Forest Health Program
   

Growing Healthy Forests Throughout Washington

 
Growing healthy forests means using science to understand the needs of trees, bugs, fungi, fire, water, and more. The Department of Natural Resources develops information about all the types of forests that we manage—from rainforests on the Olympic Peninsula, to moderate Puget lowlands, to pine-dominated forests of eastern Washington. Our scientists carry out research and monitoring that DNR uses to make science-based decisions about its forest management practices. DNR's Forest Health Program works with federal and other partners to provide technical assistance about tree and forest health care to all types of public and private landowners. Whether you are interested in healthy tree growth, diseases or pests that affect trees, or in how to create older forest conditions next to streams, lakes, and rivers, DNR can assist.

 

Landowner Assistance

Forest Health Program entomologists and pathologists provide technical assistance and recommendations on tree and forest health care for state and private forest lands throughout Washington. We assist forest landowners and land managers with: identifying present or future forest insect and disease issues, as well as other adverse environmental problems such as drought, wind damage, or winter damage;  pest prevention and suppression activities such as slash disposal, blowdown salvage, sanitation salvage, thinning methods, planting recommendations and pheromone and pesticide applications;  pesticide use and hazard tree evaluations;  providing input into the development of forest management prescriptions that reduce the risk of forest stands from insects and disease; field and classroom training for professional foresters, forest landowners and school children regarding forest insect and disease identification, issues, conditions and management techniques. If you need assistance with any of these issues, please give us a call at 360-902-1300 or email forest_health@dnr.wa.gov.
 
OTHER RESOURCES
 
Firewise
DNR works with local fire districts, conservation districts, counties, and extension programs to help Washington residents benefit from the Firewise Communities/USA. Administered through the National Fire Protection Association, the Firewise Program encourages homeowners and communities to prepare for wildfire.
 
Forest Health Hazard Warning
Commissioner Goldmark issued a forest health hazard warning for portions of Ferry, Klickitat, Okanogan, and Yakima counties under the authority of Washington State Law RCW76.06 to notify residents of forest threats and prompt action to mitigate those risks.
 
Forest Stewardship Program
The Forest Stewardship Program provides land management advice and assistance to forest owners. The program helps assess resource conditions and forest health, identify problems and opportunities, and identify management practices to achieve objectives. The program is administered by the Small Forest Landowner Office.
 
Urban and Community Forestry Program
The Urban and Community Forestry (UCF) Program provides technical, educational and financial assistance to Washington’s cities and towns, counties, tribal governments, non-profit organizations, and educational institutions. UCF seeks to educate citizens and decision-makers about the economic, environmental, psychological and aesthetic benefits that healthy community trees provide.
 
Cost-Share Programs
Information and applications for DNR administered cost share programs to reduce wildfire risk can also be found on the Forest Stewardship Program site. Other programs through the Forest Stewardship Program are available to provide assistance with activities such as stewardship plan creation and implementing conservation practices.
 
Washington State University Extension
Washington State University Extension Forestry provides education and information about forest management to forest owners. The extension offers classes, workshops, field days, and publications. Additional forestry resources - such as coached planning sessions, publications, and videos - can be found at the WSU Extension website.

Forest Disease Information

Our trees and forests are subject to a wide variety of pests and diseases, which are usually caused by bacteria, viruses, and most commonly, fungi. Tree diseases can decay wood, decrease tree growth and cause tree mortality in both forested and urban environments. Overall, forest diseases can impact carbon sequestration, purification of water, reduction of flood risk and cultural and recreational values. Many of our diseases in Washington are native and have been here a long time, often directly influencing the biodiversity and nutrient cycling in forests. All parts of a tree, including roots, stems, branches, and foliage, can be infected by the different organisms that cause diseases, resulting in different impacts on a tree’s health.  They often have specific host preferences and environmental conditions in which they live, reproduce and spread. Non-native and invasive diseases are a constant threat to our forests since our trees have no natural defenses against the pathogens. Information about specific diseases and projects we are working on can be found below. If you have questions about tree diseases or other forest health questions, including management and treatment options, please contact our State Forest Pathologist, Dan Omdal, at 360-902-1692 or email dan.omdal@dnr.wa.gov.
 
