Category Archives: Invasive species

Forest Service fights noxious weeds in Central Oregon

Close-up of yellow-flowering branches of the Scotch Broom shrub, an invasive weed found throughout Washington and Oregon.

The U.S. Forest Service will treat more than 750 acres for invasive plants across Central Oregon this year that, if left untreated, could choke out native vegetation, livestock forage and wildlife habitat.

Natural resource managers for the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests and the Crooked River National Grassland have posted detailed plans and maps of the treatment areas to the websites for both the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests.

These plans have been released to ensure the public is aware of and has access to detailed information about the work to take place, including the reasons herbicide applications may be necessary, products which have been approved for use, and what efforts are being made to limit exposure to the minimum amount necessary to eradicate noxious weeds and protect surrounding watersheds and habitat.

Invasive species targeted for treatment include yellow flag iris, reed canary grass, diffuse, Russian and spotted knapweed, ribbongrass, ventenata, Medusahead rye, whitetop and Scotch thistle.

Often overlooked or unrecognized, these invasive weeds are a major threat to both public and private lands in Oregon. They reproduce quickly while displacing or altering native plant communities and they cause long-lasting ecological and economic problems.

Invasive plants increase fire hazards, degrade fish and wildlife habitat, displace native plants, impair water quality, and even degrade scenic beauty and recreational opportunities. They also reduce forage opportunities for livestock and wildlife.

A 2014 study by the Oregon Department of Agriculture found that invasive weeds cost Oregon’s economy $83.5 million annually.

Planned treatments will take place along roads, at rock quarry sites, within recent wildfires and other highly-disturbed areas.

For 2019 invasive weed treatment plans and a map of planned treatment sites on the Ochoco National Forest and Deschutes National Forest, see this document.

Implementation will be carried out by the Forest Service and a number of government and non-profit partners throughout Central Oregon. Work will follow the design features in the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests and Crooked River National Grassland Record of Decision for the 2012 Invasive Plant treatment project.

Forest Service land managers employ an Early Detection / Rapid Response (EDRR) strategy for mapping and treating invasive infestations. EDRR increases the chances of successfully restoring invasive plant sites by treating new infestations before they become large, thereby reducing the time and cost associated with treatment and the potential ecological damage.

More Information: 2019_Invasive_Plant_Treatments.pdf

Download a brochure of the “Top Invasive Plants of the Crooked River Basin” on the Ochoco National Forest website, at: www.fs.usda.gov/ochoco.

To learn more about the threat of invasive weeds and how you can help prevent them, visit www.playcleango.org


Source information: Deschutes National Forest (press release)

In the news: Study suggests seasonal drainage reduces invasives, boosts salmon migration in Ore. reservoir

Fall Creek wetland, with forests and a rocky mountain peak in the background. Deschutes National Forest; September 9, 1992. USDA Forest Service file photo.

A recent study analyzing more than a decade’s worth of fish migration data suggests the recently-adopted practice of seasonally draining an Oregon reservoir has boosted downstream migration of an endangered salmon species, while flushing two predatory invasive species.

A team of researchers from Oregon State University, USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station, and the Army Corps of Engineers found that juvenile spring chinook salmon raised in Fall Creek Reservoir, located about 30 miles southeast of Eugene, Ore. in the Willamette River basin, registered stronger downstream migrations in the years after the Army Corps of Engineers began draining the reservoir for a brief time, every autumn.

The practice also flushed populations of two invasive species, the largemouth bass and crappie, out of the reservoir – potentially improving survival of future salmon in the system.

Full story, via the Statesman Journal:
https://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/news/2019/05/21/fish-salmon-benefit-from-oregon-lake-draining-eliminates-invasive-species/3756561002/

Puddles gets jump on invasive mussels in WA waterways

WDFW Sergeant Pam Taylor and Puddles, a rescued 2-year-old Jack Russell terrier mix who will use her keen sense of smell to help detect quagga and zebra mussel larvae on boats traveling through mandatory watercraft-inspection stations run by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). WDFW courtesy photo.

OLYMPIA, Wash. (May 16, 2019) – The newest member of the team that protects Washington’s waterways from invasive species has quite the ruff routine: Sniff, sit, play!

