Category Archives: Science

What’s the buzz about pollinators?

Within the past month, Walmart stores in Pendleton and Hermiston, Ore. joined 16 other Walmart stores in opening pollinator gardens on their store grounds.

It’s a small step that, multiplied across backyards and public spaces across the country, could make a big impact on the survival of the native insects that are such a critical part of our northwest ecosystems.

Be a friend to pollinators! Animal pollinators are essential to reproduction for 35% of the world’s food crops ,but they are disappearing. This animation explains what individuals can do to help pollinators in their own communities, and describes the varieties of pollinators. USDA video, via YouTube.

The issues facing native pollinators are daunting. While some species are able to thrive on food from many plants, others are highly specialized and depend on just a few plant species. In other cases, specific plants provide cover to hide from predators or preferred breeding grounds that a dependent insect species needs.

When those plants are replaced, by crops or invasive weeds, parking lots, or buildings, small patches of remaining habitat – and the insect populations they sustain – can get isolated from others of their kind. And while some of these smaller plant and insect colonies eventually adapt to these changes, others dwindle and eventually die off.

That’s a problem, because ecosystems are interdependent.

As the number and types of of pollinators decline, plants that rely on them may also decline – including plants that rely directly on the specialized pollinators that have adapted to thrive with them, and plants that simply rely on large numbers of pollinators generally to maintain a healthy degree of cross-pollination across a geographical area.

Specific pollinators or the plants that rely on them may also be an important food source for specific bird and animal species.

Improper use of pesticides is another threat to our pollinators.

While pesticides are an important and necessary part of protecting agricultural crops, and even native plants and trees from infestations by aggressive or invasive insect species, it’s important for users to follow application guidelines.

Applying too much product, watering too soon after pesticide applications, or applying pesticides under the wrong conditions can create residue, runoff, or drift, potentially causing harm to beneficial organisms well beyond the intended treatment area.

It’s not just highly-specialized species that are struggling. Honeybee populations have declined drastically in recent decades, in part due to a syndrome called “colony collapse disorder.”

Scientists are still studying what is causing hives to fail in such large numbers, but believe a range of cumulative stressors, which could include fungal infection, infestations by parasitic mites, habitat loss that requires bees to fly further to collect sufficient food for their hive, pesticide exposure, ultimately results in stressed, unhealthy bee colonies that can’t sustain sufficient numbers to stay warm and fed through the winter.

The Monarch butterfly, which the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife website calls “one of America’s most recognizable species in North America,” is being considered for Endangered Species Act protection.

The migratory butterfly’s numbers have plummeted during the past two decades, likely due in part to overall habitat loss and fragmentation, and especially from reduced numbers of the milkweed plants it relies on, particularly when breeding.

Many communities are joining the effort to protect pollinators by removing invasives and planting native species in parks and other public spaces, and even utility rights-of-way! You can research milkweed species that are native to your area at http://www.xerces.org/milkweed/.

Individuals can also help native northwest pollinators, and the plants and animals that depend on them, survive and thrive.

Flower beds and border gardens planted with of native plant species can be beautiful and beneficial to pollinators! Many pollinators are especially attracted to showy flowers, their favored source of food. Here in the Pacific Northwest, many of our native plants are highly ornamental. Even a small container garden, planted with native flowering plants, can creating a safe place for insects to stop, rest, and feed while travelling between larger areas of habitat. You can read more about how to build such a garden at https://www.fws.gov/midwest/news/PollinatorGarden.html.

Gardeners and professional growers can also help protect pollinators by using caution when planning for use of herbicides and insecticides (both organic and synthetic can impact beneficial insects or plants that they rely on).

For more information, visit: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/plantsanimals/pollinate/

For links to USDA research re: pollinators, visit: https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/economic-and-policy-analysis/natural-resources-analysis/pollinators/index

* Special thanks to Ron Kikel, visitor information assistant and conservation educator on the Mt. Hood National Forest, for providing the close-up photos below of some pollinators he’s recently encountered in and around Oregon. Thanks also to Chamise Kramer, Public Affairs Specialist for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, for the informative and shareable graphics.

Seeking ground less traveled: how elk respond to recreation

A female elk wearing a telemetry collar in the Starkey Experimental Forest and Range, Ore. The collar enabled scientists to track the animal’s movements in response to different types of recreation by volunteers wearing GPS units while riding all-terrain vehicles, mountain bikes, horses, or on foot. Courtesy photo by Leslie Naylor; Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Department of Natural Resources.

