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Coordinator’s Corner–April

April 11, 2016

Happy Arbor Day! Even if you don’t have an event planned for this April, I hope you have an opportunity to get outside and enjoy the beautiful blue skies and sunshine we’ve been experiencing. It is a great time to take photos of your favorite flowering trees, and appreciate the blooming of a new season.

While planting trees is what Arbor Day is all about, this season is abundant with educational offerings and other resources to sow your brain with new ideas and grow your resume with professional development opportunities including:

Or, you may also be interested in some on-the-ground assistance in preparing natural area sites for fall planting, or assistance in structural pruning of young trees in your community. Applications for the Urban Forestry Restoration Project will be accepted from June 1 – June 30.

Keep in mind that the DNR Urban and Community Forestry staff provides technical assistance. Let us know how we can help. You can request a visit to your community to look at tree-related issues, or talk with your tree board or city managers about urban forestry programs.

Cheers to Spring!

by Linden Lampman, program manager, coordinator, DNR Urban & Community Forest Program

Early Bird Registration for the 2016 Community Tree Management Institute

April 11, 2016

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources and the Oregon Department of Forestry are excited to announce the 2016 Community Tree Management Institute (CTMI). To date, approximately 175 individuals have graduated from CTMI, however, this year’s offering of the course will look a lot different than previous ones. Staff have completely redesigned the CTMI curriculum to emphasize collaborative peer-to-peer learning in a more condensed schedule of face-to-face sessions.

The Community Tree Management Institute (CTMI) is an intensive training and professional development course specifically tailored to the needs of those who have tree related responsibilities in their communities. Coursework covers technical, managerial, and administrative aspects of managing trees in cities. The purpose of CTMI is to provide participants with the information, skills, and leadership training to carry out their tree-related responsibilities more effectively.CTMI logo

CTMI consists of three, place-based, retreat-style sessions according to the following schedule:

  • SESSION 1: Focus is on ‘Community’, Sept 12-14, 2016, Alderbrook Resort, Union, WA
  • SESSION 2: Focus is on ‘Trees’, Oct 11-13, 2016, Vancouver Hilton, Vancouver, WA
  • SESSION 3: Focus is on ‘Management’, Nov 8-10, 2016, Oregon Garden Resort, Silverton, OR

Each place-based session is prefaced by a selection of online assignments intended to prepare participants for the topics and subject matter to be presented. You may be given a reading assignment, a video to watch, or you may be asked to answer questions as part of an online journal entry. Sessions are scheduled as retreats, allowing you to immerse yourself in learning. The three-day, two-night sessions start the afternoon of the first day and end before lunch on the third day. Sessions are held both indoors and outdoors.

CTMI is appropriate for anyone who coordinates community forestry issues, reviews tree plans, issues permits, or inspects trees in urban and community forests. Participants come from the ranks of city planners, park management staff, public works employees, tree board staff, horticulturalists, campus arborists, and other similar job classifications. Since 1994, more than 150 people have completed this course. It requires your focus, so your personal commitment, your supervisor’s approval, and your city’s or agency’s support are critical.

For more information, or to register, please visit

Hot Off the Press! 2015 Forest Health Highlights

April 11, 2016
2015 bugs and crud

2015 Forest Health Highlights

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources and USDA Forest Service conduct annual aerial surveys to identify, map, and monitor the impacts of insect and diseases on forest lands throughout the state. Aerial survey data are verified with ground-based observations and are compared against the results of other forest health research happening throughout the state.

Survey results are compiled into an annual report called Washington’s Forest Health Highlights, or, as it more congenially known, “the bugs and crud report.”

Due to the intensive time required to collect and analyze the survey data, then verify and publish the results, the Forest Health Highlights outlines forest health conditions observed in the previous year. Nonetheless, these reports provide critical benchmarks for the presence or absence, scope, and severity of insects, diseases and other environmental conditions that adversely affect the health of trees and forests in Washington state.

Care to know what types of bugs and crud are affecting forest lands where you live? Download a copy of the recently released Forest Health Highlights in Washington–2015

New Seminar for 2016: Quality Trees, Quality Cities

April 11, 2016

“Quality Trees, Quality Cities”

Communities are cleaner, healthier and more livable when trees and other public assets are well cared for. Adopting best practices for trees can improve the quality of your city while saving time and money.

