Washington Residents Should Anticipate Impacts from Emerald Ash Borer

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Emerald Ash Borers make a D-shaped hole when leaving a tree. (Joey Hulbert, WSU Extension)

By Kevin Zobrist, kevin.zobrist@wsu.edu, Patrick Shults, patrick.shults@wsu.edu and Joey Hulbert, hulbe@wsu.edu, Washington State University

Landowners and municipalities should be prepared to report sightings and deal with the aftermath of an aggressive borer insect recently confirmed to be in the Pacific Northwest, which could have dire consequences for Washington’s native and ornamental ash tree species.

Emerald ash borer (EAB) is an invasive pest that causes high levels of mortality of North American ash species. It was accidentally introduced to North America in Michigan in the 1990s. Its first known occurrence on the West Coast was confirmed in northwest Oregon in July 2022. The Pacific Northwest region can expect significant losses of the native Oregon ash (Fraxinus latifolia) as well as the ornamental ashes commonly found in urban forests and home landscapes in communities around the region.

The introduction of EAB has changed forests and communities in the eastern United States by practically eliminating ash species from the landscape. Many states and communities have tried to mitigate the spread and impact of EAB, but its recent spread to Oregon demonstrates of the difficulty of containing this aggressive pest. Land managers and communities are encouraged to prepare for the seemingly inevitable spread of EAB into Washington.

Oregon ash is an important tree for ecosystems and communities in the Pacific Northwest. It is endemic to the west coast where it is distributed from central California to the Puget Sound area. It is a dominant component of riparian and wetland areas where it helps protect water quality and provides habitat for salmon and other aquatic species. Oregon ash and ornamental ash trees are also important components of urban forests where their large canopies provide shade and other ecosystem services for communities. The loss of ash trees in the Pacific Northwest will diminish ecosystem functions in sensitive areas. It will also cause a loss of valuable ecosystem services and require the expensive removal of hazardous dead trees in urban landscapes.

Land managers and municipalities should identify vulnerable areas and prepare for the arrival of EAB. Property owners and municipalities should avoid planting ash species. In natural areas, alternatives to Oregon ash include black cottonwood, willows, red alder, and western redcedar. There are numerous non-ash options for urban forests. Existing high value ash trees in urban forests can be protected by biennial stem injections of emamectin benzoate. These injections must be done by pesticide-licensed tree care professionals. The use of certain parasitoid wasps as biocontrol agents is a promising long-term control option for both urban forests and natural areas, but biocontrols will not stop initial outbreaks. More specific recommendations will be available soon from WSU Extension.

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Ash trees in urban communities, like these, are vulnerable to the Emerald Ash Borer. (Joey Hulbert, WSU Extension)

Individuals and municipalities are encouraged to report signs of EAB infestations in ash trees such as adult insects, larval galleries, or D-shaped exit holes in the bark. Symptoms of EAB infestations include crown dieback, wilting, leaf chlorosis, early leaf drop in autumn, and extensive woodpecker activity. Anyone who observes these symptoms on ash trees is encouraged to check for and report signs to the Washington Invasive Species Council or Washington State Department of Agriculture via the Washington Invasives mobile application. Local WSU County Extension offices can help concerned citizens confirm signs and symptoms. Non-ash species are not affected by EAB.

Researchers are working to develop planting stock of North American ash species that is genetically resistant to EAB. Researchers are also continuing to investigate biocontrol options and develop next-generation insecticides. WSU Extension will continue to share updates with the public as information becomes available.

In the meantime, WSU Extension will be hosting two evening workshops in southwest Washington (Ridgefield and Olympia) in early October.  Participants will be trained in proper identification of ash trees, EAB symptoms, and the beetle itself.  Implications for management will also be discussed.  To learn more, go to https://forestry.wsu.edu/sw/events/eab/.  Registration closes at noon on Oct. 4.

