Category Archives: Umpqua National Forest

‘Land of Umpqua’ photo contest winners

A wildcat is spotted through the leaves. Courtesy photo by Lindsay Briley. Awarded First Place-Wildlife in the 2019 Land of Umpqua photo contest, sponsored by the Forest Service, City of Roseburg, and Bureau of Land Management.

ROSEBURG, Ore. (Oct. 1, 2019)  The Roseburg District, Bureau of Land Management and the Umpqua National Forest announced winners of the 2019 “Land of Umpqua” Amateur Photo Contest yesterday.

This past year, the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have been celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and National Trails Act.

Amateur photographers submitted a variety of photos featuring the beautiful landscapes and wildlife on BLM and Forest Service -managed lands from around the Umpqua River, Umpqua Valley and surrounding forests.

Photos submitted by amateur photographers were grouped and judged in several categories: “Fall Colors,” “Water,” “Waterfalls and Wilderness,” “Wildlife along Trails and in the Wilderness,” and “Pets on Trails.”

Congratulations to the winners!

Richard Krieger, Waterfalls and Wilderness-First Place

Winning entries, by category:

Fall Colors on Public Lands

  • 1st Place – Tiffni Curley – Roseburg
  • 2nd Place – Kevin Berhardt – Roseburg
  • 3rd Place – Jane Brown

Umpqua Wildlife along Trails and in the Wilderness

  • 1st Place – Lindsay Somers – Roseburg
  • 2nd Place – Lindsay Somers – Roseburg
  • 3rd Place – Tracy Moulden – Myrtle Creek

Water, Waterfalls and Wilderness

  • 1st Place – Richard Krieger – Ashland
  • 2nd Place – Amy Egli – Toketee
  • 3rd Place – Shanti-Rail-Chatfield – Oakland

Pets on Trails

  • 1st Place – Cheri Knott – Roseburg
  • 2nd Place – Lindsay Somers – Roseburg
  • 3rd Place – Kevin Berhardt – Roseburg

The winning photos are available to view at: All photo submissions for the contest can be viewed at:

The Roseburg District, Bureau of Land Management and the Umpqua National Forest hosted the photo contest as part of a multi-agency exhibit at the 23rd Annual Sportsmen’s & Outdoor Recreation Show held earlier this year.

Winners receive prizes, including free overnight stays at BLM and Forest Service campgrounds, as well as Smokey Bear -themed items.

The winning photos are also featured on the BLM and Forest Service Social media services.

Source information: Umpqua National Forest (via Facebook)

Forest Feature: Bigfoot

Someone you might see on the National Forest: Bigfoot/Sasquatch, pictured here. Sasquatches have been seen running away from a wildfire. Please be careful with fire when you are visiting their neighborhood.

It comes in many shapes, sizes, and forms. It’s an animal today, but a plant the next? Few see it, but it sees all. It (allegedly) LOVES Nutella! It’s everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It’s the last of its kind, a true legend. That’s right, this month’s Forest Feature honors the Pacific Northwest’s most unique forest creature: BIGFOOT!

Lurking always just out of sight, our friendly 8-or-more-feet-tall, gentle giant of the Pacific Northwest has (reportedly) graced us with its presence for decades now.

Some say that its large stature belies an otherwise congenial attitude towards other forest-dwelling creatures.

However in times past and present, many have described a “wild man” or “hairy man” stealing food from unwary hikers.

Some anthropologists and dedicated Bigfoot-hunters have devoted their lives to revealing its secrets; but in true bigfoot-style, the creature remains largely unexposed. You won’t even find it posting on Instagram (although you may find many imposters posing for a Kodak moment).

Did you know?

  • Bigfoot, sometimes known as Sasquatch, is also rumored to be a shapeshifter
  • The highest number of Bigfoot sightings is in Clackamas County (Oregon), along Hwy 244.
  • The Blue Mountains is allegedly one of its favorite spots, and where parts of the 1995 film “Bigfoot: The Unforgettable Encounter” were filmed (the story is set in Shaver Lake, Calif. and in the Modoc National Forest, also in California).
  • The first motion picture footage (alleged to be) of the elusive, notoriously camera-shy creature is known as the Petterson-Gimlin film, filmed in 1967.

This month, we have no photos of Bigfoot to share… but we do have a coloring page depicting an artist’s conception of Bigfoot in its natural habitat, created by the Jimmye Turner, a USDA Forest Service fire prevention specialist on the Umatilla National Forest.

We also have a drawing activity to help students draw on their creativity, curiosity, and to inspire questions about the many adaptations animals have evolved to meet the challenges of their environment.

While some of you may not be Bigfoot believers, Bigfoot offers a wonderful opportunity to talk about fire prevention during the hottest month of the year, the unexplored and undiscovered aspects of our forest’s wild and wilderness areas, and the importance of preserving habitat before more species become scarce, and seemingly as difficult to find as Bigfoot has proved to be.

Both of these resources are fun for all ages, but are especially suited to students in early elementary school (grades K-4).

Gather stories about Bigfoot in your own communities, use its mystique to inspire stewardship of the forest!


Someone you might see on the National Forest: Bigfoot/Sasquatch, pictured here. Sasquatches have been seen running away from a wildfire. Please be careful with fire when you are visiting their neighborhood.
A coloring page, featuring Bigfoot (also known as Sasquatch). USDA Forest Service illustration by Jimmye Turner, Umpqua National Forest staff.

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

Umpqua NF enacts 14-day limit on some campsites

An elaborately constructed long-term campsite, including a cast iron tub perched above a stone fire circle and a wooden structure likely used by a long-term camper for washing and drying clothes.

