Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension agent for Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.

Fire Season will soon be in effect in much of the Tree Topics reading area, as declared by the State Forester according to regional fire conditions (usually by early July). Here are some fire season basics to keep in mind:

To find out when an area is declared, you can visit the ODF Wildfire website and click on Forest Restrictions and Closures  section. There you can find links to an overview of the Industrial Fire Precaution Level (IFPL), closures and other information about fire regulations and restrictions.

If you choose the Current IFPL/Public Use (Regulated Closure) Chart you can find the fire level precaution for each of the ODF Forest Protection Districts by clicking on that district. Changes in precaution level and closures will be posted there over the summer, so it is a good idea to monitor this information throughout the season.

Please remember that even a Level 1 precaution requires you to carry fire equipment when in the woods. The motor vehicle or light truck (<=26,000 pounds GVW) requirements are:

  1. A) 1 shovel with a minimum 8-inch wide face and a minimum 26-inch length handle, ready for immediate use.
    B) 1 axe or Pulaski with a minimum 26-inch length handle, ready for immediate use.
    C) 1 approved A,B,C extinguisher, 2.5 pounds or larger (preferably 5 pound minimum), ready for immediate use.
    D) Exhaust system with muffler in good operating condition.
photo: ODF

Be sure you, your family or others using vehicles on your property are aware of this.  I generally make it a habit to carry these tools in my vehicle all summer.

Additionally, if you are using a chainsaw, each saw must have a shovel (meeting above standards), ready for immediate use; an 8-ounce (larger preferred) fire extinguisher, ready for immediate use; the standard exhaust system (spark arrester screen) must be in good operating condition; and the operator must stop the saw before fueling and move the saw at least 20 feet from fueling location prior to starting.

Please be FireWise, alert, aware, and pro-active in fire prevention. Be aware of how and where you park your vehicle, since exhaust system components have been known to ignite dry grass.  We’ve had a number of reminders recently that western Oregon is primed for wildfire each summer.  You don’t want to be part of the next one.

 

Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent for Benton, Linn and Polk Counties

In my previous post, I summarized what I think we know about this ecological whodunit. In this post, I look at what it might mean for landowners in the area.

Now What?

Pouch fungus commonly appear one year after trees are attached by beetles like flatheaded fir borer or fir engraver. Phot by Dave Shaw, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension

We seem poised for another stressful summer. May 2018 has turned out to be one of the driest on record, and we are unlikely to catch up in June. Long term forecasts are for another warm dry summer. We will just have to wait and see how it unfolds. But whatever happens this summer, I think we can expect to continue to see more sick, dying and dead trees. There are several reasons for this.

First, many trees are already stressed or injured by the past hot drought events and are in a vulnerable condition. While not yet lost, this stress makes them less resistant and more susceptible to the insects and diseases that are lurking about. A mild summer, or several mild summers would help. But even then they will not recover immediately. Their earlier stress and injuries also hamper their ability to recover and rebuild their resistance, even under good conditions.

An analogy might be of me falling off a ladder. The injuries I suffered when I hit the ground continued to affect my health and recovery long after I stopped falling (it is harder to exercise with a broken leg). It will take a while to recover, even if I stay out of trouble. It will take longer (or could kill me) if I keep falling off the ladder. For the trees, each of these summers is like another fall from my ladder.

Second, some trees are already lost. It may not be obvious, and they may still have needles, but they have been mortally wounded or have already been attacked by insects and will not recover, however our summer turns out. It is just a matter of time before those losses become apparent. Continue reading

Drought-damaged trees have become a common site in the Willamette

Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent for Benton, Linn and Polk Counties

 

Many of our readers have been tracking this issue over the last several years through the articles on this site. But I imagine many of you are wondering what to expect next, or are being asked by friends and neighbors who are concerned about your trees or theirs. Or just wondering what is going on. What to say?

So, here is a synopsis of what I generally see going on, and the consequences. A bit risky to do, given the role of individual sites and specific conditions. But this is such a widespread phenomenon, it warrants some interpretation, even at the risk of over-generalizing. But I provide the antidote at the end: links to more detailed information.

 

It is hard to miss all the dead and dying trees in the area. I have been getting dozens of calls about them. So what is going on, and what is to blame? It seems time to revisit this sylvan whodunit: What is killing all these Willamette Valley trees?

