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Postcard: Ramona Falls (no exaggeration required)

A hiker stands on the footbridge at the base of Ramona Falls, Mt. Hood National Forest, Ore. Courtesy photo by Catherine "Cat" Caruso.

Like many Pacific Northwest residents, I didn’t actually grow up here. I often call myself a “northeasterner by upbringing, northwesterner by choice.” While I know firsthand the way one’s hometown maintains a powerful hold on their heart, I also never tire of finding reasons to love my adopted home.

So, when one of my younger brothers came to visit this month, I steered him towards the travel and tourism kiosk located in the baggage claim area at Portland International Airport. As an anime fan, I thought he’d be especially delighted by Travel Oregon’s colorful “Oregon. Only slightly exaggerated” campaign… and he was! But even my heart skipped a beat when I recognized one of the locations in the brochure as Ramona Falls.

I’d hiked there just two weeks earlier.

An image from the “Oregon, Only slightly exaggerated,” ad campaign (Travel Oregon)

It’s as beautiful as what you see in this illustration.

The area around the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, which includes the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Hood National Forest, is said to have the largest concentration of waterfalls in the United States.

Oregon’s most-famous waterfall is probably Multnomah Falls. My brother and I made a point to visit it during his trip; a spectacular sight, water plunging hundreds of feet to the pool below. It draws visitors from around the world, daily.

But to me, Ramona Falls is more beautiful.

The view looking up at the top of Ramona Falls. Courtesy photo by Catherine “Cat” Caruso.

Before I go any further, I want to share some words of warning: Ramona Falls is located in a wilderness area.

Never go into a wilderness without the ‘10 Outdoors Essentials!”

Outdoor Eseentials: Be prepared and carry these essential items any time you head out into the outdoors! 1. Appropriate footwear. 2. Printed map. 3. Extra water. 4. Extra food. 5. Extra clothes. 6. Emergency items. 7. First aid kit. 8. Knife or multi-purpose tool. 9. Backpack. 10. Sun hat, sunscreen, sunglasses.
Outdoor Eseentials: Be prepared and carry these essential items any time you head out into the outdoors! 1. Appropriate footwear. 2. Printed map. 3. Extra water. 4. Extra food. 5. Extra clothes. 6. Emergency items. 7. First aid kit. 8. Knife or multi-purpose tool. 9. Backpack. 10. Sun hat, sunscreen, sunglasses.

During my hike, I encountered many day hikers who seemed to take the lesson of 2017’s Eagle Creek fire, which occurred in the nearby Columbia River Gorge, to heart. During that fire, more than 100 day use visitors were stranded on the trail, and forced to undertake a long, difficult hike to safety.

But I also saw many people who not well-prepared, carrying only a bottle of water and whatever fit in their pockets.

As you approach the Sandy River, the trail is clearly marked with signs that warn about the dangers of crossing. Pay attention: If you can’t safely secure your child or pet to you and carry them across an improvised footbridge mad from a fallen tree or log without losing your balance, don’t try!

I’m sharing this from my own experience: Many people bring their dogs on this hike; I assumed I’d one of them, and it was a mistake. While I believed my young pup had done enough work on a balance beam to handle a log crossing, I failed to account for how much he likes to swim. While the current was safe – though, still quite strong – against the body of an adult human, it was much too deep and too swift for my Siberian Husky. Intellectually, I’d known the river can be dangerous, emotionally, it left me far more nervous for some of the small children I saw on this trail after I’d jumped into the current myself and fought to haul 65 pounds of wriggling, wet dog to the shore.

Shortly after this photo was taken, he jumped into the river for the second time. He’s cuter than he is bright. He’s also no longer invited on hikes with unimproved water crossings. Courtesy photo by Catherine “Cat” Caruso.

Signs that warn about the dangers of river crossings are posted alongside this trail for a reason: hikers have died here, after flash floods caused by heavy rainfall, in 2004 and 2014.

It’s easy be lulled into a false sense of security when you see others navigate a risky situation successfully; I know, I made the same mistake.

My advice is to read trip reports, check weather listings, and use more caution than you think you need to. Just because nothing seems to have gone wrong for many others, doesn’t mean it can’t.

Still: At the right time of year, when the river crossing is approached with appropriate caution and care, the Ramona Falls loop trail is a beautiful hike.

