Logger’s Annual Workshop Returns to Colville

The Logger’s Workshop in Colville is a newly re-established event that promises to play an essential role in ensuring the continued sustainable harvest of trees in northeastern Washington. Following a run of 20 consecutive years, this annual event was on hiatus for three years (2012-2014) while the WSU Extension Northeast Washington Forestry staff position was in transition. But now, after two consecutive years of drawing crowds of more than 120 people to the Stevens County Ag and Trade Center, the annual Logger’s Workshop is back with gusto.

guy cutting woodA primary purpose of the workshop was to bring together experts who can provide current information to loggers on matters that affect their profession with an emphasis on safety, new technology, sustainable forest management and changes in the regulatory environment. The information conveyed to loggers fulfilled this program’s other key function, which was to provide loggers a local and inexpensive forum at which they can earn the Washington Contract Loggers Association (WCLA) certification credits needed to maintain their Qualified Master Logger credentials.

The Qualified Logger credential is important to private industrial forest owners, Washington State Department of Natural Resources and other landowners who manage their lands sustainably following guidelines of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). A key commitment of the SFI rules for landowners is to use only Qualified Loggers when harvesting timber.

This year’s program was divided into three topics. The early presentations focused on lands affected by last year’s fires and the post-fire issues that loggers should watch out for in the course of their work. Topics covered included invasive plants, the mortality and recovery of fire-scorched trees, what might go wrong with roads and bridges and what silviculture applications can be used to restore and recover burned-over lands. The presentations provided information on operating safely in a radically changed forest environment, as well as what loggers can do to help forests recover or, at least, not take actions that would make things worse. These issues were considered from the perspective of controlling weeds, promoting forest health, managing roads and silviculture.

Next there was an update on regulatory issues in Washington and Idaho. For Washington residents, there was a presentation on “what makes a complete forest practices proposal.” For those who work or live in Idaho, there was a session on “what you need to know” about that state’s forest practices rules, which included recent changes in that state’s requirements concerning riparian areas.

Informative Afternoon

The afternoon of the conference was devoted to the loggers themselves. We began with a presentation by the son of a logger who became a logger himself, a trade he continues to practice in between the obligations of his new job of serving as a Pend Oreille County Commissioner. Showcasing relics of logging equipment and regaling us with stories of days gone by, the presenter made it clear that logging figures prominently in the history of northeast Washington. The history of this profession includes more than a few colorful characters whose work, collectively, was the backbone and driver for most of the economic development that has occurred in this part of the state. This presentation segued neatly into a talk by an actual, bona-fide, practicing storyteller (and forest landowner, citizen scientist and occasional logger) who encouraged us all to recognize that we are a part of what will be history tomorrow and that our stories will matter to those who follow us as much as the stories we had just heard from previous times mattered to and affected us.

This was followed by information about law enforcement in the woods and the all too common problems seen there—trespassing, poaching, dumping, meth labs and others. Loggers, because they are out in the woods every day, are sometimes the ones who either encounter the individuals who perpetrate these crimes or are first upon the scene of the damage done. Following the theme for the afternoon, this presentation also came with plenty of stories.

Economic Impact of Logging

Last on the agenda was a forest economist with brand new data collected from the Tri-County area (Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties). This data confirmed what many people intuitively knew, that loggers are key to the economy of northeast Washington. The data were a surprise, however, in the extent of that contribution. The number of secondary jobs generated as a result of the work of northeast Washington loggers was significantly greater than had been estimated in previous forecasting exercises that relied on fewer site- and region-specific data.

His data also showed some unexpected results. Many people have made the assumption that forest stewardship work—thinning forests to reduce fire risk, for example—would also benefit the economy. This is true but it is also the case that the economic benefits realized are localized to where the workers live, not where the work is done. Often, restoration work is done by crews from elsewhere who stay for the duration of the project and then leave. When the crews leave, the dollars–-their salaries-–go with them. The result is that dollars invested in remote forests do not necessarily stay in or directly benefit the economies of those remote areas. More than one restoration project has been launched with the idea that the project would benefit a struggling rural economy and this notion will clearly need to be revisited based on these data.

