Category Archives: Forestry

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

Leadership Corner - Glenn Casamassa



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Service is one of our bedrock values.

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

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


Glenn Casamassa,
Pacific Northwest Regional Forester
 


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

Smokey Bear to bring fire prevention message to Oregon license plates this summer

Smokey Bear is an iconic symbol of wildfire prevention. Oregon's new Keep Oregon Green special license plate joins 1950's artist Rudy Wendelin’s Smokey Bear with a backdrop of Oregon's lush forests. The plate's $40 surcharge will help fund wildfire prevention education activities around Oregon, which share Smokey and KOG's shared message regarding the shared responsibility to prevent human-caused wildfires.

Keep Oregon Green, in partnership with the USDA Forest Service, the Ad Council, and Oregon Department of Forestry, have partnered to bring Smokey Bear and his important message to Oregon drivers: Only YOU can prevent wildland fires.

The Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles sold 3,000 vouchers for a new, Smokey Bear -emblazoned license plate in December.

The vouchers serve as pre-payment for the special plate surcharge fee for drivers hoping to adopt the new plate; the sale of 3,000 vouchers is required for the state to begin placing orders for plates with a new design.

With 3,000 vouchers sold in just a few days, the plate is will go into production soon, and will become available to vehicle owners registering their passenger vehicles, or replacing their existing license plates, later this year.

Once the plates are released, any Oregon vehicle owner can apply by paying a $40 “special plates” surcharge when registering for new or replacement license plates, in addition to the usual registration and plate fees.

The surcharge will help fund wildfire prevention activities conducted by Keep Oregon Green, an organization that educates the public about the shared responsibility to prevent human-caused wildfire in communities throughout Oregon.

For more information, visit:
https://keeporegongreen.org/smokey-bear-license-plate/


Source information:
The Keep Oregon Green Association was established in 1941 to promote healthy landscapes and safe communities by educating the public of everyone’s shared responsibility to prevent human-caused wildfires.

Smokey Bear was created in 1944, when the U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council agreed that a fictional bear would be the symbol for their joint effort to promote forest fire prevention. Smokey’s image is protected by U.S. federal law and is administered by the USDA Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters and the Ad Council.

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/ 

***

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

Teachers, mentors: Apply to celebrate International Day of Forests with United Nations in Rome

The 2019 theme for the International Day of Forests is “Forests and Education” and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations wants the world to know how you educate children and youth about the importance of trees and forests.

From the UN FAO website:

Today, more than half the world’s population lives in cities, and are increasingly disconnected from nature.

it is more essential than ever to bring an understanding and awareness of forests and their benefits into children’s lives at an early age.

We’re inviting teachers and non-teachers alike to send us a short video that shows how you provide children with a foundation to better understand the importance of forests and trees for our planet’s future.

The press release suggests taking video of “a traditional class, a field trip into the forest, an art or music lesson, or even a yoga class.”

Videos should 60 seconds or less, uploaded to YouTube, then submit the link via the entry form at http://www.fao.org/international-day-of-forests/teachers-contest/submission-form/en/.

Videos will be posted on FAO’s website, and the winner will join the staff at FAO headquarters in Rome to help celebrate the International Day of Forests on March 21, 2019.

Deadline for entries is Dec. 15, 2018.

For more information about eligibility, answers to frequently asked questions, and the submission form, visit:

http://www.fao.org/international-day-of-forests/teachers-contest



Source information: The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger, achieve food security for all, and to make sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. With over 194 member states, FAO works in over 130 countries worldwide.

Regional Forester: Forest Service looking to listen and work towards resolution in Blues’ meetings

Leadership Corner - Glenn Casamassa

By Glenn Casamassa, Pacific Northwest Regional Forester  –

Next week, I will be participating with a team of folks from the Forest Service headquarters in Washington, D.C., in Objections Resolution meetings for the Revised Forest Plans for the Malheur, Umatilla, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests. We will also be joined by other representatives from the Regional Office in Portland, Ore., and the involved National Forests.