PROJECTS
 
Bigleaf Maple Dieback and Decline
Coastal Washington Swiss Needle Cast Aerial and Ground Survey, 2016
                (Attached document (2016 SNC coop report))
 
Monitoring Blister Rust Resistance, Pathogen Virulence       
and Genetic Adaptability of Western White Pine in Washington and Oregon
                (Attached document (2015 WPBR project outline))
 
 Phytophthora ramorum Detection and Monitoring in Western Washington Waterways, 2015
                (Attached document (WADNR SOD EM poster….))
 
Seven- to 14-Year Effects of Artificially Inoculating Living Conifers to Promote Stem Decay and Subsequent Wildlife Use in Oregon and Washington Forests
                (Attached document (wildlife inoculation report USFS))
 
Western white pine resistance in western Washington: Operational planting and the latest in resistant stock types
                (Attached document (2016 WIFDWC state lands WPBR))
 
OTHER RESOURCES
 
Forest Management Guides
 
 Forest Insect and Disease Leaflets (FIDL’s)
                Foliar Diseases
                                Dothistroma Needle Blight
                                Swiss Needle Cast
                                Western Larch Foliar Disease
                            
                Root Diseases
                                Annosus Root Disease
                                Armillaria Root Disease
                                Black Stain Root Disease
                                Laminated Root Rot
                                Schweinitzii Root and Butt Rot
 
                Dwarf Mistletoes
                                Douglas-fir Dwarf Mistletoe
                                True Fir Dwarf Mistletoe
                                Hemlock Dwarf Mistletoe
                                Larch Dwarf Mistletoe
 
                Other Diseases
                                Elytroderma Disease of Ponderosa Pine

                                Western Gall Rust

Forest Insect Information

Forest Insects in Washington
 
DNR’s forest entomologists provide technical assistance to private landowners and state land managers with identification and management of forest insect pests.  The primary focus is on insects that cause mortality such as bark beetles, those that cause growth loss and stress such as defoliators, and those that affect wood quality.  We emphasize integrated forest pest management methods that focus on increasing stand resistance to insect attack and resilience following any damage that may occur.  Management strategies that can increase resistance and resilience include increasing vigor of leave trees through selective thinning, reducing the proportion susceptible hosts, altering stand structure and/or age classes, planting species appropriate for the site, and reducing available breeding material (slash management or salvage following storms and fires).  We annually monitor populations of Douglas-fir tussock moth and western spruce budworm in eastern Washington.  We assist with the annual aerial survey.  When unexpected levels of damage occur, we may conduct special monitoring projects to determine levels of mortality and potential causes.  We also provide assistance to state and private land managers with specific insect monitoring, stand evaluations, and suppression projects.  In some stands where forest health treatments have been applied, we install long-term plots to monitor changes in insect activity. If you have questions about forest insects in Washington, please contact our State Forest Entomologist, Glenn Kohler, at 360-902-1345 or email glenn.kohler@dnr.wa.gov.
 
PROJECTS
 
Bark beetle activity following blowdown in western Washington
                (Attach file in Folder = blowdown)
 
California fivespined Ips (Ips paraconfusus)
                (Attach file in Folder = CFI)
 
Green alder sawfly
                (attach file in Folder = GAS)
 
Oak pit scales in Oregon white oak
                (attach file in Folder = OPS)
 
Quaking aspen health
                (attach file in Folder = aspen)
 
Refining TPA estimates in aerial survey
                (Attach file in Folder = TPA estimates)
 
Western spruce budworm and Douglas-fir tussock moth (DFTM)
                (attach file in Folder = WSB_DFTM)
 
OTHER RESOURCES
 
Forest Management Guides
 
Bark Beetle Information
(Attach file in Folder = BB)
 
Cone and Seed Insects
 
Defoliator Information
(Attach file in Folder = Defol)
 