Starting this spring, Puddles, a 2-year-old Jack Russell terrier mix, will use her keen sense of smell to help detect quagga and zebra mussel larvae on boats traveling through mandatory watercraft-inspection stations run by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

Starting this spring, Puddles, a 2-year-old Jack Russell terrier mix, will use her keen sense of smell to help detect quagga and zebra mussel larvae on boats traveling through mandatory watercraft-inspection stations run by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Courtesy photo provided by WDFW.
Starting this spring, Puddles, a 2-year-old Jack Russell terrier mix, will use her keen sense of smell to help detect quagga and zebra mussel larvae on boats traveling through mandatory watercraft-inspection stations run by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Courtesy photo provided by WDFW.

“Invasive mussels can impact our state’s water quality, power and irrigation systems, wildlife and recreation,” Justin Bush, executive coordinator of the Washington Invasive Species Council, said. “We all need to work together to prevent invasive mussels from changing our way of life and harming resources we value. In many ways, invasive mussels would change what it means to be a Washingtonian.”

Quagga and zebra mussels can clog piping and mechanical systems of industrial plants, utilities, locks and dams. Researchers estimate that invasive species cost industries, businesses and communities more than $5 billion nationwide over 6 years, and the power industry more than $3 billion.

“We believe Puddles will be a great addition to the Washington invasive species program,” Heidi McMaster, regional invasive species coordinator for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said. The bureau paid for Puddles’ training as part of the Bureau’s fight to keep the Columbia River basin and Washington State free of invasive mussels. “Reclamation is proud to be part of this effort to prevent the introduction of quagga mussels to the Columbia River basin.”

Puddles was initially surrendered to a shelter in Fresno, California where she caught the attention of the Green Dog Project’s “Rescued for a Reason” program. Staff at the Green Dog Project contacted Mussel Dogs, a training program for dogs, and Puddles was trained there.

WDFW Sergeant Pam Taylor spent 2 weeks in California and at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Arizona and Utah training with Puddles for her new assignment.

Puddles is just one of the ways Washington State is working with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and other partners – including the USDA Forest Service – to control and stop the spread of invasive species.

National Forest lands in the Pacific Northwest protect a number of watersheds that provide clean water for drinking and irrigation, as well as hydroelectric power generation and wildlife habitat – all uses that are threatened by invasive species, including quagga and zebra mussels.

WDFW Sergeant Pam Taylor and Puddles, a rescued 2-year-old Jack Russell terrier mix who will use her keen sense of smell to help detect quagga and zebra mussel larvae on boats traveling through mandatory watercraft-inspection stations run by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). WDFW courtesy photo.
WDFW Sergeant Pam Taylor and Puddles, a rescued 2-year-old Jack Russell terrier mix who will use her keen sense of smell to help detect quagga and zebra mussel larvae on boats traveling through mandatory watercraft-inspection stations run by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. WDFW courtesy photo.

How you can help: Clean, Drain, Dry!

The Washington Invasive Species Council asks the public to Clean–Drain–Dry their boats, personal watercraft, and other gear each time they remove their craft or equipment from a body of water.

Some invesive species can hitch a ride on clothes, shoes and boots, boats, canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, and even fishing poles, pails, and shovels!

Clean: When leaving the water, clean all equipment that touched the water by removing all visible plants, algae, animals and mud. This includes watercraft hulls, trailers, shoes, waders, life vests, engines and other gear.

Drain: Drain any accumulated water from watercraft or gear, including live and transom wells, before leaving the access point to the water. If transporting watercraft, clean and dry everything before transport.

Dry: Once home, let all gear fully dry before using your boat or watercraft it in a different water body. Just draining and letting your watercraft and gear dry may not sufficiently remove some invasive species.

Transporting boats across state lines: Clean, Drain, Dry may not protect local waterways against all potential invasives. If you are bringing a watercraft into Washington for the first time, contact the Washington State aquatic invasive species hotline (1-888-WDFW-AIS) before placing it in the water. Be prepared to provide the state and water body where your watercraft was used, and whether you decontaminated your watercraft before you left that state. In some cases, WDFW will require an intensive decontamination upon entry into Washington, provided at no cost to the owner. Remember that it’s illegal to transport or spread aquatic invasive species and violators can face heavy fines, and even jail time!


