The Granite Gulch fire, a lightning-caused fire currently burning on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in eastern Oregon, offers an excellent example of a naturally-caused fire being managed for ecological benefits.
Located deep within the Eagle Cap Wilderness, the fire is currently small and located many miles from the working forest or developed communities.
In the East Oregonian article, Nathan Goodrich, a fire management officer for the forest, explains that managing fire means monitoring the fire and the surrounding conditions closely.
The fire’s effects could help fend off encroachment from sub-albine firs and improve conditions for species like Clark’s nutcracker as well as the whitebark pines that they help propagate, Goodrich said.
If conditions remain favorable (cooler temperatures, low winds, and high moisture content in soil and surrounding plants), Forest Service fire managers hope the fire will continue it’s movement through the wilderness so more of the forest can reap these environmental benefits.
BAKER CITY, Ore.(July 25, 2019) — The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest has determined that a temporary closure to camping is needed in a small area of the forest due to ongoing resource damage.
This damage is the result of long-term occupancy of the area, and the closure is intended to allow vegetation in the damaged areas time to become reestablished.
Multiple complaints were received from multiple sources. On further investigation, a number of issues, including septic holes, discarded litter and personal belongings, deep ruts in meadows and wetlands, and other forms of abuse from un-managed long term camping, were documented by Forest Service employees.
The Huckleberry Creek Area Closure affects approximately 240 acres of the Whitman Ranger District, located south of Sumpter along Forest Road 1090, and prohibits overnight camping in the area until July 24, 2021, unless rescinded earlier.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Implementing the Beaver Creek Fish Passage
Project took a total of $1,125,700 and vital contributions from several
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
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
“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.”
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).
PORTLAND, Ore. – March 14, 2019 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service has released final objection instructions for the Umatilla, Malheur, and Wallowa-Whitman Forest Plan Revisions.
The Regional Forester has been instructed to withdraw the draft Record of Decision, Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and the three Revised Plans.
Forest Service Acting Deputy Chief and Reviewing Officer Chris French issued a letter to Regional Forester Glenn Casamassa explaining his instruction.
“Many factors compounded to produce revised plans that would be difficult to implement,” French wrote. “While my review did not identify any specific violations of law, regulation, or policy, significant changes occurred over the 15-year time period of the planning process.”
French said that a number of plan modifications occurred that were often complex and not well understood, and there were a number of changes in organizations, stakeholders, and key Forest Service staff.
The Revised Plans also did not fully account for the unique social and economic needs of local communities in the area.
“The resulting plans are very difficult to understand, and I am concerned that there will be ongoing confusion and disagreement as to how each Revised Plan is to be implemented,” French said.
The Forest Plans for the Umatilla, Malheur, and Wallowa-Whitman have been under revision for nearly 15 years.
The Final EIS, three Revised Plans, and the draft Record of Decision were released in June 2018 for the pre-decisional objection process.
Approximately 350 objections were filed on a variety of issues, most significant being access and travel management, impacts of the plan decisions on local communities, the Aquatic and Riparian Conservation Strategy, wildlife issues, and forest management.
Objection resolution meetings were held in five different communities in November and December of 2018. Over 300 people participated voicing concerns and clarifying objections on a wide variety of issues.
“I recognize the hard work and commitment of your employees over the last 15 years,” French wrote. “I also realize how much dedication, energy, time, and effort that the public has put into this process. I am confident that the information and data collected and analyzed, as well as the breadth of objection issues, can be used to inform our next steps.”
Existing Land and Resource Management Plans, as amended, will remain in place as the Forest Service determines next steps for the Umatilla, Malheur, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests.
In the coming months, Forest Service officials will engage stakeholders to explore ways of working together to support a path forward on shared priorities including strengthening local economies, reducing wildfire risk, ensuring access, and supporting healthier watersheds.
“We are committed to the responsible stewardship of National Forest System lands and confident that we can find common ground for the long-term sustainable management of these forests,” said Regional Forester Casamassa. “I look forward to joining local and state officials, partners, Tribes, and members of the public to explore how we can best work together in shared stewardship to pursue common objectives.”
More information on the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision Objection and Resolution Process can be found here.