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources Urban & Community Forestry Program presents the seminar “Quality Trees, Quality Cities” to outline how something as simple as proper tree care can cost-effectively improve the health, quality of life and vibrancy of your community.

Topics discussed include:

  • Industry-accepted best practices for landscape tree care such as planting, pruning, etc.
  • Principles of tree selection, planning, and planting the right tree in the right place
  • Roles of city departments, public utilities, citizens and other stakeholders in managing trees
  • Strategies to maintain and manage trees with limited resources
  • High and hidden costs associated with deferred maintenance, and how to avoid them
  • Connecting tree and landscape care with other efforts to improve the quality of your city
spokane urban forest

Proper tree care can help improve cities. Photo by Guy Kramer

The seminar is free of charge. Lunch is not provided; attendees must bring their own.

To reserve a seat at the seminar, please reply to  no later than 4:00 p.m. on the last Friday prior to the seminar you wish to attend. Please indicate which seminar you will attend (see dates below) and include your name and title. Multiple reservations may be made in one message; please include all names and titles in the body of the message.

Registration is limited to 30 participants. Details including an agenda and parking information will be provided to registrants in the week prior to each seminar. Please forward this announcement to others in your area who may find it useful.

Join us at this no-cost seminar to learn more about managing your community trees and forests for maximum benefit. Upcoming seminars include:

Vancouver: Wednesday, May 11, 8:30-1:00

Richland: Wednesday, June 1, 8:30-1:00

Bellevue: Tuesday, June 21, 8:00-12:30

Mount Vernon: Wednesday, July 20, 8:30-1:00

Poulsbo: Wednesday, August 10, 8:30-1:00

Spokane: Wednesday, August 24, 8:30-1:00

Olympia: Wednesday, September 28, 8:30-1:00

Wenatchee: Thursday, October 27, 8:30-1:00

Please contact me if you have questions or concerns.

Ben Thompson

Urban Forestry Specialist

WA State Department of Natural Resources


Urban Forestry Restoration Project: Application Period Opens June 1

April 11, 2016

“Those young trees really need to be pruned.”

“We ordered 250 replacement street trees; how will we get those all in the ground next winter?”

“Help! English ivy is choking our forested parks to death!”

“Good grief, how do we handle this 20-foot-tall Himalayan blackberry?!”

Do any of these sound familiar to you? If so, help is available through the Urban Forestry Restoration Project. The Urban Forestry Restoration Project (UFRP) provides Puget SoundCorps crews to local governments or organizations to assist with urban forest maintenance and restoration tasks on public lands such as parks, rights-of-way, and forested open space. The young men and women who staff the crews are trained in tree identification, best practices for planting and pruning, and field-tested methods for removal and control of invasive plant species.

Crew member Hannah Campbell battles blackberries in Arlington WA. Photo by Christopher Andersson

Crew assistance is requested through an application process; successful applicants receive approximately four weeks of crew time that roughly correspond to calendar months. The project year begins on October 1, 2016, and runs through June 30, 2017. Proposed projects must lie within the Puget Sound Basin and must be on publicly-owned land. Applications are evaluated and ranked according to criteria that include:

  • Local commitment to urban forestry;
  • Water quality impacts and community benefits;
  • Project planning and coordination; and
  • Public support and volunteer involvement.

Applications for crew time will be accepted from June 1 through June 30, 2016. Excellent work by crews in previous years has increased demand for their services. Crew time is limited, however, and we anticipate that this year’s application process will be highly competitive.

More information and application forms are available online.

A Tree to Try–Mountain Hemlock

April 11, 2016

Mountain Hemlock, Tsuga mertensiana

I thought it would be good to have a look at a true Northwest native, the mountain hemlock. This is an alpine tree with an impressive range in the western United States: it grows at higher elevations from the coastal range in Alaska down through the entire Cascade Mountain range and into the central Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. To the east, this tree can be found throughout the Rocky Mountains in British Columbia, western Montana and Idaho.