Who is involved? Douglas-fir is by far the most frequent casualty, along with other conifers such as grand fir and some ponderosa pine. But trees of many sorts are being affected –

Drought symptoms may include dead branches, dead tops and low vigor. Or all of the above. Photo by Dave Shaw, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension.

hardwoods as well as conifers, both native and non-native. Many of the usual suspects – different beetles and fungi- can be found at the scene too.

What is happening? Symptoms often include dying branches and dead tops, low growth and vigor, sparse crowns, what we have called the “Willamette Valley crud”. It is now often progressing to the death of the tree. This may be happening to individual trees or groups of trees. The younger trees are usually the first involved at a site, eventually joined by older trees.

Where is it happening? This is certainly a Valley-wide phenomenon. But within the Valley, we are seeing the most significant damage in certain situations more than others. Sites with seasonally wet, poorly drained soils, or sites with rocky or shallow soils, exposed south facing aspects tend to be most hard-hit. These are places that we think of as marginal sites for most conifer trees. Our conifers are well adapted to the area, but not every site. Continue reading

Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry and Natural Resources Extension agent for Benton, Linn and Polk Counties and Amy Grotta Forestry and Natural Resources Extension agent for Columbia, Washington and Yamhill Counties

Black stains may be found by cutting into sapwood with an ax

We recently attended a field tour on Black Stain Root Disease in the Coast Range. The tour was organized by Dave Shaw and Klaus Puettmann (OSU Extension and College of Forestry) and was attended by private land managers, forest health specialists and researchers from state and federal agencies.

Black stain root disease (BSRD) is a native root disease affecting several species across the West, but attacks mainly Douglas-fir in western Oregon. Foresters are aware of several “hot spots” where the disease has been particularly active in recent years, and there is concern that it might be expanding.

The purpose of the tour was to share and compile the field observations and experiences of the participants to test the perception that the disease is expanding in scope or severity and consider management responses. We of course wanted to figure out how that might affect family forest landowners in our area.

BSRD causes a gradual or rapid decline and crown discoloration of infected trees.  Older trees generally do not quickly succumb to the disease. It forms disease centers that gradually spread, much like the symptoms of other root diseases like laminated root rot.

Tree on left shows abrupt change in growth and color typical of BSRD

 

But BSRD is most visible and important in young trees, especially precommercially thinned plantations.  Young trees often show an abrupt change in condition from healthy vigorous trees one year, to stunted and yellowing trees the next year. A characteristic of BSRD.  The disease is named for the black or dark purple staining of the sapwood.  It can be by hacking into the stem (something all pathologists love to do) or in cross section.

BSRD has two means of spreading. This includes root to root contact, as with many other root diseases.  But black stain can also be moved by several pests that are attracted to stressed or damaged trees, such as insects and forest pathologists.  Insect vectors seem to be how it moves from an existing disease center to create new infections.  This creates the potential to spread, and to be affected by management activities that damage or stress trees.  This includes road building, “brushing” roads  (mechanically clearing road edges) and young stand thinning. Young stand thinning is seen as the management activity with the greatest potential to increase this disease.  This is because the insect vectors (weevils and a root bark beetle) are attracted to cut stumps.   The insects infect the stump, and the fungus can then spread to neighboring trees through root contact and grafts.   Activities causing soil disturbance and root damage are also likely to invite spread.

Take Home Message

Our sense at the end of this tour was that BSRD is not something for most family forest landowners in NW Oregon to be very concerned about. It is out there, but not in high concentrations in most areas.  The general consensus of the group was that the recent rise in the visibility of BSRD is mostly due to the gradually shifting pattern of age classes on the landscape that is making the disease more evident, and not a significant expansion of its range or activity.   It is and is likely to remain a much less-significant disease in our area than laminated root rot.    That said, those who are in an area with a significant amount of BSRD do need to pay attention when harvesting and establishing new plantations.  You can find out more about BSRD at these links:

https://www.forestpests.org/acrobat/bsrd.pdf

https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5187236.pdf

 

The symptomatic black stains are irregularly distributed in sapwood, as seen in stump

By Amy Grotta and Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension

Last week, a large contingent of the OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension team traveled to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi for a biennial conference of natural resources Extension professionals. Besides the chance to exchange ideas with our colleagues from across the country, these meetings afford the opportunity to learn about the ecology and natural resources issues that define the geography of the meeting location.

We learned that the forests of Mississippi are quite diverse. They are defined by their topography, proximity to the coast, and (as in Oregon) landowner objectives. While on the surface they seem about as far from Oregon’s forests as you can get, there are some similarities to the forest systems and issues we have back home. We thought we’d share a bit about the interesting forests that we saw and learned about on our visit. Continue reading

Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.