Eastern Washington Forests, Conifer Mortality Prediction Criteria
(attach file in Folder = Mort crit)
 
 
Pine Shoot Insects
 
 
White Pine Weevil in Sitka Spruce
(attach file in Folder = WPW)
Management of White Pine Weevil in Spruce (University of Idaho Extension)  
 
Forest Insect and Disease Leaflets (FIDL’s)
 
Bark beetles
 
Defoliators
 
Sucking Insects

Climate Change and Forest Health

Climate change projections suggest that Washington will have increased temperatures and decreased precipitation during the growing season in the future. This will undoubtedly contribute to tree stress, making them more susceptible to insects and diseases. Increases in tree mortality are likely to occur. The extensive droughts of 2012 and 2015 contributed to greater than expected tree mortality and damage across the state. Exceptional weather events are likely to increase in years to come, with more events similar to these.  Major forest pests that are known to increase damage following droughts and extreme weather events include bark beetles, root diseases and foliar diseases. Any changes in the population dynamics of forest insects and pathogens in response to climate will be dependent on the biology and phenology (climate-influenced recurring annual events, such as budding) of the species in question, their hosts and their natural enemies; all with varying responses to environmental conditions. To make matters more complicated, changes may vary by ecoregion. Research on climate change in these complex ecosystems is challenging and still evolving, and there is no clear consensus on future outcomes. However, a few themes have emerged:
  • If climate change results in more frequent and intense droughts we can expect to see more mortality from insect outbreaks and root diseases due to increased tree stress. However, these pests will still require their range of suitable hosts to maintain outbreaks.
  • In a warmer climate, insects can reduce their development time. For some bark beetle species, this may shorten the length of generation time or allow them to occupy ranges farther north in latitude or at higher elevations. In recent years, mountain pine beetle has been documented killing pines outside of its historic range in northern Canada. For some defoliators, the outcome of shorter development time may be more uncertain because they rely heavily on synchrony in time with their hosts.
  • Unseasonable extremes in temperatures can effect forest insects, but in various ways. Warmer winters could lead to greater survival of some bark beetles, with the greatest effect at higher latitudes and elevations where extreme cold has excluded them in the past. Early spring warmups could influence some insects to emerge out of synchrony with their hosts or expose larval stage defoliators to late freeze events. Sustained temperatures above or below an insect’s developmental thresholds may slow activity and delay development, possibly exposing them to natural controls longer.
For landowners and land managers it is challenging to know how to adapt to coming climate changes that are uncertain. In a changing climate it is more important than ever that DNR encourage and educate landowners to improve stand resistance to forest pests and resilience to recover from damage. Stand resistance and resilience can be increased by doing activities that increase tree vigor, reduce competition, increase species diversity and retain or plant species best adapted to the site.  Our number one forest health strategy for eastern Washington forests is to reduce stocking to site appropriate levels and foster site appropriate species composition so the forests will be better adapted to the current climate.  This is also our best statewide forest health climate change adaptation strategy as drought conditions are expected to worsen over the coming decades thereby reducing the tree carrying capacity of many sites.
If you have questions about climate change and forest health, please contact us at 360-902-1300 or email forest_health@dnr.wa.gov.
 
OTHER RESOURCES
 
Climate Impacts Group, University of Washington
 
Climate Change, US Forest Service
 
 
Climate and Health, WA State Department of Health
 
Climate Change, WA Department of Ecology

Fire and Forest Health

Melissa Fischer (WA DNR), Glenn Kohler (WA DNR) and Karen Ripley (US Forest Service)
12/28/2016
Fire is a natural process that many ecosystems depend upon to maintain their structure and function.  Although it is difficult not to think of fire from a destructive point of view, it is in fact a natural process of renewal, and a catalyst for promoting biological diversity and healthy ecosystems.  Some plant species are actually adapted to fire.  For instance, lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia) have serotinous cones that are retained in the tree canopy for long periods of time.  When a fire burns through a lodgepole pine stand, thousands of seeds are released as the resin seal that encloses the cones melts thereby allowing it to reproduce prolifically following a fire.
 