Source information:USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region staff (press release)
Called the “koepa” by the Northern Paiute people, the bighorn sheep is an icon of the mountain West; yet complex disease issues have stalled its complete recovery. Mark discusses the history of bighorn conservation, its life history, management, and how sheep conservationists are trying to solve pressing challenges to sheep recovery. – from the Northwest Nature Mattersepisode page
Recent episodes have featured subject matter experts from state and federal agencies, academia, journalism, and environmental advocacy sectors for long-format conversations about conservation, natural history, and wildlife protection issues across the Pacific Northwest.
Episode 4, released last month, discussed the marbled murrelet – an Endangered Species Act -listed species, like the spotted owl, requires old growth forest for nesting habitat.
Source: The Wildlife Society seeks to inspire, empower and enable conservation, environmental and wildlife professionals to sustain wildlife populations and habitats through science-based management and conservation. The Oregon Chapter of The Wildlife Society is comprised of approximately 350 members from state, government, tribal, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations statewide.
On Dec. 14, 2018, Pacific Northwest Regional Forester Glenn Casamassa released the following “open letter” to the communities affected by the proposed Blue Mountains revised forest plan (Malheur, Umatilla, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests), including those who submitted formal objections or participated in objections resolutions meetings as part of the ongoing plan revision process.
Chris French, Acting Deputy Chief, National Forest System, USDA Forest Service, listens to a participant in Blue Mountains Forest Plan revision objections resolution meeting at High School in Baker City, Ore. USDA Forest Service photo by Travis Mason-Bushman.
Dear Objectors, Interested Persons, and Blue Mountains Community Members,
I recently had the privilege of meeting many of you during the first round of objection-resolution meetings for the Blue Mountains Revised Forest Plans. I want to sincerely thank everyone who participated.
Over 300 Objectors, Interested Persons, and public observers attended meetings in John Day, Pendleton, Wallowa, Baker City, and La Grande, Oregon.
I am grateful for the time and effort invested by each of you. I hope you will agree that this first round of resolution meetings was a positive step.
The meetings were led by objection reviewing officers based in Washington, D.C., with support and coordination from the Pacific Northwest Regional Office as well as the Malheur, Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests.
The goal for these initial meetings was to bring clarity and mutual understanding to the Blue Mountain Forest Plan objection issues.
The dialogue helped Forest Service leadership and staff to better understand your values, concerns, and views.
Spending time in Eastern Oregon improved much more than our understanding of the issues identified in the objections, though.
Through our initial discussions we also gained a deeper appreciation of local residents’ special relationships with the land.
We had it affirmed that, for many of those who live in and around the Blue Mountains, these national forests are not just places to visit and recreate – the forests are a vital part of your community life, identity, heritage, and livelihoods.
The Forest Service is striving to honor these special relationships in the Blue Mountain Forest Plan’s resolution process.
In doing so, we will better respect the views of many different community members – including our Tribal neighbors, the States of Oregon and Washington, County and other local government representatives, user groups, environmental groups, industry, and business – all of whom seek assurances that the Forest Service will protect their priority resources.
During the initial meetings the Forest Service heard a lot about a wide range of topics, including access; aquatic and riparian conservation; elk security and bighorn sheep; fire and fuels; fish, wildlife, and plants; livestock grazing; local government cooperation and coordination; public participation; social and economic issues; timber and vegetation; and wilderness, backcountry, and other special areas.
Digging into these topics in person gave the Forest Service the opportunity to explore issues that were not as prominent in the written objection letters. From the dialogue, some issues appear to be close to resolution while others will require further discussion, so there will be more steps to take in this process.
The Forest Service knows that many topics are interrelated, and we will work to pull together the related topics for discussion in future meetings, so all of us can better see the connections and consider the trade-offs of potential resolutions.
The Forest Service also understands that not all Objectors and Interested Persons were able to attend the first round of meetings or have their voices represented by others.
So, as we navigate these next steps, the Forest Service will work ensure we are as inclusive as possible in future objections-resolutions meetings.
Over the coming weeks the reviewing officers will be studying the notes and reflecting on what we heard in the first round of resolution meetings and we will be helping the Washington Office in scheduling the next round of objections-resolutions meetings. We will be in touch again to announce the next steps.
