Changes observed in the forest and surrounding area:

Over the past 29 years this is what I have observed here: ( This meant to be a dynamic document; that is, it will change at times as I add more observations and try to clarify the syntax. ) This is a record of observations. This is not an official scientific article or document. It is not peer reviewed and is not intended to be a scholarly article; and additionally, I am not a scientist nor am I qualified to speak as a scientist; however, If you have any questions as to the validity of the information here, some of my educational/vocational experience is noted here. My intention in putting this on the web is to supply a record and provide starting points for study.

First a very brief description of the property and its history ( which for reference I will refer to as "our" property ):

It is small as forested lands go, and is rectangular: 620 feet by 390 feet. There is a house on the property within a clearing of approximately .5 acres. The house was built 30 years ago and the clearing at that time was .5 acres. Since then, the forest has reclaimed much of the clearing. The only impervious surface is the roof area of the house and storage sheds; which is about 2500 square feet. This forest/dwelling combination is located in what used to be a large area of what real estate brokers might refer to as "undeveloped land". When I first started making informal observations the year was 1974. The closest dwelling was slightly over 1/4 mile away. About 1/4 mile to the west, there was an old trail that went through the forest to the south west of our place that we used to walk on. Some of this property was on "county owned" land. About 1 mile into the trail there was a hemlock tree about 8 or 9 feet in diameter; definitely an old growth tree - one they had not cut back in the early days of logging here.I do not know if that tree is still standing, but I doubt it. I got an arial view picture from the county in 1976 to determine the extent of "wildness" of the area. In an area of three thousand plus acres there were no more than 45 dwellings and those were mostly clustered in small areas. Continuing east - toward, and into the Cascades, the human population density was similar in nature gradually decreasing approaching the upper foothills.

General information formulated from qualitative observations made over the past 29 years in this area of forest:

1.When it snows in the forest less snow reaches the forest floor than on adjacent non-forested areas. How much less? I've made some observations over the years and it is generally about half to 3/4 as much in the forest. In other words if we get 6 inches of snow in the clearing, there will be about 2 inches on the ground cover on the floor of the forest and the rest is distributed throughout the branches of the trees. The snow in the non-forested areas takes longer to melt than the snow in the forest depending on the temperature. What this means is the ground is kept colder longer when there is no forest to shelter it. The effect on the ground is more severe outside of the forest.

2. The temperature feels warmer in the forest in the winter and cooler in the summer. The cooling effect is more noticable than the warming effect in the winter with the exception of the fact that the forest keeps the wind speed down, thus reducing the wind chill in the winter. This means the temperature is more moderate in the forest. When the local temperature is 30 degrees F ( + or - 1 or 2 degrees ) there is not significant frost within this forest, and there is always frost outside of the forest. I cannot remember a time when this was not the case here.

3. When it rains there are no mud puddles in the forest, even on the moss covered trail. I have yet to see one; and it stays dryer and wetter longer in the forest. In general most all external effects are moderated by the forest, even man made occurances like freeway noise and foul air.

4.Herbs grow slower in the shade and are much more robust and flavorful, making them a better product.

5. It is possible to have a garden in the forest if the right crops are chosen there will be modest yields with little or no damage to the forest. Crops such as potatoes, beans, peas, tomatoes, spinach, chard, sorrel, most herbs, carrots, and radishes all grow, just not as large as in direct sunlight. Watering requirements are less.

more later....
More history and observations:

In the late 70's and early 80's, We would see coyotes and foxes occasionally in the back 1/4 acre clearing. We could hear the coyotes in the spring; a very interesting sound indeed. To the west, north, and east there were thousands of acres of forest supporting these creatures. There were hawks that would let out an occasional screech as they flew overhead. Pileated woodpeckers still live here. Mountain beavers live here. I have only seen one once; but have continued to see their burrows and piles of herbage. They are mostly noctural, as are opossums and raccoons; which I have seen here including the young of both. I have seen flying squirrels here, and bats. We used to see an eagle fly over occasionally. There was one area to the north that was two sections ( 1320 acres ) that were totally forested with second growth in the early 70's It is now a small development-city with petrol based pavement, rooftops, automobiles, sidewalks, noise, smoke, runoff, chemically poisoned neatly trimmed lawns, and plastic-looking non-native plants.