Source information: The Washington Invasives Species Council and Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (joint press release).

Fighting fires with fire: Prescribed fires restore healthy balance in forests

A firefighter with a radio monitors walks through brush in an area being treated by prescribed fire

As another hot, dry summer of fighting wildland fires winds down, National Forests and other Pacific Northwest land managers have begun to turn their attention to prescribed fires, or fires intentionally set to perform ecological work on the landscape.

Fire is an essential, natural process, having shaped the landscape for thousands of years, releasing, and recycling nutrients from vegetation, duff, and soil layers, improving the overall health of plants and animals.

In the Pacific Northwest, forests evolved to experience periodic fires that can thin overgrowth on the forest floor and make space for larger, healthier trees. On forests and grasslands, some invasive species may prove vulnerable to fires, while some native species actually require fire to release or germinate seeds.

“Prescribed fire is the right fire, in the right place, for the right reasons,” Rob Allen, fire staff officer for the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest said. “It’s a proactive step- a choice to put fire to work for our communities and forests rather than just fight against it year after year.”

A stand of trees previously treated with prescribed fire.

After a prescribed fire on the Ochoco National Forest, Oregon, mature trees enjoy healthier spacing, while charred wood from dead trees provides wildlife habitat and fast-growing grasses and low-growing vegetation removed by quickly return to the area. USDA Forest Service photo.

Land managers have increasingly embraced prescribed fire as a management tool in recent years, as research began to point to an increasing number of larger, hotter “mega-fires” in the region that are believed to be fueled, in part, by a century of fire management decisions encouraging suppression of all fires — including the smaller, lower intensity fires, such as those set naturally by lightning during the cooler, wetter months.

Paul Hessburg, a scientist for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station estimates prescribed fires (and management of suitable natural fires) need to occur at six times recent rates to restore the “historical fire regime” to forests in Washington and Oregon.

In Central Washington, firefighters from seven agencies across the state will manage prescribed fires across central Washington, including the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, as part of a formal training exchange (TREX). Sponsored by the Fire Learning Network, TREX provides a unique opportunity for fire personnel from across the region to learn about prescribed fire and forest health across agency boundaries. Land managers from multiple agencies plan to burn up to 950 acres during the two-week TREX, and up to 5300 acres across the eastern Cascades this summer.

A low-intensity prescribed fire burns grass and brush while leaving larger trees intact.

A prescribed fire burns “low and slow” across an area on the Colville National Forest, Washington. Large, healthy trees with thicker bark may lose lower branches, but typically survive low-intensity fire, while smaller trees, brush, and diseased trees are typically burned away. Some native Pacific Northwest tress, grasses and wildflowers trees depend on fire to propagate, or have fire-resistant seeds that thrive in spaces where fires have cleared competing non-native species and seeds. USDA Forest Service photo.

On the Malheur National Forest in northeast Oregon, land managers have announced plans to burn parcels ranging from 150 to 4,000 acres, as weather permits, this fall.

On the Siuslaw National Forest, located on the central Oregon Coast, firefighters will burn “slash,” piles of debris and limbs that have accumulated throughout the year from timber sales and large scale restoration projects, to reduce the risk of these debris becoming fuel for wildland fires. All burning will be administered and overseen by trained firefighting personnel.

“This is the ideal time,” Dan Eddy, Siuslaw National Forest deputy fire staff officer, said. “The ground is damp from recent rains making it an effective way to remove non-merchantable wood debris before it can become a hazardous fuel in the dry summer months.”

Firefighters will also conduct prescribed burns in the Drift Creek area, (6 miles east of Waldport), and off Forest Service Road 52 in the Tidewater area (12 miles east of Waldport), on the Siuslaw National Forest.

Safety and smoke are the two concerns most people raise when they hear about plans for prescribed fires in their community.

That’s understandable, Allen said. “Clean air matters to all of us.”