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.

In Science Findings # 219, the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station explores recent research in Oregon that sought to measure how elk respond to various human, and especially recreation-based, activities.

Elk are highly valued for hunting and viewing by the public. As large herbivores, they also play a critical role in many ecosystems of the Intermountain West.

A large fenced area within the Starkey Experimental Forest and Range in eastern Oregon provided a unique setting for assessing how a wide-ranging species like elk respond to four types of recreation.

Real-time data recorded by telemetry units worn by people and elk alike allowed scientists to establish a cause-effect relationship between human movements and activities and elk responses.

Scientists found that elk avoided areas where humans were recreating. All-terrain vehicle use was most disruptive human-initiated activity, followed by mountain biking, hiking, and horseback riding.

When exposed to these activities, elk spent more time moving rather than feeding and resting.

The findings build on earlier studies, which suggested that frequent disruptions and movement to avoid human contact increase mortality rates for newborn 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.


Source information: Science Findings is published monthly by the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station. To search past issues, visit: https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/.

Engineering answers for Spirit Lake

An aerial view to the south of Mount St. Helens in 1982 as another lahar—melted snow and volcanic rock (think wet cement)—occurred. When the lahar encountered the debris blockage from 1980, part of it flowed into Spirit Lake (bottom left), while the rest flowed west into the Loowit Creek drainage that flows into the upper North Fork Toutle River. USGS photo by Tom Casadevall.

In Science Findings #218, “The Spirit Lake Dilemma: Engineering a Solution for a Lake with a Problematic Outlet,” USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station writers explore new research into the future repair or replacement of an outflow tunnel at Spirit Lake, on Mount St. Helens.

The eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980 fundamentally transformed the surrounding landscape, triggering geophysical processes that are still unfolding.

Spirit Lake, with Mount St. Helens, Washington, in the background (2015). A debris avalanche triggered by a volcanic eruption on May 18, 1980, blocked the lake’s natural outlet. A tunnel was built to safely remove water from the lake and minimize the risk of catastrophic flooding to communities downstream. Maintaining the tunnel is expensive, so long-term solutions are being explored. USDA Forest Service photo by Rhonda Mazza.

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.


Source information: Rhonda Mazza is a public affairs specialist for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station, which publishes Science Findings. Find past Science Findings at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/.

Animation tells story of fish and fire

Fire and Fish: Habitat and History in the Northwest is a 5-minute animated video featuring two Forest Service research biologists that illustrates the complex relationship between fire and fish in Pacific Northwest rivers and streams. This screen capture from the video depicts juvenile fish finding shelter within a fallen log that has become submerged in a stream channel, providing refuge from both predators and strong currents.

An animated video recently released by the Pacific Fire Science Consortium explores and illustrates the complex relationship between fish and fire in the Pacific northwest United States.

The video, “Fish and Fire: History and Habitat in the Pacific Northwest,” was produced by the University of Oregon School of Journalism.

It features interviews two Forest Service research fish biologists, Rebecca Flitcroft and Gordon Reeves, both assigned to the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station.

The scientists explain how some fish species in the Pacific Northwest have adapted to benefit from the impact of intermittent forest fires:

  • Fire adds silt and small rocks or gravel, which replenish materials needed to for some fish to create spawning beds.
  • Dead trees may fall into streams, creating complexity in the stream’s flow, which can reduce stress on fish by providing refuge from strong currents.
  • Log jams especially benefit juvenile species by creating broad flood plains, further diffusing rapid currents and offering many nooks and crannies in which to evade predators while nourishing the insect larvae, worms, beetles, and other organisms they may feed on.

The University of Oregon, the university’s Ecosystem Workforce Program, the Oregon State University and its Extension Service, The Nature Conservancy, Sustainable Northwest, the Center for Natural Lands Management, and the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station are members of the Northwest Fire Science Consortium, one of fifteen regional science information exchanges funded by the Joint Fire Science Program.

From FireScience.gov:

In the Pacific Northwest, native salmon and trout (family Salmonidae) are some of the toughest survivors on the block. Over time, these fish have evolved behavioral adaptations to natural disturbances, and they rely on these disturbances to deliver coarse sediment and wood that become complex stream habitat. Powerful disturbances such as wildfire, post fire landslides, and debris flows may be detrimental to fish populations in the short term, but over time they enrich in-stream habitats, enhancing long-term fish survival and productivity.

