Category Archives: Research

Forest Service seeks proposals for Mount St. Helens visitor center site

Coldwater Visitor Center exhibit area, with a view of Mt. St. Helens. USDA Forest Service photo, May 17, 2015. For more photos of the center, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/forestservicenw/albums/72157708704802574

VANCOUVER, Wash. (June 3, 2019) — What would you do with 24,600 square feet and a view of one of America’s most powerful and dynamic landscapes?

Gifford Pinchot National Forest recently released a “Request for Expressions of Interest” from individuals, organizations and companies with a vision for the facility currently in use as the Coldwater Visitor Center on Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

The center was built in 1993, and is located seven miles from Johnston Ridge Observatory, the primary Forest Service visitor center at Mount St. Helens, and is located approximately 45 miles from Interstate 5.

Coldwater Visitor Center kitchen at Mount St. Helens. USDA Forest Service photo, April 19, 2019. For more photos of the center, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/forestservicenw/albums/72157708704802574
Coldwater Visitor Center kitchen at Mount St. Helens. USDA Forest Service photo, April 19, 2019.

The building boasts spacious atriums with peaked roofs and skylights that both reflect and capture the mountain peaks beyond, a large commercial kitchen, small theater, exhibit areas, dining terrace, and gift shop among its amenities, and is currently used to host educational programming offered by the Mount St. Helens Institute.

But the building also costs $23,000 per year to operate, and $110,000 per year in maintenance expenses, and an estimated $3.3. million is needed to catch up on deferred maintenance needs.

Coldwater Visitor Center patio area, with a view of Mt. St. Helens. USDA Forest Service photo, May 17, 2015. For more photos of the center, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/forestservicenw/albums/72157708704802574
Coldwater Visitor Center patio area, with a view of Mount St. Helens. USDA Forest Service photo, May 17, 2015.

The request, or RFEI, is part of the forest and the monument’s sustainable recreation initiative, an effort to build a high-quality, sustainable recreation program.

Throughout the Forest Service, officials are evaluating existing facilities and infrastructure and re-organizing to ensure forests are managing a sustainable number of sites to a high standard, rather than juggling a large number of sites in poor condition that do not meet safety or sanitation standards.

The agency’s goal is to explore creative options to develop community-based solutions for future management of some facilities, and to identify infrastructure that is no longer needed by the agency or the community.

Forest officials said at this stage, they are not looking for a finished proposal – but they are interested in exploring possible options for the site with entities interested in partnering with the forest to make use of the site.

Proposals could include public, non-profit, private or commercial uses in the existing facility, or demolishing the current structure and building something completely new on the site, Heather Ibsen, a forest spokesperson, said.

Coldwater Visitor Center overlooks Mount St. Helens and is located within the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument area. The center serves thousands of visitors to the monument every year, hosts programming for the Mount St. Helens Institute.

Coldwater Visitor Center front desk, at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. USDA Forest Service photo, May 17, 2015. For more photos of the center, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/forestservicenw/albums/72157708704802574
Coldwater Visitor Center front desk, at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. USDA Forest Service photo, May 17, 2015.

Built in 1993, the structure is located 7 miles from Johnston Ridge Observatory, the primary Forest Service visitor center at Mount St. Helens, and 45 miles from Interstate 5.

You can read more about the sustainable restoration initiative and the Coldwater Visitor Center at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/giffordpinchot/recreation/?cid=fseprd629684.

Anyone interested in proposing a new use for the space should submit:

  • A cover letter expressing your interest which includes your name, company or organization, and contact information (phone, address, email address).
  • An explanation of your concept, including the type of use proposed, and how this use supports the purpose and mission of the Monument and the Forest Service. This section should also include a description of planned improvements and any additional information or considerations relevant to your concept or experience.
  • Business and financial considerations: Address the nature or any partnerships proposed, including the roles and responsibilities of each entity in the proposed use. Describe the cost of planned improvements and your funding source. (Note: If a permit is issued, a fee will likely be charged. The fee can be for items such as covering the cost of administering the permit, functioning in lieu of rent, or funding a share of building maintenance. Proposals should not be contingent upon the availability of Forest Service funds).

Proposals are due no later than July 31, 2019. The Forest Service will host a site visit June 25, 2019 for interested parties who would like to tour the entire Coldwater Visitor Center facility. To RSVP, email sm.fs.rfie@usda.gov by June 18, 2019.

To submit your concept, provide both a paper copy and an electronic copy on USB flash drive (jump drive). Submissions should be mailed or hand-delivered to: Mount St. Helens NVM (attn: RFEI); 42218 NE Yale Bridge Rd., Amboy WA 98601.

The Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the globe. Created by Congress after the 1980 eruption that radically transformed the landscape, the Monument protects the scientific, geologic, and ecological resources surrounding the volcano. Nearly 40 years later, scientists still continue to study this area to learn more about volcanic activity and how landscapes recover from disaster.

For more information and a guide to submitting a proposal in response to the RFEI, visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/giffordpinchot/recreation/?cid=fseprd629684.

For more photos of the center, visit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/forestservicenw/albums/72157708704802574


Source information: Gifford Pinchot National Forest (press release).

Researching ‘birds and bees’ for conifer trees

Douglas fir cone "flowers," Technically, Douglas-fir are not flowering plants, but its young female cones, shown here, are often referred to as “ flowers.” Genetic variation yields “ flowers” of various hues; it also influences the timing of flowering in different populations. Knowing when Douglas-fir are going to flower helps seed orchards have staff ready for the labor-intensive pollination process that yields high-quality Douglas-fir seeds. USDA Forest Service photo by Janet Prevey.

“Timing is everything, especially when it comes to tree sex.”

In the latest Science Findings, researchers from the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station delve into nature versus nurture in conifer reproduction.

To successfully reproduce, conifers, or cone-bearing trees, must have impeccable timing to open their female cones just as pollen is being released from from the male cones of nearby trees.

This timing is a response to temperature and other environmental cues. It is to the tree’s advantage to flower when risk of damaging frost is low, but early enough in the spring to take full advantage of the growing season.

Since Douglas-fir is ecologically important and the cornerstone of Pacific Northwest’s timber industry, seed orchard managers carefully breed different populations of the species to produce seedlings that will thrive in particular areas in need of replanting.

Understanding the environmental cues that influence the timing of flowering is important for predicting how reproduction and survival of trees will change in the future.

To address this need, a team of researchers with the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station developed a model that predicts, within an average of 5 days, when Douglas-fir will flower – which seed orchard managers are already using to plan and schedule time-sensitive tasks related to flowering in the orchards.

Read more in Science Findings #216, available at https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/58039 (click “view PDF”), or navigate directly to the PDF publication at https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/sciencef/scifi216.pdf.

Past editions of Science Findings are available here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/

To subscribe to Science Findings and other publications from the Pacific Northwest Research Station, click here.


Source information: Josh McDaniel is a science writer based in Colorado. Research by Janet S. Prevey, research ecologist, Connie Harrington, research forester and Brad St. Clair, research geneticist at the Pacific Northwest Research Station. Science Findings is a publication of the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station.

In the News: Improving diversity, equity, and inclusion on public lands

A family poses with their tree during a holiday tree -cutting outing on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Nov. 30, 2018. The outing, designed to introduce youth from under-served communities to the forest, included an interpretive hike, tree cutting, and s'mores and was coordinated by the USDA Forest Service and partner organizations, including Northwest Youth Corps, iUrbanTeen, Urban Nature Partners Portland, and Big Brothers Big Sisters Pacific Northwest. USDA Forest Service photo by Sandie Burks.

Public lands are open to all, but research shows not everyone feels equally at home in them. That’s a problem for our national forests, which are managed by public resources that won’t be made available if the public doesn’t understand their needs. And it’s a missed opportunity for Americans who are not aware of, not encouraged to, or who don’t feel empowered to enjoy the incredible recreation opportunities, inspiration, and personal health and well-being that can be found on public lands. That individual disparity adds up to effects on society as a whole, though less public awareness of rural and ecological issues and in less diversity among applications for forestry-related science programs and for natural resources jobs.

This New York Times article talks about the disparities that exist, and how members of some underrepresented communities are seeking to change it.

Full story, via New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/22/travel/unlikely-hikers-hit-the-trail.html

Join the conversation!

What barriers are keeping you, or people you know, from exploring Your Northwest Forests?

Let us know, in the comments!

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/

In the News: How recreation boosts local economies

A sleeping bag and bivouac sac, positioned on the shore of a Rogue River tributary.

Even if you don’t live in a “recreation county,” outdoor recreation may boost your local government’s bottom line.

But economists are starting to measure how access to recreation amenities affects migration, income growth, and spending – and one recent study suggests that having recreation-driven economy, defined as one tied to entertainment and seasonal visitors’ spending, can also lead to growth in both population and local wages.

Recreational amenities seems to attract both newcomers and tourists – and both are bringing economic growth to these areas that is measurably outpacing non-recreation counties, suggests a study conducted by Headwaters Economics, a nonprofit research group.

Full story, via High Country News: https://www.hcn.org/issues/51.8/recreation-how-recreation-boosts-the-economy