One other key finding of this economic analysis was that loggers are “hidden” people. When these data were collected, researchers pounded the ground to find all of the loggers working in this area. When the researchers compared their numbers against all commonly used economic and employment projection tools, they found many more loggers were working than showed up in previous projections. In this day and age, under-counted means under-represented and under-attended to, and these data provide a basis for more accurately understanding the dynamics of a still largely timber-dependent economy. Without logging, there would be much less economic activity in northeast Washington.

In summary, this year’s program gave loggers key information that will help them do their jobs better and more safely. It also gave them a rare opportunity to reflect on how their profession has changed over the years and they impact their work has on their communities.

WSU Extension is especially grateful for our partners who helped make this program a success: the loggers and landowners who shared their stories; Washington DNR, which helped with planning and contributed five of the workshop’s speakers; and the local timber industry for providing expertise and input to ensure the best, most current information. Industry support also helped to underwrite program costs and make this an affordable event to attend. Contributing to the 2016 workshop were Boise Cascade, Columbia Cedar, Hancock Forest Management, Stimson and Vaagen Brothers.

By Steve McConnell , WSU Extension Forester, smcconnell@spokanecounty.org

Announcements, Events and Other News

(If you are reading a paper copy of this newsletter, links for these events can be found at the WSU Extension Forestry website:  http://forestry.wsu.edu )

Forest and Range Owners Field Days

These out-in-the-woods, family-friendly events allow you to attend five or six different outdoor classes and workshops on topics like tree planting, weed control, thinning, tree diseases, mushroom-growing, and much more…


Forest Stewardship Coached Planning

If you own wooded property, our flagship course will teach you how to assess your trees, avoid insect and disease problems, and attract wildlife. State experts will help you develop your own forest stewardship plan to keep your woods on track to provide enjoyment and income for years to come.


Reducing Wildfire Risk to your Western Washington Home in the Woods

This online presentation from WSU Extension discusses which techniques are most effective in reducing wildfire risk to western Washington homes in wooded areas. It is primarily intended to help small acreage forest owners and other rural homeowners understand what preventative actions they can take to reduce the chances that their home will burn in the event of a wildfire. It is also appropriate for interested citizens who would like to learn more about wildfire issues in wildland-urban interface zones.
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Ties to the Land classes are coming your way next winter!

Your land will outlive you. Who will care for it when you’re gone? Will it be a family legacy or a family squabble? Will it be kept intact and protected, or will it be divided up and sold off in pieces? Will it become a source of conflict between surviving family members? What is the long-term future that you want for your property? This succession planning workshop explores these questions and others using the award-winning Ties to the Land curriculum. Contact your local WSU Extension office and watch for registration information at http://forestry.wsu.edu/

Eastern Washington Windstorm 2015

Spokane windstorm-November 2015
A strong windstorm on Nov. 17, 2015, damaged thousands of trees, homes and utilities, and caused two deaths in Spokane. Photo: Jim Flott.

The windstorm that pounded Spokane and the surrounding region on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015, was one that will go down in the record books. Winds gusted up to 71 miles per hour in Spokane according to AccuWeather.com. The Greater Spokane Department of Emergency Management issued a “Shelter in Place” bulletin around 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Two people in Spokane were killed in separate incidents involving trees being thrown in the wind. Governor Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency the next day.

The wind was responsible for about 70 percent of Avista (the largest regional electrical utility) customers losing power at some point during the storm. Avista officials said this was the largest outage in company history, surpassing the ice storm of 1996. Parts of Spokane looked like a war zone with trees lying in the roads and on buildings. The damage was severe enough to keep some schools and businesses closed until after Thanksgiving.

Angel Spell, Spokane Urban Forester, reported to the Tree Committee that an estimated 1,900 trees managed by the City were lost; 500 of those trees were in parks, the rest were on rights-of-way and other city owned property. The appraised value for these trees was approximately $22 million.

At a time like this, a tree professional’s thoughts first go to removing any risk associated with trees as a result of the windstorm and cleaning up the mess. Then, a true professional will try to convince people that healthy, structurally sound trees should not be removed as a knee jerk reaction to the storm.