ROSEBURG, Ore. (July 28, 2019) The Umpqua National Forest has implemented a 14-day limit on overnight camping in several areas that had previously been available for longer-term camping on the Tiller Ranger District.

Several other areas of the forest are also closed to long-term camping due to increased visitation or environmental damage from long-term camping; long-term camping limits were adopted for several sites on the Cottage Grove District by a closure order issued last year, and several locations on the North Umpqua District are also closed to long-term camping.

Long-term camping at both developed and non-developed (dispersed) campsites that are easily-accessible and in locations that are popular with visitors has increased significantly in recent years, limiting opportunities for other campers seeking to use these sites and increasing the risk of damage to surrounding natural resources from irresponsible recreation practices, according to a press release from the forest to announced the changes.

A developed campsite in an evergreen forest, equipped with a carved log picnic table, fire ring, and cleared flat ground.
A developed campsite on the Tiller Ranger District; Umpqua National Forest, Ore. USDA Forest Service photo by Lance Sargent; district recreation manager.

“Some of these sites are very popular with visitors, and there aren’t a lot of places suitable for camping, so it really limited access,” Lance Sargent, recreation manager for the Tiller Ranger District, said.

Areas of Tiller Ranger District subject to the new long-term camping closure order include the Forest Service Road 28 and South Umpqua Road corridor, the Forest Service Road 2823 corridor, and the Forest Service Road 29 / Jackson Creek Road corridors.

Acker Rock is visible above a break in the treeline, with a branch of the Umqpua River system visible in the foreground and an unpaved forest road winding alongside the stream.
A view of Acker Rock, from one of the road corridors now subject to a 14-day limit on overnight camping. USDA Forest Service photo by Lance Sergeant.

The Devils Flat, Threehorn, Three C Rock, Black Canyon, Skookum Pond and Falcon Creek campgrounds, and the Cow Creek Trailhead, area also affected by the long-term camping closure order.

The new long-term stay limits have been enacted in an effort to protect Forest resources and visitor health and safety, said Kathy Minor, Tiller District Ranger, said.

“Visitors and Forest staff are experiencing an increase in health and safety risks, as well as the potential for unsafe water quality,” Minor said. “By limiting camping to 14 days, all forest visitors will also have a fair and equitable opportunity to visit and enjoy the Umpqua National Forest.”

An abandoned campsite, littered with tarps and large quantities of visible trash.
Risks to wildlife and natural resources include trash from abandoned camps, human-caused defoliation or deforestation in the surrounding area, erosion or soil disturbances beyond designated camping areas, and water or soil contamination from inadequate sanitation and waste handling. USDA Forest Service photo by Lance Sargent.

The areas affected don’t have running water, toilets, or other facilities sufficient for their use as long-term campsites, as longer stays increase the likelihood of negative impacts to natural resources, including removal of vegetation from areas, user-created trails, improper disposal of human waste and other refuse, and damage to soils as a result of long-term camping when such facilities or other management and oversight isn’t present to monitor their use, according to the forest’s press release.

Review a copy of the forest closure order here.

Forest visitors with site-specific questions should contact the Tiller Ranger District ranger station’s visitor information desk, at (541) 825-3100.

For more information about the Umpqua National Forest, call the Forest Supervisor’s Office at (541) 957-3200 or visit

An elaborately constructed long-term campsite, including a cast iron tub perched above a stone fire circle and a wooden structure likely used by a long-term camper for washing and drying clothes.
This campsite includes signs of both protracted long-term use, and resource damage (the branches used construct the laundry station show clean cuts, indicating they may have been cut from live trees, rather than gathered as dead wood or from blow downs). USDA Forest Service photo by Lance Sargent (recreation manager, Tiller Ranger District).

Source information: Umpqua National Forest (press release)

In the news: Wolf Creek Job Corps firefighters assist rescue flight

On June 21, 2019, Wolf Creek Job Corps student students assisted a REACH-8 Air Medical Services crew evacuate an injured motorist from the Umpqua National Forest. At left, a satellite image of the students creating a light ring to identify a field where the helicopter would land. At right, students involved in the rescue post for a photo. USDA Forest service photos.

Firefighting students at the Wolf Creek Job Corps recently called on their emergency response skills to aid an injured motorist.

Members of the center’s staff called 911 after a second motorist drove 20 miles to the center to report a vehicle crash on the Umpqua National Forest. The injured motorist was transported by ambulance to the center, and a REACH flight helicopter was called in.

“Normally the ground unit that is requesting us sets up a pre-determined landing area or has a local fire department assist with this task,” Brittany Countryman, a REACH flight crew member and registered nurse, wrote in a letter to the center’s firefighters and staff. “On this very dark night there was no one available to help us land or locate a safe place to land. Troy and the group of young men that met us were fast; we made the decision to try to land at the Job Corps field and within minutes there was a well-lit area to guide us in.”

June 21, 2019 image of Wolf Creek Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center firefighters gathered in formation on the Wolf Creek Job Corps baseball field to assist a REACH-8 Air Medical Services Agusta A109 Power helicopter land and take off safely during a nighttime emergency airlift. USDA Forest service photo.

The student firefighters gathered in formation to simulate a ring of helicopter landing zone lights that allowed the air medical services crew to land safely on the center’s baseball field, which served as the extraction point. They also helped off-load the stabilized patient from the ground ambulance, and transported her across the Little River to the helicopter.

