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Coordinator’s Corner — January

January 9, 2017

Happy New Year!

Beginning January 11, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources will be lead by a new Commissioner of Public Lands, Hilary Franz. Welcome Commissioner-elect Franz!

For the uninitiated, the Commissioner of Public Lands has a big job: generate revenue for public schools from timber harvests, leases, and other activities on public land; regulate the timber, shellfish and surface-mining industries; fight wildfire throughout the state; and protect the health of forests, rivers, wildlife and other natural resources. These are the biggies but the list of agency responsibilities runs far deeper.

Hilary’s campaign focused on supporting local communities. She is interested in engaging DNR’s constituents with greater public outreach and education, and she aims to broaden the agency’s role as a leader in climate change mitigation.

All of that sounds well-aligned with what we do here in DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry program.

For starters, the DNR Urban Forestry team specializes in public outreach and education. We also offer grants, training and technical assistance to Washington’s cities and towns to help them achieve their own natural resource management goals. Our Urban Forestry Restoration Project provides job skills training to young people and veterans while helping cities remove invasive weeds, restore natural areas, and overcome daunting workloads of deferred maintenance in their urban forests.

Research from the University of Washington and other institutions unveils how nature in cities improves public health and well-being and can boost economic indicators of community success. Other research on ecosystem services demonstrates how healthy urban forests sequester carbon, mitigate stormwater, prevent erosion, reduce the urban heat-island effect, conserve energy, purify the air, protect wildlife habitat and improve quality of life in cities and towns.

Every waterway that DNR works so hard to protect in the uplands eventually flows through one or more of Washington’s cities. Our work in communities helps protect the integrity of our environment and DNR’s stewardship efforts across all landscapes.

The urban and community forestry team looks forward to working with our new Commissioner and the Washington Community Forestry Council, as together we provide leadership to create self-sustaining urban and community forestry programs that preserve, plant and manage forests and trees for public benefits and quality of life throughout Washington state.

To our new Commissioner and all the readers of Tree Link, I hope that each of you are as excited as we are for a 2017 that is healthy, prosperous and green.

By Linden J. Lampman, program manager, DNR Urban and Community Forestry Program

Reporting Drought Related Tree Damage – Why and How?

January 9, 2017

In the November 2016 issue of Small Forest Landowner News, DNR Forest Entomologist Glenn Kohler reported on the impacts to conifers following the 2015 drought. This period of drought was the most severe in Washington in several decades and had significant influence on the availability of water for growing trees.

Lack of water caused stress and damage in conifer trees across a range of ages, sizes and species. Branch and top dieback, foliage loss, entire tree mortality, and an increases in bark beetle activity and damage were observed in 2015 and 2016. These signs and symptoms of drought stress may continue into 2017, especially if drier-than-normal conditions persist.

This is not good news for our trees, but it does present an opportunity for us right now.

This is a chance to document drought damage in trees and use the reports to prepare management guidelines for the future. If you are interested in reporting drought damage observed on your property, please include as much of the following information as you can. Minimum information requested includes: tree species affected, damage symptoms and location information.

  • Host/tree species are affected?
  • Damage symptoms (branch flagging, top dieback, entire tree mortality, low needle retention, etc.)
  • Tree location: A GPS reading, street address or county (NOTE: Your location information will only be used to assess geographic patterns of drought damage and will not be retained by DNR for other purposes)
  • Approximate age of tree affected
  • Size of trees affected (diameter and/or height estimate)
  • Other damage agents present (none, Douglas-fir bark beetle, root disease, unknown)
  • The number of trees affected (if unknown, please estimate whether a few or many trees are affected)
  • Number of acres affected
  • Site characteristics (be as specific as possible; for example, residential property, highway roadside, adjacent to field, forested area, floodplain, forest edge, etc.)
  • Soil characteristics (rocky, well-draining, deep, shallow, poor, etc.)
  • Your expertise with tree damage assessment (layperson, novice, competent, or expert)

Everyone — from private property owners to professionals and consultants — is encouraged to submit reports of drought damage. Reports will be summarized and incorporated into a forest health database in spring and summer 2017. This information will help us to prepare a summary report that includes drought damage trends by species, tree size, geography and other site characteristics — the report is expected to be released winter 2017/2018. We’ll also use submitted data to develop management strategies that we hope will reveal more opportunities for creating resilient landscapes. These reports will be posted on the DNR website — we will let you know when it’s available in a future edition of Tree Link.

Please send this information to Amy Ramsey at amy.ramsey@dnr.wa.gov or Washington DNR, 4th Floor, Wildfire Division, PO Box 47037, Olympia, WA, 98501.