Jim Flott, local consulting arborist said “Wind speed was the only quantifiable variable.” He observed that soil failures were responsible for a majority of downed trees. He is encouraging people avoid overreacting and to have their trees assessed by a qualified ISA Arborist with tree risk assessment experience. Flott also promotes a positive message about trees going forward, noting that only a small fraction of the trees in the city failed while that vast majority withstood the test of the storm.

A Wind Storm Workshop is planned for March 11 at the Spokane Conservation District. Representatives from Avista, the City of Spokane, commercial arborists, Washington DNR, and consulting arborists will summarize impacts from the storm and discuss best practices moving forward. You can register for the event at www.spokaneconservation.org.

By Garth Davis, Forestry Program Manager, Spokane County Conservation District, (509) 535-7274, ext. 212 garth-davis@sccd.org

Nest Boxes: A Functional Habitat Enhancement

The jaunty woodpeckers rock side to side as they chisel into dead trees carving homes and seeking bugs. We hear their hearty “Ha Di Da Ha Ha. Ha Di Da Ha Ha” and are amazed at their rhythmic drumming in the spring. They are keystone species in the forest, eating lots of insects and providing habitat for other species through their activities.

Many of our fantastic forest wildlife species require cavity habitats in dead wood for reproduction and roosting cover. Over the years, however, human activities have often removed this critical habitat component. The importance of this habitat feature is now common knowledge among foresters, biologists, managers and landowners, but, recruitment and development of dead wood structure with suitable softness (from fungal action) for cavity excavation by woodpeckers, can take many years. Thus, action is sometimes needed to provide cavity habitats now.

NB_swallow on box
Providing adequate numbers of snags, standing dead trees is, of course, the best strategy, but sometimes, they simply don’t exist. Substitute cavities can be provided through creative carpentry, utilizing man-made slices of trees (boards, that is) to manufacture artificial, quasi-cavities we call “nest boxes”. (The term “bird house” is incorrect, as it implies the box will provide all of life’s requirements for the species; nope, these boxes are for nesting and, sometimes, roosting.)

Cavity Excavating Birds Come in Many Sizes

Cavity excavating birds in the Pacific Northwest come in a variety of sizes, from the massive pileated (wingspan 29”, weight 290 g) to the diminutive red breasted nuthatch (wingspan 8”, weight 10 g). Each species creates cavities that roughly match the size of the bird, and precisely provide the depth and width to enable brood rearing. Some of these attributes help with thermal regulation for the helpless young, provide room for them to grow and stretch out, and depth to resist the inevitable predators that will try to consume the delicious eggs and young. For example, flickers are about 12 inches long, and make cavities with entrance holes about 3 inches in diameter and 13 to 16 inches deep. The entrance hole is proportional to the size of the bird, and the depth is enough to keep predators from easily reaching the brood. Pileateds make appropriately enormous cavities!

Constructing cavities is a regular part of nesting and courtship behavior among the woodpeckers and the other smaller cavity excavating birds (chickadees, nuthatches). These birds will make a new cavity in most nesting seasons, and abandon the old ones when nesting is done. These abandoned cavities are prime real estate and readily sought after by a host of other species, the secondary cavity nesters. These species include many of our favorites, and will readily use man made nest boxes.NB_squirrel

Building a Nest Box

In the north Cascades town of Twisp, Washington, Patrick Hannigan has a unique business creating species-appropriate, biologically correct nest boxes out of salvaged wood from construction sites or demolitions.

“I always loved building things”, said Hannigan when I interviewed him, “and I am fascinated by birds. Construction projects always leave huge piles of scraps, and this is my way of returning this waste back into habitat.”

Patrick, who has supplied hundreds of the boxes to clients across Washington, adds:

“The species I have had use them the most include kestrels, Western bluebirds, tree and violet green swallows, saw whet owls, both mountain and black-capped chickadees, red breasted and white breasted nuthatches and wrens.”