“Wolf Creek fire students are trained to respond to all risk incidents under the incident command structure,” Gabe Wishart, the center’s director, said.  “Our students’ ability to respond under stress, follow instruction, and to work safely in atypical situations such as this medical evacuation demonstrates the effectiveness of that training.” 

Full story, via USDA Forest Service:

On June 21, 2019, Wolf Creek Job Corps student students assisted a REACH-8 Air Medical Services crew evacuate an injured motorist from the Umpqua National Forest. USDA Forest service photo.

Tracking the elusive Humboldt marten in coastal Oregon

marten with miniature radio collar

It’s the size of a 10-week-old kitten, constantly on the move, eats up to 25 percent of its body weight each day, and patrols up to 5 miles daily while hunting for songbirds and other food to fuel this active lifestyle.

The Humboldt marten (Martes caurina humboldtensis), is a subspecies of Pacific marten (M. caurina). It roams the Pacific Northwest’s coastal forests, usually so well hidden by the forest understory that it was believed to be extinct for more than fifty years.

In 1996, that changed when a small population of Pacific martens was discovered in California. The species is threatened by habitat loss as human development leads forests to become more fragmented, various diseases, trapping and vehicle-related mortality.

Yet, efforts to develop strategies for protecting the Pacific marten has struggled in the face of the tiny mustelids’ ability to stay to stay hidden, resulting in a lack of information about the existing population’s size, habits, and habitat needs.

Katie Moriarty, then a postdoctoral research wildlife biologist with the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station, established a new baseline for monitoring and managing Humboldt marten populations in the Pacific Northwest. (Moriarty now works as a senior research scientist with the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement).

She worked with researchers and field crews representing more than half a dozen organizations and agencies to collect information about Pacific marten distributions Oregon and California, conducting what became the largest carnivore survey in Oregon.

Findings from that research confirm that small populations of Humboldt martens persist, but not only in late-sucessional forests as previously thought – but in fewer areas than researchers had hoped.

On Oregon’s central coast, scientists projected that just two to three deaths a year could lead to extinction of small, local populations of Humboldt martens within 30 years.

Find out more about this research in Science Findings #215
(a publication of the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station):

A marten captured by remote camera along the central coast of Oregon.
A marten captured by remote camera along the central coast of Oregon. With about 30 members in an isolated subpopulation, each marten counts when it comes to keeping the subpopulation from extinction. Courtesy photo by Mark A. Linnell, all rights reserved.

Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station

Wild & Scenic Rivers Act 50th Anniversary: Rafting rapids and tying flies on the North Umpqua River

Fly fishermen practice with a guide on the North Umpqua River

People seem to agree there is something special about the North Umpqua River.

The water is sometimes blue and sometimes green, and so clear you can see through to the smooth stones of the riverbed, below. The current, alternately placid and rapids, tumbles under bridges and over boulders as it winds through a modest canyon and across portions of the Umpqua National Forest.

Why it’s special it’s harder to pin down; or rather, the reasons are as varied as those who are drawn to its sun-dappled, tree-lined banks.

two kayakers paddle downriver

Outfitter-guides lead groups of white water rafting and kayaking enthusiasts down the north Umpqua River towards Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018. A 34-mile stretch of the river is designated for recreation under the federal Wild and Scenic River Act, which celebrates it’s 50th anniversary this year. 

For fishing guide Dillon Renton, the special nature of the North Umpqua River is deeply rooted in the river’s century-old ties to fly-fishing.

A 33-mile stretch of the river was federally designated as a Wild and Scenic River in 1988. The act, which passes the half-century mark later this year, identifies rivers to be managed and protected to preserve outstanding wild, scenic, or recreational values.

For the North Umpqua River, the list includes water quality, fisheries, recreational opportunities, cultural significance, and overall scenic value.

“It’s quite different from other rivers, in terms of ease of access. You can pull right off the highway and start fishing, in some places,” Janie Pardo, a Forest Service realty specialist on the North Umpqua Ranger District and manager of the river’s outfitter-guide program, said.

A fishing guide helps a woman practice casting from a sandbar along the North Umpqua River

Fishing guide Dillon Renton helps visitors Rob Lynn and Shelley Phillips practice their cast at a Bureau of Land Management day use area on the banks of the north Umpqua River July 19, 2018.

Fly fishing is what the north Umpqua is most famous for – specifically, the wild Columbian steelhead.

The river attracted fly-fishing sportsmen beginning in the 1920s. Anglers pursued wild Columbian steelhead from its banks; including some famous names like Zane Gray and Jack Hemingway.

Catching the fish is notoriously difficult. Some anglers even call it “the graduate school of fly-fishing,” Jim Woodward, who co-owns the Steamboat Inn with wife Melinda, said.

Fishing is what drew the Woodwards to invest in the half-century old fishing lodge on the banks of the river, about two years ago. The couple met while working together at another resort, but dreamed of running a lodge of their own.

The owner of Steamboat Inn discusses fishing flies

Jim Woodward, owner of Steamboat Inn, discusses the history of fly fishing for wild steelhead on the North Umpqua River July 20, 2018. The inn, built in 1957 has operated on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) for more than 60 years, and is the successor to the North Umpqua Lodge, which operated from 1934-1952. Prior to that, the site was home to a fishing camp established by Maj. Jordan Mott in 1929, and also used by angler Zeke Allen.

“We walked in, and we were like, ‘this is it,’” Melinda Woodward said.