A firefighter uses a drip torch to set fire to brush

A firefighter uses a drip torch to set fire to brush during a prescribed burn on the Klamath Ranger District on the Fremont-Winema National Forest, Oregon April 26, 2013. USDA Forest Service photo

Each prescribed fire represents many weeks of planning and preparation. Prescribed fires are managed using techniques that reduce fire intensity and smoke, such as careful site selection and attention to air and ground moisture,  atmospheric pressure, and wind.

Because firefighters choose the place, time, and conditions under which prescribed fires occur, they typically have much less impact on the surrounding community than wildland fires that aren’t planned.

Over time, land managers believe having more prescribed fires will reduce the amount of smoke experienced by communities, by preventing or limiting the size and intensity of wildland fires that occur on previously burned acreage.

More information:

Learn more about why fire on is needed on Pacific Northwest landscapes – and how prescribed fires can help in –  at https://www.north40productions.com/eom-home/.

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.

‘Wild Spotter’ pilot seeks citizen scientists to track invasive species

Two forest service employees speak with women at the corner of a viewing platform

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Aug. 14, 2018 – Calling all citizen scientists! Download the free Wild Spotter mobile app and help the USDA Forest Service identify, map, and report invasive species found in your favorite wild places, including the Pacific Northwest’s Siuslaw National Forest and Wallowa-Whitman National Forest!

Through a collaboration with more than 20 partners, the University of Georgia – Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health, and the organization Wildlife Forever, are working with 12 National Forests and Grasslands across the United States as part of a pilot program to gather important data on invasive species and how they are impacting wilderness areas, wild and scenic rivers, and other natural areas.

red-pink wildflowers dot foliage at the end of a lake, with evergreens along the far shore.

Wildflowers dot the edge of Red Mountain Lake on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest July 2, 2007. USDA Forest Service photo by C. Christensen.

The Wild Spotter citizen science program provides tools to help locate, quantify, map, and report invasive species infestations in a simple and effective manner, while raising public awareness about invasive species and promoting collaborations across the landscape.

“We are happy to be part of the Wild Spotter program and to offer the public a way to enjoy their national forest while helping us gather information on the locations of invasive species,” Angela Elam, Siuslaw National Forest forest supervisor, said.

There are 15 invasive species identified on the Siuslaw National forest in the Wild Spotter app, and 54 identified invasive species for the Wallowa-Whitman forest.

A coastal ridge slopes down to meet the ocean

Cape Perpetua tidal pools and trail, Siuslaw National Forest; June 15, 2011. USDA Forest Service photo.

Once a Wild Spotter volunteer identifies and reports a species, the data is verified by experts and then made publicly available through a networked invasive species inventory database hosted by the University of Georgia.

The database will be the first nationwide inventory of invasive species in America’s natural areas.

“Invasive plants, pathogens, and animals can threaten recreational activities, productivity, and ecosystem health. This tool will help the forest to implement better strategies for prevention, control, and eradication,” Elam said.

The Wild Spotter app is available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices, and can be used even from locations where a cell phone signal is not available.

For more information, visit www.wildspotter.org.


Source information: Siuslaw National Forest staff

Colville NF firewood permits now available

Close-up photo depicting part of a pile of firewood

COLVILLE, Wash. — April 11, 2018 — Colville National Forest firewood permits are now available at all forest offices and at participating retail locations, including North 40 locations in Colville, Mead and Spokane Valley, Wash.; Porter’s Plaza in Ione, Wash.; Selkirk Ace Hardware in Old Town, Idaho, and Harding’s Hardware in Republic, Wash.

Permits are $5 dollars per cord, with a 4-cord minimum ($20.00). There is a 12-cord maximum per household.

To purchase a personal use firewood permit please visit your local ranger station or one of the vendors.

Permit-holders are asked to keep in mind that the spring melt is underway, and many forest roads are soft and easily damaged; please stay off soft roads and remember roads that are frozen in the morning may become impassable if they thaw later in the day.

Additionally, forest visitors should keep in mind the forest’s Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) and Firewood Cutting and Removal Map may show routes as open that are temporarily closed because the road has been damaged or is impassible. Please research your route carefully, and obey posted closure notices and signage for your safety and to protect the environment. Violators may be fined.

Illustration of a campfire consisting of logs and flames in front of a blue field resembling the night sky. Text reads: Buy it where you burn it.