Additional Resources:

A Day Out in the Sugarbush: WSU Promotes Harvesting Sap, Refining Syrup from Bigleaf Maples

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WSU Extension Forester Patrick Shults led a class on bigleaf maple sugaring Sept. 9 at the Meyer’s Point Environmental Field Station near Olympia. (Natalie Johnson/DNR)

By Natalie Johnson, communications manager, DNR, natalie.johnson@dnr.wa.gov

Maple syrup is synonymous with the east-coast deciduous forests, rich with sugar maple trees, but some syrup enthusiasts are creating their own flavor of the kitchen staple closer to home – with the Pacific Northwest’s bigleaf maple.

Patrick Shults is Washington State University’s Extension forester for Southwest Washington, and the facilities manager at the Meyer’s Point Environmental Field Station near Olympia.

On Sept. 9, he led a day-long class at the field station’s “sugarbush” on bigleaf maple sugaring, covering all the basics from identifying a bigleaf maple to distilling its sap into syrup.

Shults started exploring bigleaf maple sugaring during the dullest days of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, inspired by a University of Washington research project on bigleaf maple syrup production. He is now part of a growing community of tree tappers in Washington.

“There’s other regions that are exploring this as well,” Shults said. “In Utah they’re looking at bigtooth maple, which they actually found has sugar content upwards of 4%.”

All maple trees, members of the Acer family, can be tapped for their sap, which then can then be distilled into syrup, as can species of birch, walnut, sycamore and fruit trees. However, each species has a different sugar content and taste.

“Technically you can tap any tree, you just don’t know if you’re going to like what comes out of it,” Shults said.

East-coast sugar maple sap has a 2- to 3% sugar content, while bigleaf maple sap is 1 to 1 1/2% sugar. That means it takes twice as much bigleaf maple sap as sugar maple sap to make the same amount of syrup. The finished syrup should 66.7% sugar.

The Meyer’s Point forest had 280 taps, and last year harvested 3,000 gallons of sap, which resulted in 30 to 35 gallons of syrup. That ratio is one of the reasons bigleaf maple syrup is considerably more expensive than traditional sugar maple syrup.

The syrup tends to taste different depending on where it comes from and who refines it, similar to wine, Shults said. Overall the flavor of bigleaf maple is much stronger than the syrup you’re used to buying at the store.

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Participants learned how to drill taps in maple trees at the class. (Natalie Johnson/DNR)

Step One: Find a Tree

The first lesson of the day was how to recognize a bigleaf maple,apart from their distinctive leaves. On a tree without leaves, Shults told participants to look at the stems. Leaves, or the notches they grow from, grow opposite each other on a bigleaf maple, rather than alternately on the stem as in other species.

The location of the trees — including the elevation and slope — matters when picking the right trees to tap. Trees, or stems, should be 10 inches in diameter or larger, though some of the largest trees tend to not produce as well as younger trees, Shults said.

The Meyer’s Point sugarbush – a typical term used on the east coast to describe an area with maple trees tapped for their sap –  is unique. The WSU-owned property includes 95 acres of land, a portion of it forested. In the past, bigleaf maples were cleared off the property, but the stumps were never treated with herbicide after the harvest, Shults said, which caused them to sprout numerous stems from each stump.

Today, there are about 700 stems per acre at the densest points of the Meyer Point sugarbush. While Shults is making use of the numerous stems for his maple syrup project, he said the vegetation is too dense on the property, and should be thinned for the health of the remaining trees in the near future.

A small operation could involve tapping a few trees, with each tap connected to a tube draining the sap into a bucket or bag. A larger effort, like Shults’, could involve hundreds of feet of tubes connecting dozens of trees, leading downhill to a collecting point.

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Participant David Morgan, center, learns techniques to work with the rubber tubing used in maple sap harvesting, with help from DNR regulation assistance forester Hollis Crapo, left. (Natalie Johnson/DNR)

Step Two: Wait for a Freeze

What causes sap to flow? Temperature swings. The best sap flows come on thawing days after freezing nights. That means the overnight temperature must get below 32 degrees F, then warm up during the day.