But like the fish that ply its waters, the river valley’s weather can also be fickle. Just months into the Woodward’s first season, a lightning storm set wildfires across surrounding portions of the north Umpqua National Forest.

a fishing fly with black and white skunk fur

A Green Butt Skunk fly lies on a table at the Steamboat Inn July 20, 2018. The fly pattern was specifically created for fishing wild steelhead on the North Umpqua River by Dan Callahan, a founder of the Steamboaters – a private flyfishing and conservation organization founded for the protection of the river and its fishing heritage.

Some fires burned right up to the river’s banks. Officials closed the highway, then the river, north of the lodge. And what visitors the lack of traffic and river didn’t kill, the smoke drove away.

“We called it our ‘trial by fire,’” Melinda Woodward said. “If we could get through that, we can make it through anything.”

A chef plates entres while a member of the waistaff assists in the kitchen

Justin Smith plates entrees in the kitchen at the Steamboat Inn July 20, 2018.

Justin Smith grew up in Glide, Ore. and is the first in four generations of his family not to work in logging.

In the 1980s, before the Endangered Species Act was passed, fishing was how his family filled their freezer during lumber mill strikes.

His first job was working in the kitchen of the Steamboat Inn, and cooking became his career. For several years, he worked Portland, specializing in farm-to-table cooking, before returning to the inn last year as its chef.

In late July, summer squashes and wild morels were featured alongside cocktails and desserts that were made with local berries.

The fishing library at Steamboat Inn

The fishing library at Steamboat Inn, pictured here on July 20, 2018. The inn’s ties to a century of fly fishing and wild steelhead runs on the North Umpqua river are apparent in the historical photos and fishing equipment on display, the decor, and the inn’s extensive library of books on fly fishing, many by authors known to have fished on the river.

Smith was mid-transition, from the last of the winter vegetables to summer fare – a phone call from one of his farmers to let him know she had fresh tomatoes and peaches meant he’d be pivoting to new menu items as soon as his order arrives.

“I’m going to have a ton of beets left over, but that’s OK,” he said. “I’ll pickle them, and then we can serve them this winter.”

Smith spoke of “his vendors” much the same way Renton spoke of favorite fishing holes – with a note of local pride, tempered with the slightly guarded tone of a secret not readily shared.

“I want the flavors to remind people of where we are, and what this place is,” he said. “That’s where the morels come from, the berries. As much as we can, it’s all local.”

A fly fisherman on the banks of the river

Rob Lynn practices his cast at a Bureau of Land Management day use area on the banks of the north Umpqua River July 19, 2018. Attempting to catch steelhead on the North Umpqua River is sometimes referred to as the “graduate school of fly fishing.”

One thing that isn’t on the menu is wild steelhead from the North Umpqua River. The fish is protected, and today all fishing for it is catch-and-release.

That doesn’t stop fly fishermen from coming from all over to test their skills against the famous fish. They don’t have the river to themselves, though. The anglers share the river with a growing community of boaters, primarily drawn to opportunities for whitewater rafting and kayaking.

The fishing guides, suited in waders and wielding flies and rods, are out from sunup to around 10 a.m., when the rafting parties begin to gather at places like the Boulder Flat boat launch. Many anglers return in late afternoon, and continue to fish until dusk.

rafters paddle downriver through rapids

Outfitter-guides lead groups of white water rafting and kayaking enthusiasts down the north Umpqua River towards Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018.

But in the middle of the day, it’s boaters who rule the river, paddling kayaks or swooping over rapids in rafts along much of the Wild and Scenic recreation corridor.

Portions of the river are managed by the Forest Service, and others by the Bureau of Land Management.

rafters listen to safety instructions

A group of rafters listen to a Sun River Tours outfitter-guide give safety instructions at the Boulder Flat boat launch on the North Umpqua River, Umpqua National Forest in Oregon July 20, 2018. A 34-mile stretch of the river is designated for recreation under the federal Wild and Scenic River Act, which celebrates it’s 50th anniversary this year. USDA Forest Service photo by Catherine Caruso (Pacific Northwest Region, Office of Communications and Community Engagement staff)

Land managers describe the river corridor by dividing it in five sections, each roughly five or six miles in length.

Each segment is dominated by unique scenery, from basalt columns in the first segment, Boulder Flat to Horseshoe Bend), to old growth forest and water falls on the fourth, Boulder Creek to Susan Creek, and smooth running river interspersed with rapids that ranging from a relatively gentler Class IIs and IIIs to challenging Class IVs and Vs.

From overhead, rafters paddle downriver

Outfitter-guides lead groups of white water rafting and kayaking enthusiasts down the north Umpqua River towards Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018. 

Visitors can raft or kayak on the river without a permit, or access the river through one of several companies with outfitter-guide permits (check out the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s new outfitter-guide finder).

“As outfitter-guides, we’re really ambassadors for the river,” Erik Weiseth, owner of Orange Torpedo Trips, said.

A kayaker paddles through rapids

Outfitter-guides lead groups of white water rafting and kayaking enthusiasts down the north Umpqua River towards Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018. A 34-mile stretch of the river is designated for recreation under the federal Wild and Scenic River Act, which celebrates it’s 50th anniversary this year. USDA Forest Service photo by Catherine Caruso (Pacific Northwest Region, Office of Communications and Community Engagement staff)

Not everyone has the confidence or tools to take up a new outdoors activity on their own. Outfitter-guides provide the gear, and the expertise, to try something new — and do it safely, he said.

The company also operates tours on the Rogue River, one of eight rivers designated 50 years ago, when the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act first passed.

A wildflower

A wildflower grows on the banks of the north Umpqua River, through the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) at Horshoe Bend campground July 20, 2018.

The inherent tension between maintaining the natural wonder visitors value when visiting outdoor spaces, while introducing more people to those special places, is one that he, like others who work along the river, is sensitive to.