LAND MANAGEMENT IMPLICATIONS

Forest management activities, such as enhancing river network connectivity through fish passage barrier removal and reducing predicted fire intensity and sizes, may increase the resilience of bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) in the face of disturbances such as climate change and wildfire.

Natural disturbances, along with sound riparian management and road management practices that allow natural flood plain functioning, are important in maintaining healthy change in aquatic habitats. Connected, complex aquatic habitats benefit from ecosystem management practices that are analogous to the spatial extent of wildfires and bridge human-imposed divides such as land ownership boundaries.

Fire planning that includes aquatic issues such as habitat quality, stream network connectivity, and fish population resilience offers resource managers the opportunity to broaden fire management goals and activities to include potential positive effects on aquatic habitats.

WATCH the video here (or find it on YouTube):

More information:

Science Findings #198 (July, 2017): https://www.fs.usda.gov/pnw/publications/adaptation-wildfire-fish-story

“Wildfire may increase habitat quality for spring Chinook salmon in the Wenatchee River subbasin, WA, USA” (submitted 2015, published 2016): https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/pubs/journals/pnw_2015_flitcroft001.pdf


Source information: The USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station is a leader in the scientific study of natural resources. We generate and communicate impartial knowledge to help people understand and make informed choices about natural resource management and sustainability. The station has 11 laboratories and research centers in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, and manages 12 active experimental forests, ranges, and watersheds.

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/

August is Fire Hire season for Forest Service in WA, OR

Images of an aircraft dropping fire retardant, a fire truck and crew, fire personnel in nomex and protective gear reviewing a map in the field, a firefighter spraying water on a fire from a hose, a firefighter hand crew, and a firefighter lighting dry grass using a drip torch. Text: 2019 Fire Hire, USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Region.

PORTLAND, Ore. (July 31, 2019) — The annual “fire hire” hiring event for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region opens Aug. 1, 2019.

The Forest Service is looking for committed, hardworking, highly-skilled employees to support wildfire suppression, fuels reduction and other fire management work on 17 National Forests in Oregon and Washington.

The fire and aviation program features rewarding opportunities for candidates with seasonal wildland firefighting experience to pursue challenging, full-time positions with the agency.

The agency uses the centralized, annual “fire hire” process for hiring most positions in the region’s permanent fire management workforce.

Specialized opportunities being offered include dispatch, engine crew positions, fuels technicians, hand crew members, helitack crew members, hotshot crew remembers, smokejumpers, and fire prevention and education specialists.

Opportunities will be posted at www.usajobs.gov, with an application window of Aug. 1-28, 2019.

Vacancy announcements for seasonal opportunities during the summer, 2020 wildland fire season – which includes the majority of the region’s entry-level and trainee fire management opportunities – will be posted to USAJobs in September, 2019.

“Fire Hire” timeline:

  • Aug. 1, 2019: Vacancy announcements are posted to USAJobs.
  • Aug. 28, 2019: Application deadline, 7:59 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time (10:59 p.m. EDT, or 11:59 EST). Applicants are encouraged to read all vacancy announcements carefully prior to applying, and ensure all required documents are included with their submission. Applicants are also encouraged to apply for multiple locations (where they would accept a position if offered), even if positions for certain locations are not listed as vacant, as vacancies may occur during the hiring process and could be filled during Selection Week.
  • Oct. 15-31, 2019: Supervisory Reference Checks, and Subject Matter Expert evaluations occur during these weeks. Please ensure your references are notified of this and they are available at the email address (preferred) or phone number provided on your application.
  • Nov. 4-22, 2019: Selection week. Representatives from each forest will make recommendations for hiring, and candidates selected will be notified by a Forest Service representative by phone. Those not selected should check their USAJobs account for status updates. During the selection week candidates will be given 4 hours to respond to voicemails or emails from the recommending officials. It is highly encouraged candidates plan be available via phone during this time!
  • March, 2020: Earliest possible effective date for new hires.

Note: Where Interagency Fire Program Management (IFPM) and Forest Service – Fire Program Management (FS-FPM) qualifications are required, these qualifications must be met prior to the closing date on the vacancy being applied for. Applicants with relevant fire certifications or experience must provide a current copy of their IQCS Master Record, where indicated in the announcement, to meet qualification requirements for positions with IQCS requirements.