Fire Regimes
The PNW is characterized by a diversity of vegetation types and fire regimes that range from frequent surface fires to infrequent high-severity fires.
High severity fire regimes are generally located in cool, wet environments at higher elevations where subalpine forests are located.  These forests typically consist of tree species such as subalpine fir, lodgepole pine, Engelmann spruce, and whitebark pine.  Fire intervals can range greatly, (100-300 years), and are typically stand replacing.
 
Moderate severity fire regimes tend to occur at mid-elevation zones where dry Douglas-fir forests persist.  Other tree species that may be found within this zone include grand fir, subalpine fir, lodgepole pine, red cedar, western hemlock and western larch.  Moderate severity fires occur at intervals of 25-100 years and leave a mosaic of lightly burnt to severely burnt areas.
Low severity fire regimes are characterized by fires that occur at frequent intervals (1-25 years).  Fuel has a limited time to accumulate and returning fires are of low intensity.  Ponderosa pine forests are indicative of the low severity fire regime.
 
Historical Conditions
 
The PNW was historically subjected to fires of a variety of frequencies, intensities, and extent.
How do we know what the historic fire regimes were?  Some information comes from human sources such as records of explorers, or land surveyors as they were establishing section corners.  Some information comes from the forested ecosystem itself, such as the presence of charcoal layers in the soil and the even-aged character of some forests.  Trees themselves record history through the growth rings that develop each year.  When a fire burns through an area, the growth rings may be scarred.  A fire scar tells us the year the fire occurred and may also reveal the season of fire occurrence based upon the position of the scar (in the early, middle, or late wood).
 
Figure 1.  Burn scars (white arrows) in the cross section of a giant sequoia.  The numbers represent the year each fire occurred.  (Credit: Tom Swetnam). 
Historically, dry forests of the PNW experienced low and mixed severity fire regimes.  Low severity, frequent fires eliminated fuel ladders, elevated tree crown bases, reduced competition for site resources among surviving trees, shrubs, and herbs, promoted the growth of a low and patchy shrub and herb cover, and cycled nutrients from foliage and branches into the soil.  This resulted in forests dominated by large, widely spaced, fire-tolerant ponderosa pine with little accumulation of coarse woody debris on the forest floor.  Severe fire behavior and effects were uncharacteristic of dry forest-dominated landscapes.
 
Current Conditions
Wildfire size, severity, and frequency have been increasing, particularly in the lower elevation dry forest types.  This is mainly due to past and present fire suppression efforts.  Fire suppression in these forests has resulted in heavy fuel loads, species composition shifts, smaller than average tree size and multi-layered canopies that act as fuel ladders.
In addition to these ecosystem changes, aggressive fire suppression essentially ensures that most fires occur only during extreme weather conditions, such as those seen in 2015.  This results in high intensity fires in areas that historically did not experience them.
In addition to wildfire size, severity and frequency, fire suppression has also affected general forest health.  Douglas-fir and true firs are not as well adapted to dry sites as ponderosa pine and western larch and consequently suffer physiological stress when subjected to hot, dry summers and especially drought.  Stressed trees are more likely to succumb to insect and disease problems such as bark beetles and root disease.  Insect outbreaks can reach epidemic proportions with the presence of stressed and dying, off-site species that offer an abundance of food to sustain populations.Climate change and fire projection models indicate that fire frequency and extent will only increase due to increased temperatures, earlier spring snow melt and longer fire seasons.  So what can be done? Trends and projections of climate and fire responses suggest that there is an immediate need to mitigate and adapt to increased wildfire events in order to sustain forest landscapes. Accumulated fuels in dry forests need to be reduced so that when fire occurs, rather than becoming a conflagration that destroys the entire stand, it is more likely to burn along the surface at low-moderate intensity, consuming many small trees and restoring forest resilience to future drought, insect and/or disease problems and fire.
Various combinations of thinning, slash treatments, and prescribed burning can be used for restoration.  Mechanical thinning can reduce tree density and some fuels, but prescribed burning is usually more efficient, cost-effective, and ecologically beneficial than mechanical treatments, and the most effective means for controlling the rate of spread and severity of wildfire.  Unfortunately, prescribed fire is rarely used because of liability and casualty risks, public objections to smoke, and little tolerance for management errors.  In the end, fires are inevitable in these ecosystems, therefore as Hessburg et al. 2005 state, we may have to make a choice as to what type of fire and smoke we would prefer; “that associated with wildfires or that which is actively prescribed and managed”.
 