Thank you for your contributions, and I look forward to making more progress together in the near future.
By Glenn Casamassa, Pacific Northwest Regional Forester –
Next week, I will be participating with a team of folks from the Forest Service headquarters in Washington, D.C., in Objections Resolution meetings for the Revised Forest Plans for the Malheur, Umatilla, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests. We will also be joined by other representatives from the Regional Office in Portland, Ore., and the involved National Forests.
Throughout this process, we received about 350 objection letters and have invited objectors from across the communities of Eastern Oregon to join us to discuss them.
I have worked closely with the Reviewing Officer, Chris French, for years and I know he and the team are as deeply committed to understanding your concerns as we are in the region.
We are coming to listen and hopefully begin the process of resolving your concerns and refining a shared vision for the future of these forests we all value.
It is important to all of us that we get to just sit down and talk with objectors and interested persons face-to-face.
The team has reviewed the objections and now, with this first round of meetings, we will all have an opportunity to work toward resolution—not in a room back in D.C., but rather there in the communities with you as citizens and stakeholders directly.
We hope to engage in meaningful dialogue and really listen to the issues of concern and to understand the underlying values that are important to each of you, your neighbors and the communities at large.
We’re committed to openness and are looking forward to the dialogue and opportunities for resolution that may surface.
I have had the opportunity to meet with several of your elected officials and our Forest Service partners thus far, and I have been moved by their commitment to the land and all of you.
Your communities are proud and resilient.
We want you to know that the team and I will be engaging directly with those who submitted objections during this process and we are ready to listen.
I hope to meet many of you next week.
Glenn Casamassa Regional Forester; USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we’re dedicating the November Forest Feature to showing our appreciation for an animal that has historically given much to people in the Pacific Northwest – the mighty elk!
Elk (Cervus canadensis) are among the largest species of the deer family in the world. They are also among the largest wild animals in North America – only moose and bison are larger among the non-domesticated species. (Fun fact: “Wild” horses on this continent are actually untamed domesticated horses, sometimes called “feral” horses – they cannot be truly ).
Elk from the Dosewallips elk herd along Highway 101 in Brinnon, Wash. on the Olympic Peninsula, Aug. 1, 2018. Elk herds are known to cross Highway 101, including the Dosewallips & Dungeness herds. As temperatures get colder, more animals start to live at lower elevations, near roads and some elk herds stay at lower elevations year-round. Courtesy photo by Karen Guzman (used with permission)
Elk first arrived in North America from Asia about 23 million years ago.
Historically, elk have been revered in many cultures. The meat from a single elk can feed many people. Their large hides can be used to create tents to house people, or clothing and shoes to protect them from the elements.
In North America, archaeologists have found images of elk that are thousands of years old, carved by the Anasazi people.
A Roosevelt elk bugles, June 9, 2011. USDA Forest Service photo.
Male elk are known for bugling – they make lots of noise to assert their dominance and attract mates.
They also have large antlers, which they use to fight for those same reasons.
Elk shed their antlers every year, and regrow them every spring.
A herd of elk approach a snowy river bank on the Olympic National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo.
Elk travel in herds, and are quick to defend against predators
They can run up to 35 miles per hour, though they rarely run from a fight.
If their vocal warnings are ignored, both male and female elk might attack by rearing up and delivering powerful kicks from their strong forelegs.
However, elk are susceptible to many diseases. These including parasites, chronic wasting disease, and a disease called Elk hoof disease.
Releasing elk at Sparks Lake on the Deschutes National Forest in 1934. USDA Forest Service file photo.
Elk cows leave their herd to give birth, which helps them protect their calves by avoiding attention from predators. They return only once their calves can keep up with the herd.
An elk mother will take care of one another elk’s calf, if the other mother is feeding.
Elk need a lot of food to survive.
Elk eat all kinds of grasses, shrubs, bark and leaves.
Some favorite foods for elk living in the Pacific Northwest include Aspen, red alder, and willow tree barks; shrubs, vines and bushes – including salal, wild rose, and Oregon grape, blackberry, huckleberry and currant; and other plants, including dandelion, clover, bear grass and fireweed.