Buy it where you burn it! Transporting firewood outside the area where it was collected can transport diseases and invasive pests. 

Keep it local! Moving firewood long distances can transport diseases and invasive pests. Buy or cut firewood in the same area you plan to burn it. For more information, visitwww.dontmovefirewood.org.

For more information about the Colville National Forest personal use firewood program, visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/colville/ or call (509) 684-7000.

 

 

Participating vendors:

North 40, at:

  • 15228 N Newport Highway; Mead, WA 99201,
  • 8307 E Trent Ave.; Spokane Valley, WA 99212
  • 1150 S Main; Colville, WA 99114

Open MON–SAT 7 a.m.-7 p.m. & SUN 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

 

Porter’s Plaza, at:

  • 103 N Second Ave.; Ione, WA 99139

Open MON–SAT 5 a.m.-8 p.m. & SUN 6 a.m.-7 p.m.

 

Selkirk Ace Hardware, at: 

  • 495 E Highway 2; Old Town, ID 83822

Open MON–SUN 6 a.m.-7 p.m.

 

Harding’s Hardware, at:

  • 85 N Clark Ave.; Republic, WA 99166

Open MON–SAT 8 a.m.-6 p.m. & SUN 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

 

Permits are also available for purchase at all Colville National Forest customer service locations, including the Forest Supervisor’s and District Rangers’ offices. For locations and current hours of operation, visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/colville/about-forest/offices.

Please note: Colville National Forest firewood permits are no longer available at the Bureau of Land Management’s Spokane District office.

Colville National Forest PAO staff report

Boaters: ‘Clean, drain & dry’ to halt free rides for invasives

Two men row a canoe across a large lake, with forest and mountain ridges visible in the background. A woman is seated in the center of the canoe, between the rowers.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — March 29, 2018  — The Washington Invasive Species Council and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are reminding boaters to “CLEAN, DRAIN and DRY their boats and equipment to prevent the spread of invasive species and minimize the time spent at mandatory boat inspections at state borders.

“The best way to keep our lakes and rivers clean and free from invasive species is to clean, drain and dry your boats and equipment,” said Justin Bush, executive coordinator of the Washington State Invasive Species Council. “We only have one chance to keep Washington free of these invaders, which wreak havoc on our environment, stop recreation and destroy water-based industries. Once here, invasive species are really hard and expensive to remove. We all must be diligent in making sure we protect our waterways.”

Aquatic invasive species are non-native animals, plants, microorganisms and pathogens that out-compete or prey on Washington’s native fish and other wildlife. They can harm the environment, hinder salmon recovery efforts and damage human health and businesses. They come to Washington from other states and provinces on trailers, boat hulls, motors, wading boots, fishing equipment and in many other ways. Once they become established in one lake or river, they can easily spread to more waters in Washington.

To protect Washington State waters, follow these steps:

Clean: When leaving the water, clean all equipment that touched the water by removing all visible plants, algae, animals and mud. Equipment includes watercraft hulls, trailers, shoes, waders, life vests, engines and other gear.

Drain: Drain any accumulated water from boats or gear, including the bilge and live wells and transom wells, before leaving the water access point.

Dry: Once home, fully dry all gear before using it in a different waterbody.

“If you are bringing watercraft from another state and think that your boat and gear may carry invasive species, we urge you to contact the Department of Fish and Wildlife before traveling home,” said Allen Pleus, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) Aquatic Invasive Species Unit Lead. “Call the state’s aquatic invasive species hotline (1-888-WDFW-AIS) and let us know where you used the boat. If there is a high risk, we can inspect your boat and possibly decontaminate it at little or no cost.”

It’s also the law. It is illegal to transport or spread aquatic invasive species and violators can face a maximum penalty of 1 year in jail and $5,000 in fines.

Mandatory Boat Inspections

To combat the threat, WDFW is ramping up mandatory inspection stations at our borders and high risk water bodies to make sure that infested watercraft don’t slip into Washington.

“There is so much at stake,” said Capt. Eric Anderson of the WDFW Enforcement program. “Invasive species, like quagga and zebra mussels, threaten Washington’s dams, farm irrigation systems, drinking water supplies and our precious natural resources.”