How you can help…
Most fires are human caused, often due to neglected campfires, sparks, irresponsibly discarded cigarettes and more often than not; debris burning.  Significantly less fires may be started if increased caution is taken.  For information on current fire danger and outdoor burning restrictions see: https://fortress.wa.gov/dnr/protection/firedanger/
 
Post-fire Management
Management of your forested property post-burn may depend upon several factors, some of which include the severity of the burn, the season of the fire, the tree species affected, and your management goals.  A good place to start is to determine which trees are dead and which are alive, and the percent of live trees that may die from secondary effects such as bark beetles.  If you plan to salvage harvest, the more quickly this is done, the better, as wood-rotting fungi will soon colonize fire-killed and/or damaged trees, decreasing their economic value.  Additionally, numerous stressed trees can potentially lead to a bark beetle outbreak.
 
Will trees die from fire injuries?
How can you tell if a tree will die from fire injuries?  There are five categories of injury that are useful when assessing your trees following a fire: foliage consumption, needle set, crown scorch, damage to the buds, and stem char.
Foliage consumption is basically when needles have been burned away (Figure 2A).  Any foliage consumption usually indicates that there’s been sufficient heat and exposure to the fire to kill the tree and should be considered an indicator of lethal injuries.
 
Figure 2.  A.  Ponderosa pine with live needles consumed and B. Ponderosa pine sapling with needles “set” in the direction the heat and fire moved past it. 
 
Needle set occurs when needles have been severely scorched and pushed in the direction the fire moved (Figure 2B).  They will appear discolored and will be retained in an unnatural position.  These needles may remain on the tree for years.  Similar to foliage consumption, needle set usually indicates that there has been sufficient heat and exposure to the fire to kill the tree and should be considered an indicator of lethal injuries.
Crown scorch is caused by hot gases rising from a fire burning along the ground.  Crown scorch volume indicates the level of exposure to the fire, and when integrated with information about tree species and size, provides a reliable estimate of likely tree survival.
 Scorched needles will have been changed to a dull orange or grey-brown color, they are not burned away.  To determine crown scorch volume, you want to estimate what percent of the volume of previously living crown is now scorched.  Let us use Figure 3 to estimate tree survival using crown scorch volume.  The tree on the left appears to have approximately 40% crown scorch (needles are reddish in color), while the tree on the right appears to have approximately 75% crown scorch.
Two additional pieces of information you will need to know is the species of tree you are assessing and the DBH.  DBH stands for “diameter at breast height” and is a measurement of the diameter of the tree bole at 4.5 feet from the ground.  The two trees in the picture are both ponderosa pine.  The tree on the left has a diameter of 20 inches and the tree on the right has a diameter of 14 inches.
Taking this information, you can determine the probability of mortality for each tree using charts in the book, After the Burn by Yvonne C. Barkley.  This book is available online for free at: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/sites/default/files/community_pgs/wildfire_after_the_burn_2011.pdf  You want to be sure to use the chart that is specific for the tree species you are examining.
 
Figure 3.  Two ponderosa pine showing different degrees of crown scorch.
Figure 4 shows the probability of fire-induced mortality for ponderosa pine of different sizes and differing levels of crown scorch volume.  You can see from the chart that a ponderosa pine with a DBH of 20 inches and 40% crown scorch (our tree on the left, Figure 3) has a 10% probability of fire-induced mortality, while a ponderosa pine with a DBH of 14 and 75% crown scorch (our tree on the right, Figure 3) has an approximate 70% probability of fire-induced mortality.  Because the tree on the right has such a high probability of mortality, it may be a tree you would want to remove.
 