Elk are valued by hunters as a game animal; their meat is lean, low in cholesterol and high in protein.
A herd of elk climb a bluff on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo.
Super strength, super speed, super brave… in many ways, elk aren’t just mighty creatures of the forest, they are superheroes!
What do you like most about elk? Check out these fun facts and links to learn even more about our November “Forest Feature”!
Did you know?
An elk’s antlers can grow as fast as 2.5 cm per day, and reach a total length of almost 4 feet long, and weigh up to 40 lbs.!
Elk look a bit like deer, but they are much bigger. Adult elk stand 4.5 to 5 feet at the shoulder. With their antlers, a male elk might stand up to 9 feet tall!
Elk shed their coats seasonally. Their winter coat is five times warmer than their summer coat, and lighter in color – which helps camouflage them against bare ground or snow.
A bull (male) elk can weigh 600-800 lbs. A cow (female) elk can weigh up to 500 lbs.
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.
The USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region helps monitor forest health in Washington and Oregon via annual aerial forest health surveys, conducted in partnership with with the Washington State Dept. of Natural Resources and the Oregon Dept. of Forestry. When signs of a widespread disease or insect pest activity are detected, more intensive monitoring programs may be established.
In this guest post from Washington State DNR, the state agency discusses about its efforts to trap, monitor, and collect better data on the patterns surrounding one such insect which periodically impacts the health of trees, especially in eastern Washington – the Douglas-fir Tussock moth.
From Washington State DNR:
“The life of a Douglas-fir tussock moth is not an easy one. The females can’t fly, and food is often scarce, not to mention viruses that make them explode. What’s more difficult than being a tussock moth, is having those moths in your forest.
“Every ten years or so, the tussock moth population skyrockets in some areas of eastern Washington, well beyond what the forest can support. When that happens, these insects can eat so much that they literally kill the fir trees they feed on, sometimes up to 40 percent in a single stand. If a tree is lucky enough to survive the infestation, they’ll then be much more vulnerable to disease, pests and wildfire.
“Often when we talk about species that destroy forests, those species are invasive. They didn’t come from the areas they’re killing. The tussock moth is actually a native species here in Washington, so what causes their once-in-ten-year eating rampage? We know that historically, the event happens approximately every ten years, but with a potentially disastrous ecological hazard, being as precise as possible is very important…”
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Aug. 14, 2018 – Calling all citizen scientists! Download the free Wild Spotter mobile app and help the USDA Forest Service identify, map, and report invasive species found in your favorite wild places, including the Pacific Northwest’s Siuslaw National Forest and Wallowa-Whitman National Forest!
Through a collaboration with more than 20 partners, the University of Georgia – Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health, and the organization Wildlife Forever, are working with 12 National Forests and Grasslands across the United States as part of a pilot program to gather important data on invasive species and how they are impacting wilderness areas, wild and scenic rivers, and other natural areas.
Wildflowers dot the edge of Red Mountain Lake on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest July 2, 2007.USDA Forest Service photo by C. Christensen.
The Wild Spotter citizen science program provides tools to help locate, quantify, map, and report invasive species infestations in a simple and effective manner, while raising public awareness about invasive species and promoting collaborations across the landscape.
“We are happy to be part of the Wild Spotter program and to offer the public a way to enjoy their national forest while helping us gather information on the locations of invasive species,” Angela Elam, Siuslaw National Forest forest supervisor, said.
There are 15 invasive species identified on the Siuslaw National forest in the Wild Spotter app, and 54 identified invasive species for the Wallowa-Whitman forest.
Cape Perpetua tidal pools and trail, Siuslaw National Forest; June 15, 2011. USDA Forest Service photo.
Once a Wild Spotter volunteer identifies and reports a species, the data is verified by experts and then made publicly available through a networked invasive species inventory database hosted by the University of Georgia.
The database will be the first nationwide inventory of invasive species in America’s natural areas.
“Invasive plants, pathogens, and animals can threaten recreational activities, productivity, and ecosystem health. This tool will help the forest to implement better strategies for prevention, control, and eradication,” Elam said.
The Wild Spotter app is available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices, and can be used even from locations where a cell phone signal is not available.