I asked what are key elements for functional nest boxes? He listed five:

  1. Proper dimensions: that is, entrance hole size, depth to floor, and floor dimensions
  2. Proper ventilation: ¼-inch slot or holes along the top
  3. Drainage in floor to allow water out and air in to dry nesting material
  4. Door that opens to facilitate easy clean out. It is best if no tools are required for this job.
  5. Roughened interior walls to help fledglings climb out. Sometimes boxes made of smooth, planed wood become an inadvertent death trap for baby birds.

Three sizes of nest boxes are all that most small forest landowners need to consider.

  • Small: A 1 1/8” entrance hole, with a 4 ¼” square floor is just right for chickadees and wrens.
  • Medium: Swallows and bluebirds need 1 ½” entrance holes and a 5” x 5” minimum floor.
  • Large: Kestrels, small owls and squirrels need 4” holes and 17” to the bottom of the box. (Many nest box plans are available online, so check these before designing one on your own).

These three sizes will cover most of the species you may encounter on your lands (Wood duck boxes that would be placed along ponds and wetlands are larger and a special case).

Materials: Dos and Don’ts

Nest box materials can be any type of wood, but roofs need to be sturdy (and perhaps waterproofed). Avoid particle board as it will crumble in a short time. Pine and fir work fine. Do not paint on the inside of the box but the birds don’t care if the outside is painted.

Hannigan also cautions against using metal roofs or sides. These can become “bird microwaves” and when the weather warms can have the unintended consequence of killing the same birds the structure was meant to help. And ornamental “bird houses” with random hole sizes or inadequate interiors, made to be cute and not functional (sorry to those clever crafty folks!); bad bad bad. “These are made for people, not birds and can even be harmful.”

Placing Nest Boxes

Hannigan recommends focusing on forest edges for the most nesting opportunities. As to placement, think vertical. Small birds will be lower in the canopy, larger species prefer to be higher. Smaller boxes can be placed at eye level, where they are easy to clean out. Place larger boxes for owls or kestrels at least 12 to 15 feet high, a comfortable height using a standard ladder. Make sure the entrance has a clear flight line not too encumbered by overhanging branches. NB_lostLake-OKcountyHannigan recommends placing your first boxes where they are near your home, in normal sight lines so you can see and appreciate what species are using them. Boxes can be placed close together for swallows, or spread around for other species. See if they are being used in a given season and move them if they are not.

Caution should be noted with bluebird style or kestrel boxes near human habitation. These can provide habitat for aggressive starlings or house sparrows. In normal forest settings, however, these species are rarely a problem.

Nest boxes are one of my favorite tools for enhancing habitat on forest lands. Why? Because they work, they are something we can DO, and we get to experience firsthand some of the wonderful wildlife in our forests. Nest boxes are an excellent tool to help small forest landowners provide habitat for the many wildlife species we value so much; but, as with any tool, they need to be applied properly, with careful construction and placement.

Please contact me with questions, comments, pictures or stories about your nest boxes.

By Ken Bevis, DNR Stewardship Wildlife Biologist, ken.bevis@dnr.wa.gov 

Announcements, Events and Other News

Selling Logs Symposium

Selling logs is one of the most important decisions you make as a landowner. Find out from the experts how to get a fair price for your timber and end up with the results you want at this two-day symposium.

Windstorm Workshop

Hit by the windstorm last November in eastern Washington? Representatives from Avista, the City of Spokane, commercial arborists, Washington DNR, and consulting arborists will summarize impacts from the storm and discuss best practices moving forward

Firewise Communities Workshop

“The best time to become Firewise is before the next fire starts…” Find out what steps to take to protect your home and neighborhood from wildfires, what resources are available to help you, and what we have learned from our recent wildfire seasons.

Forest Stewardship Coached Planning

If you own wooded property, our flagship course will teach you how to assess your trees, avoid insect and disease problems, and attract wildlife. State experts will help you develop your own Forest Stewardship Plan to keep your woods on track to provide enjoyment and income for years to come.

  • Everett (Snohomish County)
  • Tuesday evenings, March 29 – May 17
  • More information
  • Deming (Whatcom County)
  • Thursday evenings, September 15 – November 3
  • More information
  • Preston (King County)
  • Tuesday evenings, September 27 – November 15
  • More information

Puyallup Watershed Landowners: Would you be willing to participate in a focus group?