POLL Results: 2017 Urban Forestry Seminar Topic

January 9, 2017

Did you attend one of our Community Trees Seminars in 2015 or 2016? We are steaming ahead into 2017 with a brand new seminar topic as voted on by Tree Link readers in late 2016. Nearly 180 votes were cast using the links we provided in recent editions of Tree Link.

…and the winning topic is:

Improving urban forest resiliency in the face of landscape-scale threats

This seminar will highlight the impacts of urbanization, climate change, severe weather events, drought, pest and disease outbreaks and other threats to urban forests. It also will explore the numerous strategies that can improve the health and resiliency of trees. We are working to craft a program suitable for anyone interested in community trees whether you’re an arborist, a volunteer, a member of your city operations crew, an engineer, a planner, a manager or an elected official.

That said, we would love to hear from any of you who have thoughts, ideas, stories, local projects, lessons learned, research articles or other information that can help us build an engaging and relevant program around this topic.

The agenda and logistics for the 2017 seminars are still under development. Keep an eye out in the coming editions of Tree Link for more details, including how to RSVP for a seminar near you.

For questions or feedback pertaining to the 2017 Community Tree Seminars, please contact us at urban_forestry@dnr.wa.gov.

New Year’s Resolutions for Community Tree Managers

January 9, 2017

In the January 2015 edition of the Tree Link we published an article called “New Year’s Resolutions for Community Tree Advocates”. This year we’re revisiting that idea but with a new twist.

For those who actually manage community trees, here are some suggested New Year’s resolutions just for you:

Initiate a structural pruning program. According to pruning expert Dr. Ed Gilman, structural pruning is the essence of tree care. Pruning trees at a young age will help you avoid future problems, create a more storm-resistant urban forest, and save money in the long run.

Update your planting specifications. Tree research has changed best management practices over the years, especially as it relates to planting specs. This is a good time of the year to evaluate and update standards of care for trees in your community.

Diversify your urban forest. There are new and interesting trees being introduced each year. When was the last time a new or unusual species was planted in your city? The impacts of climate change cannot be fully predicted; however, a diverse urban forest will be more resilient to future threats of all types.

Provide or increase training for your staff. The Pacific Northwest Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture has recently ramped up the amount of available classes, many of which are happening across Washington this year. In addition, DNR offers many opportunities for city staff to receive training at no cost. Interested? Give us a call.

Inform your community and decision-makers. Everyone in the urban forest benefits when a community and its leaders are informed about the economic, environmental, and social benefits of trees. Think of creative ways to get the word out. Teach students, adults, colleagues, city council members and others to be stewards of community trees. Consider inviting DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry staff to make a presentation about tree benefits and urban forestry to stakeholders in your city.

Plan a splashy Arbor Day celebration. Communities in the Tree City USA program will celebrate Arbor Day every year, but it’s worth the extra effort to make your event something special. Even if you already invite the school kids, or bring in other partners or plant lots of trees, use your imagination! How about live music? Games and activities? Face-painting? Raffle tickets? Food trucks? I tell you what, an Arbor Day event with food trucks sounds super cool.

In this first month of a new year, make a list, try something new, and give us a call if there is any way we can help.

Happy New Year to all of our professional Arborist friends.

Avista Utilities & Arbor Day Foundation Team Up in 2017

January 9, 2017

Trees, shade, environmental benefits and reduced energy bills – all good things.

Simple act – Huge impact. Avista is partnering with the Arbor Day Foundation to provide free shade, that is energy-saving trees, to its customers in 2017. This partnership is modeled on a very successful Shade Tree Program that has provided Spokane County Avista customers with shade trees through the Spokane County Conservation District.avista-logo

Thanks to additional support from the Arbor Day Foundation, Avista will now offer this opportunity to all interested Avista customers throughout its service area in eastern Washington, northern Idaho, and parts of southern and eastern Oregon.

How it works.  Avista will pre-order several species of medium to large shade trees through the Arbor Day Foundation’s network of local nursery suppliers for the spring and fall planting seasons.

Interested customers can visit the new Avista/Arbor Day Energy-Saving Trees website to reserve their free shade tree, which the participating nursery will ship to the customer’s home during the next planting season.

This website’s interactive software allows the customer to compare the energy saving benefits different tree species could provide when planted in different places on their property, while also warning against planting too close to obstructions such as overhead power lines.

With tree stewardship comes responsibility. Avista Utilities promotes responsible tree stewardship by planting the right tree in the right place.

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Plant the right tree in the right place.

Please give thoughtful consideration to the tree’s growth pattern and eventual size when planting your new tree so as not to compromise its health and beauty at maturity and please, always call 811 before you dig!

Avista is a Tree Line USA utility and the first utility provider in Washington state to get involved in the Arbor Day Foundation’s Energy Saving Trees Program. Other interested utility providers can apply to participate by filling out the online application.

 

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Nationwide benefits of the Energy-Saving Trees program, 2011-2015.