“But these places won’t survive, if people don’t know them and appreciate them,” Weiseth said. “As outfitters and guides, we provide an accessible way for people to do that.”

Recreation on the

From left, April Clayes, her son Gil Sidro, and sister Sierra Vandonk enjoy lunch at the Falls Creek Falls trailhead on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018. 

At the Falls Creek Falls trailhead, April Clayes, her son Gil Sidro, and sister Sierra Vandonk enjoyed a family picnic after a short hike to the falls.

“(Gil) first came here when he was a baby, and we come back every so often,” Clayes said. “It’s a nice hike, not too steep… it’s special to us. He has memories of his grandpa on this trail, with him.”

A mossy tree

Moss drapes from a tree on a river bank behind Steamboat Inn along the North Umpqua River on the Umpqua National Forest July 20, 2018.

Behind the Steamboat Inn, guests took in the sights and sounds of the river while dining on the restaurant’s patio as Melinda Woodward reflected on what drew her, and her husband, to the North Umpqua River.

What makes the river unique might not be something that can be shared, only experienced, Woodward said.

“There is something special about this river. I don’t know how to put it into words. One guest said ‘if there’s any magic left, it’s here,'” she said.

More information:

A river cuts through a steep canyon

The North Umpqua River’s rapids drop to class II as the river approaches Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018.

Source information: Catherine “Cat” Caruso is the strategic communication lead for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s Office of Communications and Community Engagement, and edits the “Your Northwest Forests” blog. You can reach her at

Caging cones: Investing in a future for whitebark pine

A cross-section of an immature pine cone reveals the seeds developing inside.

A small vault, filled with neatly-ordered rows of seeds, with the potential to repopulate a forest — that could be a description for a pine cone, but it also describes the Dorena Genetic Research Center on the Umpqua National Forest.

“People have no idea,” Haley Smith, seed program coordinator for the research center, said. “We have a really valuable resource on the Umpqua, our seed bank, that’s been here for 50 years.”

For Smith, the Dorena Genetic Research Center is a place where suiting up to saving a tree species could mean donning a snowsuit rated to resist the freezer’s subzero chill, or strapping into a harness to scale trees in search of the cones that have given rise to a catalog that’s now 250 million seeds strong, and counting.

An employee wears a snowsuit and gloves to retrieve a drawer from a large storage freezer

Haley Smith retrieves seeds stored in a specialized seed-storage freezer at the Dorena Genetic Research Center on the Umpqua National Forest, Oregon, in an undated photo. This freezer stores 250 million seeds, collected from 35 species. The center also stores seeds for dozens of additional species in a separate cooler. USDA Forest Service photo (provided by Haley Smith).

In July, Smith was among a small team of Forest Service employees collecting seed for the bank from a stand of whitebark pines, Pinus albicaulus, perched high on the Umpqua National Forest’s Tipsoo Peak July 26.

Several of the trees had proved resistant in previous testing against White pine blister rust, an invasive fungus that has blighted stands of five-needle pines for more than a century.

The fungus, Cronartium ribicola, originated in China and arrived in the continental U.S. at the turn of the last century, where it quickly established itself on both coasts and began to spread. It reached in southern Oregon by the 1950s, and arrived in Colorado a decade ago.

“It’s still on the move,” Joshua Bronson, a plant pathologist for the Southwest Oregon Forest Insect & Disease Service Center, stationed on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, said.

Bronson helped organize the Tipsoo Peak cone-caging expedition.

“All of the high-altitude species are a concern to scientists, as we monitor the effects of the warming climate,” he said. “But with the disease, this one is especially urgent.”

A view of a climber in a tree, placing hardware cloth cages on developing pine cones.

An unidentified USDA Forest Service employee places cone cages on a whitebark pine tree on the Fremont-Winema National Forest July 18, 2015. The cages are used to protect cones from wildlife until harvesters return to collect their seeds later in the season. USDA Forest Service photo by Haley Smith.

A half-century ago, initial investments into research into white pine blister rust resistance often focused on Western white pine and sugar pine, species important to the region’s timber industry, Robin Darbyshire, a silviculturist for the USDA Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest regional office, said.

In contrast, whitebark pine is found in alpine environments that are often too steep or environmentally-sensitive to log. Yet it brings extraordinary value to the forest in other ways.

The tree is considered a “nursery species” because it creates shade and shelter for other plants at those high elevations, Darbyshire said.

Its seeds are high in fat and protein, a prize for any creature trying to survive in the wild.

“It’s really the iconic tree at higher elevations, like around Timberline Lodge. There’s also a bird, Clark’s nutcracker, that’s dependent on the seeds,” she said.

In fact, the tree is also dependent on the birds. To reduce competition, the pine has evolved a tough cone that keeps most critters away – but also prevents its seeds from sprouting, without an assist from the outside.

“(The nutcrackers) have these long bills that can get in there to get at the seeds,” Darbyshire said. “They’re the only species that can get in there. Maybe a bear could crack them open, but, that’s about it.”

And if the cones aren’t opened, the seeds inside won’t germinate, she said

This symbiotic relationship is just one of the intricate ecological dependencies threatened by white pine blister rust.

A pine tree, with a single branch blighted by White pine blister rust, is visible in the foreground against a panoramic view of mountain peaks and a lake.