The 7-to-8 mile loop has a relatively gentle grade, with a cumulative 1000 feet of elevation gain.

The trail culminates with a spectacular view from the base of Ramona Falls, which really do look like something out of a fairy tale; truly, they need no exaggeration.

Children play at the base of the “real” Ramona Falls; Mt. Hood National Forest, Ore., which needs no exaggeration. Courtesy photo by Catherine “Cat” Caruso.

More information:

Ramona Falls trail # 797 – Mt. Hood National Forest:
https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/mthood/recarea/?recid=53460

The Enchanting Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge – Travel Oregon https://traveloregon.com/only-slightly-exaggerated/the-enchanting-mt-hood-and-columbia-river-gorge/


Source information: Catherine “Cat” Caruso works in the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region Office of Communications and Community Engagement. When she’s not editing the “Your Northwest Forests” blog, she’s usually shopping for fur-repellent office wear. She considers her outdoorsmanship skills to be “average,” which means there’s a 50 percent chance yours are better – but also, an equal chance that they’re worse.

After a century’s absence, migratory steelhead return to Beaver Creek

three migratory steelhead are pictured swimming in turbulent waters

LA GRANDE, Ore. (July 29, 2019) Earlier this summer, Tim Bailey and Winston Morton of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife were looking for signs of spawning steelhead in the headwaters of Beaver Creek southwest of La Grande. 

They’d surveyed miles of the creek, tediously making their way over downed trees, rocks, and slippery stream banks while scanning the streambed. 

Then they found four redds, depressions in the river gravel made by fish to lay their eggs. 

This simple discovery represents a breakthrough for migratory steelhead, which had not been able to reach the headwaters of Beaver Creek for over 100 years.

A migratory steelhead leaps from the water in an effort to clear a rocky outcrop blocking it's passage upstream.
Human development that blocks migratory steelhead access to historical habitat, as well as poorly-designed passages that create strong currents can tire young fish expose them from predators, have resulted in several species being listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Courtesy photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Migratory steelhead are amazing fish. After they are born and raised in cold freshwater streams, they will swim hundreds of miles to feed and grow in the ocean. Then they swim back to the stream of their birth to reproduce. 

For many thousands of years, steelhead followed this life cycle in the Grande Ronde River and its tributaries, including the headwaters of Beaver Creek.

That changed a century ago with the construction of the Beaver Creek Dam and four water diversions in the La Grande municipal watershed.

Steelhead and other migratory fish could no longer swim past the dam and diversions to reach the high-quality spawning and rearing habitat in upper Beaver Creek. 

A man looks out at a concrete weird under construction along a streambed.
A concrete weir under construction as part of the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project. Just two years after construction, fish biologists have found signs of migratory steelhead returning to the river for the first time in a century. Courtesy photo: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife)

To solve this problem, several local, state, and federal entities teamed up to implement the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project.

When the construction crew broke ground in June of 2017, the project had been in various stages of planning for 20 years.

Why did it take so long?

Designing a structure to provide fish passage up to, and down from, the Beaver Creek Dam was a significant engineering challenge. The structure had to be low-maintenance and work without electricity; it also had to accommodate high flows in the spring as well as low flows later in the summer.

A series of precast concrete weirs is laid into the Beaver Creek streambed.
A series of precast concrete weirs under construction as part of the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project. Courtesy photo by Anderson Perry & Associates Inc.

The City of La Grande worked with a local civil engineering firm, Anderson Perry & Associates, to evaluate several alternatives for a fish passage structure, and other project partners provided technical feedback.

They ultimately landed on a one-of-a-kind solution: a series of 59 precast concrete weirs (little dams). Each weir weighs 27,000 pounds and had to be constructed off site.

Stacked one-by-one along about 400 feet of the dam’s eastern spillway, the weirs create a staircase of resting pools that allow fish to jump & swim up and over the top of the dam.

To date, there are no other fishways like this in the Pacific Northwest.

Construction workers install a series of precast concrete weirs in a temporarily-drained stream bed.
A series of precast concrete weirs under construction as part of the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project. The 2017 installation of 59 weirs provides a series of resting pools for fish to swim up to, and down from, the Beaver Creek Dam. Courtesy photo by Anderson Perry & Associates Inc.