“The higher relative pressure inside the tree compared to outside the tree pushes the sap out, and that’s how we’re collecting the sap,” Shults said.

While average winter temperatures are much warmer in Western Washington than in the northeast, that actually works in the Washington forest owner’s favor.

“Our sap season is longer than the east coast,” Shults said.

On the east coast, they have to wait for thawing temperatures in March and April.

“Then they get a series of nights that are below 32 and then above, in the 40s, during the day and that’s the bulk of their sap season,” Shults said. “Here, we’re waiting for the freeze.”

Freezing nights in Western Washington can start as early as November and last until March. The benefit of the longer sap season is tempered however by the unpredictability of a freeze. You may only get a few days advance notice of a freeze and thaw cycle, Shults said.

Each tap lasts from four to six weeks, meaning an industrious worker can change taps two to three times in a season. No tree can be tapped in exactly the same place twice, and Shults recommended using tree paint to keep track of tap locations.

“The most common question I get is does tapping hurt the tree and the answer is yes, but you can do it sustainably,” Shults said. “It’s kind of like drawing blood.”

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Shults uses this outdoor “sugar shack” to boil down the maple sap into maple syrup. (Natalie Johnson/DNR)

Step 3: Boil ‘til You Drop

Collecting sap is a fairly simple process. The more complicated, and expensive, process is distilling the sap from a 1% sugar solution to a 66.7% sugar syrup.

The process is essentially boiling the sap to reduce it to a syrup. On a small scale, a pot on a stove can do the job, but once you get into hundreds or thousands of gallons of sap, the process requires more specialized equipment.

“This is where the investment is,” Shults said.

Shults began his distilling efforts with what he calls a “backwoods evaporator” using a wood fire to boil down the syrup. For larger batches, he now uses a reverse osmosis machine to begin reducing the liquid and boosting the sugar content. Then he uses a larger evaporator in a covered outdoor area, which he calls the sugar shack, to finish the process. It’s possible to do the work inside, in a kitchen, he said, but cautioned against it due to inevitable boil-overs, steam, and sticky, mapley messes.

Once you’ve got the syrup, you can put it on pancakes of course, but Shults recommends it on bacon, on roasted vegetables, or in cocktails, among other culinary uses. You can infuse it with cinnamon or coffee, or use it to flavor whisky.

Try it for Yourself

A handful of people at the Sept. 9 class had tried making their own bigleaf maple syrup before – many because of previous talks given on the subject by Shults.

“We tapped 20 trees and we watched the forecast every day,” said Kim Conner, of Thurston County. “We got our neighbor to do it.”

Armed with new information and tips from the class, many said they wanted to try again or for the first time this winter.

“We have so many (bigleaf maples), I might as well get some benefit from it,” said Laurel Smith, of Rochester.

There are a number of resources if you’re also interested in tapping your trees.

Subscribe to the Washington Bigleaf Maple Syrup Network

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Shults’ network of blue rubber tubes connect more than 200 taps in the bigleaf maple “sugarbush” at the Meyer’s Point Environmental Field Station near Olympia. (Natalie Johnson/DNR)

DNR’s Service Forestry Program Grows to Better Serve East- and Westside Landowners

By Matt Provencher, Service Forestry Program Manager. matt.provencher@dnr.wa.gov

You’ve probably read in recently editions of Forest Stewardship Notes or the Small Forest Landowner Newsletter of some of the recent changes happening in the Washington Department of Natural Resources’ Small Forest Landowner Office. Well, Service Forestry has been going through some changes as well and I’d like to take the opportunity to update our community about these changes as well.

