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: forestry.wsu.edu

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.

  • Aberdeen (Grays Harbor County) – Mondays starting April 23rd

2018 Invasive Forest Weed Control Field Practicums

  • Bellingham – May 12, 2018
  • Kent – June 2, 2018
  • Mount Vernon – September 15, 2018

2018 Forest Owner Field Days

  • Eastside (Spokane) – Saturday, June 23rd (details coming)
  • Westside (Woodland) – Saturday August 18th (details coming)

Workshops and Trainings

  • Hands-On Chainsaw Safety and Maintenance Training – May 17th

Can’t find the event you were looking for? Visit forestry.wsu.edu or contact: patrick.shults@wsu.edu

Longtime DNR Forester Boyd Norton Honored by State Tree Farm Program

Boyd Norton
Boyd Norton was named Outstanding Tree Farm Inspector of the Year by the Washington State Tree Farm Program.

At the recent annual meeting of the Washington Farm Forestry Association, Boyd Norton, a long-time Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) employee, was awarded the Washington State Tree Farm Program’s Outstanding Tree Farm Inspector of the Year Award for 2017.

The award recognizes Boyd’s decades-long service as an inspector and dedicated supporter of the Washington Tree Farm Program. The program is a state affiliate of the American Tree Farm System, a national third-party certification program for forest landowners who meet strict internationally recognized standards for producing certified wood. The program’s Certified Tree Farmers are required to manage their lands in a sustainable manner according to an approved written forest management plan. Periodic re-inspections by tree farm inspectors like Boyd ensure continuing compliance with program standards.

Tree Farm inspectors volunteer their time and perform considerable outreach efforts and inspections to educate the public and private landowners about the benefits of sustainable forestry.

Boyd started his career at DNR in the South Puget Sound Region in the spring of 1975. By 1977 he’d been twice promoted and moved to Pacific County in what was then DNR’s Central Region. After 14 years and two more promotions, Boyd relocated to northwest Washington where he’s been ever since.

Boyd has worked in a variety of DNR programs over the years including State Trust Land Management, Forest Practices, and assisting small forest landowners both as a Small Forest Landowner Office field specialist and two positions in the Forest Stewardship Program. In all of his career experiences Boyd’s first love has been working with small forest owners. It was that dedication that led him to his current position as the DNR stewardship forester for the northern half of western Washington, including northwest Washington, the central Puget Sound area, and northern Olympic peninsula.

Boyd Norton’s achievement is particularly noteworthy, since he is one of only two remaining stewardship foresters in western Washington due to the current low funding for the program following the loss of all state funds during the recession concurrent with declining federal funding.

The American Tree Farm Program has its roots in southwest Washington with the certification of nation’s very first Tree Farm near Montesano in 1941. It subsequently grew into the nationwide program that it is today. More information about the program is available at treefarmsystem.org

The Forest Stewardship Program is a nationwide program delivered in partnership between the USDA Forest Service and state forestry agencies. In Washington state, it is administered by Washington DNR.

Tastes like Christmas

Engelmann spruce
Engelmann spruce is one of several conifers whose leaves (needles) can be made into tea. Photo: US Forest Service.

We have many ways of identifying our Washington state conifers, from looking at the bark or tree silhouette to examining the needles. As part of a tree ID session at a Forestry Field Day this summer, I challenged participants to sip a variety of conifer needle teas. We had a good time trying to identify the species by flavor, but the comment I heard over and over was “These taste like Christmas!”

So this season is a good time to venture outside and try something new. New to many of us, anyway—various conifer needle teas have a long history of Native American use for both culinary and medicinal purposes. You can purchase Engelmann spruce, Douglas-fir, white pine and other teas packaged up in tea bags for your convenience from internet sites but as forest landowners, we are usually able to harvest them straight from the source. Most authorities recommend gathering the fresh, soft growth on spring branch tips for optimum flavor, however, winter needles can also be used (though you won’t be able to find green larch needles this time of year!) Start with a teaspoon or so of chopped needles per cup of hot water, and if it isn’t strong enough, add more or simmer a few minutes for a slightly different flavor.