Mount Thielsen and Diamond Lake are visible in this view from Tipsoo Peak on the Umpqua National Forest, taken during a cone-caging expedition, July 26, 2018, in preparation for harvesting seed later this year. A single branch of whitebark pine tree in the foreground has been damaged by white pine blister rust, a fungus that has blighted stands of several five-needle pine species since it was introduced to North America about a century ago. Researchers are working to identify and collect seed from trees with disease-resistant characteristics in an effort to help repopulate lost stands and prevent the species’ extinction. USDA Forest Service photo by Joshua Bronson.

The fungus bores into the tree’s twigs and needles, developing spores that erupt from blisters on its bark and spreading to low-growing carrier plants, which carry it between stands and make the disease difficult to contain or eradicate when it enters a new area.

The infections leave scars, or “cankers,” that cut-off the flow of water and nutrients in a branch. Eventually, enough branches die to kill the tree, or the tree is weakened enough that it falls victim to insects, drought, or other stresses that finish the job.

In 1966, Forest Service researchers at the Dorena Genetic Research Center began collecting seeds and genetic material from five-leafed of pines, in an effort to test individual trees for disease-resistance, and clone or breed the most disease-resistant trees.

Today, the lab’s staff continues that work. They also breed Port Orford cedar for resistance to a root disease, and manage the USDA Forest Service’s National Tree Climbing program.

The systematic cultivation, testing, and breeding for disease-resistance is painstaking work.

A hand holds an individually potted, labeled seedling, lifted from a larger batch of seedlings on a tree nursery table

Whitebark pine seedlings, in a July 25, 2018 photo taken at the Dorena Seed Research Center nursery. Seeds are pre-treated to convince they’re going through winter, a process called “stratification,” then germinated under controlled conditions. White bark pine’s stratification process takes 120-140 days. “That has the tag for a tree that I climbed on, it’s a tree on Mt. Bailey,” Haley Smith, Seed Program Coordinator for the center, said. The seeds underwent stratification in November, 2017, and planted in April, 2018. If grown for testing, they will be exposed to clouds of white pine blister rust spores and monitored for disease-resistance to assign the parent tree a “letter grade” to determine whether the tree should be tracked for future harvests, which may occur every seven to ten years. If the seed is from a previously-tested tree, they could also be used to replant when tree stands lost to disease or fire. “Clones” grown from clippings taken from disease resistant trees can also be grafted to mature root stock and used to establish an “orchard” for future seed harvests. USDA Forest Service photo by Haley Smith.

“We have (seeds) that have been collected since the sixties. And for each of those trees, we know exactly which one it is, where it’s located, where the ‘mom’ tree is – or was, it may not even be there anymore,” Smith said. “If it’s one we bred in our nursery, we might even know which ‘dad’ the pollen came from.”

But before any of that can happen, someone has to collect those seeds.

A woman in a hard hat smiles in a

Haley Smith shoots a selfie while caging pine cones for later seed harvest in a stand of White bark pine being monitored for White pine blister rust-resistance on Tipsoo Peak, Umpqua National Forest, Oregon July 26, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo by Haley Smith.

At Tipsoo Peak, Bronson and Smith were joined by Kayla Herriman, manager of the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region seed extractory on Deschutes National Forest; Russell Oakes, silviculturalist for the Umpqua National Forest; Zachary Dimare, a Forestry Technician on the Umpqua; and Skylar Hamilton, an intern at Dorena.

The team hiked to the peak, a climb of approximately 1,500 feet, each carrying up to 80 pounds of outdoor essentials, climbing gear, and wire cages to protect selected cones from hungry nutcrackers until they return for the harvest.

“Whitebark pine is one of my favorite trees to climb. It’s got wide open branches, and it grows in places that tend to have incredible views,” Smith said.

Dimare said the long hike, heavy pack, and climb into the treetops at Tipsoo Peak was almost worth it, just for that view.

“It’s really dramatic up there. You can imagine you’re at the top of the world,” he said.

It’s hard to put a price tag on those drawers of seeds in storage at Dorena, but one measure is the labor cost that goes into collecting the seeds — seeds which are perishable, and must be constantly replenished.

It takes at least three trips to a stand of trees to harvest their seeds. Bronson’s first hike to scout the site is an annual requirement, to ensure if the stand’s cone and seed production is on track to produce enough seeds for a harvest.

It’s a trip that is repeated many times each year, often without results. For the whitebark pine, an individual stand of trees produce a crop sufficient to be harvested for seed only about once in every seven-to-ten years. If successful, a cone-caging trip follows, and then a third trip to collect the harvest — hopefully, before the snow falls.

Once collected, the supply of stored seed must constantly replenished. Conifer seeds keep five to fifteen years in storage, but it takes ten to fifteen years for seeds, once germinated, to grow into a tree capable of producing seeds of its own; even if they are grafted to mature root stock to accelerate the process.

Hardware cloth bags cover pine cones in a tree on a mountainside.

Hardware cloth bags protect White bark pine cones identified for later seed harvesting on Umpqua National Forest, Oregon July 26, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo by Haley Smith.

Participants in the Tipsoo Peak expedition caged cones on five whitebark pines; four that had been previously tested for white pine blister rust disease-resistance. The fifth tree’s seeds, when gathered, will be tested — a process that entails germinating trays of seedlings, isolating them, and then inoculating them in a cloud of white pine blister rust spores, and watching to see how quickly they succumb to the disease

“The major limiting factor, besides access to the trees, is how many of the cages we can carry,” Bronson said. “We can’t cage everything… I’m hoping we can get at least 30 cones from each of these, and by the looks of it we may have up to 50 from some of them.”

With similar expeditions taking place on forests across the Pacific Northwest, the region’s seed program  is on track to harvest 700 bushels of cones from various species, or approximately 550 pounds of seeds, this year, Darbyshire said.