Implementing the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project took a total of $1,125,700 and vital contributions from several partners:

  • The City of La Grande provided technical expertise, project funding, and grant administration.
  • Anderson Perry & Associates of La Grande provided engineering design and construction project management.
  • Lindley Contracting of Union constructed the project, including the fish passage structure, upgraded several intake structures, and replaced worn out utility infrastructure.
  • Grande Ronde Model Watershed facilitated project funding, including $150,000 from the Bonneville Power Administration, as well as technical feedback that contributed to the enhancement of the project.
  • The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board contributed $150,000.
  • The Oregon Water Resources Department provided $600,000 in grant funding.
  • The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife provided expert advice, design review, and project monitoring.
  • The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest provided environmental analysis, planning, technical feedback, and implementation support.

“I’m grateful for the collaborative effort put forth by everyone involved,” Kyle Carpenter, La Grande’s director of public works, said.  “The wealth of knowledge and experience that we all pooled together, along with our cooperative move-it-forward mentality, were invaluable in the successful completion of this project.”

“The La Grande Municipal Watershed provides some of the best drinking water in the world, straight from our National Forest,” Lee Mannor, water superintendent for the city of La Grande, said.  “Now we also provide some of the best native fish habitat in the world.  That is something we can all be proud of when we turn on the tap.”

“The Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project was a special one for our team,” Brett Moore, P.E., with Anderson Perry & Associates, Inc., said  “The City of La Grande asked us to help them solve a unique engineering design problem, which is always rewarding.  This project also gave us a chance to be part of something much bigger right here in our own backyard.”

“This is a testament to nature’s resilience,” Jesse Steele, interim director of the Grande Ronde Model Watershed, said.  “I’m looking forward to more success stories as we continue to connect and restore habitat in the Grande Ronde Basin.”

“After more than 100 years away, migratory steelhead now have access to over 14 miles of pristine spawning and rearing habitat above the Beaver Creek Dam, and they are moving back in,” Tim Bailey, a fisheries biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said.  “Finding those first four redds was an important milestone, and I expect we will find even more in the future.”

“It really made my summer when I heard that steelhead were once again spawning in upper Beaver Creek,” Bill Gamble, district ranger for the La Grande District, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, said.  “There is a lot of credit to go around. We in the Forest Service were just privileged to work with so many great partners over the years to help make the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project a reality. This is another win for our local restoration economy – where habitat restoration projects are driving more investments and jobs while improving everyone’s access to natural resources.”

An Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife employee, in the foreground, inspects a portion of Beaver Creek being restored for improved fish passage.
An Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife employee, foreground, inspects a portion of Beaver Creek being restored for improved fish passage. Courtesy photo by Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

For more information, please see the article, “Reconnecting the Habitat Dots,” published in Ripples in the Grande Ronde and the La Grande Observer in the summer of 2017.


Source information: Wallowa Whitman National Forest (press release).

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).

Forest Feature: Beavers

A beaver swims across a stream

The busy, busy beaver is our February Forest Feature.

Beavers, or Castor canadensis, are sometimes called the “engineers of the wild.” They are probably best known for the elaborate dams they construct across streams, flooding surrounding wetlands.

A beaver sits upright, clutching something in its paws.
A beaver, photographed July 4 2007 by
Flickr user @sherseydc (Steve Hersey), downloaded Feb. 4, 2019. This image is shared with the owner’s provision under the provisions of a Creative Commons license (CC BY-SA 2.0).

A beaver dam creates a pond that provides habitat for the beavers, and for many other aquatic creatures. Deer and other animals may forage for grass and shrubs that grow in small meadows beavers have created by harvesting wood to build with.

The dams are built from wood, mud, and rocks. Beavers cut down small trees by chewing through them. They may even dig canals to float those trees back to their pond!

A large beaver dam on the Fremont National Forest is photographed in this file photo from the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region archive.

The beaver is the largest rodent that is native to North America. A typical adult beaver is more than 3 feet in length, if you include their broad, paddle-like tail, and weighs more than 40 pounds!

You might be surprised to learn beavers don’t live inside beaver dams. A beaver’s home is called a “lodge” and is typically a large mound, also made from branches and mud, located upstream from a dam.

Lodges can have multiple entrances, which lead to an above-water den inside. They even have “skylights” – small holes near the top that lets in fresh air.

