SEFS Students Present Forest Stewardship Plan to King County

This past spring, 14 SEFS students had the unique opportunity to partner with King County to write a forest stewardship plan for the 645-acre Black Diamond Natural Area, south of Seattle near Maple Valley. Writing the plan was the focus of a new course set up to provide applied, real-world forest management opportunities for students: Applied Forest Ecology & Management (SEFS521/ESRM490).

Black Diamond Natural Area

Black Diamond Natural Area

King County had purchased this forested land through a series of acquisitions during the past decade as part of the King County Open Space Plan. These forests, which were previously managed as industrial plantations, needed a long-term stewardship plan that aligned with King County Parks’ goals of providing recreational opportunities to the public while maintaining the social, ecological and economic functions of the forests. King County has recognized that these dense, 15- to 30-year-old Douglas-fir plantations need active management to provide quality, long-term habitat and recreation. Yet the land is right in the middle of a rapidly developing area where managing forests presents a major social challenge. So to facilitate that planning process, the county partnered with SEFS on this course—co-taught by Research Associate Derek Churchill and Associate Professor Greg Ettl—that would give students direct experience designing a stewardship plan.

Specifically, students were tasked with designing a stewardship plan and stand-level prescriptions for Douglas-fir plantations where the major uses have now shifted to mountain biking, horseback riding and trail running. The quarter was split between field sampling and inventorying forest structure, and also class sessions covering stand dynamics, variable-density thinning, logging systems, FVS modeling and landscape analysis, among other topics. With the heavy field component, students gained hands-on experience with a number of forestry concepts, including mastering the Relaskop, using density diagrams, installing inventory plots and cruising timber, as well as how concepts from forest ecology directly apply to designing forest management treatments. Throughout the quarter, students were able to draw on the expertise of Professor Emeritus Peter Schiess and several SEFS alumni, including Paul Wagner, Paul Fisher and Jeff Comnick.

Sean Jeronimo

SEFS grad student Sean Jeronimo measuring tree heights in the project area.

Students also engaged and interacted with neighboring communities in Maple Valley that are adjacent to the project area—a sensitive social dimension that is essential to successful forest stewardship in the proximity of urban growth boundaries. These neighborly considerations hit especially close to home for one of the students, Mary Starr, who has lived in Maple Valley for four years and knows firsthand the close relationship these communities have to their natural areas. “If you can work with stakeholders to do forestry successfully here, you can do it anywhere,” says Churchill.

While each student was assigned to write a section of the final stewardship plan, Abraham Ngu, a Master of Forest Resources candidate, coordinated and edited the final plan as part of his capstone project. The course then culminated with the students giving a formal presentation of their management recommendations to county officials, including the lead environmental coordinators.

Feedback from the county was immensely positive. Officials praised the students and, perhaps most importantly, gave a sincere indication they would like to continue the collaboration. In his post-presentation email to the course instructors, Dave Kimmett, program manager of King County Parks, wrote, “Is it too soon to think about the next class? The students made a very good impression today. ”

Not too soon at all, in fact, as King County Parks administration had a follow-up meeting with SEFS Director Tom DeLuca, Ettl and Churchill this past July, paving the way for another class in the spring of 2015.

Nice work!

Photos © Sam Israel/SEFS.

SEFS521/ESRM490

Water Seminar: Spring 2014

If you’re looking to soak up as much amazing knowledge as possible this spring, you’re in luck, as we have a veritable flood of seminars and guest talks lined up for your enjoyment. Among the offerings this quarter is the long-running Water Seminar (ESRM 429/SEFS529), which is held on Tuesday mornings from 8:30-9:30 a.m. in Mary Gates Hall, Room 389.

The talks are open to the public, so take a look at the schedule below and see which topics whet your intellectual appetite! (Our apologies for posting too late for you to make the first talk.)