A yellow sign nailed to a blazed tree reads:

Durable signage marks a tree being monitored for disease-resistant characteristics on the Fremont-Winema National Forest July 18, 2018. Some forests have “orchards” of trees, grown from seeds or clones of trees that have previously proved to be disease-resistant, to increase the supply of seed stock available for re-planting and future survivability of at-risk species. USDA Forest Service photo by Haley Smith.

While the work is arduous, the need for seeds is critical. Forest seed program managers try to keep a 10-year supply of seed in stock at any time. Many are used to restore areas impacted by severe wildfire, and a bad season can easily reduce those stores to just a 1-2 year supply.

The loss of trees to fungus and the race to establish more disease-resistant stands only adds to that urgency when it comes to replacing White bark pines. While it was one of the first trees studied, it took researchers years just to figure out how to germinate its seeds.

“These trees grow in such a harsh environment. You really have to convince them that conditions are just right for them to grow,” Smith said.

Once a tree’s seeds are collected and it’s seeds germinated and tested for disease-resistance in a lab, scientists must to wait years until the parent tree again produces enough seeds to collect, plant, and raise into trees that are again ready to harvest seeds from.

The entire process can take decades, if it can be completed at all.

Darbyshire said she has helped harvest seeds from trees she planted at the beginning of her career. “I never thought that would happen, it’s an incredible feeling,” she said.

On the other hand, she’s also seen trees planted in hope of future harvests consumed by wildfires.

“If we lose orchard, that’s a really hard loss. We’ve invested so many years in those trees,” she said.

While the research investment represented by any single tree enrolled in the genetics program is enormous, the work required to collect even a single seed is probably more than most people would imagine, Smith said.

“When you think about how long it takes for us to climb those trees… that was days of preparation, that was several people in the field all day, and then we come back, and clean the seed,” she said. Seed is stored in an envelopes, each organized by tree and by year.

“There are 20 little envelopes in each one of the drawers. It’s a ton of work, in each one of those little envelopes. And I’ll produce about eight of those drawers in one year,” she said.

A person in a climbing harness places a metal mesh bag in a White bark pine tree.

Zachary Dimare, a forestry technician on the Umpqua National Forests, places a hardware cloth cage over a whitebark pine cone to protect it for later collection during a seed-caging expedition on the forest’s Tipsoo Peak July 26, 2018. The seed is the primary food source for Clark’s nutcracker, one of the few species that can penetrate its cones’ tough exterior. USDA Forest Service photo by Joshua Bronson.

A climber, sitting on a tree limb, places a metal mesh bag on a pine cone

Russell Oakes, a silviculturist for the Umpqua National Forest, places a hardware cloth cage over a whitebark pine cone to protect it for later collection during a seed-caging expedition on the forest’s Tipsoo Peak July 26, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo by Haley Smith.

After more than fifty years, these efforts – and many more like them – add up to an  investment that could decide the future of the species.

Whitebark pine is not currently listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act, though it remains a candidate for future listing.

Scientists have said without intervention, it could become extinct in its native range within the next 100 years.

Dimare said that knowing he is helping make a difference in the species’ chances for survival is one reason he volunteered to become certified as a climber.

“I’m a forestry tech. I spend most of my time cruising timber and marking trees (for cutting). But these trees need our help to survive,” he said.

Cover photo: Seed collectors perform a “cut-face test” cones to determine if a tree is producing cones with sufficient, healthy seeds to harvest. For white bark pine, the standard is least eight viable seeds on the cut face, which means the cone contains an estimated 40 to 75 healthy seeds. USDA Forest Service photo by Joshua Bronson.

For more photos from the Dorena Genetic Resource Center, visit the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Forest Health Flickr album:

Source information: Catherine “Cat” Caruso is the strategic communication lead for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s Office of Communications and Community Engagement, and edits the “Your Northwest Forests” blog. You can reach her at

Vandalism forces early closing of campground on Umpqua NF

A lake, surrounded by trees

ROSEBURG, Ore. – Sept. 7, 2018 – The Lake in the Woods Campground on the Umpqua National Forest closed early for the season, due of vandalism. The campground was originally scheduled to be open until November 1.

Vandalism-caused damage to the fee tube rendered it unusable, preventing the forest from collecting fees that keep the campground open.

Without the ability to collect fees, managers decided to close the campground early. Four other nearby campgrounds – Wolf Creek, Coolwater, White Creek, and Hemlock Lake – will remain open. The vault toilet near the gate is unlocked, and can be accessed by parking outside and walking in through the gate. Fishing is permitted at Lake in the Woods, but visitors will need to park outside the gate and walk to the water during the closure.

Additional vandalism has occurred at multiple recreation sites along Highway 138 and Little River Road. The vandalism is being investigated. Anyone with information about the damage is asked to contact the North Umpqua Ranger District at (541) 496-3532.

“It baffles me as to why people destroy what is actually their own property when they are on public lands,” Steve Marchi, Staff Officer in charge of recreation for the Umpqua National Forest, said. “Not only did the public’s tax dollars build these facilities, but 95 percent of the fees collected there go directly to keeping the site open and operating.”

Agency officials regret the impact that the closing of Lake in the Woods Campground early may have on hunters and others.

For more information, contact the Umpqua National Forest at (541) 957-3200 or visit

Cover photo: Fishing can still take place at Lake in the Woods if people park outside the gate and walk to the water. 2016 file photo, courtesy of USDA Forest Service Employee Dean Schlichting.