The Olympic National Forest’s Brown Creek Nature Loop circles a beaver pond, seen here in an April, 2017 USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region photo.

Beavers live in colonies of up to a dozen beavers, and a colony may have several lodges!

During the winter, beavers take a break from all their busy building. In places where it gets very cold, beavers will store food for winter at bottom of their pond, or swim out under the ice to harvest underwater plants.

After a few years, when beavers have eaten most of the food and felled the closest trees around their dam, the colony will begin looking for a new home. Once abandoned, the beaver’s dam quickly deteriorates and the pond recedes, revealing a new wetland or meadow covered with rich, newly-fertilized soil where plants will quickly grow.

Did you know?

  • A beaver’s front teeth are very strong, and are sharpened by their chewing.
  • Beavers have bad eyesight, but a strong sense of smell and very good hearing. They do most of their construction work at night.
A beaver chews on saplings at the Mendenhall Glacier Viewing Center in Alaska. USDA Forest Service photo.
  • A beaver has furry paws on their front legs that are good at grabbing and holding building materials, and webbed toes on their back feet that are excellent for swimming.
  • Beavers warn each other of danger by slapping their wide tails against the water.
  • A beaver’s tail also helps them balance when carrying building materials, and steer themselves while swimming.
  • A beaver can hold its breath while underwater for up to 15 minutes.
  • Beavers’ building benefits the environment in many ways, including protecting endangered salmon and their habitat. Young salmon and trout find protection from predators in the complex currents and mazes of logs and branches surrounding beaver lodges and dams. Debris piles leftover from former beaver dams and lodges also protects the streams and creeks running through them from erosion.

Education resources:

Video, info and fact sheets:

Activities:


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 Pacific Northwest classroom – email YourNorthwestForests@fs.fed.us.

Forest Feature: Conifers

Frost on a Ponderosa Pine located on the Deschutes National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo.

This year, the Willamette National Forest continued the Forest Service’s 50-year tradition of providing the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree for display on the Capitol lawn, along the National Mall, in Washington D.C.

This year’s Capitol Christmas Tree is a noble fir, just one of many species of native Pacific Northwest conifer that are grown or harvested for use as Christmas trees each year.

Conifers are cone-bearing trees that feature needles, rather than leaves.

Dew condenses on the needles of a Douglas fir tree on the Ochoco National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo.

Dew condenses on the needles of a Douglas fir tree on the Ochoco National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo.

These trees are often very aromatic: pine, spruce, fir, and other conifers produce chemicals called “terpenes” that many people associate with our forests, fresh air, and time spent enjoying the great outdoors.

Many people think of conifers are “evergreens,” plants that keep their color and foliage all year. But that’s not always true! Some conifers, such as Douglas fir, are evergreens.  But others, like the Larch, are not – they shed their needles every fall.

Ponderosa pines hold a dusting of snow at Mt. Bachelor on the Deschutes National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo.

Ponderosa pines hold a dusting of snow at Mt. Bachelor on the Deschutes National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo.

Many Pacific Northwest conifers grow straight and tall, which makes our forests an excellent source of timber for lumber. Conifers are categorized as softwood trees. Timber from conifers is often used products like paper, cardboard, and the kind of board lumber used in many types of construction.

The noble fir’s symmetrical shape, silvery green needles, and stiff branches make it an excellent tree for hanging ornaments from. Douglas Firs and Grand Firs are other Pacific Northwest conifers that are also used as Christmas trees.

A child poses with a noble fir, harvested for use as a Christmas Tree, in this archival photo. USDA Forest Service photo.

A child poses with a noble fir, harvested for use as a Christmas Tree, in this archival photo. USDA Forest Service photo.

Did you know you can harvest your own Christmas tree on National Forest -managed lands? Permits can be purchased from your local forest or a local vendor – contact a district ranger’s office for the forest you want to visit for more information, or visit the forest’s website. Find a forest at www.fs.fed.us.

Fourth graders can receive a free holiday tree permit when they present their complimentary “Every Kid in a Park” program access pass at a Forest Service district office.

Women select a Christmas tree to harvest on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo.

Women select a Christmas tree to harvest on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo.