In 2017, WDFW opened two mandatory inspection stations at borders in Spokane and along the Columbia River at Plymouth, southwest of the Tri-Cities. WDFW checked more than 10,000 boats as they entered Washington. This year, the inspections stations will open in early spring and run until late fall.

“We are trying our best to keep invasive mussels out,” said Sgt. Pam Taylor, of the WDFW Enforcement program. “So if you are transporting watercraft into Washington, be prepared to stop!”

Also this year, WDFW has partnered with the National Park Service to provide greater protection of the Columbia River basin. An agreement between the two agencies gives national park rangers at Lake Roosevelt National Area authority to conduct boat inspection throughout the summer. This agreement is considered a groundbreaking move in the fight against aquatic invasive species and could be implemented at other national parks.

Mandatory Prevention Permit for Out-of-Staters

In addition to the inspection stations, people from out-of-state need to buy a WDFW Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Permit before using their boats and other watercrafts on Washington State waters. New this year, the permits can be purchased online. The prevention permit also is required by seaplane operators and commercial transporters of vessels.

“Preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species is serious business,” Pleus said. Researchers estimate that invasive zebra and quagga mussels alone could cost the power industry more than $3 billion, and industries, businesses and communities more than $5 billion nationwide over 6 years.”

“As a boater, your diligence in preventing aquatic invasive species will protect Washington’s water and ensure that future Washingtonians can experience the same water activities that you enjoy,” Capt. Anderson said.

“Washington State and the Pacific Northwest are the last area in the United States to be free of these invasive mussels, and we want to keep it that way,” Bush said. To protect the Pacific Northwest, tribes, the federal government, states and nonprofit organizations have come together to address this issue through research, inspection and decontamination efforts and rapid response exercises.

The Invasive Species Council, established by the Legislature in 2006, provides policy level direction, planning and coordination to combat and prevent harmful invasive species throughout the state. To learn more about how you can prevent the spread of damaging invasive species, visit the council’s Web site. Learn more about aquatic invasive species by visiting WDFW’s Web site.

LINK: https://www.rco.wa.gov/doc_pages/press/2018/180.shtml

Staff report, Washington Invasive Species Council & Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife PAO

Oregon sands that inspired ‘Dune’ planet get their own book

photo of the book cover for "Restoring Oregon's Dunes, the bid to save a national treasure"

The coastal sands of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, part of the Siuslaw National Forest, hold an interesting place in literary history. In the 1950s, author Frank Herbert wrote the now-classic science fiction novel Dune after being inspired, in part, by a visit to these dunes, located near Florence, Ore.

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The book “Restoring Oregon’s Dunes, the bid to save a national treasure” was produced by the Oregon Dunes Restoration Collaborative to raise awareness of damage caused by invasive plants introduced to coastal dunes on the Siuslaw National Forest, outside Florence, Ore.

While there, Herbert learned about the efforts state and federal land managers had been making over several decades to stabilize the sand dunes in order to protect coastal infrastructure. A variety of non-native species were being planted on the sand to help prevent the wind from blowing it over roads and burying buildings.

That project stabilized the slopes, but had unanticipated consequences. In just a short time, the introduced species, particularly European beachgrass, have dramatically changed the dunes and the ecosystem they are a part of. No longer a place characterized by open, moving sand and different habitat types shifting about the landscape, Oregon’s coastal dunes are rapidly being converted to forest, and native vegetation that relied on the sands is being by invasive plants.

Now, the Oregon Dunes Restoration Collaborative has published a book of their own, “Restoring Oregon’s Dunes: The bid to save a national treasure,” to raise awareness about the ecological and cultural importance of this unique stretch of Oregon coastline, and the urgent need to restore the area before the habitat is lost.

We spoke with Andy Vobora, a collaborative group member and representative of Travel Lane County, about the project.

How did your collaborative come up with the idea of producing a “coffee table book”?

Most people know the issue with invasive species on the dunes has been around for decades, and there have been people working on it for years. But a few years ago the collaborative formed to start talking about what they could do, and the idea came up of developing a restoration strategy that could be shared with people. Rather than creating a heavy document that people might not read, the idea morphed into creating something that would inspire people to action.

