Winter storm damage
Winter storm damage

Storm damage may lead to beetle problems in ponderosa pine

By Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Benton, Linn & Polk Counties


Not to be a fear-monger, but there is talk about last winter’s storm damage leading to some future beetle problems for ponderosa pine in the Valley.

Now, bark beetles are generally weak predators of trees.  Damage is often limited to marginal sites, with beetles usually attacking trees weakened by other stresses, such as drought or flooding.  Generally this does not pose a great  threat to the other, healthier trees in the area.

But I recently spoke to a couple landowners concerned about bark beetle attacks in their ponderosa pine.  Their thinking goes as follows: storm events that cause blowdown can create lots of weak or dying trees- prime beetle rearing habitat!-which sometimes allow beetle populations to grow to a point that they are numerous enough to attack adjacent healthy trees.  This is particularly true of the  California fivespined Ips (Ips paraconfusus) in ponderosa pine.  The tiny Ips beetle needs weak or dying trees to rear brood and is very fond of fresh storm damage just 3 inches in diameter and up.  And because Ips have two generations a year in the Willamette Valley, they can have explosive population increases when conditions are right.

Their logic is good, and the landowners I was talking to were worried that conditions this year are lining up for an Ips beetle increase that might harm their young ponderosa pine plantings.  I have not seen much storm damage directly to the ponderosa pine plantings, but I have seen some of scots pine plantings which sustained significant damage.  Much of it is above 3 inches, freshly down and so potentially ideal breeding material.

Why “potentially?”  Well, it is certainly the right size wood to cause problems, and Ips have been collected from many non-native ornamental pine species (including scots pine) here in the Valley.  But Rob Flowers, ODF State Entomologist tells me it is not clear how well scots or other exotic pine species support Ips brood production.  Nonetheless, he expects we may see an up-tick in Ips damage here and there in the Valley where there was storm damage.

Here is why.  The first IPs flight of the year is probably about to start as the overwintering generation of Ips emerges to look for breeding sites.  Their flight generally peaks around early-May here in the Valley.   If there is lots of down breeding material laying around for too long, we might see a large emergence of the first summer generation in early-mid July, and the second flight period of the year. It is this generation that could pose a significant threat to even healthy ponderosa pine stands in the neighborhood.  The July beetles cannot find any fresh slash, so they are more likely to attack standing green trees, just when trees are typically starting to be under some drought stress. This flight will in turn lead to the second generation of the summer, emerging around mid-October to be the overwintering generation.

Generally, the key to preventing large brood build ups  of the California fivespined Ips is to clean up damaged stands early.  Trunks should be cut from the roots, made into firewood, and stacked to encourage rapid drying.  Larger slash needs to be chipped, burned or spread out to dry, rather than left in slow-drying piles. Timeliness is important to prevent larvae from completing their development in June.  Rob figures one could theoretically stretch the clean-up period until then, but cautions that every year is different, and our understanding and prediction of development rates and emergence dates is not an exact science.

There may still be time to disrupt Ips brood development in storm damage material
There may still be time to disrupt Ips brood development in storm damage material


I’ll close by referring you to this WSU Pest Watch publication  for more information about the bug and slash treatment recommendations, which are generally the same as for the Willamette Valley.

By Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Benton, Linn & Polk Counties

Wood accumulating in every un-used space may indicate a problem…

This blog often carries information about insect or disease problems emerging in local forests and woodlands.  Today I will address a sensitive but common problem in the local woodland owner community, starting with the question:  Do you or someone you know have an irrational attachment to wood?  Behaviors such as holding back low value logs to saw into boards hoarded for undefined future projects may indicate an important condition you need to be aware of, the wood sickness.

Continue reading

ODF photo
ODF photo

By Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Benton, Linn & Polk Counties

It is never really too early to think about fire season.  With fire season comes rules and regulations that affect both the general public and forest landowners.  Nearly everyone is affected by some, such as rules for basic fire tools to be carried when driving on forest roads during regulated use  as reported last summer.

If you operate during fire season, then there are other specific rules regarding fire prevention and preparedness that will apply to you.  These roles address water supply and fire equipment, fire watch and preventative actions and steps that are meant to prevent wildfire and protect landowners from fire damage, injury and fire cost liability. Continue reading

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

Source: Vernonia School District

Typically, northwest Oregon forests are considered in terms of their high productivity, their ecological characteristics, or their contribution to the state’s economy. But how do our forests shape the rural communities they surround? And how do these communities influence the forests?

These questions have been on my mind over the past couple years, as I’ve been working with community members in Vernonia on a study of “community vitality”*. Ninety-five percent of the land surrounding Vernonia is forest, and most is privately owned. So, it would seem natural that forests and forestry are important to the local economy and culture. We wanted to dig deeper into these assumptions, so we examined existing data plus information from surveys that we conducted last summer. Continue reading

rain gauge
The Extension Office’s rain gauge (on a dry day)

By Paul Wilson, Columbia County Master Woodland Manager

My cats get me up every morning by 7:30.  They get fed.   I check the rain gauge.