We have been dedicating a fair amount of screen space and class time lately to the idea that many family forest landowners would benefit from thinning their young stands. We explored the reasons to consider young stand thinning (YST) as well as some approaches in a series of posts on YST .  YST is consistent with the situation and goals of many family forest landowners, which often include growing older and more diverse forests.

That said, like many other well-grounded activities, YST is not without some potential drawbacks.

Few of them are significant enough to justify not thinning at all, but each requires some thought and consideration to avoid unintended consequences. We present some of those potential drawbacks that you need to consider when planning a YST, along with some links to other information, below. Continue reading

By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

Taking a walk through my NE Portland neighborhood recently, I came across something new in our local park. Portland Parks and Recreation is renovating an underutilized section of Alberta Park as a “Nature Patch”.

Alberta Park was part of a Homestead Act land claim over 150 years ago, and became a park in 1917. (Check out a local historian’s writeup for the details.) So over 150 years of human use, the land is far from the forest that once grew there. The Nature Patch could be thought of as a re-engineering project. Continue reading

Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension agent for Benton, Linn and Polk Counties

In this series about young stand thinning , I’ve worked on the assumption that people know the density of trees in their woods. I realize that in many cases, people don’t really know that, so cannot easily apply that information to deciding if they have enough room for healthy growth or if trees need to be thinned.

If you know what distance the trees were said to have been planted, you may have a fair idea of the density (a 10’ x 10’ spacing is about 440 trees per acre, a 12’ x 12’ is about 300 tpa). This is a good start, but not necessarily very accurate.   Actual planting spacing can vary quite a bit according to the conditions in the field and experience of the planters.  And of course some seedlings die during establishment, or some other trees may seed in from outside.  So it is probably a good idea to go out and get a better idea of what you’ve got.  The basic way to do this is to measure some plots. Continue reading

Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent for Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.

The wood sickness is an all-too-common condition that afflicts many in the family forest landowner community.  As described earlier, it is characterized by large accumulations of wood in a person’s yard, shed, garage or barn, excessive buildup of chain saws and other logging tools, portable mills, and all sorts of secondary wood working tools. You know it when you see it.

People with this affliction treat wood with the same passion as collectors of fine wine treat their vintages. Each likes to hide things away and store them cool dark places, often for years at a time.  Yet each is able to recite the source and a story of how they came to own each piece or bottle.  They are determined and very patient waiting for each to find its destiny.

Orson Wells made a series of wine commercials late in his career that captured that spirit when he would declare “We sell no wine before its time.” The parallel sentiment among wood hoarders might be “we use no board before it’s stored.”

An afflicted friend of mine (who will remain unnamed) is remodeling a house and recently put in a hardwood floor. He patiently converted stacks of stickered wood into milled floorboards.  Then, he gradually and laboriously laid them out one by one to create a gorgeous floor of Oregon white oak, bordered with black walnut.  As discussed before, there is no cure for the wood sickness, but it can be helped by therapy.  The therapy is difficult and sometimes painful.  His therapy reduced the amount of wood in his stockpile while producing pain in his knees and back, but was otherwise effective and productive.

There are many people like Jay who are coping and trying to come to grips with their obsession. You see them around town from time to time.  No more so than this time of year, when they commonly emerge from garages and workshops coated in therapeutic sawdust, to display and maybe sell the products of their therapy at art shops, Christmas Bazars and the Local Goods from the Woods fair.  They may be friends, family or even complete strangers, but please show them some holiday spirit.  Meet them half way.

I bet that turned fruit bowl would look terrific in your sister’s dining room.

By Amy Grotta,  OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

Old basins found at the Matteson Forest probably belonged to a dairy farmer in the mid-20th century.

Ah, November. The wet and the darkness set in and we feel like turning on the teapot and bundling up. For woodland owners, winter lends an opportunity to catch up on indoor projects: accounting, taxes, and maybe updating or writing a management plan.

Another indoor activity that I guarantee will be more interesting than any of the above is researching and putting together a history of your woodland. It may mean digging through old family files or recording the memories of an elder relative, if your property has been in the family for a while. For those with a newer relationship to their land, it may mean a lot of online research. Either way, it can be a revealing and rewarding process; and by documenting what you learn you will gain a richer connection to  your woodland and ensure this history is not lost to future generations. Continue reading