Many of you may be familiar with what was our eastern Washington Landowner Assistance Program. This program provided financial assistance to small forest landowner for certain practices to improve forest health or reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire on their property. We also had our statewide Stewardship program that provide forest management advice and recommendations to landowners, help them write their own management plans, and provide wildlife management advice as well. These two program have combined into the Service Forestry Program, with the service forester being the primary point of contact for small forest landowners in Washington who are looking for advice, information, recommendations and financial assistance for their property.

In Eastern Washington, our former landowner assistance foresters are now your service forester. Currently, there 11 service foresters in Eastern Washington, a slight increase from over the past couple of years. In Western Washington the program has significantly expanded from one person for the entire westside to eight service foresters spread out across DNR regions. This means a decreased response time and an increase in the level of service that landowners in western Washington can expect. In total, we have now 19 service foresters spread throughout the state to help landowners steward their property.

So the next question you might ask is how do I find my service forester? First, the DNR has developed the Find Your Forester Tool. You can search by address or just click on the map and not only find your service forester but also your wildlife biologist, regulation assistance forester and other foresters or staff that can help landowners. If you’re unsure of who you should contact, just contact your service forester who can make sure you get to the right person to help you. We also have the Landowner Assistance Portal (read more about this in the next article) that can give landowners information on the various programs and services that we offer and is a great place to start for landowners just beginning their journey in forest stewardship.

Whether you’re just starting or are a seasoned tree farmer, our Service Forestry Program is here to help. Whether you are looking for advice, recommendations, financial assistance or just want to take a walk in the woods with a forester, we stand ready to assist you!

Have You Checked Out DNR’s New Landowner Assistance Portal?

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By Natalie Johnson, communications manager, DNR, natalie.johnson@dnr.wa.gov

From consultations with service foresters, to assistance with stewardship planning, to fish passage funding, to help navigating complex regulations, if you’re a forest landowner, the Washington Department of Natural Resources probably has a program that could help you.

In an effort to make its existing programming more accessible, last month DNR launched its new Landowner Assistance Portal. The navigation tool is designed to help landowners search by topic for general information, technical and financial assistance, and help with permits and regulations to help keep their forest healthy, productive and resilient to wildfire.

The portal is intended to be a one-stop shop for forest landowners with questions about a wide variety of topics, gathered earlier this year through an informal survey process.

When visiting the tool, located at dnr.wa.gov/LandownerAssistancePortal, users will find 34 of DNR’s most searched-for subjects sorted into four categories: Resources for Managing My Forest, Keeping My Forest Healthy, Education and Training, and Permits and Regulations.

Each of the tabs under those four headings directs users to a variety of links both within DNR’s website and to partner agencies, including WSU Extension Forestry.

Users are also invited to review suggested reading on many of the topics, and sign up for newsletters including Forest Stewardship Notes.

Launching the Landowner Assistance Portal is a milestone in DNR’s effort to expand its Service Forestry Program. Washington residents can use a new Find Your Forester tool to locate service foresters in their area.

The agency used funding from House Bill 1168 to create more than two dozen new positions in support of landowner assistance. It will also offer an expanded Service Forestry Program to western Washington beginning this year.

Click here to view the Landowner Assistance Portal.

We want your feedback! After you use the portal, fill out this survey to tell us how we did.

‘Human Nature Hunting School:’ A Unique Private Forestland Program in Northeast Washington

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Bruce McGlenn and his father, John McGlenn. (Ken Bevis, DNR)

By Ken Bevis, DNR Stewardship Wildlife Biologist, ken.bevis@dnr.wa.gov, with forest landowner Bruce McGlenn

It was early, early in the morning on opening day last April. The sun was still below the horizon as I leaned against a small pine tree on our property, all decked out in camo, waiting for enough light. As it started to faintly brighten, I stroked my box call, clucking plaintively as if I were a hen turkey. The tom exploded in a loud gobble from the tree where I knew he was roosting just down the hill.  My heart raced! It was a perfect set up. A few minutes later, he flew down from the tree, avid for the female he thought was right there. He saw my decoy, fell for it, and walked right into my ambush, gobbling and strutting the whole way. Pow! I got him at 22 yards. Exciting and very gratifying. He was delicious I might add.