In the 70's most of the time there was no noise pollution except for an occasional car on the county road or an airplane flying overhead. There had been some logging in adjacent areas but no clear cuts. The smell of winter, spring, summer, and fall were always easy to experience. I wonder how many people have experienced the incredible sweet essence of Nootka Rose, Elderberry blossoms, and Maple blossoms when the spring sun warms them and fills air with fragrance you can get lost in. The trees and other vegetation present are what has grown after the devastation brought upon this part of the north american continent by the plundering that occurred in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For pictures of what used to be here you can look for a book that is listed here. On this page, look for the book "The History of Snohomish County", by William Whitfield volume 1: Pioneer Historical Publishing company, Chicago Seattle 1926. CALL # = 979.734 H62. In this book you will see the pictures of the ancient trees that were destroyed. Look on these pages for pictures of the trees that used to be here: 679,697,703,711,715 and try to imagine for yourself what this place must have been like before the destruction began. We can only now imagine what this area would have been like if the forests existing here had not been destroyed in the name of profit and greed. The forest here is now about 100 years old. The largest tree on the property is a big leaf maple with a diameter of slightly over 5 feet at ground level; it is not the tallest, however; that privilage is reserved for one of the fir trees that is slightly over 4 feet in diameter at ground level and close to 100 feet tall.

There is a ravine that runs diagonally across the property from the north east corner to the southwest corner that is about 25 feet below average terrain but quite gradual and about 175 feet across. At the bottom of this ravine is a watercourse that is active in the winter months when there is adequate precipitation, normally from late September to mid May. In the early 90's we could actually hear the water in this "winter creek" flowing after a heavy rain from 150 feet away through the forest. It has been at least ten years since I have heard the water flowing there. As of this season up to now; Feburary of 2005, there has been no water flowing.

I cannot begin to list all the species of animal, insect, and plant life there is here; but I have taken notice of many. The predominant plants are sword fern, salal, oregon grape, and salmon berry. Some of the plants I have observed here are/were: Red Elderberry, Purple Elderberry, Salal, Oregon Grape, Bracken Fern, Sword Fern, Trillum, Miners lettuce, Thistle, Huckleberry, Salmon berry, Snowberry, Thimble berry, Logan berry, Blackberry ( R. ursinus Trailing blackberry/dewberry ), Nootka Rose, Nettle ( I have not seen nettles for at least 15 years here ), Lady fern, Fire weed, and Foxglove. The Foxglove is more prolific some years than others. This year ( 2005 ) they are numerous. Last year foxglove grew to ten feet tall. There are many LBM's (little brown mushrooms) and a few mushrooms that I have identified such as Chanterelle, Boletus Mirabilis, puffballs, Shaggy Mane, Inky caps, Russula, Amanita Muscaria ( and others closely resembling the deadly amanita type ) false Chanterelle, Choral Mushroom, Elfen Saddle, Oyster mushrooms, Jack-o-lantern mushrooms, Witches Jelly, and Shaggy Parasol.

The trees here include: Western Hemlock, Douglas Fir, Red Alder, Big Leaf Maple, Dogwood (Now all dead and gone), Western Red Cedar, Holly, Cascara, White Pine(now dead and gone), Yew (only one and it is very sick), Vine maples( they are dying out ), and Mountain ash ( 2 trees ). There is an area of about 2 acres that contains about 95 percent evergreen trees consisting mainly of Douglas Fir, and Western Hemlock with 10 cedar trees, one of which is over 14 inches in diameter at ground level and the others are smaller. In this area the ground cover is dominated by salal and oregon grape, with some sword ferns. In the ravine most of the trees are alder with one large maple. In this area the ground cover is more diverse. On the east side of the ravine about half way up are the largest fir trees. On the west side the homogenous fir tree forest continues up to the north boundry, past which, is now stripped of the forest that was once there.