Mountain hemlock foliage and cones

Mountain hemlock foliage and cones in Lacey, Washington. Photo by Bob Buzzo.

Mountain hemlock is a slow growing conifer that, in spite of its preference for mountainous growing conditions, still performs relatively well in the landscape at lower elevations. Regardless of where it grows, this tree keeps an excellent, narrow crown shape that is characteristic of many alpine conifer species. It can reach heights of 100’ or more in the wild but most specimens in the landscape are much shorter—around 50 feet—which make this tree desirable in urban planting locations where other native conifers might quickly outgrow the space.

Needles of the mountain hemlock are shorter than other native conifers and vary in length, approximately 3/4” and shorter. Foliage is also packed tightly on the stem, grey-green in color and ‘rosemary-like’ in appearance. Cones are small, usually about an inch and a half in length yet they provide interest all year long as they develop and mature.

Mountain hemlock

Mountain hemlock in Olympia, Washington. Photo by Judy Leeson Buzzo

The mountain hemlock is relatively pest free. It is a host for the wooly adelgid like other hemlock species, but wooly adelgid is generally not considered a serious problem in Washington state. This pest seems to prefer feeding on western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) over the mountain hemlock.

In the old days, the only way this tree found its way into the nursery trade was from ‘collected’ stock, that is, specimens that were harvested (in many cases, poached) from the wild. Today this tree is grown as an ornamental and several named cultivars are available in the trade such as ‘Elizabeth’ and ‘Glacier Peak’.

Mountain hemlock is relatively drought tolerant once established and the tree can live for many years in a large container. This tree is very hardy on both sides of the state but it will struggle in the hot afternoon sun east of the Cascades. In these hottest portions of eastern Washington, select the mountain hemlock for locations with a cooler microclimate such as the north sides of buildings.

This tree’s relatively slow growth and slender habit make it a good choice for a landscape that needs a smaller, well behaved native conifer. Mountain hemlock shed some needles year round like any conifer but this is only a minor inconvenience for a tree with so much else to offer.


By Robert Buzzo

Robert Buzzo has worked in the nursery industry in Western Washington for over 40 years. For the past 28 years he has been the Manager of Lawyer Nursery, Inc. in Olympia. He has a degree in Plant Science from UC Davis, is a Certified Professional Horticulturalist (CPH) and is a member of the Washington State Nursery & Landscape Association (WSNLA).

Firewise Workshops for your Community

April 11, 2016
Tree stand after Firewise treatment

Firewise communities reduce wildfire risks by thinning overgrown brush and tree stands as seen in this wildland-urban-interface location where slash is waiting to be chipped and dispersed. Photo: Steve McConnell/WSU.

Part I: What is Firewise

The Firewise Program has its origins in the 1985 fire season during which 1,400 homes were destroyed making fire managers acutely aware that the “wildland urban interface” where residences mix with undeveloped forest and open lands was an unavoidable reality of contemporary firefighting. It’s also a problem that it is national in scope; in other words, wherever there are forests. The term “Firewise” was coined in the early 1990s to identify the growing knowledge that landowners could use to reduce their fire risks. A website by this name was launched in 1997 by the National Fire Program Association.

Focused first on simply raising awareness of the potential for fires in semi-urban settings, Firewise program managers moved on quickly to the task of developing and providing information about the simple and practical techniques homeowners could use to reduce the risks of home destruction by wildfire.

The two greatest risks to homes during wildfires are: 1) Flammable roof, vulnerable to the embers thrown during a wildfire and, 2) Vegetation close to a house which can catch fire and generate enough heat or flames to ignite siding or other parts of the home’s structure.

Firewise went to work with this information to learn more about how structures burn and, in particular, what causes them to ignite. This led to the “International Crown Fire Experiments” of 1998 in the Northwest Territory. Scientists set large fires in, on and near structures of various types to obtain high quality data about how close vegetation could be to a structure yet not put that structure at risk of igniting from radiant heat. The three main takeaways from this research were that you can significantly reduce your fire risk by:

  • Clearing flammable trees and shrubs 30 feet or more from structures,
  • Making sure small flames in grass or shrubs cannot touch the home, and
  • Using nonflammable roof materials to minimize the damage that embers can cause.