For more information: Visit https://go.usa.gov/xyfx8.

Images of an aircraft dropping fire retardant, a fire truck and crew, fire personnel in nomex and protective gear reviewing a map in the field, a firefighter spraying water on a fire from a hose, a firefighter hand crew, and a firefighter lighting dry grass using a drip torch. Text: 2019 Fire Hire, USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Region. Apply on www.usajobs.gov August 1-28.
The USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s next “Fire Hire” hiring event is Aug. 1-28, 2019 at https://www.usajobs.gov. Applicants are encouraged to apply for current and potential vacancies at all locations they are interested in being considered for, for a variety of permanent, full-time positions supporting fire and aviation management programs on 17 National Forests in Washington and Oregon, with projected start dates in spring-summer, 2020.

Forest Feature: Herons

Wildlife like this majestic Great Blue Heron make their home in and along the lower Duwamish River in western Washington State. You might also catch glimpses of eagles, ospreys, seals, and otters when traveling along the river. EPA added about five miles of the lower reach of the river to its list of Superfund cleanup sites in 2001. Visit www.epa.gov/region10/duwamish to learn more about EPA's efforts to clean up and restore the lower Duwamish River. U.S. EPA photo.

It’s July? Where did half the summer go! Let’s all take a moment to breathe, relax, and experience the present while reflecting on this month’s Forest Feature, the graceful heron.

Herons are wading birds in the Ardeidae family. There are dozens of species (including bitterns and egrets). Herons feed on fish and small aquatic animals.

They are important birds that appear frequently in traditional folklore from many cultures, including Greek, Aztec, Celtic, Chinese, and Egyptian, and the Nisqually Indians, a Native American tribe from the south Puget Sound region of western Washington state.

There are many species of heron that are prevalent in the Pacific Northwest, but these are a few of the most prominent species:

Great Blue Heron: One of the most easily spotted and found throughout much of the United States, this massive bird (with a wingspan up to 6 and a half feet wide!) is as handsome as it is graceful. You can find great blue herons wading across an impressively diverse habitat range: from brackish to freshwater systems, agricultural and suburban landscapes, wetlands and sloughs.

Green Heron: Smaller than many other herons, the green heron uses a different strategy to hunt. Standing still, it waits for small fish and amphibians to wander within striking range. Once prey is near, the move quickly! You won’t see more than a quick flash of green and brown before the green heron gulps its dinner.

Black-Crowned Night Heron: A generalist in the true sense of the word, this bird is the most widespread heron in the world. It’s a social animal, often nesting with other herons, egrets, and ibises. The oldest Night Heron on record was a 21-year old female.

Resources:

Are you inspired to spend more time with this remarkable bird, the heron


Source information: Forest Features highlight a new Pacific Northwest species (or sometimes, a family, order, kingdom, or genus) each month as part of the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s regional youth engagement strategy.

If you’d like fact sheets, activities, or links to other educational resources about this topic – and for information about other ways the Forest Service can help incorporate environmental education and forest science in your classroom – email YourNorthwestForests@fs.fed.us.

Forest Service at Oregon Zoo – next event Aug. 20

PORTLAND, Ore. (June 20, 2019)  Forest Service employees from Portland, Ore. were at the Oregon Zoo’s first Twilight Tuesday event of the season, June 18.

Twilight Tuesday events feature reduced-price evening admission to the zoo, as well as live music, expanded food options, and a variety of education stations staged around the zoo’s performance lawn.

“Zoo visitors are a perfect audience to learn about what the Forest Service is doing with habitat restoration. There are lots of families, lots of young, enthusiastic kids who are interested in learning about the natural world,” Gala Miller, acting conservation education program manager for the agency’s Pacific Northwest Regional office, said. “It’s also allows us to share important information, like white nose syndrome in bats, endangered species protection and preservation… and its about being in community, introducing a non-traditional audiences to the Forest Service and what we do.”

Zoos are often associated with the opportunities they offer view exotic animals, but modern zoos also provide a wealth of research and conservation resources that benefit local, native wildlife.

For example, Staff from the Oregon Zoo’s Butterfly Lab help supervise the raising of threatened and endangered butterflies which are used to repopulate fragmented wild habitat in places like western Washington and Oregon’s Coast Range.

At the July 18 event, Forest Service personnel conducted their own “Butterfly Lab” with zoo visitors, educating young people about the environmental importance of butterflies and other pollinators, butterfly migration patterns, and some of the challenges facing the Pacific Northwest’s endangered and threatened butterfly species.