Schedule

April 1
“Science, public policy and society: Experiences in river conservation and restoration”
Tom O’Keefe
Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director
American Whitewater Association

April 8           
“Assessing land use effects and regulatory effectiveness on streams in rural watersheds of King County, WA”
Gino Lucchetti
Environmental Scientist
King County

April 15
“Mythbusters: Challenging commonly held beliefs in stream restoration”
Jen O’Neal
Project Manager/Fish Biologist
TetraTech

April 22
“Pacific Northwest beavers are a lot like you: a little different”
Ben Dittbrenner
UW Ph.D. student

April 29
Film: History of Water
Terje Tvedt – Norwegian series

May 6
“Regional assessments of floodplains in the Puget Sound basin”
Chris Konrad
Research Hydrologist
USGS Tacoma

May 13
“Levee setbacks and removals in urban and rural rivers of King County”
Sarah McCarthy and Josh Latterell
Senior Ecologists, Green and White River Basins, River and Floodplain Management Section King County Water and Land Resources Division

May 20
“Fish passage through culverts: Considerations for design and evaluation”
Martin Fox
Fisheries Biologist
Muckleshoot Tribe

May 27
“River Restoration for a Changing Climate”
Tim Beechie
Research Scientist
Watershed Program, NOAA/NMFS

June 3
“Stream temperature: It’s not just another number”
Ashley Steel
Supervisory Statistician/Quantitative Ecologist
USFS, Seattle

Alumni Career Mentoring Event: April 16

Coming up on Wednesday, April l6, Xi Sigma Pi and the SEFS Alumni Group are co-hosting a career mentoring session for students to network with alumni working in the public and private sectors.

Xi Sigma PiThe event, to be held from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Forest Club Room, will feature representatives from a number of industry employers—including Weyerhaeuser, King County, and the Stockholm Environmental Institute—as well as a mix of alumni at various career stages, and who earned undergrad and/or graduate degrees from SEFS.

Coffee and snacks will be provided, and at the end of the official session, students and alumni can head over to Big Time Brewing Company for some more casual networking!

You aren’t required to RSVP to attend, but if you’re able to sign up beforehand that will greatly help organizers anticipate numbers and better match students to alumni. If you have any questions about the event or wish to get involved, email Natalie Footen of Xi Sigma Pi. Otherwise, register now!

Help Create Land Art Installation in Issaquah!

Black Forest (29,930,000 tons) is a large-scale land art installation slated for construction during February 2014 at Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park in Issaquah, Wash. King County is helping the artist recruit volunteers to assist in the construction of the project during the course of three days, from Friday, February 21, to Sunday, February 23!

Black Forest

Hans Baumann tours the project site.

About the Project
During the winter of 2013-2014, Swiss-American artist Hans Baumann will create an art installation at Cougar Mountain Wildland Park outside of Seattle. From 1863 to 1963, this park was the site of intensive coal mining and logging, and it is estimated that some 29,930,000 tons of CO2 were emitted into the atmosphere as a result of these activities. Black Forest will reimagine the park as a site for carbon sequestration through the construction of a large-scale land art installation. The project entails covering a carefully selected site in the forest with bio-carbon—an environmentally benign charcoal that is uncannily similar in appearance to the coal that was once mined here and still litters the forest floor in some places.

Scope
Approximately 45,000 pounds of bio-carbon will be applied to a site nearly one acre in size. Due to the scale of the installation, volunteers are needed to realize the project. These collaborators will have the opportunity to engage with the artist, contribute to the creative process, and create a public art piece.

Duties
As members of the project team, volunteers will have a significant hand in creating this large, site-specific “sculpture.” To assemble the piece, team members will carry bags of bio-carbon and spread them with a gentle hand across the ground. Areas to be covered in char will be clearly demarcated, but volunteers will take in active role in determining how the bio-carbon is applied to the specific areas of the site in which they will be working.

The project will be assembled over the course of three days. Volunteers can sign up for one of two shifts of work per day: 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., or 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.; each shift will be limited to eight volunteers.

Volunteers are asked to be of adequate physical fitness and comfortable with working outdoors. Tools, rain gear and refreshments will be provided. Prior to working, all volunteers and their visitors will be required to sign a waiver form. Although not required, it would be ideal if volunteers were able to be available for more than one day. The installation site and staging area are directly accessible by vehicle, and every effort will be made to make the experience an enjoyable one.

Learn more about the project and check out the Facebook page. And if you’d like to volunteer, contact Laurie Clinton at laurie.clinton@kingcounty.gov or call 206.296.4452.

Photo © www.theblackforest.org.