Then I record the amount and other observations on a website.  After more than a year, I have a habit.   It’s simple, useful, and fun.

We’re five years into reforesting a clearcut.   The early spring after our first planting was unusually dry, but the effects varied a lot even on our small forest.  Clatskanie averages almost five feet of rain a year. Even so, we lost a lot of site-adapted seedlings because they dried out – in February and March.   Soil differences played a role.  But where we were able to irrigate a bit the trees thrived.

Last fall we saw a blurb in the paper about the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow (CoCoRaHS) network.  When we checked out the CoCoRaHS website there was only one regularly reporting volunteer in Columbia County.  There are official weather stations around – the City of Clatskanie, the Kelso airport, and others, but none seemed to describe what happens right here.    Continue reading

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

In one word, what’s this a picture of?

Last month, the Port of Portland rejected a billboard that was proposed for the Portland airport. “Welcome to Oregon: Home of the Clearcut”, reads the ad, developed by a coalition of groups that oppose legislation that would increase timber harvests on federal lands. Now a subject of a free-speech debate, the fate of the billboard is unclear.

The billboard is meant to be provocative. But what interests me more than the billboard itself, or even the purpose behind it, is the public’s reaction, as expressed in various Letters to the Editor in the Oregonian. These letters reveal wide-ranging perceptions of what forests and forestry are (and aren’t). Continue reading

A group of Linn County woodland owners on their annual picnic outing, stood in the shade of a 25 year old Douglas-fir plantation on McCully Mountain on a warm afternoon two weeks ago, as Linda Butts talked about the history and growth of the stand.  Planted at 440 T/A, pruned to 8 feet and thinned with a processor three years ago to 170 T/A, it was easy to move around, see the condition of the leave trees, and how they were growing.  The group talked about the thinning, small wood markets (Linda sold thinning as pulp or chip & saw), and of course there was some discussion (unresolved) about whether or not they had taken quite enough trees or not.  But all agreed the stand was looking pretty darn good.

Linda talking about a stand on her family property
Linda talking about a stand on her family property

We also talked a fair bit about getting the stand started 25 yrs ago.  Joining Linda in the discussion were Mike Barsotti and Rod Bardell, retired ODF Service Foresters who had worked with her and other private family forestland owners much of their careers.  What was fun for me was listening to their recollections not just about that particular planting, but also about how much was being learned about planting and establishment in the 70’s and 80’s.  It is always interesting to hear from some of the pioneers. Continue reading

Fire Season is now or soon will be in effect in much of the Tree Topics reading area, as declared by the State Forester according to regional fire conditions. So I got online to see what’s been declared. I went over to the ODF Wildfire website and clicked 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. Continue reading

Ellie's log_bookDo you struggle with ways to engage your child, grandchild, or a young scientist friend with our local forest lands? I would like to suggest a new book, Ellie’s Log, to nurture your young scientist, and to help you both explore the mysteries in our collective backyard of Oregon’s forests. Ellie’s Log is part fictional story, part forest ecology lesson, and part field journal all set in a mature Douglas-fir forest in Oregon. Continue reading

drought stressThe phone has been ringing off the hook lately with calls from people describing sick and dying Douglas-fir and other conifer trees. The trees are of a wide range of ages and in many environments and settings, although most calls have been coming from within the valley margin and have to do with young trees.

So far, the answer is generally: “It is drought stress”.  Huh, in May? Well it has been a dry winter and spring, … but that is not the issue.

My best explanation is that we had a pretty hard end of summer last year. Remember that? NO rain until mid-October then, Boom, it was winter. By then, many trees had started running out of water, killing tops or branches, and leaving leaders and branches susceptible to attack by various opportunistic pests.

We started seeing a few classic signs of drought stress (tops dying and branches “flaring out”) at the very end of the season last year, but late enough that many did not have time to show up before the weather turned. Injuries had occurred, so it was just a matter of time before they expressed themselves, which is happening now. The recent hot weather seems to have made it more sudden and dramatic.

This happens from time to time. Here are two good articles a few years back by the ODF Forest Health team explaining Dead tops and Branches (with Good pictures), and about Drought and Mortality.

It is important to keep in mind that the Willamette Valley can be a challenging climate for trees. Many of our soils in the valley are poorly drained, which is hard on most of our conifers, and other soils are fairly shallow and cannot hold much water. Also our summers are hotter and drier than in the mountains. Heat and drought stress can kill trees outright, or more often just put the trees under stress, which can then lead to pest problems (as explained in the two publications above). From what I am seeing and hearing, the major cause of the problem now seems to be drought stress. Insect or diseases which able to take advantage of a stressed tree’s condition may sometimes be involved, but they are generally not the cause of the problems.

Finally, weather can be more stressful when trees are overcrowded, so thinning stands to keep trees vigorous with adequate growing space may be helpful in the long term. Right now, we just have to wait it out, and hope we get some serious rain this year, or we will see this problem intensify.

We all better get out there and wash the car…..

Brad Withrow-Robinson