Throughout this process, we received about 350 objection letters and have invited objectors from across the communities of Eastern Oregon to join us to discuss them.

I have worked closely with the Reviewing Officer, Chris French, for years and I know he and the team are as deeply committed to understanding your concerns as we are in the region.

We are coming to listen and hopefully begin the process of resolving your concerns and refining a shared vision for the future of these forests we all value.

It is important to all of us that we get to just sit down and talk with objectors and interested persons face-to-face.

The team has reviewed the objections and now, with this first round of meetings, we will all have an opportunity to work toward resolution—not in a room back in D.C., but rather there in the communities with you as citizens and stakeholders directly.

We hope to engage in meaningful dialogue and really listen to the issues of concern and to understand the underlying values that are important to each of you, your neighbors and the communities at large.

We’re committed to openness and are looking forward to the dialogue and opportunities for resolution that may surface.

I have had the opportunity to meet with several of your elected officials and our Forest Service partners thus far, and I have been moved by their commitment to the land and all of you.

Your communities are proud and resilient.

We want you to know that the team and I will be engaging directly with those who submitted objections during this process and we are ready to listen.

I hope to meet many of you next week.

Kind regards,

Glenn Casamassa
Regional Forester;
USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region


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

 

Field Notes: 自然に触れる大切さ (The Significance of Nature)

A man and woman pose holding pine cones.

Jay Hideki Horita is a resource assistant in the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s Office of Communications and Community Engagement. In this “Field Note,” he shares his first week on the job, which he spent working with a pair of Japanese Exchange students volunteering at the region’s Portland, Ore. office.

“As a new Resource Assistant with the Northwest Youth Corps and the U.S. Forest Service, I knew much of my job as a Youth & Community Engagement Specialist would be to act as a liaison between the Forest Service and improve information and access to the agency’s services for under-served communities in Oregon and Washington.

“I didn’t know that this would mean using my experience as a Japanese-American who is fluent in Japanese in my first week on the job!

“As a participant in the Resource Assistants Program, folks like me have an internship of at least six months, after which we have a shot at becoming a permanent employee of the Forest Service. It’s one of the ways the Forest Service is trying to attract a younger and more diverse workforce.

“Recently, the Forest Service hosted two volunteers from Musashino University 武蔵野大学at the agency’s Regional Office in downtown Portland. The students were studying in the U.S. as part as an exchange program, and required to complete a volunteer service project while they were here.

“My first assignment, as a recent graduate – more importantly, Japanese-language speaker, was to guide our new volunteers during their time with us in Portland.

“During job interviews in Japan, one often explains their motivation, or 切っ掛け (kikkake), for applying to an organization or company.

A man and woman pose holding pine cones.

Kousuke Yoshia (left) and Yukime Nakajima (right) hold Douglas Fir cones on a hike at the Hoyt Arboretum in Portland, Ore. (Sept. 2018). USDA Forest Service photo by Jay Hideki Horita.

“For Yukime Nakajima and Kousuke Yoshida, their motivation aligns with many others who choose to work or volunteer for the Forest Service; an interest in forests, wildlife, and nature in general.

“Their assignment seemed simple enough: to help develop social media and other conservation education material by researching related pictures, quotations, and facts for 25 topics. The 25 topics ranged from universal themes like “employment” and “rivers” to more culturally-specific terms, like ‘Woodsy Owl’ and ‘Smokey Bear,’ ‘trail work,’ ‘wilderness,’ ‘mushroom foraging,’ and ‘veteran employment.’

“To understand these, the volunteers dove deep into the complicated history and culture surrounding U.S. land management.

“I asked Yukime what her favorite term was, and she expressed her affection for “Holiday Trees.” She was intrigued – and delighted – to learn that each year since 1970, the Forest Service provides the U.S. Capitol with a carefully chosen conifer, now known as “the People’s Tree.”

“These trees often complete cross-country trips to the National Mall in Washington D.C., where they are decorated with ornaments created by residents of the state where the trees originate.