Figure 4.  Chart from the book After the Burn by Yvonne C. Barkley showing the probability of fire-induced mortality for ponderosa pine using DBH (diameter at breast height, inches) and crown scorch volume (%). 
 
A major factor determining whether a conifer with crown scorch can survive is the damage to the buds.  Determine whether the buds were killed by slicing through one to examine its interior.  If the interior is brown and punky, the bud is dead.  If it’s green and succulent, it is alive.  Even if all the needles on a branch were scorched, if the buds survive that’s a good sign.
Stem char occurs when the trunk of the tree has been burned.  Char is not simply the surface of the bark blackened by smoke or soot; the tree trunk tissue has been altered.  It may be burned away or changed to a black, Styrofoam-like crumbly tissue.  Stem char happens when the bark catches fire alone or in close proximity to other burning material like fallen logs.  It indicates a significant exposure to injurious heat, but is not always lethal.  To evaluate injury, sample the cambium (inner bark) in as small an area as possible on four equally spaced locations around the trunk and within three inches of the ground line to minimize wounding. Dead cambium is darker in color, often resin soaked, and hard or gummy in texture.  Live cambium is lighter in color and rather pliable.  If inner bark is destroyed on more than 50% of bole circumference, survival is unlikely Figure 5.  Evaluation of cambium injury.
 
There are a few additional factors to keep in mind when assessing your trees after a fire: 1. trees tend to be more sensitive to fires that occur before August 1st than after because early in the growing season trees are more metabolically active; 2. trees on poor sites (rocky, sandy, dry) are more sensitive than trees on good sites; 3. trees with thin bark (i.e. grand fir) are more sensitive than trees with thick bark (i.e. ponderosa pine) because thin bark provides less insulation for the metabolically active tissues; 4. trees with small buds (Douglas-fir) are more sensitive than trees with large buds (ponderosa pine) because small buds have more exposed surface area and less insulating mass; and 5. trees in poor health are more sensitive than trees in good health because weak trees have fewer reserves to recover from injury.
Most long term studies have shown that fire related mortality is greater during the second growing season following a fire than that observed during the first.  Why would this be?  One reason is that some species of bark beetles are very attracted to fire damaged trees and begin to attack these trees following fire.
 
Bark Beetles and Fire
Beetle epidemics following wildfires are a possibility, but not a given.  Several factors have to be in place in order for an outbreak to occur.  For one, fires must occur at a time of the year when beetles are in the adult stage and can quickly infest the tree.  In line with that, there must be a population of beetles within a reasonable distance.  Additionally, there must be a sufficient supply of undamaged phloem.  For this reason, trees in areas that have experienced moderate burns are at the greatest risk of infestation, not necessarily the severely burned trees.  This is because moderate burns provide bark beetles with a large supply of stressed trees that still have intact phloem.   In severely burned trees, the phloem will be too dry and therefore uninhabitable.
Beetle-induced mortality to fire injured trees occurs primarily in the first year or two following fire.  Additional mortality may occur when a high beetle population develops in the fire-injured trees and attacks the fire survivors the following year.  The extent and duration of this subsequent mortality depends on the size of the bark beetle populations and vigor of remaining trees.
General post-fire bark beetle management includes salvaging fire damaged and infested trees before the next beetle flight.  Life cycles vary among the different bark beetle species, therefore you may want to contact your local forest health specialist to determine which species you are working with.  Maintaining a low stand density may be helpful as this will increase the vigor of the residual trees.  Vigorous trees with plenty of access to water, light, and nutrients are best equipped to defend against bark beetle attack.  Trees need these resources to maintain pitch flow and defensive chemicals. Pesticides can be used to prevent attack on high value trees, but this technique is expensive and could negatively affect natural insect predators if it is not used in a manner which will best preserve them.  Remember to always read and follow the label when using pesticides.
In light burns, the amount of bark beetle attraction depends mostly on the amount of root collar damage.  Most thick barked species such as mature Douglas-fir, western larch and ponderosa pine will have lower mortality and not attract beetles unless smoldering duff significantly damages roots or root collars.  Thin barked species such as true firs can tolerate little damage at ground level without significant stress, making them much more susceptible to bark beetle attack.  Look for trees that have little apparent bole or crown damage, but may be completely girdled at the root collar (can use stem char method).
 