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It was the inspiration for the fictional planet “Arrakis” in the science fiction novel, Dune, but no sandworms are found on the Oregon dunes. But other invasive species, such as European beachgrass, are responsible for changes that now threaten this critical habitat for the endangered Western snowy plover shorebird and other native animals and plants. This image from the book depicts how vegetation has invaded the shoreline over time, via images from 1941, 1979, and 1997.

Who has joined your collaborative?

 

It’s a pretty diverse group. You’ve got recreational users from Save the Riders Dunes,  you’ve got Oregon Wild, folks like me from the tourism industry (Travel Lane County), elected officials, and more. And of course we’ve got the Forest Service, since they’ll be doing a lot of the restoration and heavy work on the dunes. We’ve tried to identify in an easy way for people to understand and get behind this work. It’s about trying to restore the dunes, to preserve the best, restore landscape-scale natural resources, and prioritize where along the dunes the work should happen.

It’s interesting, that you’re trying to “preserve” a landscape whose main feature is constant change!

Yeah, it is. I think, that’s always going to be one of the challenges. Grasses were planted to stabilize the dunes for specific purposes. And those purposes, in many people’s minds, haven’t gone away. But they impacted other natural processes along the dunes in ways that weren’t fully understood or could have been predicted back in the day. So there’s a need to balance where we need them stable, where people see the need for that, and what’s needed to support the natural life cycle of native plants and animals in this ecosystem, as well as provide the important recreation opportunities the dunes have become famous for.

Since you work in tourism, why do you think people should consider a trip to the Oregon dunes?

From a visitor standpoint, that’s one of the things we like to key in on in Lane County. We have a beautiful coast and appreciate that it’s public. If you are heading south, we’re the first place along the coast that has the dunes. Other places have beaches, but they don’t have the opportunities to play on the dunes, like we have. You can go hiking, sandboarding… if you’ve never heard of it, it’s like snowboarding on dunes, just like you would on snow. There’s an international racing circuit, so one of the international meets takes place here on the dunes and brings people from all over the world. Sandmaster Park, the first dune park in North America, is here and designs and builds boards for people all over the world. Sand sleds, as well. So if you aren’t comfortable going that fast, there are other ways to get on the dunes. Off-highway vehicles (which includes dirt bikes, dune buggies and four-wheelers) are pretty popular here. Some of the members of our organizations take groups out, so there are unique opportunities to see the dunes that way. What’s great about the dunes is that it’s huge area, 40 or 50 miles long, and so it offers a range of opportunities for people, whether you want to get your adrenalin pumping or you want to ride your horse or you want to explore quiet nooks and crannies on foot away from it all.

Anything else you’d like people to know about the collaborative and its work?

We have a website, SaveOregonDunes.org, that’s a companion to the book (and where an electronic version of the book can be found). A lot of work has been done by the larger collaborative, and we’re getting to the point where we want to start making people aware of opportunities to get involved. We’re doing outreach locally, like bringing our book and staffing a tables at events. Our next big event is in April, when Save the Riders Dunes is planning a big restoration event for volunteers out on the sand. People who are interested can keep an eye on our website where we’ll be posting updates and new events as they’re scheduled. Whether you come out to help with the restoration work, or just come to visit, we just want people to understand how unique and special the dunes are.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

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Invasive Species Week

Illustration of Vin Vasive (a creature comprised of many invasive species), with text: "'What a beautiful state you live in. I could just eat it up.' Understand what you can do to stop me."

Invasive species week is Feb. 26-March 2, so we’re taking this opportunity remind everyone about the importance of keeping invasive species – including diseases, insects and plant pests – out of our water, fields and forests.

If you travel anywhere, you’re at risk of transferring invasive species. That can make the problem seem overwhelming, but there are ways you can make a difference.

 

Know before you go:

Firewood

Permit requirements often exist to help keep invasives contained, or stop the spread of disease. For example, firewood cut in Gold Beach Ranger District on the Rogue River-Siskayou National Forest must remain within the Sudden Oak Death quarantine area – an area of 519 square mile area in southwest Oregon. The disease, caused by the introduced water mold hytophthora ramorum, causes disease in more than 120 species of trees, shrubs, herbs and ferns and threatens the timber trade, the floral green industry, Christmas tree production and plant nurseries throughout Oregon.

