Category Archives: News

In the News: ‘Fire and smoke – we’re in it together’

Fire & Smoke. . . Chris Chambers, City of Ashland, Ore. and Merv George Jr., Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, speak at a TEDxAshland event in Talent, Ore. May 20, 2019. (Screen capture via YouTube, Aug. 20, 2019).

Last year, we had 300,000 acres on fire on and near the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. We welcomed 15,000 firefighters from all over the country, and actually from New Zealand and Australia as well, to come here, to help keep you safe. I spent over 200 million dollars last year, making sure that we got these fires out. In the past 2 years on the Rogue River -Siskiyou National Forest, 500,000 acres have burned.

So, what’s changed? Has it always been this way?

Merv George, forest supervisor for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, joined Chris Chambers, city forestland manager, author of the Ashland Community Wildfire Protection Plan, Jackson County Integrated Fire Plan, and creator of Ashland, Ore’s FireWise Communities and Fire Adapted Communities programs, to present a 20-minute talk at TEDxAshland in May. A video of their presentation was posted to YouTube last month.

The city and federal officials teamed up to explain why wildland fires have become landscape-scale challenge in many U.S> communities, and how the City of Ashland and the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest are answering that challenge by collaborating with each other and their entire community on creative solutions that have been demonstrated to reduce risk and save homes (and possibly lives), right in their own backyard.

You can view the complete presentation on YouTube, or watch it below.

Watch:

TEDxAshland in Talent, Ore., recorded May 20, 2019 (link via YouTube).

Early berry, mushroom seasons prompt permit reminders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Source information: Gifford Pinchot National Forest (press release)

Forest Service partners to extend outreach in Slavic community

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Memorandum of Agreement (signed July 19):

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

Watch the signing ceremony, here:

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

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

Backcountry Horsemen volunteers help build 66-foot bridge

From left: Tristan Rivers, Sawyer Meegan, and Taylen Howland, all USDA Forest Service employees assigned to the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument backcountry recreation crew, build a rock gabion that supports a 6' tall earth-covered ramp to a new 66-foot equestrian bridge over Fossil Trail #242 on Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington. USDA Forest Service photo, 2019.

AMBOY, Wash. (Aug. 19, 2019) — Backcountry Horsemen of Washington‘s Mount St. Helens Chapter and the USDA Forest Service’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest recently completed a 66-foot equestrian bridge over a creek on Fossil Trail #242, located in the southwest corner of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument (near Goat Mountain).

Decades ago, the trail was an active logging road, with a bridge that connected both sides of the narrow gorge. Equestrians have long been interested in replacing the bridge to provide better access to what is now a non-motorized loop trail for riders on horseback, Camille Stephens, Recreation Assistant for the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, said.

While hikers and even mountain bikers could climb down the gorge’s steep embankment to ford the creek, the embankment was too treacherous for horses, and most riders, such as those staying at the nearby Kalama Horse Camp, were forced to experience the loop only as two disconnected segments, she said.

Forest Service employees Dean Robertson and John Cruse install bridge stringers. USDA Forest Service photo
Forest Service employees Dean Robertson and John Cruse install bridge stringers. USDA Forest Service photo

The non-profit organization had secured grant funding for the project several years earlier, and USDA Forest Service employees placed the bridge’s supporting beams in 2018.

The Backcountry Horsemen volunteers installed the bridge’s decking later that same year.

Backcountry Horsemen of Washington members Jim Anderson and Mitch Hensley use a skidsteer to build the bridge approach. USDA Forest Service photo.
Backcountry Horsemen of Washington members Jim Anderson and Mitch Hensley use a skidsteer to build the bridge approach. USDA Forest Service photo.

This summer, agency employees from the forest’s Mt. Adams Ranger District and Backcountry Horsemen volunteers worked together to complete a 6′ tall rock and gabion support structure for a ramp leading up to the bridge. The structure was then covered in dirt to create an approach to the bridge.

“This trail is now ready to be hiked, biked, or ridden,” Stephens said. “I think all of the partners involved should be very proud of bringing this project to fruition.”

Forest Service employee Camille Stephens harvests rock for the bridge approach. USDA Forest Service photo.
Forest Service employee Camille Stephens harvests rock for the bridge approach. USDA Forest Service photo.

Source information: Gifford Pinchot National Forest – Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument recreation staff.

In the News: Campers leave ‘wildfires waiting to happen’

A campfire, photographed July 3, 2018 on the Malheur National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo by Shiloh Burton.

Apparently, not everyone is celebrating Smokey Bear’s 75th birthday this month by taking his “only you can prevent wildfires” message to heart:

More than 100 abandoned (or incompletely extinguished) campfires have been discovered by Mt. Hood National Forest visitors and staff in just the past six weeks.

Recreation was heavily impacted on Mt. Hood National Forest following the Eagle Creek fire in the nearby Columbia River Gorge National Scenic area, which makes it a little bit surprising more campers haven’t taken campfire safety procedures to heart.

The good news is, other campers have been quick to help by reporting the unattended campfires they’ve discovered, and consistently cool evening temperatures and periodic rain has helped keep sparks from spreading the fires to nearby vegetation.

  • To enjoy your campfire safely: Check for local fire restrictions on the forest you are visiting. If fires are allowed, make sure the weather is calm – do not light a fire during windy conditions, which can carry sparks far from your campsite. Use the provided fire rings, or dig a fire pit surrounded by at least 10 feet of bare ground, and surround the pit with rocks. Keep a shovel and bucket filled with water nearby, and stack extra wood upwind and away from the fire.
  • To safely extinguish a campfire: Pour water on the fire, stir it into the coals and embers with a shovel, and continue adding water and stirring until all coals are thoroughly soaked and cold to the touch. (Make sure there are no warm embers still trapped beneath the top layers; such fires can smolder for hours or even days before reigniting when the materials around them dry out).

Full story, via The Weather Channel website: https://weather.com/news/news/2019-08-14-abandoned-campfires-mt-hood

Don't keep it lit, extinquish it: Follow the rule, stay until ashes are cool. Only you can prevent wildfires. Smokeybear.com. Ad Council illustration by Janna Mattia, released in partnership with the USDA Forest Service and National Association of State Foresters.
Don’t keep it lit, extinquish it: Follow the rule, stay until ashes are cool. Only you can prevent wildfires. Ad Council illustration by Janna Mattia, released in partnership with the USDA Forest Service and National Association of State Foresters.

For more wildfire prevention tips, visit SmokeyBear.com.

Forest Service, Oregon officials sign Shared Stewardship agreement

Four people ceremonially sign a document together

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video:
via @YourNorthwestForests on Facebook


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

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

A northern spotted owl perches on a tree limb.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, the data suggested a different effect.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Siuslaw NF seeks outfitter-guide proposals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proposals are being accepted through Sept. 20, 2019.

More information and proposal documents can be found here.

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


Source information: Siuslaw National Forest (press release)

Fire season safety tips for smoke-sensitive persons, drivers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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