“This charming tradition marries the Forest Service’s efforts with those of the many volunteers involved.

“The tradition also manifests more locally; the Forest Service encourages the public to harvest their own Christmas trees from National Forest -lands across the U.S., offering Christmas Tree cutting permits for only $5.

“Our two volunteers were delighted to hear about these traditions, as Christmas tree-harvesting is unheard of in Japan; indeed, Christmas itself is a holiday seldom celebrated in their country, as either a secular or religious holiday.

“Kousuke was surprised to learn about the darker history of land management in the United States. When looking at a map of Oregon, he asked me about the large tracts of reservation land.

“The ensuing conversation focused on the U.S. government’s displacement of and systemic discrimination against Native Americans and how this dark history laid the groundwork for public land management in the United States, including our national forests and parks.

“Through our work, our volunteers gained a more comprehensive and realistic understanding of the federal government’s role in U.S. land management.

“They also learned about the Forest Service’s more recent efforts to right these wrongs and to share perspectives often left out of the standard environmental education curriculum.

A woman and man pose with forestry hand tools

Yukime Nakajima (left) watches as Kousuke Yoshia (right) poses with a trail work tool while learning about forest recreation work. (Sept., 2018). USDA Forest Service photo by Jay Hideki Horita.

“Other terms, like ‘trail work’ or ‘wilderness,’ were completely foreign to our guests, who are both residents of Tokyo — Japan’s capital, and one of the worlds most densely populated cities.

“They learned about the creation of wilderness areas, and the trail work crews employed to maintain the nation’s many trails.

“We had sobering discussions about the accessibility of outdoor spaces for city residents across the world; in a mega-metropolis like Tokyo, these accessibility problems are often magnified.

“For their final day, the volunteers hiked the nearby Hoyt Arboretum, a 189-acre forest preserving 6,000 plant specimens from around the world. There, they gained a behind-the-scenes perspective on land management work.

Portland Parks & Recreation Trails Coordinator Jill Van-Winkle gave them a tour of the Arboretum’s facility, and the two experienced wielding a ‘double-jack’ and ‘Pulaski,’ among other classic trail work tools.

“Next, they visited the World Forestry Center, where they learned about the diverse forests across the world, including those in their home country Japan.

“Throughout these two weeks, both the Forest Service and the volunteers gained much insight into cross-cultural conservation work.

“As their journey in Oregon concluded, Yukime and Kousuke said they’d miss the Pacific Northwest’s vibrant landscapes, and wished they could stay longer.

“As the day ended, we said our final farewells in true cross-cultural spirit: with a big hug, and a low bow.

“When I asked Yukime what message she plans to bring home, she offered the phrase自然に触れる大切さ, which roughly translates as “the significance gained from nature.”

“She said she was moved by the love and care that people place on wilder places in this country and how nature gives its humans a way to understand love, care, and significance.

“For the many who live, work, and play in outdoor spaces – whether in the city or beyond – perhaps the same sentiments are true after an early morning wildlife sighting, an afternoon walk in the woods, or even an evening outdoors playing basketball on the blacktop, in a park surrounded by some of the trees that comprise Portland’s urban forest.”

A man and woman pose holding certificates outside the entrance and sign for the World Forestry Center Discovery Museum

Kousuke Yoshia (left) and Yukime Nakajima (right) at the World Forestry Center in Portland, Oregon (Sept., 2018). USDA Forest Service photo by Jay Hideki Horita.

More information:

USDA Forest Service – Resource Assistant Program:
https://www.fs.fed.us/working-with-us/volunteers/resource-assistants-program


Source Information: Jay Hideki Horita is a resource assistant in the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s Office of Communications and Community Engagement.

Caging cones: Investing in a future for whitebark pine

A cross-section of an immature pine cone reveals the seeds developing inside.

A small vault, filled with neatly-ordered rows of seeds, with the potential to repopulate a forest — that could be a description for a pine cone, but it also describes the Dorena Genetic Research Center on the Umpqua National Forest.