To prevent the spread of Port-Orford cedar root disease (Phytophthora lateralis) and invasive weeds, firewood permits require vehicles be washed before entering the forest during the wet season, and be free of soil, seeds and plant parts that could transfer during the dry season.

A best practice for all firewood cutting is to cut local, buy local, and burn local.

Plants

Invasive plants are often introduced as ornamental flowers, trees, shrubs or vines that grow unchecked by predators or beat out competing plants in a new environment.

Knapweed, oxeye daisy, and butterfly bush are just some of the flowering plants on Washington’s top 100 invasive plants list.

Aquatic invasives

Other invasive species “hitchhike” vehicles, trailers, or boats and personal watercraft. This is especially true of invasive species that affect aquatic environments.

Zebra mussels are a freshwater mollusk that can form large colonies that block water pipes and damage underwater equipment. New Zealand mudsnails, water hyacinth, and several varieties of milfoil are also dangerous to local aquatic ecosystems.

Boaters can help by cleaning, draining and drying boats after each use to prevent introducing an invasive species from one area to a new body of water.

Wildlife

The fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans causes “white nose syndrome” in bats. The disease disrupts their winter hibernation, causing them to burn more calories. It also damages their wings. The combined effect is fatal to more than 90 percent of bats who contract it, for some species.

It’s been found on a limited number of bats in the Pacific Northwest so far, and the Forest Service is among the many agencies and organizations helping to monitor for signs the disease has spread, and educate those visiting the outdoors about the disease and risks.

One way you can help when visiting the outdoors is to make sure you’ve decontaminated your clothing and gear before entering an area where bats might roost, such as caves.

How we can help

The Forest Service works with state and local partners to help combat invasive species across our landscape. For example, in 2016, one of our projects treated 400 acres at Sandry River Delta and the Horsetail wetlands in Oregon to remove blackberries and reed canary grass.

In 2017, the national forests in Oregon and Washington cooperated with more than 100 different partners to control more than 52,000 acres of invasive plants that threatened to replace native vegetation, reduce forage for wildlife and livestock, and increase wildfire risks.

With so many invasives to defend against, you might wonder how effective these efforts are. The answer? Very! For example, rapid detection of and response by the Washington State Dept. of Agriculture prevented and infestation following  introduction of citrus longhorn beetle (CLB), Anoplophora chinensis, in 2001. The beetles, which arrived in Tukwila, Wash. via a shipment of bonsai trees, were eradicated through the application of insecticides and a 1/2 mile, 5-year quarantine area from which potentially infected plants could not be removed without a permit.

Gypsy moths are one of the most destructive forest pests in the United States, where the moths have defoliated millions of acres and killed thousands of acres of trees in northeastern states. A single egg mass can produce 1000 catepillars, and each catepillar can eat more than a square foot of foliage each week before it pupates into an adult moth.

In the Pacific Northwest, the Forest Service has helped combat new gypsy moth infestations for decades, providing technical expertise and financial support to statewide monitoring and eradication efforts of Asian and European gypsy moths that have prevented the moths from becoming established in Oregon and Washington for decades.

How you can help leave hungry pests behind!

  • Don’t transport living plants, cuttings, or fresh produce before checking if a quarantine area is in effect or a permit is required. Moving? Consider gifting your houseplants to a local friend instead of taking them with you, especially if they’ve been stored outside.
  • Make sure any hay and animal feed you buy is certified weed-free.
  • Clean shoes, clothes, gear, vehicles, trailers, and boats after every use, before introducing these items to a new environment.

For more information:

Oregon Invasive Species Council 
https://www.oregoninvasivespeciescouncil.org/

Washington Invasive Species Council
https://invasivespecies.wa.gov/

USDA Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS)
https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/resources/pests-diseases/hungry-pests/?utm_keyword=home

USDA Forest Service National Invasive Species Program 
https://www.fs.fed.us/invasivespecies/

USDA Forest Service Region 6: Invasive Species Program (Forest & Grassland Health) 
https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/r6/forest-grasslandhealth/invasivespecies