Source information: Umpqua National Forest staff report

Matsutake mushroom season opens on Central Oregon forests

matsutake mushroom cap grows on a forest floor

BEND, Ore. – Aug. 28, 2018 – Matsutake mushroom commercial season opens immediately following Labor Day weekend on four National Forests in central Oregon.

This year’s commercial season for Matsutake mushrooms on the Deschutes, Fremont-Winema, Umpqua, and Willamette National Forests is Sept. 4 through Nov. 4, 2018.

Permits for the 62-day commercial season will cost $200. Half-season permits, valid for 31 consecutive days, will be $100, and day permits will be $8 per day with a three-day minimum purchase (picking days do not need to be consecutive).

The permits are valid on all four Central Oregon forests, and is required for all gathering of Matsutake mushrooms for re-sale.

Harvesters must be 18 years of age or older and have a valid ID in order to purchase a permit. Permits will be available at ranger district offices on the forests during regular business hours.

Each purchase of a permit will include an informational synopsis and map. The map shows areas open to harvest. The permit is NOT valid on state or private property.

Areas closed to harvest include Crater Lake National Park, Newberry National Volcanic Monument, HJ Andrews Experimental Forest, and Research Natural Areas, Wilderness areas, Oregon Cascades Recreation Area (OCRA), campgrounds, and other posted closed areas.

The Forest Service requires commercial harvesters to have written permission from the agency to camp on any National Forest, except in designated camping areas.

Ranger District office locations:


A campground for harvesters has been established at Little Odell Mushroom Camp near Crescent Lake, Ore. Hoodoo Recreation Services will manage the camp. The per-person rate for camping is $125 for the full two month season, $75 for a half-season and $40 per week. Site occupancy allows up to 8 persons and 2 vehicles. Water, garbage, and toilet services are provided. The camp will open on September 4, 2018. For more information about rates or services at Little Odell Mushroom Camp you can contact Hoodoo at 541-338-7869 or

Fire Safety:

Mushroom harvesters are reminded that Public Use Restrictions are in effect and must be followed due to VERY HIGH or EXTREME fire danger within the Fremont-Winema, Umpqua, Deschutes, and the Willamette National Forests. Harvesters should call the numbers listed for more information on site specific public use restrictions.

For more information about the Matsutake mushroom program, contact:

  • Fremont-Winema National Forest (Chemult Ranger District): (541) 365-7001,
  • Deschutes National Forest (Crescent Ranger District): (541) 433-3200,
  • Umpqua National Forest: (541) 957-3200
  • Willamette National Forest: 541-225-6300

Source information: Deschutes, Fremont-Winema, Umpqua and Willamette National Forest Matsutake Mushroom program (joint press release)

Umpqua NF Calf-Copeland restoration field trips Aug. 4 & 14

Smoke plumes rise above a forested ridge

ROSEBURG, Ore. – July 30, 2018 – The Umpqua National Forest will host two public field trips about the Calf-Copeland Restoration project Aug. 4 and Aug. 14, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Please note that field trip dates may be changed if wildfires start in the Calf and Copeland drainages along the North Umpqua River. If you plan on attending one or both of the field trips, please RSVP to Holly Cotton at (541) 957-3490.

The Calf-Copeland Restoration Project proposes to restore landscape resiliency to fire, preserve old-growth habitat, and save centuries-old ponderosa and sugar pine on over 3,000 acres. The project would also improve aquatic habitat by changing motor vehicle access on about 19 miles of roads and trails, placing logs in Calf Creek, and repairing two small wetlands.

The planning area is located in the heart of the Umpqua National Forest and includes the Dry Creek Community. The popular Twin Lakes roadless recreation area is also within the planning area although no activities are proposed to occur there.

The field trip scheduled Saturday, August 4, will highlight the past impacts of fire on the project area, potential fuel treatments, and restoration of pines.

Planned stops will include viewing fire effects in and around the project area, a discussion of some of the proposed shaded fuel breaks, and an example stand for pine restoration.

The second field trip, scheduled Tuesday, August 14, will highlight changes to the roads system and the roads’ relationship with streams and fish habitat.

Planned stops will illustrate roads that are currently too overgrown to support vehicle traffic, damage associated with a failed culvert, and how the agency would like to help restore aquatic conditions.

Both field trips begin and end at the North Umpqua Ranger Station, 18782 North Umpqua Highway in Glide, Ore. There will be a half-hour presentation at 9 a.m., followed by the field trip. Return time is 4 p.m.

Please bring water, lunch, weather-appropriate gear, and hiking shoes or boots, and be prepared to carpool to site locations.

Since 1987, over 50,000 acres have burned in or adjacent to the planning area, and tens of thousands more acres have burned nearby.

Due to the risk of large, uncharacteristically severe wildfires, part of this project’s goal is to reduce the risk of stand-replacing forest fires at a landscape scale, especially in high quality northern spotted owl habitat.

The oldest and most stately pines are also dying at an alarming rate, perhaps as much 25 percent every 10 years, due to a combination of overcrowding, insects and disease.

Without managing the landscape, ponderosa and sugar pines will continue to disappear. These watersheds, particularly Copeland Creek, also represent key areas with a high potential for fish restoration and improved water quality in the North Umpqua basin.

The scoping materials for the Calf-Copeland Restoration Project are available for review online at: A paper copy of these documents may be requested by contacting the Umpqua National Forest at (541) 957-3200.

A dead sugar pine tree

A dead sugar pine tree located in the proposed Calf-Copeland Restoration Project area, in an undated USDA Forest Service photo.

Source information: Umpqua National Forest public affairs office staff

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