“People have no idea,” Haley Smith, seed program coordinator for the research center, said. “We have a really valuable resource on the Umpqua, our seed bank, that’s been here for 50 years.”

For Smith, the Dorena Genetic Research Center is a place where suiting up to saving a tree species could mean donning a snowsuit rated to resist the freezer’s subzero chill, or strapping into a harness to scale trees in search of the cones that have given rise to a catalog that’s now 250 million seeds strong, and counting.

An employee wears a snowsuit and gloves to retrieve a drawer from a large storage freezer

Haley Smith retrieves seeds stored in a specialized seed-storage freezer at the Dorena Genetic Research Center on the Umpqua National Forest, Oregon, in an undated photo. This freezer stores 250 million seeds, collected from 35 species. The center also stores seeds for dozens of additional species in a separate cooler. USDA Forest Service photo (provided by Haley Smith).

In July, Smith was among a small team of Forest Service employees collecting seed for the bank from a stand of whitebark pines, Pinus albicaulus, perched high on the Umpqua National Forest’s Tipsoo Peak July 26.

Several of the trees had proved resistant in previous testing against White pine blister rust, an invasive fungus that has blighted stands of five-needle pines for more than a century.

The fungus, Cronartium ribicola, originated in China and arrived in the continental U.S. at the turn of the last century, where it quickly established itself on both coasts and began to spread. It reached in southern Oregon by the 1950s, and arrived in Colorado a decade ago.

“It’s still on the move,” Joshua Bronson, a plant pathologist for the Southwest Oregon Forest Insect & Disease Service Center, stationed on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, said.

Bronson helped organize the Tipsoo Peak cone-caging expedition.

“All of the high-altitude species are a concern to scientists, as we monitor the effects of the warming climate,” he said. “But with the disease, this one is especially urgent.”

A view of a climber in a tree, placing hardware cloth cages on developing pine cones.

An unidentified USDA Forest Service employee places cone cages on a whitebark pine tree on the Fremont-Winema National Forest July 18, 2015. The cages are used to protect cones from wildlife until harvesters return to collect their seeds later in the season. USDA Forest Service photo by Haley Smith.

A half-century ago, initial investments into research into white pine blister rust resistance often focused on Western white pine and sugar pine, species important to the region’s timber industry, Robin Darbyshire, a silviculturist for the USDA Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest regional office, said.

In contrast, whitebark pine is found in alpine environments that are often too steep or environmentally-sensitive to log. Yet it brings extraordinary value to the forest in other ways.

The tree is considered a “nursery species” because it creates shade and shelter for other plants at those high elevations, Darbyshire said.

Its seeds are high in fat and protein, a prize for any creature trying to survive in the wild.

“It’s really the iconic tree at higher elevations, like around Timberline Lodge. There’s also a bird, Clark’s nutcracker, that’s dependent on the seeds,” she said.

In fact, the tree is also dependent on the birds. To reduce competition, the pine has evolved a tough cone that keeps most critters away – but also prevents its seeds from sprouting, without an assist from the outside.

“(The nutcrackers) have these long bills that can get in there to get at the seeds,” Darbyshire said. “They’re the only species that can get in there. Maybe a bear could crack them open, but, that’s about it.”

And if the cones aren’t opened, the seeds inside won’t germinate, she said

This symbiotic relationship is just one of the intricate ecological dependencies threatened by white pine blister rust.

A pine tree, with a single branch blighted by White pine blister rust, is visible in the foreground against a panoramic view of mountain peaks and a lake.

Mount Thielsen and Diamond Lake are visible in this view from Tipsoo Peak on the Umpqua National Forest, taken during a cone-caging expedition, July 26, 2018, in preparation for harvesting seed later this year. A single branch of whitebark pine tree in the foreground has been damaged by white pine blister rust, a fungus that has blighted stands of several five-needle pine species since it was introduced to North America about a century ago. Researchers are working to identify and collect seed from trees with disease-resistant characteristics in an effort to help repopulate lost stands and prevent the species’ extinction. USDA Forest Service photo by Joshua Bronson.