Conifers also bring us many other benefits. Like other trees, they absorb odors, carbon dioxide, and other pollutants. Their shade cools the mountain streams where salmon swim and spawn. On hillsides and river banks, their roots slow water runoff and hold soil in place, slowing erosion.

Living conifers feed birds with their seeds, and provide habitat and shelter for many wildlife species. Downed trees also provide food and habitat for wildlife and plants as the trees decay.

Pine trees dot the Chewaucan River valley on Fremont-Winema National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo.

Pine trees dot the Chewaucan River valley on Fremont-Winema National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo.

While conifers are a traditional source of lumber and firewood, researchers are developing new ways to use their wood for construction materials, fuel, and heating homes.

Cross-laminated beams and timber panels can build not just houses, but office towers. Wood pellets burn more efficiently and produce less smoke than logs. Processes like torrefaction and biochar can help wood burn even more efficiently, harnessing it’s energey as fuel to produce heat or even electricity!

If you look, you can probably find something in the room you are reading this in that’s made from a conifer. And if you go outside… you may not need to go far to find a conifer there, too!

More information:

An expanse of conifers rolls across distant mountain ridges, viewed from Bald Knob Lookout on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo.

An expanse of conifers rolls across distant mountain ridges, viewed from Bald Knob Lookout on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo.



Source information: Forest Features highlight a new Pacific Northwest species (or sometimes 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 more information about this topic, or other ways the Forest Service can help incorporate Pacific Northwest environmental education and forest science in your classroom, email us at YourNorthwestForests@fs.fed.us.

‘Open Forest’ Christmas tree harvest e-permit pilot includes Mt. Hood NF

A screenshot from the welcome page on the Open Forest website: https://openforest.fs.usda.gov/christmas-trees/forests. The website will allow users on four National Forests, including the Mt. Hood National Forest, to purchase 2018 season Christmas Tree permits online. Image by USDA Forest Service.

SANDY, Ore. – The Mt. Hood National Forest is offering online Christmas tree permits through the Open Forest pilot program this holiday season!

The Mt. Hood National Forest is one of four National Forests participating in an online pilot program for holiday tree e-permits.

This pilot allows you to purchase your 2018 Christmas tree permit from the comfort of your own home, or by using your mobile device, instead of traveling to a Forest Service office or a local vendor.

These e-permits are good only for use on Mt. Hood National Forest, this holiday season.

Although purchased online, the permits must be printed to be valid.

You can learn more about purchasing your Mt. Hood holiday tree-harvest permit and gathering your Christmas tree online at: https://openforest.fs.usda.gov.

Holiday tree permits for all National Forests in the Pacific Northwest are also available at Ranger District visitor centers during regular business hours, and through many local vendors.

Permits cost $5 each; limit 3-5 permits per household (allowed quantities vary by forest, contact a local ranger district office for details specific to your area).

Safety advisory:

As the holiday season approaches, so does winter weather.  Weather changes rapidly at higher elevations and Forest Service roads are not maintained for winter travel. Carry traction devices, and be advised of winter road closures and any sno-park permit requirements (see Wash. Sno-Park and Oregon Sno-Park for info).

The Forest Service recommends you starting early in the day, and heading home well before dark. Here are some additional winter safety and holiday tree-harvesting tips:

  • Keep your family and your own safety in mind as you head out to look for a holiday tree; dress warmly and carry a forest map, snacks, and water.
  • Do not rely solely on your GPS, as electronic devices can stop working, or some information may not be accurate or up-to-date.
  • Bring items you’ll need to stay warm and dry, even if stranded outdoors without a working vehicle.
  • Have a trip plan; Make sure friends or family know where you are going, when you plan to return, and have a plan to contact law enforcement if you don’t arrive.
  • Remember to bring along a tool to cut your tree and rope or cord to secure it to your vehicle.
  • Don’t forget your first aid kit!
  • Our holiday tree webpage features a video with helpful hints for a successful holiday tree outing.

As a part of the “Every Kid” program, all fourth-graders can receive a holiday tree permit for free this season! They must have their Every Kid pass or voucher with them in order to receive their free holiday tree permit, and they must be accompanied by their parent or guardian. These special holiday tree permits can only be obtained at our official ranger district offices. For more information on the “Every Kid” program, please visit: www.everykidinapark.gov.

