Recreation on public land is increasingly popular in the Pacific Northwest. But recreation management requires balancing opportunities for people to enjoy the outdoors with mitigating the effects on wildlife and other natural resources.
Recreation and wildlife managers who are grappling with these issues asked scientists to quantify the impacts of motorized and non-motorized recreation on elk.
Researchers also found that such disruptions effectively reduce the total amount of usable habitat available for elk herds.
Land managers can use this information to assess trade-offs between multiple, and often competing, land uses. When combined with planning efforts that include stakeholder engagement, this research may offer a clearer path forward on balancing human and wildlife needs on National Forests and other public and privately-held lands.
The eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980 fundamentally transformed the surrounding landscape, triggering geophysical processes that are still unfolding.
Among them was a debris avalanche caused by the eruption, that blocked the outlet from Spirit Lake to the North Fork Toutle River.
To prevent the rising lake level from breaching the blockage and potentially flooding communities downstream, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built an outlet tunnel to maintain safe lake levels.
However, the tunnel must be periodically closed for repairs, during which time the lake level rises.
Prolonged closures, combined with increased volume from melting rainfall and snow in the spring, could allow the water level to rise high enough to breach the natural dam.
In 2015, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest commissioned a study to assess risks associated with alternative outlet options.
A team consisting of researchers from the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, the U.S. Geological Survey, and Oregon State University authored the study.
At the team’s request, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted a dam safety risk-assessment of long-term solutions: maintaining the existing tunnel, rehabilitating the tunnel, creating an open channel across the blockage, or installing a buried conduit across the blockage.
The assessment determined that there is no risk-free way to remove water from Spirit Lake, but the likelihood is generally low that these solutions will fail.
With this information, the Forest Service is moving forward with developing a long-term solution to managing the Spirit Lake outlet.
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.
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.
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.
Step back in time, hone your homesteading and log-construction skills, and join Forest Service employees for skills-building and historical preservation work on a century-old historic homestead on the Colville National Forest!
Uptagrafft Homestead is believed to be built in 1919, and was one of many homesteads in the area filed under the Homestead Act. Today, the homestead is a forest interpretive site, demonstrating the typical layout of homesteads that were once common in the area, but which have become increasingly rare.
The site has been the subject of several restoration efforts, beginning for the American Bicentennial in 1976, and its current condition is a testament to the quality work of the volunteers who have been involved.
This season, volunteers will assist in general maintenance on the site, including reconstruction of a root cellar (including archaeological excavation of the root cellar floor); splitting cedar shakes and using cedar shakes to repair shingled roofs; felling, notching, skinning, and installing logs, replacing missing or damaged shutters and associated hardware, and installing an interpretive sign. Project work is scheduled to take place Aug. 19-23, 2019.
Help the Forest Service continue to preserve, maintain, and improve the homestead so visitors can continue to experience a glimpse into early pioneer life!
To volunteer, you must be able to commit a minimum of two days to the project. Volunteers will work with the project manager on a small team of up to eight participants, and must be physically capable of lifting/bending/kneeling/standing/stooping for extended periods of up to eight hours each day, in a variety of weather conditions. Volunteers must be at least 12 years old (applicants under age 18 must apply with and be accompanied by a participating parent or guardian). Previous carpentry, roofing, construction, general maintenance, and/or historic building restoration experience helpful, but not required.
Volunteers may camp at the homestead or at nearby OHV campground, located approximately 10 miles from Usk, Wash.; the camp will have a toilet, and potable water will be provided. Volunteers are responsible for their own lodging, camping equipment and meals; transportation to and from Uptagrafft and designated meeting area can be provided by Forest Service (the access road is in rough condition, a high-clearance vehicle is recommended for passage).
Your participation can help preserve this piece of history for future generations to enjoy.
Passport in Time (PIT) is a nationwide volunteer cultural heritage resources program sponsored by the USDA Forest Service and managed with assistance of many partners, including the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), state parks agencies, and HistoriCorps. PIT volunteers work with professional archaeologists and historians on public lands throughout the U.S. on such diverse activities as archaeological survey and excavation, rock art restoration, archival research, historic structure restoration, oral history gathering, and analysis and curation of artifacts. The professional staff of archaeologists, historians, and preservation specialists serve as hosts, guides, and co-workers for volunteers working on various archaeology, research and restoration projects.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.