I have been hunting since I was about 13 years old. I am 64 now. I am the typical demographic — aging out of the sport — and I have enlisted exactly zero new hunters.

Until recently, hunting was a much more common activity on most rural lands. The demographics are changing steadily for many reasons. For example, more urban young people are busy with other activities (organized sports, video games, cycling, etc.) and access to hunting opportunities has declined. The reasons are many, and the reality means organizations funded through hunting licenses are suffering, according to reports from North Carolina State University and National Public Radio.

According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service research paper, participation in hunting has declined more than 3% since 1991, from 14.1 million hunters nationally to about 11.5 million (7.3% to 4.4% of the adult population). I’ve asked forestry classes how many hunters are in the class, and often there are very few; so this trend may also be occurring within small forest landowners. Not only does this represent a cultural shift, but is a major problem for fish and wildlife agencies nationwide, as much of their funding base comes from license sales.

Despite these trends, humans are and always have been a hunting species. Our long ago ape-like ancestors and subsequent tribal hunter-gatherer cultures actively pursued, killed and consumed a myriad of wildlife in their successful quest for survival. Modern thinking, shaped by technology and improved survival (i.e. agriculture and infrastructure elements such as electricity) have long separated a vast majority of humans from the need to hunt. But how deeply ingrained in our species is the urge/need to hunt? Does it link us to the environment in deep and significant ways that are hard to understand or explain?

Some avid hunters (myself included) will argue that hunting is a basic activity for the human species, and somehow resonates within many of us. Couple this with evolving ethical concerns over animal welfare, food safety and environmental care, and it becomes deeply complicated.

One family of small forest landowners is engaging in this discussion in a unique and interesting manner.  Bruce McGlenn and his family have established a hunting school on their 300-acre forest property in northeast Washington near Kettle Falls. They host multiple day workshops entitled “Awaken the Hunter,” and bring people from all over the world out to learn about the many elements of hunting in a “holistic” approach.

I recently spoke with Bruce about their program, entitled “Human Nature Hunting.”

How do you use your forest land?

Our family’s guiding principals have always been rooted in a desire for a healthy ecosystem, and while we see forest management and a working forest part of that equation, we have found other ways to create value. I founded Human Nature Hunting in 2016 to help strengthen the connection between humans and nature through hunting and gathering and being closer to the land and our food. We invite small groups of folks (adults mainly and some kids) to join us on the land for a multi-day experiential course. And in doing so, walk the land, spending time in the woods, studying the views from the ridges and exploring the subtleties of the riparian zones.

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Bruce McGlenn and his parents at the family cabin and headquarters for Human Nature Hunting. (Ken Bevis, DNR)

The McGlenn property is managed with a wildlife emphasis, providing openings, deep cover, thinned areas, food plots and water all strategically located for quality habitats.

What led you to found Human Nature Hunting?

When I was in school, I recall reading about a scientist from some other country a few hundred years ago who made the statement that society’s greatest challenge moving forward will be its increasing disconnect with nature. That idea stuck with me (especially since this person was speaking about society a few hundred years ago – this was not a new concept). And as I learned more about our environment, our home, I thought about what I had to offer the world. I studied and practiced civil/structural engineering for some years in Seattle prior to this endeavor, though my longest standing practice in life has been hunting. I began to think that even with the best technologies and discoveries, if we lose our direct connection to nature we could be losing something critical to our survival and wellbeing.

To go deeper, it was the way I felt on 10-day backcountry hunts – connected to the land, senses fully awakened and attuned, intuition strong, as if I was more of the land than on the land. It was this feeling I wanted to share with folks and concluded that the best way was to give them the skills and confidence to get out and experience it for themselves.