Article provided by Avista Utilities.

Current Forest Health Conditions in Washington: A Sneak Preview

January 9, 2017
nsect and disease damage to eastern Washington

Brightly colored patches indicate areas of insect and disease damage to eastern Washington forests. Source: 2016 Annual Insect & Disease Survey

This year marks the 70th year of the annual insect and disease aerial surveys in Washington. The survey is conducted cooperatively by the USDA Forest Service and Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The survey information is collected by observers using digital navigational system-equipped airplanes flying at low altitude. The 2016 data has been finalized and resulting maps and data will be available to the public in March 2017.

Maps and data from past surveys are available at the following sites:

  • Interactive, web-based aerial survey maps and 15-year cumulative mortality: See map
  • Downloadable GIS datasets: See dataset (Check link and titles under “Forest Disturbance.”)
  • Customized electronic maps (PDF, JPG, etc.): See maps

In its 70th year, the aerial survey dataset will get a new name: the Forest Health Aerial Survey. For many years it was known as “Bugs n Crud.” Certainly a fun name, but not terribly aligned with growing concerns about the state of our forests.

What damaged Washington’s forests this year?

The survey found that insects, disease and other types of damage affected more than 450,000 acres, causing areas of defoliation and an estimated 2.4 million trees killed. The number of acres is relatively low compared to the last ten years, which have averaged about one million acres of damage per year. Although damage from forest pests was down from historic norms, over the last decade it has had cumulative effects: reducing stand productivity, affecting critical wildlife habitat and increasing wildfire risk.

A big forest health story in Washington was the statewide effects of a severe 2015 drought followed by an abnormally dry summer in 2016. Unusually high levels of drought-related damage to many different tree species was reported in both years, including entirely red crowns, red tops and scattered red branches. Many sampled trees showed little indication of being killed by primary pathogens, insects or other animals. In some cases, there were not even signs of opportunistic wood infesting insects. The drought alone was enough to cause these trees’ to die. In other cases, drought-impacted trees made easy targets for insects.

Damage by all major species of tree-killing bark beetles went up in 2016. Related secondary bark beetles, which attack smaller diameter trees and branches, also increased. Many types of bark beetles are known to take advantage of drought-stressed conifers, such as fir engraver, western pine beetle, Ips pine engravers and secondary engraver beetles in Douglas-fir.

About 126,000 acres of forestlands east of the Cascade Mountain Range showed especially high levels of pine tree death caused by pine bark beetles, an increase from the 65,000 acres reported in 2015. Damage from Douglas-fir beetle, fir engraver and spruce beetle also at least doubled in this area from the previous year.

There was a bit of good news, however. The 46,000 acres of damage caused by western spruce budworm, a major defoliator of firs east of the Cascades, was at the lowest level since 2002. Outbreak activity in central Washington appears to be declining, though northeast Washington activity continues to increase.

The 2016 conditions of Washington’s forested lands will be reported fully in March 2017 in DNR’s Forest Health Highlights in Washington report. Until then, the latest 2015 report is available at: www.dnr.wa.gov/ForestHealth

Learn how to identify major insects and diseases and get the latest information and trends on exotic pest problems, insects and disease outbreaks with DNR’s Forest Health program.

Coordinator’s Corner — December

December 9, 2016

At this time of year with longer nights and colder days, we tend to spend more time inside and work on the management side of our jobs.  Planning and communicating about trees is always important, but I propose to you that it is also good to leave that behind and take just a moment to sit back and contemplate and appreciate the finer aspects of our work. Trees can be a source of delight and wonder. I try not to lose sight of the fact that they add so much to my life as I work to provide that experience to others.

Earlier in my career, I had an opportunity to work with an incredible gentleman who was on our city tree board. Ralph instilled a sense of wonder in children by presenting them with a ‘recipe’ for a tree. During the annual 5th grade Arbor Day field trip, he held a big bowl and a spoon in his hand as he stirred up the student’s imaginations. He would pour water into the bowl, grab a handful of soil and stir it into the water, ‘scoop’ in some oxygen, and add some sunlight by lifting the bowl up to the sky. That, he explained, is what trees use to grow. Ralph pointed out the towering ponderosa pines that stood around us. Starting from a tiny seed, they stretched up close to 100 feet tall.  The kids were always impressed. The recipe of course is a simplistic explanation, but it instills in me the wonder and mystery of trees.

As I walk to work in the morning darkness, I look up into a canopy and see stars sparkling in the branches like Christmas lights. I take note of the natural ornaments on trees: fruit and cones tipped in frost. I take a breath and remember what an honor it is to work in a field that helps people experience a better quality of life (remember those social benefits?), and where I am privileged to experience the wonder and delight of trees.

Merry Christmas.

By Linden J. Lampman, program manager, DNR Urban and Community Forestry Program