It should be mentioned that from history we know there was a fire here at the beginning of the 20th century; the remnants of which have been observed. Almost everywhere in the undisturbed part of the forest there are "charcoalized" pieces of wood. The stumps still show signs of burning. Approximately 8 inches down in the soil there have been found remains of another fire or possibly the soil here was disturbed so violently by machinery that this is from the 1900 fire.

In 1974 there were two areas where nettles grew prolifically in the vine maple grove and in the ravine where the creek runs in the winter. They are now totally gone from both areas, and have been for over 15 years.

Alder trees old and young have been dying for the past 15 years. Those younger trees near the road are mostly effected.

There are 18 stumps from the old growth that were easily recoginzable and numerous smaller ones siginficanlty rotted down noted in 1974. Of these half are/were cedar. At ground level most of what is left of these stumps exceed 4 feet in diameter. One of them has the upper portion of the tree laying under earth ( apparentlly ) as it fell. so we can see the length of the log. The base of this stump is in excess of 8 feet.

Holly trees have sprung up they seem to be all over. I haven't done a count yet but that is coming up soon.

March 29, 2006. Update on the Holly trees: they are a non-native invasive and are all being removed.

In the last 3 years maple trees have started to get dead areas - branches tops.

Butter cups have thrived here for about 15 years; and now are not quite as numerous. They started thriving about the same time the nettles disappeared.

Deforestation has caused mud flow to fill in the watercourse area on the north boundry: Between 1979 and 1984 the ten acres on the north east side of the property were clearcut for use as a nursery. Within the next 3 years the runoff created by this pillage filled an area approximately 100 feet long by 50 feet wide in the ravine with 18 inches of silt from their unprotected topsoil washed away into the ravine. Throughout the next 20 years the ten acres was used as a commercial nursery stock production field. For the entire 20 years I observed workers spraying liquids on the area and noted the continual absence of any underbrush in the entire ten acre area. Once a year they sprayed the private road we share on their side and all the vegetation died soon after. Each winter the water that accumulated in the drainage ditch where they sprayed would run off through the culvert and onto our property, then through and down into the headwaters of little bear creek. This area is now home to families with small children.

In the early 1980's the property directly to the south of ours was clearcut about 75% by the owner to build a house and maintain farm animals. Soon after this the thanksgiving day storm of the 80's hit. We lost an 18 inch diameter hemlock near the house, and two 30 inch diameter fir trees in the back 2 acres. He had a bull and a cow for a short while. The bull attacked him several times and he decided to get rid of it. It got loose in the forest once but did not do much damage as it could not move. About the same time the property directly to the north of us was cleared; ( but not clear cut ) for a house and then subdivided to add more houses. In the late 90;s their subdivided property was mostly clear cut by a new owner who wanted to put four horses on 1/2 acre. They moved the property line to acquire a few large trees and put up a fence on their newly acquired strip of land. They apparently soon realized that four horses on one half acre does not work, and they sold the land to a person who cut most of the rest of the trees down and then, put up a mechanic's garage in their place, and has a business. He kills blackberries. There was a "freak" storm last spring that had 55+ mph winds coming from the north west right across his place. On our place, those winds blew down a 65 foot hemlock, a 75 foot piece of the huge maple in the front yard; and snapped off a 14 inch diameter alder tree 25 feet up and blew it 40 feet. Its my theory that if that area had not had most of the trees removed, the effect to them and us would have been minimal.

In about 1990, the property to the south west of ours was clearcut for a house and horses. The very next year was the big windstorm of the early 90's - at the time of the national election. The people directly to the north of the new clearcut lost over half of their trees. It looked like a tornado had come through. Nasty, very nasty. We lost one huge fir tree that was nearly 3 feet in diameter at ground level. What you do on your land DEFINITELY affects your neighbors.