References
Agee, J.K. 1989. Wildfire in the Pacific West: A brief history and implications for the future. USDA Forest Service Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-109.
Agee, J.K. 1993. Fire Ecology of Pacific Northwest forests.  Island Press. Washington D.C. 505p.
Barkley, Y.C. 2006. After the burn: Assessing and managing your forestland after a wildfire.  Idaho Forest, Wildlife and Range Experiment Station, Moscow Idaho. Station Bulletin No. 76
Hessburg, P.F., J.K. Agee, and J.F. Franklin. 2005. Dry forests and wildland fires of the inland Northwest USA: Contrasting the landscape ecology of the pre-settlement and modern eras. Forest Ecology and Management. 211: 117-139.
North, M.P., S.L. Stephens, B.M. Collins, J.K. Agee, G. Aplet, J.F. Franklin, and P.Z. Fule. 2015. Reform forest fire management: Agency incentives undermine policy effectiveness. Science. 349(6254): 1280-1281.
Pacific Biodiversity Institute. Fire Ecology. http://www.pacificbio.org/initiatives/fire/fire_ecology.html       Accessed: December 7, 2016.
Spies, T.A., D.B. Lindenmayer, A.M. Gill, S.L. Stephens, and J.K. Agee. 2012.  Challenges and a checklist for biodiversity conservation in fire-prone forests: Perspectives from the Pacific Northwest of USA and Southeastern Australia. Biological Conservation. 145: 5-14.
Stephens, S.L., J.K. Agee, P.Z. Fule, M.P. North, W.H. Romme, T.W. Swetnam, and M.G. Turner. 2013. Managing forests and fire in changing climates. Science. 342: 41-42.
Wright, C.S. and J.K. Agee. 2004. Fire and vegetation history in the eastern Cascade Mountains, Washington. Ecological Applications. 14(2): 443-459.

Forest Health Restoration

Over the last several years DNR has taken an active leadership role to increase the pace and scale of forest restoration across all lands in eastern Washington to improve forest health and protect communities.  Forest health program staff have played a critical role in collaborating with partners to increase the pace and scale of restoration.  DNR participates in the Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative and the North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative.  The Forest Health staff have led many agency efforts over the last several years designed to increase the pace and scale of forest health restoration including:  the state’s first Forest Health Hazard Warning issued by the Commissioner of Public Lands in 2012; a 2014 Forest Health Report to the Washington Legislature which characterized the scope of eastern Washington Forest Health issues and strategies to create resilient forests; and provided leadership with partners to obtain millions of dollars to treat thousands of acres in and adjacent to the Colville National Forest and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest through the Joint Chiefs Landscape Restoration Partnership.

If you have questions about the DNR’s Forest Health Restoration projects, please contact us at 360-902-1300 or email forest_health@dnr.wa.gov.

Wood Energy and Biomass Utilization

Forest Biomass refers to by-products of forest management activities or forest health treatments prescribed under the State’s forest health law.  Using forest biomass reduces the risk of forest fires, energy costs, carbon emissions that result from forest fires, dependence on foreign oil and the loss of forest resources to pest and diseases.  DNR’s goal is to increase forest biomass utilization to improve forest health and reduce wildfire risks.Washington’s forests have an abundant renewable supply of woody biomass and many forests in eastern Washington need thinning to restore health stand conditions.  However, many of the trees have no value in existing commercial markets because they are too small or the trees are too far from any forest products mills.  Using some of this material for liquid transportation fuel, heating, electrical power and innovative forest products such as cross-laminated timber will play an important role in the State’s emerging green economy, forest health restoration and help address climate change.
 
