fender’s Blue (Icaricia icarioides fenderi) butterfiles are listed as endangered species.

A fuzzy black caterpillar, observed from above, creeps up a stalk of grass.

A Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly caterpillar (post-diapause larvae), observed Feb. 26, 2016 on the Olympic National Forest . USDA Forest Service Photo by Karen Holtrop.

There are several reasons for this, but, a major one is that catepillars may be hungry, but some of them are picky eaters. Adult butterflies feed on pollen from many different sources. But as caterpillars, their eggs may need to be laid on on a specific species of plant to survive. This selectivity makes their species very vulnerable to invasive plants and noxious weeds, if those plants that crowd out the plants those caterpillars rely on, and to any environmental or other habitat changes that affect their preferred species for feeding or shelter.

You may think of butterflies as sun-loving creatures – and they are! Butterflies are cold-blooded, and must stay warm to fly. But forest meadows are a very important habitat to to Oregon Silverspot: The Siuslaw National Forest is one of the few remaining places you might spot it this butterfly; which thrives on foggy, breezy conditions.

Two of the six known remaining populations of Oregon Silverspot are on the forest, at Mt. Hebo and Cascade Head.

The butterfly’s survival is dependent on the early blue violet, Viola adunca, the only species on which the butterfly can successfully feed and develop as larvae.

A black, orange and white butterfly rests on a yellow wildflower.

The Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly, Euphydryas editha taylori, seen here in an undated photo, is a federally-listed endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. US Fish and Wildlife Service photo by A. Barna

Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly has lost 99% of its native habitat to development and suppressed wildland fires; paved roads, new buildings, and even trees have overtaken the prairie meadows that once hosted the native plants the butterfly relies on to lay eggs and for its caterpillars to feed upon after hatching.

One of the last remaining breeding areas for Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly is a military base, where explosives used in training set fires that have preserved the open prairie. Eggs are collected from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State each spring, raised under the supervision of scientists at the Oregon Zoo, and released back into the wild as caterpillars the following year.

The Fender’s Blue butterfly faces similar challenges in its native habitat, the upland prairies of the Willamette Valley. Establishing federally-designated protected habitat, using prescribed fire to expand prairies and reduce invasive grasses, and re-planting the prairie with native wildflowers – including Kincaid’s lupine, on which the butterflies lay most of their eggs – has helped increase the endangered butterfly’s numbers since it was federally listed in 2000.

The black-and-orange Monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, might be one of the most recognizable butterfly species in our region. This regally-named butterfly found throughout North America, including the Pacific Northwest. Its larvae grow on several species of milkweed.

A monarch butterfly rests in the cup of a person's hand

A monarch butterfly rests in the cup of a person’s hand in an Aug. 1, 2016 USDA Forest Service photo.

Entymologists (researchers who study insects) warn that while the Monarch butterfly isn’t endangered yet, its numbers have been declining rapidly for a decade.

One theory is the butterflies are running into problems finding flowers, or flowers free of pesticides, when they migrate south for the winter. Another is that deforestation has reduced their winter habitat, and stressed the butterflies who crowding in to overwinter. But no one is quite sure.

Do you want to help butterflies survive and thrive here at home in the Pacific Northwest? One way to help is to plant species of flowering plants and shrubs that feed caterpillars for butterflies that are native to your area around homes or public spaces.

Have you heard of a “butterfly garden?” According to the Washington Dept. of Wildlife, you can plant a garden that feeds butterflies in a space as small as a container outside your home!

Butterflies like to feed on brightly-colored flowers planted in sunny places, especially those that are protected from the wind. You can find a list of suggested plants in this brochure. Not only will the flowers help butterflies (and moths), they may also attract other pollen and nectar-loving creatures – including hummingbirds, and bees!

Try to avoid using insecticides – even organic ones, like Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) – when you can. If you do use them, follow the instructions and follow your state agriculture service’s recommendations to minimize the risk of exposure to beneficial worms, caterpillars, or insects in your area.

One plant that should not be part of your butterfly garden is the “butterfly bush” (Buddleia davidii). This bush is native to Chile, and is considered a noxious weed and a highly invasive plant in the Pacific Northwest – which means it could become a threat to native plants that our local butterflies depend on.

Did you know?

  • Butterflies “taste” with their feet.
  • Butterflies can “see” ultraviolet light.
  • A butterfly’s skeleton is on the outside of its body. The exoskeleton protects it and keeps it from drying out.
  • A butterflies tongue is like a long straw, which curls back up under their body when not in use.
  • Some butterflies don’t poop! They burn everything they consume to generate the energy to fly.
  • The largest butterfly in the world is Queen Alexandra’s birdwing, Ornithoptera alexandrae. It has an average wingspan of almost 10”! No one is sure what the fastest butterfly is
  • Butterflies live in nearly every habitat, on every continent in the world – except Antarctica. This might be because butterflies are cold-blooded, and can’t fly if their body temperature drops below 86 degrees F.

More information:

General information:

Butterflies and Moths of North America (Butterfly and Moth Information Service):
https://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/

Butterflies and Moths of Pacific Northwest Forests and Woodlands (USDA Forest Service):
https://www.fs.fed.us/foresthealth/technology/pdfs/MILLER_LEPIDOPTERA_WEB.pdf

Endangered & threatened species:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: ESA listed species information
https://www.fws.gov/oregonfwo/articles.cfm?id=149489459
https://www.fws.gov/oregonfwo/articles.cfm?id=149489449
https://www.fws.gov/oregonfwo/articles.cfm?id=149489429

Oregon Zoo: Endangered and Threatened species conservation programs
https://www.oregonzoo.org/conserve/fighting-extinction-pacific-northwest/oregon-silverspot-butterfly
https://www.oregonzoo.org/conserve/fighting-extinction-pacific-northwest/taylors-checkerspot-butterfly

Siuslaw National Forest: Oregon Silverspot butterfly info
https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/siuslaw/learning/nature-science/?cid=fseprd522077

Xerxes Society:
https://xerces.org/oregon-silverspot/
https://xerces.org/taylors-checkerspot/
https://xerces.org/fenders-blue/

Butterfly gardens:

North American Butterfly Association project (Butterflies and Moths of North America)
http://www.naba.org/

Butterflies and How to Attract Them (Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife):
https://wdfw.wa.gov/living/butterflies/
https://wdfw.wa.gov/living/butterflies/butterflies.pdf

Monarch butterfly lesson plans, activities, and projects:

Journey North
http://www.learner.org/jnorth/

Monarch Watch
www.monarchwatch.org

Monarch Lab (University of Minnesota)
https://monarchlab.org/

Forest Features highlight a new Pacific northwest species (or sometimes family, order or genus) each month as part of the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region’s regional youth engagement strategy. If you’re an educator who would like more information about incorporating Pacific Northwest environmental and forest science in your classroom, email us at R6Update@fs.fed.us.

Two brown-winged butterflies with white spots rest on a set of spiky green and red leaves.

A pair of Two-Banded Checkered Skipper butterflies, Pyrgus ruralis, found during a survey May 18, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo.


USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region

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