The fungus bores into the tree’s twigs and needles, developing spores that erupt from blisters on its bark and spreading to low-growing carrier plants, which carry it between stands and make the disease difficult to contain or eradicate when it enters a new area.

The infections leave scars, or “cankers,” that cut-off the flow of water and nutrients in a branch. Eventually, enough branches die to kill the tree, or the tree is weakened enough that it falls victim to insects, drought, or other stresses that finish the job.

In 1966, Forest Service researchers at the Dorena Genetic Research Center began collecting seeds and genetic material from five-leafed of pines, in an effort to test individual trees for disease-resistance, and clone or breed the most disease-resistant trees.

Today, the lab’s staff continues that work. They also breed Port Orford cedar for resistance to a root disease, and manage the USDA Forest Service’s National Tree Climbing program.

The systematic cultivation, testing, and breeding for disease-resistance is painstaking work.

A hand holds an individually potted, labeled seedling, lifted from a larger batch of seedlings on a tree nursery table

Whitebark pine seedlings, in a July 25, 2018 photo taken at the Dorena Seed Research Center nursery. Seeds are pre-treated to convince they’re going through winter, a process called “stratification,” then germinated under controlled conditions. White bark pine’s stratification process takes 120-140 days. “That has the tag for a tree that I climbed on, it’s a tree on Mt. Bailey,” Haley Smith, Seed Program Coordinator for the center, said. The seeds underwent stratification in November, 2017, and planted in April, 2018. If grown for testing, they will be exposed to clouds of white pine blister rust spores and monitored for disease-resistance to assign the parent tree a “letter grade” to determine whether the tree should be tracked for future harvests, which may occur every seven to ten years. If the seed is from a previously-tested tree, they could also be used to replant when tree stands lost to disease or fire. “Clones” grown from clippings taken from disease resistant trees can also be grafted to mature root stock and used to establish an “orchard” for future seed harvests. USDA Forest Service photo by Haley Smith.

“We have (seeds) that have been collected since the sixties. And for each of those trees, we know exactly which one it is, where it’s located, where the ‘mom’ tree is – or was, it may not even be there anymore,” Smith said. “If it’s one we bred in our nursery, we might even know which ‘dad’ the pollen came from.”

But before any of that can happen, someone has to collect those seeds.

A woman in a hard hat smiles in a

Haley Smith shoots a selfie while caging pine cones for later seed harvest in a stand of White bark pine being monitored for White pine blister rust-resistance on Tipsoo Peak, Umpqua National Forest, Oregon July 26, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo by Haley Smith.

At Tipsoo Peak, Bronson and Smith were joined by Kayla Herriman, manager of the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region seed extractory on Deschutes National Forest; Russell Oakes, silviculturalist for the Umpqua National Forest; Zachary Dimare, a Forestry Technician on the Umpqua; and Skylar Hamilton, an intern at Dorena.

The team hiked to the peak, a climb of approximately 1,500 feet, each carrying up to 80 pounds of outdoor essentials, climbing gear, and wire cages to protect selected cones from hungry nutcrackers until they return for the harvest.

“Whitebark pine is one of my favorite trees to climb. It’s got wide open branches, and it grows in places that tend to have incredible views,” Smith said.

Dimare said the long hike, heavy pack, and climb into the treetops at Tipsoo Peak was almost worth it, just for that view.

“It’s really dramatic up there. You can imagine you’re at the top of the world,” he said.

It’s hard to put a price tag on those drawers of seeds in storage at Dorena, but one measure is the labor cost that goes into collecting the seeds — seeds which are perishable, and must be constantly replenished.

It takes at least three trips to a stand of trees to harvest their seeds. Bronson’s first hike to scout the site is an annual requirement, to ensure if the stand’s cone and seed production is on track to produce enough seeds for a harvest.