Forest biomass and wood energy activities at the DNR include:
  • Serving on the advisory committee of the Northwest Advances Renewables Alliance (NARA), which completed a demonstration flight in November, 2016, with Alaska Airlines using jet fuel made from slash piles.
  • WA State Forest Biomass Coordination Group, coordinated by the DNR, WA Dept. of Commerce and WSU Extension Energy Program, provides an opportunity for all stakeholders to collaborate, share information and provide guidance for forest biomass and wood energy efforts in the state.
  • $1.35 million in grants from the USDA Forest Service have been given to the DNR for work on wood energy and biomass utilization projects.
 

If you have questions about the DNR’s wood energy and biomass utilization projects, please contact Chuck Hersey at 360-902-1045 or email chuck.hersey@dnr.wa.gov.

Annual Forest Health Highlights Reports

The Forest Health Highlights in Washington report is published annually by DNR’s Forest Health Program and the USDA Forest Service each spring. It summarizes the major forest insect and disease conditions from the previous year across all ownerships throughout Washington State. Much of what is reported are results of aerial surveys and ground based surveys, but it also includes information on special monitoring projects, suppression projects, and other forest-health related projects and initiatives. It also includes information on recent forest damaging weather events, droughts, and wildfires. Electronic copies of the most recent report is available here. Printed copies are available on request by contacting 360-902-1300 or forest_health@dnr.wa.gov.
 
Forest Health Highlights in Washington – 2015

Aerial Survey Information

Systematic aerial surveys are conducted to collect and report on forest insects, diseases, and other disturbances across federal, state, tribal and private lands. These surveys have been conducted annually since 1947 in the Pacific Northwest by USDA Forest Service (USFS) with the cooperation of State and private partners since 1948. Aerial surveys have proven to be an efficient and economical way to detect and monitor forest change events over large forested areas. Statewide aerial surveys are conducted each year to assess forest health in Washington State. They capture mortality and discoloration caused by insects, diseases and abiotic disturbances. This relatively low cost remote sensing method gives a coarse, landscape-level overview of forest conditions. The data collected are then used with other remote sensing and ground sampling techniques to further enhance the data accuracy of significant forest health events and changes.

 
Aerial Survey Data Collection Methods
 
The primary data collection method is known as aerial sketchmapping. Data are collected by specially trained aerial observers from the USFS and Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The necessary components to make this survey happen are a high-winged aircraft that provides good visibility and can fly at relatively slow speeds between 1,000 to 2,000 feet above ground level, a safety conscious pilot, and an experienced sketchmapper who can identify forest damage observed on the ground and plot it on a map while moving in the air. Areas of forest damage are recorded as polygons using a Digital Aerial Sketchmapping System (DASM). The DASM uses a moving map display, GPS, and a touch screen to create a digital version of the data while in the aircraft. The polygons are coded with attributes such as tree species affected, number of trees (or trees per acre) affected, likely cause of damage, and severity of damage. This advanced digital sketchmapping system allows rapid summarization and near real time reporting of tree mortality and damage. This is an extremely valuable tool for forest managers and other clients who can use the data to make timely decisions and assessments. Watch this video showing how the DNR and USFS conduct an aerial survey to assess the forest health of Washington State.
 
For more information on the aerial survey program, please contact Aleksandar Dozic at 360-902-1320 or email aleksandar.dozic@dnr.wa.gov.
 
OTHER RESOURCES
 
 The Forest Health Highlights in Washington* report is published annually by the Forest Health Program. It summarizes the major insect and disease activities in Washington State.  (*LINK TO FOREST HEALTH HIGHLIGHTS PAGE)
 
Access the WA Aerial Survey GIS data (under Forest Disturbance category).
 
Find the aerial survey data for your area on a 100K quad map.

An interactive web service for the Forest Health Aerial Survey data can be here. This is the place where the most current Annual and Cumulative Aerial Survey data are displayed. Users can create their own PDF, JPG, and PNG maps of the field of view by clicking on the printer icon in the upper right corner. Note: The Cumulative Aerial Survey data set contains several million polygons, so to speed up the loading process, the user may want to zoom in until “15 Year Mortality Indicator 2001-2015” title on the left switches from grey to black.