Avoid yew or cedar needles which contain toxic compounds, but most other species—including western hemlock (the poisonous association with its name come from an entirely different plant) can be safely brewed. Some authorities caution use of some pine species by pregnant women because they may be abortifacient, but advise that the dose makes the poison. As with all wild foods, its good advice to taste in small quantities until you know how you will react—individuals vary in allergies and digestive tolerances to any new food or drink.  And don’t drink large quantities of a favorite until you have researched the constituents and know they are safe on a daily basis—like most everything else, variety and moderation are key.

Most herbalists agree that there is a lot of nourishment in a cup of needle tea with many species boasting lots of electrolytes, much more Vitamin C than orange juice, and high Vitamin A levels as well. Frontiersmen often drank conifer tea to stave off scurvy. In his book Stalking the Healthful Herbs, naturalist Euell Gibbons said of pine needle tea, “With a squeeze of lemon and a little sugar it was almost enjoyable, and it gives a great feeling of virtue to know that as you drink it you are fortifying your body with two essential vitamins in which most modern diets are deficient.”

While “almost enjoyable” is fairly faint praise, other sources enthusiastically compare the taste of conifer needles to mint, lemon, or even cola flavors—all with an overtone of forest.  So take a hike around your woods this winter, collect some needles, and try a cup. You may be eyeing that Christmas tree for a whole new purpose!

By Carol Mack, WSU Extension Forestry, cmack@wsu.edu

Sources for this story:

  • Stewart, Hilary. Drink in the Wild. Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver, B.C. 2002
  • Parish, Roberta, Ray Coupe and Dennis Lloyd. Plants of Southern Interior British Columbia. Lone Pine Press, 1996

New Directory of Consulting Foresters and Silvicultural Contractors

One key take-home message from many of our forestry extension classes is the need to hire a qualified professional to manage a timber sale, do a planting, control vegetation, thin, etc.

There are two types of professionals you might need: consulting foresters and silvicultural contractors. A consulting forester provides professional forest management services to landowners. These services may include management plan writing, timber sale administration, permitting, timber marketing, inventory and appraisal, property mapping, management advice, coordination of contractor services, and other tasks. A silvicultural contractor provides the labor and equipment to perform forest management tasks such as site preparation, tree planting, vegetation control, pre-commercial thinning, slash disposal, etc. Some companies provide both forestry consulting and silvicultural contracting services.

A common question has been how to find the professional who is right for you. Up until now we did not have a good directory of these professionals. We had some old and very limited directories of consulting foresters (many of whom have retired), and nothing on silvicultural contractors. A searchable online directory has been in the works for a couple of years and now is finally finished and available online at forestry.wsu.edu/consultingdirectory/.

The directory is statewide in scope, up-to-date, and currently has 85 companies listed. You can search the directory by county served and type of service provided. Information is given on each company’s qualifications, professional affiliations, licenses, insurance, etc. This is not a logger directory (which is something we are considering for a future project). Also, not all consultants and contractors are listed. Getting into the directory is an opt-in process, so companies are not automatically entered. Some companies specifically requested to opt-out; others did not respond to invitations to participate.

When you consult the directory please note this important disclaimer about the publication’s content:

“The firms or individuals listed herein are engaged in forestland related work in Washington State. Consultants and contractors working for a private landowner do not represent or speak for Washington State University. Washington State University is not responsible for nor guarantees the quality, accuracy, or cost of the services provided by any of the consultants listed below. Information presented in this directory was provided by the individual service providers and is published on an “as-is” basis. Washington State University did not verify the validity of the information provided.”

There may be other companies with which we have not yet connected. If a company wishes to be added to the directory, they just need to contact us and we will provide a questionnaire to fill out.

By Kevin Zobrist, WSU Extension Forester, kevin.zobrist@wsu.edu 

Winter To-Do-List

Holiday greenery raw materials
Holiday greenery raw materials from family forest. Photo: Jim Freed/WSU Extension

Thinking about a winter to-do list for family forest landowners has a special meaning now that I will be retiring on December 31. In the past I just had to think of projects for all of you to do—now I will get to do them myself on my land in eastern Oregon. So along with the honey-do list that has accumulated, I can get a start on these NTFP (non-timber forest products) and forest health projects.