National Public Lands Day – National Forests are fee-free Sept. 22!

kids walk through a meadow towards a treeline of Douglas Fir

National Public Lands Day is Sept. 22, and day use access to all National Forests in the Pacific Northwest and around the country will be fee-free that day to celebrate, and to help ensure everyone has the opportunity to enjoy America’s public lands.

Fees will be waived at day-use recreation sites this Saturday in Oregon and Washington. This fee waiver includes many picnic areas, boat launches, trailheads, and visitor centers. Concession operations will continue to charge fees unless the permit holder chooses to participate. Fees for camping, cabin rentals, heritage expeditions, or other permits still apply. To find a recreation site near you, visit our interactive recreation map.

This year is the 25th annual National Public Lands Day, and outdoor enthusiasts will be out in full force, giving back to the community by investing in their favorite outdoor places by giving their time and sharing the many recreation and stewardship opportunities on our public lands.

This year’s National Public Lands Day will focus on resilience and restoration.

Every day, natural disasters and extreme weather, human activities, and a host of other factors take their toll on our public lands, threatening the health and wellbeing of the people and wildlife who depend on them. Public land managers, volunteers, and others who steward these special places work tirelessly to restore these areas, make them more resilient to future threats, and ensure that people and wildlife continue to enjoy them for years to come.

Volunteer projects to commemorate the event have been organized on many Pacific Northwest national forests, including:

  • Wild & Scenic Rivers Act 50th Anniversary cleanup
    Klickitat Wild & Scenic River and Trail; Lyle, Wash.
    Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018
    In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Forest Service is hosting a community cleanup along the lower Klickitat River. Information booths will share will help inform the public about Wild and Scenic River designation. The cleanup will take place along the river banks, on the Klickitat Trail, and at river access sites. For more information, contact: Lisa Byers, at lisambyers@fs.fed.us or (541) 308-1729
  • “A Healthy Forest” kick-off event
    Cape Perpetua Scenic AreaYachats, Oregon 
    Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
    In partnership with AmeriCorps, National Civilian Conservation Corps, and youth groups such as the Boy and Girl Scouts of America, the Forest Service will host the kick-off event for the Agents of Discovery Cape Perpetua Scenic Area “A Healthy Forest” Mission. Visitors and local families from Corvallis and Eugene are encouraged to participate. Spanish language assistance will be available. For more information, contact: Vicki Penwell, at vpenwell@fs.fed.us or (541) 707-0761

Many more National Public Lands Day volunteer projects are being held across Oregon and Washington. Projects include planting trees, building and repairing trails and bridges, removing trash and invasive plants, refurbishing historic structures, monitoring wildlife, and restoring natural habitats. To find a volunteer event near you, check with your local forest.

“We’re grateful to the many volunteers and partners who help us care for their public lands,” said Glenn Casamassa, Pacific Northwest Regional Forester. “This Saturday, whether you’re volunteering in your local community or enjoying the great outdoors, we hope you’ll join us in celebrating all that our public lands offer.”

Celebrated annually in September, National Public Lands Day brings together volunteers, agencies, and partner organizations to connect people to public lands in their community, inspire environmental stewardship, and encourage use of public lands for education, recreation, and general health.

Last year, more than 200,000 National Public Lands Day participants volunteered at over 2,600 sites across the nation, contributing $18 million in public land improvements. To learn more about National Public Lands Day, visit www.neefusa.org/npld.

The Pacific Northwest Region consists of 16 National Forests, 59 District Offices, a National Scenic Area, and a National Grassland comprising 24.7 million acres in Oregon and Washington and employing approximately 3,550 people. To learn more about the U.S. Forest Service in the Pacific Northwest, please visit www.fs.usda.gov/r6.


Source information: USDA Forest Service and the National Environmental Education Foundation

Human causes lead fire starts on Mt. Hood this summer

fire burns in the distance along a forested river bank at night

SANDY, Ore.  – August 14, 2018 – Humans, not nature, are responsible for the majority of wildland fires on Mt. Hood National Forest.

Of thirty wildfires reported this year, only one was started by lightning.

Human causes can include everything from spark-throwing equipment vehicles or equipment to improperly-disposed cigarettes, but one major hazard this summer has been abandoned campfires. Fire personnel have extinguished more than 200 abandoned campfires on the forests in the past few weeks.