It’s a trip that is repeated many times each year, often without results. For the whitebark pine, an individual stand of trees produce a crop sufficient to be harvested for seed only about once in every seven-to-ten years. If successful, a cone-caging trip follows, and then a third trip to collect the harvest — hopefully, before the snow falls.

Once collected, the supply of stored seed must constantly replenished. Conifer seeds keep five to fifteen years in storage, but it takes ten to fifteen years for seeds, once germinated, to grow into a tree capable of producing seeds of its own; even if they are grafted to mature root stock to accelerate the process.

Hardware cloth bags cover pine cones in a tree on a mountainside.

Hardware cloth bags protect White bark pine cones identified for later seed harvesting on Umpqua National Forest, Oregon July 26, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo by Haley Smith.

Participants in the Tipsoo Peak expedition caged cones on five whitebark pines; four that had been previously tested for white pine blister rust disease-resistance. The fifth tree’s seeds, when gathered, will be tested — a process that entails germinating trays of seedlings, isolating them, and then inoculating them in a cloud of white pine blister rust spores, and watching to see how quickly they succumb to the disease

“The major limiting factor, besides access to the trees, is how many of the cages we can carry,” Bronson said. “We can’t cage everything… I’m hoping we can get at least 30 cones from each of these, and by the looks of it we may have up to 50 from some of them.”

With similar expeditions taking place on forests across the Pacific Northwest, the region’s seed program  is on track to harvest 700 bushels of cones from various species, or approximately 550 pounds of seeds, this year, Darbyshire said.

A yellow sign nailed to a blazed tree reads:

Durable signage marks a tree being monitored for disease-resistant characteristics on the Fremont-Winema National Forest July 18, 2018. Some forests have “orchards” of trees, grown from seeds or clones of trees that have previously proved to be disease-resistant, to increase the supply of seed stock available for re-planting and future survivability of at-risk species. USDA Forest Service photo by Haley Smith.

While the work is arduous, the need for seeds is critical. Forest seed program managers try to keep a 10-year supply of seed in stock at any time. Many are used to restore areas impacted by severe wildfire, and a bad season can easily reduce those stores to just a 1-2 year supply.

The loss of trees to fungus and the race to establish more disease-resistant stands only adds to that urgency when it comes to replacing White bark pines. While it was one of the first trees studied, it took researchers years just to figure out how to germinate its seeds.

“These trees grow in such a harsh environment. You really have to convince them that conditions are just right for them to grow,” Smith said.

Once a tree’s seeds are collected and it’s seeds germinated and tested for disease-resistance in a lab, scientists must to wait years until the parent tree again produces enough seeds to collect, plant, and raise into trees that are again ready to harvest seeds from.

The entire process can take decades, if it can be completed at all.

Darbyshire said she has helped harvest seeds from trees she planted at the beginning of her career. “I never thought that would happen, it’s an incredible feeling,” she said.

On the other hand, she’s also seen trees planted in hope of future harvests consumed by wildfires.

“If we lose orchard, that’s a really hard loss. We’ve invested so many years in those trees,” she said.

While the research investment represented by any single tree enrolled in the genetics program is enormous, the work required to collect even a single seed is probably more than most people would imagine, Smith said.

“When you think about how long it takes for us to climb those trees… that was days of preparation, that was several people in the field all day, and then we come back, and clean the seed,” she said. Seed is stored in an envelopes, each organized by tree and by year.

“There are 20 little envelopes in each one of the drawers. It’s a ton of work, in each one of those little envelopes. And I’ll produce about eight of those drawers in one year,” she said.

A person in a climbing harness places a metal mesh bag in a White bark pine tree.

Zachary Dimare, a forestry technician on the Umpqua National Forests, places a hardware cloth cage over a whitebark pine cone to protect it for later collection during a seed-caging expedition on the forest’s Tipsoo Peak July 26, 2018. The seed is the primary food source for Clark’s nutcracker, one of the few species that can penetrate its cones’ tough exterior. USDA Forest Service photo by Joshua Bronson.