First on any forest owner’s list should be a survey of the forest health. Winter is a great time to do this because the deciduous leaves are down and you can see the broken tops and dead limbs. If broken tops, dead trees and dead limbs do not present any hazard to you and your family then you may choose to leave them to support wildlife needs. If they need to come out they will make great firewood, mushroom logs and wildlife piles.

If you are thinning a stand, you can use any trees are not infected with insects and disease (and not needed for firewood) to create your future supply of mushrooms. Winter is a great time to cut the four-foot sections of timber that you need for this. There is no chance of being infected by natural fungi so you can be sure that what you get is what you want. The best woods to use are deciduous trees and the non-pine conifers. Inoculating the wood with the desired fungi is a great project that can be done in a wood shed, garage or barn. You will have them all ready for the growing season next spring.

Don’t Forget Shrubs

The next project should be pruning any shrubs that you are using for nuts and berries. Pruning in the winter removes old and sick stems. This will direct all the energy stored in the roots to producing new tops and expanding the limbs you have saved, increasing the size and quality of the fruit and nuts.

In some cases if the shrubs and plants have been damaged by fire or drought you may want to do a very severe pruning. By removing all the injured and old stems you will encourage the plant to put up new stems. In many cases you will not have a crop of fruit or nuts in 2016 but will have a great crop in 2017.

Time to Transplant

Winter is also a great time to ready trees and shrubs that you may want to transplant.

First you will want to make sure that you can identify the plants you want to move. Often alder and cascara trees are mistaken for dogwood in their winter conditions. Make a positive identification and mark the plant with flagging or metal tree tags. Then remove any injured or unwanted limbs. You can remove up to 50 percent of the living crown and the plant will still be in good health. In fact, this kind of pruning will insure that the top of the plant is in balance with the roots. This will greatly increase its survival potential. If you can root prune them before the soil freezes that would be great. If not you can do that in the spring of 2016.

Transplanting young plants from your own land helps insure that they are adapted to your site. If you do not have suitable plants on your land, an option is to contact the local US Forest Service or Washington Department of Natural Resources offices and inquire about permits for personal use harvesting of native plants.

Christmas Tree Time

Since Christmas is just around the corner you should survey you forest to look for Christmas trees and Christmas greenery for this year and future needs. Often an overstocked stand of conifers will produce really great Christmas trees from the tops of the tree. These are natural, fresh, organic, wild and sustainable Christmas trees—good for family use and for direct local sales. These same tree stands may have boughs that can be used for swags, garland and center pieces. Western red cedar, Douglas fir, western white pine, silver fir, grand fir and noble fir are all used commercially. Ponderosa pine, Engelmann spruce, juniper and lodgepole pine are often used by families.

If you have an area of your forest where there is a nice but overcrowded stand of 3-6 foot tall trees, you can start the process of making them into a Christmas tree stand or a greenery orchard. Removing bottom limbs will create a handle for the Christmas tree and get the lower limbs out of the brush. Remove broken limbs and multiple tops. When harvesting, leave one whorl of branches about 2 feet up to be trained for the next crop. Trees used for boughs should be spaced about ten feet apart.

The nice thing about doing Christmas trees and holiday greenery with native plants is if you get tired of doing it you can just let the trees grow to become timber trees.

You can use this early winter time to provide protection for new plantings. Installing tree guards before the snow accumulates will protect your young trees from rodents (rabbits and mice) who love to use the snow as cover for their feeding or to reach up higher.

Lastly just make some new trails that you can access by foot, snowshoe or mechanized vehicles. Fall and winter is a great time to enjoy your forest. We often take a picnic lunch to the river on our land and have a thanksgiving lunch with friends. There is something special about a being around a camp fire with family and friends in a forest covered with snow.

Have a great time in your own family forest winter wonderland.

By Jim Freed, WSU Extension Forest Products Specialist, freedj@wsu.edu