The Forest Service’s partnership with the zoo is based on its shared mission to educate youth about the natural world, Miller said. The agency partners with the zoo on conservation events throughout the year, including youth summer camps and overnight programs.

The Forest Service also participated in the 2019 season’s second Twilight Tuesday event on July 16. The final Oregon Zoo Twilight Tuesday for the 2019 is scheduled for Aug. 20.

For more information, visit https://www.oregonzoo.org/events/twilight-tuesday.


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

Fivemile-Bell Watershed project selected for Riparian Challenge award

A bird perches on a stump in the Fivemile-Bell watershed, Siuslaw National Forest. Courtesy photo by Morgan Heim / Morgan Heim Photography (used with permission)

REEDSPORT, Ore. (July 19, 2019) The Fivemile-Bell Watershed Restoration project has been selected for the 2019 Western Division of the American Fisheries Society (WDAFS) Riparian Challenge Award in the USDA Forest Service category.

The project is located on the Siuslaw National Forest, approximately 10 miles south of Florence, Ore., on the Central Coast Ranger District.

WDAFS presents this award to managers and resource specialists to recognize their efforts in maintaining, restoring, and improving riparian and watershed ecosystems.

The Fivemile-Bell restoration project is a decade-long innovative project that covers about 5,000 acres of national forest land working to restore a critical floodplain to dramatically improve habitat for Oregon Coast Coho salmon, which is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, and other aquatic and terrestrial animals.

An amphibian found in the Fivemile-Bell watershed, Siuslaw National Forest. Courtesy photo by Morgan Heim / Morgan Heim Photography (used with permission)
An amphibian found in the Fivemile-Bell watershed, Siuslaw National Forest. Courtesy photo by Morgan Heim / Morgan Heim Photography (used with permission)

The project, a joint effort by the Siuslaw National Forest and numerous partner organizations and agencies, uses new research to guide the re-establishment of historic stream and floodplain interactions, and restore a native riparian plant community on land formerly used for farming.

This cooperative effort is improving and creating habitat in one of the most productive stream systems in Oregon.

Additionally, the restoration accelerates the development of late-successional and old-growth characteristics in surrounding forest and uplands, benefiting a variety of species – such as the northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet, which are also federally listed under the ESA, creating a more sustainable and resilient landscape.

“This is a representation of all the hard work that has occurred over the last decade” Paul Burns, the Forest Service project lead, said. “We share this recognition with the many partners that have worked on this project.”

Additional partners on the project include Siuslaw Watershed Council, Siuslaw Institute, Elkton Community Education Center, Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians, Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians, Ecotrust, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Western Rivers Conservancy.

“The Fivemile Bell project showcases the incredible social and ecological outcomes that result when diverse project partners work together” Eli Tome, executive director of the Siuslaw Watershed Council, said. “Partners have invested over $1 million in this innovative restoration project over the past decade. Research indicates this investment has supported over 15 local jobs which is critical in our rural community. Restoring this area is supporting one of the strongest runs of threatened Coho salmon on the Oregon Coast. This project is an investment in our community, economy and environment today, and for future generations.”

To learn more about the Fivemile-Bell Watershed Restoration Project visit: https://go.usa.gov/xmAV8. For personal narratives from local project partners at Fivemile Bell and other restoration projects throughout the area, visit the Siuslaw Watershed Council’s website at https://www.siuslaw.org/why-we-restore/.


Source information: The Siuslaw National Forest manages more than 630,000 acres of temperate rainforests along the Oregon Coast Range, from Tillamook to the end of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area in Coos Bay. Additional information is available online at www.fs.usda.gov/siuslaw, www.twitter.com/SiuslawNF and www.facebook.com/SiuslawNF.

The Siuslaw Watershed Council supports sound economic, social and environmental uses of natural and human resources in the Siuslaw River Basin. The Council encourages cooperation among public and private watershed entities to promote awareness and understanding of watershed functions by adopting and implementing a total watershed approach to natural resource management and production.

Fivemile-Bell watershed, Siuslaw National Forest. Courtesy photo by Morgan Heim / Morgan Heim Photography (used with permission)
Fivemile-Bell watershed, Siuslaw National Forest. Courtesy photo by Morgan Heim / Morgan Heim Photography (used with permission)

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).

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