A climber, sitting on a tree limb, places a metal mesh bag on a pine cone

Russell Oakes, a silviculturist for the Umpqua National Forest, places a hardware cloth cage over a whitebark pine cone to protect it for later collection during a seed-caging expedition on the forest’s Tipsoo Peak July 26, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo by Haley Smith.

After more than fifty years, these efforts – and many more like them – add up to an  investment that could decide the future of the species.

Whitebark pine is not currently listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act, though it remains a candidate for future listing.

Scientists have said without intervention, it could become extinct in its native range within the next 100 years.

Dimare said that knowing he is helping make a difference in the species’ chances for survival is one reason he volunteered to become certified as a climber.

“I’m a forestry tech. I spend most of my time cruising timber and marking trees (for cutting). But these trees need our help to survive,” he said.

Cover photo: Seed collectors perform a “cut-face test” cones to determine if a tree is producing cones with sufficient, healthy seeds to harvest. For white bark pine, the standard is least eight viable seeds on the cut face, which means the cone contains an estimated 40 to 75 healthy seeds. USDA Forest Service photo by Joshua Bronson.

For more photos from the Dorena Genetic Resource Center, visit the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Forest Health Flickr album:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/151887236@N05/albums/72157670761346628


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.

Forest Service credits forest treatments for containment of Timber Crater 6 fire

A fire burns alongside a road in an area of previously thinned forest.

The Forest Service often talks about using thinning and prescribed fire for “fuels reduction” and forest restoration – but in recent years, wildfires that crossed paths with these treated areas have provided vivid demonstrations of how these treatments not only improve forest health, but also reduce the intensity and challenge of containing later wildfires, improving public safety and firefighters.

In mid-July, a lightning storm passed through southern Oregon, igniting multiple fires in the drought-stressed forest in and around Crater Lake National Park. Firefighters quickly contained most of these fires, but several grew together and became the Timber Crater 6 Fire. It was projected to grow as large as 20,000 acres. But earlier fuels treatment projects conducted in the area allowed firefighters to pursue an aggressive full-suppression strategy, which kept the fire to just 3,100 acres.

 

firefighters working among well-spaced pine trees

Thinning projects improve tree spacing and remove dead trees, while prescribed fire helps reduce ground duff and underbrush that could cause future fires to burn faster and with more intensity. Because ground plants and grasses have evolved with regular wildland fires in this region, native species often rebound quickly following low-intensity burns, while high-intensity fires may kill trees and damage surrounding soil. USDA Forest Service photo.

Over the years, the Fremont-Winema National Forest and Crater Lake National Park have worked collaboratively on a variety of thinning and prescribed burning projects in the Antelope Desert area of the Chemult Ranger District.

The Timber Crater 6 Fire was burning in an area with heavy fuels with few breaks where firefighters could work safely. Fire behavior can be extreme under these conditions. But, the nearby treated areas gave firefighters safe ground to operate and respond under more favorable conditions. The treated areas were critical in keeping the wildfire shorter in duration, less costly, safer for firefighters, less threatening to private property, and with few smoke and economic impacts to local communities.

Often, firefighters need to do significant preparation before starting a burnout operation, including removing trees, chipping, and digging fire lines. The burned area, now cleared of potential fuels, can then serve a “fire break” against a advancing, larger fire.

Two firefighters use a chainsaw to clear brush below a stand of pine trees.

Firefighters prepare an area for burnout operations on Fremont-Winema National Forest as part of efforts to contain the 2018 Timber Crater 6 fire. USDA Forest Service photo.

Because the treated areas required little prep work, crews were able to move in quickly to conduct a burnout operation, and confining the most dangerous part of the fire and removing fuels in its path.

In less than three weeks, the Timber Crater 6 fire was confined to just 3,126 acres and many firefighters were freed up early to move on to other fires.

Old-growth Ponderosa pine trees were protected from high-intensity wildfire, no community evacuations were required, and this fire did not contribute to the longer duration smoke impacts that occurred across the region this season.