With reliable, quantitative data in hand, Firewise and its partners disseminated information broadly with the primary message being “Your home CAN survive a wildfire.” Publications and videos are great tools but hands-on workshops put homeowners in direct contact with experts and enable attendees to ask specific questions about home materials, vegetation options and other factors that may affect their home’s survivability.

A playground in Mullen Hills Terrace, a Firewise community in Spokane County

A playground in Mullen Hills Terrace, a Firewise community in Spokane County, displays the results of proper wildfire risk reduction that still leaves adequate landscaping. Photo: Steve McConnell/WSU.

The interconnectedness of homes in the wildland urban interface – the neighbor with the row of arborvitae that abuts the side of your garage that abuts your house – quickly became apparent, and this led to the next big step – Firewise for Communities, not just individuals. The National Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program was begun in 2002 with a dozen pilot communities. A template was made for this voluntary program that allows for flexibility and respects the differences between communities. Training was provided to state forestry agencies to develop and assign state Firewise liaisons to help reach out to potential Firewise communities seeking to use the Firewise program template and become a designated Firewise Community. Today, there are more than 700 active Firewise communities in 40 states and the program is growing, we hope, at least as fast as the number of at-risk communities.

Part II: Why

Organizing a Firewise Community can be a challenging task as it is a voluntary program and requires the cooperation of homeowners who may have little in common except living in a defined geographic area and having a preference that their house not be engulfed by flames. Some Firewise communities are large gated communities on a hill and some are small trailer parks down by the river – the minimum requirement is two neighbors. In almost every occasion that a community is successfully formed, the work that made that happen began with one or two individuals who were spark plugs – people whose interest and energy inspired the rest of the community to join in.

There are some requirements for a community to get and retain recognition as being a Firewise Community, although there are many benefits as well, such as funds to implement an annual Firewise event, assistance from local and state experts in assessing and addressing specific risk factors, and cost-share funding to accomplish those goals. Currently the Washington State Department of Natural Resources seeks to increase Firewise communities in the state. New Firewise communities in eastern Washington may be eligible for some additional grant funds to conduct activities in their community. For more information contact Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan, 360-902-1391 or

Firewise workshops are designed to assist community “spark plugs” and provide them the technical information they need to make a compelling case for becoming Firewise, as well as provide a flexible tool kit they can use to encourage community involvement and match need to the community in which they live.

2014 Spokane-area Firewise Workshop

Participants in a 2014 Firewise workshop near Spokane take a field trip to a site being thinned to Firewise standards.

Firewise workshops provide a great overview to all homeowners of the technical aspects of protecting homes from wildfire. But where they excel is in providing a community perspective for assessing fire risk and discovering the most cost-effective ways to reduce that risk to acceptable levels. These programs also introduce attendees to Community Wildfire Protection Plans that have been prepared for almost every county in the state. These plans are rich with information about the historical prevalence of fire in any given area as well as the resources available to suppress fires. A review of past fires through wildland urban interface location is presented along with analyses of what went right, what did not and what could have been done differently. The analyses focus on the level of preparedness communities had had and how that preparedness factored in to fire outcome.

A new innovation to Firewise workshops in eastern Washington is a field tour for a first-hand look at situations that put communities at risk and the changes that were made as a result of a community becoming Firewise. In summary, Firewise programs provide YOU the tools you need to be effective. There is no time like the present to help your community as well as your home survive a fire. Attending a Firewise workshop is an excellent way to begin your journey towards that goal. And, as you may have heard… Firewise workshops are FREE and extremely informative. In addition to learning about the program, you will learn how to apply for cost-share opportunities that make implementing Firewise activities affordable and cost-effective for you.

Firewise zone concept

Firewise emphasizes creating zones with increasingly strict controls over vegetation the closer one gets to flammable structures. Image:

The next Firewise workshop scheduled in northeast Washington will be May 17 and 18 in the Spokane area. Keep an eye on the WSU Extension Forestry webpage for additional workshops around the state. In the meantime, take note that May 7 is Wildfire Community Preparedness Day.

By Steve McConnell , Forester, WSU Extension Program

Where to get more information: and Fire Adapted Communities