What are some of the programs and classes you offer?

Most of our time and energy goes into the four-day “Awaken the Hunter” course that takes place on our land. It offers a holistic approach to the hunting experience for those who have little to no background or are looking for a different way to engage with hunting. Some folks join us with no intention of hunting in the future but want to know what it is and how it resonates with them if they are going to continue to eat meat.

Others are committed to embarking on their hunting journey and need a place to start. We cover the planning and preparations of the hunt; tracking and scouting; field dressing, skinning, and butchering; shooting bows and rifles; how to cultivate presence and awareness in the woods; and what it all means with discussions and philosophizing during meals and around the campfire. And we do some foraging and turkey hunting classes on our land. We also take folks out on the tide flats in Western Washington in late winter to show them how to gather, prepare and cook shellfish.

What are some of the challenges to the project?

Like with any new entrepreneurial endeavor, there are plenty of hurdles and not much for examples of how to do it. So, it’s a lot of learning and getting over self-doubt and following the passion and remembering the why. Some of my clients have never hunted before, especially on their own.

 I recall often a passage in the Tao Te Ching: “Do your work, then step back.”

Other more practical challenges have been environmental: the 100-plus degree heat wave last year during a course and the wildfire smoke in the air that has led to canceled events. The climate doesn’t seem as predictable or settled as I recall.

Maintaining the land has its challenges as well. There is something simple about the commercial logging approach with heavy machinery and time to heal. But we don’t have that time; we need the landscape to be healed and healing to those who visit so there is a lot of low-impact work that happens to create that environment, which usually means doing it by hand with blood, sweat, and tears.

How might you respond to anti-hunting sentiment?

We are all here today because our ancestors were successful hunters. As Aldo Leopold so eloquently puts, the first sign of intelligent tinkering is that we don’t pluck out and throw away parts that we don’t understand or associate with value. If the whole is good, the parts that make up that whole must also be good.

Hunting is a part of us and has been for some 2 million years. It’s only in the past 5- to 10,000 years that agriculture has cropped up. And I feel hunting is on the verge of being plucked out and thrown away. But if that happens, we may find that we’ve lost a critical part of how we relate to this planet, to life, and to death. Hunting forces us to look at these things square in the eye and remember how we are a part of the bigger picture.

What are your greatest joys from Human Nature Hunting?

Working with folks who are looking for a deeper connection to the land and watching that transformation happen over a few days is very rewarding. As far as we know, hunting was a communal activity – part of village life. I didn’t plan this at first but quickly realized how important and valuable that village life experience is for folks who are overloaded with the fast-paced urban hum and that sitting down to meals together outside after long days of field learning created a special sense of community that we continue to build upon.

How about a few positive client outcomes?

Perhaps the best way to do this is to share some quotes from past participants who have sent me letters after they return home. You can read more on our Reviews page of our website.

“This was one of the most life-changing adventures in my 68 years.”  Martha (Superior, Nebraska)

“A unique, respectful, and inclusive community … life changing.” Paulene (Seattle, WA)

“Realigned my soul and shifted my priorities.” Jason (Ross, CA)

“The effect this experience had on me was profound.” Noelle (Leavenworth, WA)

“Pivotal to my moving forward with the decision to hunt.” Beth (Olympic Peninsula, WA)

“Transformative; changed my opinion of hunters.” Ian (Anacortes, WA)

“This trip was the missing link.” Niccolo (Milan, Italy)

“A holistic introduction to hunting in a family atmosphere.” David & William (Mendoza, Argentina)


Bruce encourages those interested to contact him at McGlenn@gmail.com

For more information, visit their web site.

Hunting is one of the ways small forest landowners use and enjoy their land. It can be a complex and gratifying activity, and is an interesting source of conversation within our landowner community!

As always, reach out to me with thoughts and stories about hunting and how you enjoy wildlife on your forest lands.