Target shooting has also emerged as another source of sparks driving wildfires on the Mt. Hood National Forest this summer.

Camping, target shooting, ATV use, and smoking outdoors are among a number of potentially spark-generating activities that are restricted on the forest, until further notice.

“Dry fuel conditions on the Mt. Hood National Forest are well ahead of historical trends,” Dirk Shupe, Assistant Forest Fire Management Officer for the forest, said. “Some visitors think they can ignore the Public Use Restrictions in place as weather changes and temperatures temporarily decrease, however, just one spark can ignite quickly and start a wildfire in these conditions.”

four people standing in front of Timberline Lodge

Members of the Northwest Area Fire Prevention Education Team stand outside Timberline Lodge, located on the Mt. Hood National Forest, in an undated 2018 photo. The majority of wildfires on the forest so far this year have been human caused. USDA Forest Service photo.

This week, a multi-agency national Fire Prevention and Education Team will visit dispersed camp sites, historic sites, campgrounds and other areas around the Mt. Hood National Forest to educate visitors about the restrictions and how they can protect lives and property from wildfire.

The team is comprised of professionals from the U.S. Forest Service and the Georgia Forestry Commission in partnership with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Land Management and other federal, state and local agencies.

“Everybody needs to be aware of the dangers of wildfire, while still enjoying the many recreational benefits Mt. Hood National Forest provides,” Mark Wiles, the Prevention Education team leader, said. “Visitors can do just that during the ongoing focus on fire prevention. Our goal is to empower forest users with the knowledge that these restrictions are in place and there are consequences to ignoring them.”

For information about recreation and current fire restrictions on the Mt. Hood National Forest visit www.fs.usda.gov/mthood, or follow the forest on Facebook and Twitter for updates.


Source information: Mt. Hood National Forest staff

Willamette NF hosts public potluck honoring CCC Co. 2907 Aug. 15

Black and white photo of a forester wearing a 1933 forest ranger uniform and hat,, standing on a felled log, with a crew of young men sitting and standing beside him.

SWEET HOME, Ore. – Aug. 6, 2018 – The Willamette National Forest is hosting a public potluck picnic in celebration of the Civilian Conservation Corps Company 2907 (CCC).  The event will take place on Wednesday, August 15, 2018 at historic Longbow Organization Camp.

“We look forward each year to hosting original members of the CCC Company 2907 and their families at this annual picnic which highlights their valuable contributions including the construction of Longbow Organizational Camp in the 1930’s,” Nikki Swanson, District Ranger for the Sweet Home Ranger District., said. Attendees are encouraged to bring photos, news clippings, and other memorabilia from the CCC years to share during the event.

Longbow Organization Camp is located 23 miles east of Sweet Home via Highway 20, turn onto the Gordon Road (2032) after milepost 46 and continue for almost two miles.  Those in need of transportation to and from Longbow should call ahead to reserve a seat with the Sweet Home Ranger Station, located at 4431 Highway 20 in Sweet Home, the shuttle will leave at 9:30 am.

Company 2907, formerly Company 1314, was organized in 1933. The members moved to Camp Cascadia, located along the South Santiam River east of Sweet Home, in 1934. While working in the Willamette National Forest, Company 2907 built 35 miles of forest roads and 80 miles of trails; installed 17 miles of telephone lines; built 6 fire lookouts and 8 bridges; landscaped 4 acres of grounds near the Cascadia Ranger Station; constructed 2 large dwellings, an office building and a gas and oil station; and constructed House Rock, Fernview, and Trout Creek Campgrounds. The men also spent over 7,000 days fighting wildfires. Many of the Company’s members stayed in Oregon, and have since become important figures in local communities.

The celebration will begin at 11 a.m. with a flag colorguard opening the ceremony, and a potluck-style lunch at 12:30 p.m.  Attendees should bring a potluck dish (last names beginning with A-H, bring a hot dish; I-P a salad; and Q-Z a dessert. Plates, utensils, napkins and beverages will be provided.

For more information and to make transportation reservations, please contact the Sweet Home Ranger District at (541) 367-5168 or visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/willamette/news-events/?cid=FSEPRD589911.


Source information: Willamette National Forest public affairs staff.

Smoke is in the air – how to prepare, protect yourself

map showing July 23, 2018 air quality and smoke data
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