The Timber Crater 6 fire demonstrates the value of fuels treatment projects. Many areas across the Pacific Northwest, especially in the wildland urban interface, need thinning and prescribed burning to improve forest health and reduce wildfire risk.

That’s why the Forest Service is working closely with state partners and local communities to increase the number and size of these fuels reduction projects in conjunction with efforts to strengthen fire-adapted community preparedness.


Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region staff

In the news: U of I study measures firefighter fatigue, health impacts

A row of firefighters mop-up smoldering coals in a smoky, wooded area by chopping up the dirt with axes and other hand tools

In 2015, three firefighters died after being trapped by a shift in wind direction while fighting a fire outside Twisp, Wash; Tom Zbyszewki, 20, Andrew Zajac, 26 and Richard Wheeler, 31.

Their deaths prompted Randy Brooks, a professor of Forestry, Rangeland and Fire Sciences at the University of Idaho;s College of Natural Resources, to study how fatigue during long, physically and mentally intense firefighting seasons impact firefighter alertness, decision-making ability, health, and overall safety. His reasons were both professional, and personal – his son, Bo Brooks, was also a firefighter on the Twisp River Fire.

“I think we need a paradigm shift in the way we think about fighting wildfires at all cost and place a greater emphasis on personal safety over protecting resources,” the elder Brooks said. “Trees grow back, homes can be rebuilt, but lives can’t be replaced.”

Read more about the study, which collects real-time health data from 18 smokejumpers, and has surveyed hundreds of wildland firefighters, on the University of Idaho website, at: https://www.uidaho.edu/cnr/research/stories/wildlandfirefighter

Willamette NF hosts public potluck honoring CCC Co. 2907 Aug. 15

Black and white photo of a forester wearing a 1933 forest ranger uniform and hat,, standing on a felled log, with a crew of young men sitting and standing beside him.

SWEET HOME, Ore. – Aug. 6, 2018 – The Willamette National Forest is hosting a public potluck picnic in celebration of the Civilian Conservation Corps Company 2907 (CCC).  The event will take place on Wednesday, August 15, 2018 at historic Longbow Organization Camp.

“We look forward each year to hosting original members of the CCC Company 2907 and their families at this annual picnic which highlights their valuable contributions including the construction of Longbow Organizational Camp in the 1930’s,” Nikki Swanson, District Ranger for the Sweet Home Ranger District., said. Attendees are encouraged to bring photos, news clippings, and other memorabilia from the CCC years to share during the event.

Longbow Organization Camp is located 23 miles east of Sweet Home via Highway 20, turn onto the Gordon Road (2032) after milepost 46 and continue for almost two miles.  Those in need of transportation to and from Longbow should call ahead to reserve a seat with the Sweet Home Ranger Station, located at 4431 Highway 20 in Sweet Home, the shuttle will leave at 9:30 am.

Company 2907, formerly Company 1314, was organized in 1933. The members moved to Camp Cascadia, located along the South Santiam River east of Sweet Home, in 1934. While working in the Willamette National Forest, Company 2907 built 35 miles of forest roads and 80 miles of trails; installed 17 miles of telephone lines; built 6 fire lookouts and 8 bridges; landscaped 4 acres of grounds near the Cascadia Ranger Station; constructed 2 large dwellings, an office building and a gas and oil station; and constructed House Rock, Fernview, and Trout Creek Campgrounds. The men also spent over 7,000 days fighting wildfires. Many of the Company’s members stayed in Oregon, and have since become important figures in local communities.

The celebration will begin at 11 a.m. with a flag colorguard opening the ceremony, and a potluck-style lunch at 12:30 p.m.  Attendees should bring a potluck dish (last names beginning with A-H, bring a hot dish; I-P a salad; and Q-Z a dessert. Plates, utensils, napkins and beverages will be provided.

For more information and to make transportation reservations, please contact the Sweet Home Ranger District at (541) 367-5168 or visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/willamette/news-events/?cid=FSEPRD589911.


Source information: Willamette National Forest public affairs staff.

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