Volunteers will participate in an interesting conversation about why you own forested land and the benefits you get from it. We ask for a 2.5 hour time commitment, which includes a meal and a $45 Visa gift card.

We are looking for people who own at least 5 forested acres in the Puyallup Watershed or who expect to inherit or buy land in the near-future.

The focus groups are sponsored by the Forest Roundtable of the Puyallup Watershed Initiative. Results will help us understand what support landowners need to get the benefits they desire from their land.

Focus groups will be held in Puyallup or a nearby location on:

  • Saturday, March 5, from 12 to 2:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, March 23, from 5:30 to 8 p.m.

If you are interested or have questions, please contact Brenda at brendaklemay@gmail.com or text or call Brenda at 253-576-4409


4-H Forest and Logging Legacy Project

The Pend Oreille County 4-H program’s Forest and Logging Legacy Project introduces local youth to modern and historic forestry technologies.

We recently started a forest and logging legacy project in our Pend Oreille County 4-H Program in response to concerns that, as a society, we are losing our connection to the historical contributions of forestry and logging to our communities, their economic development, and their prosperity.

The Forest and Logging Legacy Project helps young participants connect to and learn from the past, experience today’s high tech forestry and logging systems, and plan for how forestry and logging will shape our future. Our approach is to take learning into the field to provide opportunities to participate and learn through experience about historic and modern forestry and logging skills. And the forum for all of this is one of the premier national youth programs, the 4-H, or as we like to say: 4-H “Rocks” and Logrolls!

In addition to using a “misery whip” saw and practicing log rolling techniques, we teach kids taking part in the program about:

  • Seeing the forest from the trees
  • Connecting boards to trees
  • Practicing forest saw safety
  • Experiencing a day in the life of a logger
  • Experiencing a day in the life of a forester
  • Cruising timber
  • Fighting forest fires
  • Detecting forest insects & diseases
  • Understanding forest management techniques & plans
  • Collecting and studying leaves
  • Realizing the importance of water to forestry and the environment
  • Panning for gold!

…and more!

We also took participants on a timber harvesting tour and made sure that there was plenty of time for instructive but fun forest and water games.

In addition to the fun, youth attending these events have the can learn both conceptually and physically what it took to be successful in the forest and on the river drives of earlier times. We launch from the “roots” of early forestry and logging to today’s modern and high tech forestry and resource utilization systems. We will look to the future, and dream what forestry and logging will bring to our local communities and economies.

You can learn more about 4-H Forestry and the 4-H Forest and Logging Legacy Project by contacting your local 4-H Office or Mike Jensen at mike.jensen@wsu.edu

By Mike Jensen, WSU Extension Associate Professor and 4-H Youth Development Faculty, WSU Pend Oreille County Extension

Announcements, Events and Other News

Twenty-fourth Annual Family Foresters Workshop
January 15, 2016
Spokane Valley, Washington

This all-day workshop provides training and updates for foresters and others working with family-owned forestland. Topics range from new tools and applications to post-fire recovery issues, wildlife habitat enhancement and economic outlooks for family forests. Credits available for logger education, Society of American Foresters, and Idaho Master Forest Steward volunteers. Read more about this workshop.

Forest Stewardship Coached Planning
Online Coached Planning (for western Washington)
6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday evenings
January 26–March 8, 2016
More information.

Vashon (King County) Coached Planning
6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Wednesday evenings
March 2–April 20, 2016
More information.

Everett (Snohomish County) Coached Planning
6:30 p.m. to 9:30  p.m.
March 29–May 17, 2016
More information.

If you own wooded property, Forest Stewardship Coached Planning—our flagship course—will teach you how to assess your trees, avoid insect and disease problems, and attract wildlife. State experts will help you develop your own Forest Stewardship Plan to keep your woods on track to provide enjoyment and income for years to come.

Selling Logs Symposium
Auburn (King County)
March 11 and 12, 2016

Selling logs is one of the most important decisions you make as a landowner. Find out from the experts how to get a fair price for your timber and end up with the results you want at this two-day symposium.
Read more about this symposium.