The 90's were a very bad time for the ecosystem here. Hundreds of acres of forest were removed for housing developments to the north, south, and west of us. There was a veritable explosion of habitat destruction. Most of these houses are of the multi-million dollar catagory - definately out of reach for most people. There was a 20 acre area that was covered with dense growth of fir and cedar trees about 1000 feet to the west of us that is now mostly cleared. Some of those cedar trees were 4+ feet in diameter. We used to hunt chanterelle mushrooms there. There were enough to take and still allow the system to exist. In the years when there were few, we took none. All that is gone now.

28 April 2005: The Trilliums have been out for a while now. I have some pictures that I will be adding when I get time.

Since about 1994 there has been an increase in the number of crows in this area. I had not noticed them before this time. I have been watching them since then. They are noisy at times and this is what makes them stand out. But, in the forest here, they are often very quiet. They watch and glide through the forest silently. I have had them follow me through the forest, and I would not have noticed if I had not been watching them. They fly from tree to tree as I walk through the forest. This usually happens with one or two birds. I have observed five basic types of vocal communication they use here:

1. One or two short calls appear to be a greeting of sorts.
2. Three, four , or five short calls appear to be warning calls relating to intruders.
3. They have a complicated sound like laughter that is somewhat subdued but can be heard here and seems to be conversation. I have not heard this anywhere else.
4. Sometimes the series of calls are longer like quarter notes instead of eighth notes. This often happens when they are flying away.
5. I have also heard them relaying calls from other crows in the distance, like a communications network.

Freeway noise / highway noise now audible -- was not in 1980: Due to the increase in automobile traffic and the removal of thousands of acres of forest; we now get to experience the roar of freeway traffic during the daytime and on weekends too! How about that? Now we have noise pollution, and light pollution from the associated cities that supply the traffic. When it is cloudy the sky glows bluish white to the north, dull red to the north west; and red to the south. In 1975 there was not any highway noise to be heard; although I am sure it was there - I was just used to it. The amount of traffic then, of course, was much less so what noise we did hear was likely covered up by the sound of wind, and birds and our own voices and activity.

Vine maples are loosing leaves: The vine maples on the west side of the property are starting to loose their leaves and large portions of the branches are dead. These are the ones that have the most exposure to the sunlight.

Coral mushroom has never returned: The coral mushroom at the base of the fir tree on the north side of the garden area has not fruited since 1978. I assume it is dead.

The large maple and fir trees have started to form a "canopy" with growth at least 50 feet up being the most dense. This gives the effect of a natural "cathedral" much like one sees in an old growth forest.

The water level in the well has gone down 6 inches in the 20 years from 1976 to 1996. How do I know this you might ask? When the well pump went out in 1996, we pulled it up and could see the rust rings and could tell where they were wet and dry. That means the acquifer is at least 6 inches lower now. Whether or not that all happened recently, I don't know. It may not be linear. Most likely its not. Its a haunting reminder that soon all the water down there will be gone and there won't be a damn thing we can do about it.

The damage to date from 1975 far exceeds any damage left from the Columbus day storm in October 1962 when there were wind gusts of 150 mph at Naselle, Washington, which is near the coast; 100 mph in Renton, 88 mph in Tacoma, and 92 mph in Bellingham. ( Information here on the columbus day storm and other storms in Washington state and Oregon state ) Some of you may remember that storm. The wind speed in a catagory 5 Hurricane is 155 mph+. This is the worst catagory. For reference; 74 miles per hour is the lowest Hurricane force wind. ( information in this pdf file on hurricanes ) The power was out for a week in Marysville, where I lived then. From 1960 to 1975 is 15 years. I have been observing here for 29 years and I know what is left after windstorms. We haven't had anything even close to the severity of the Columbus day storm since then. If there was no effect from clearcuts we would know for sure by now; because the Columbus Day storm would have blown down many more trees than any of the subsequent storms; and there just was not that much damage in this forest because there were enough trees to withstand the force of a hurricane. Not true any more. I don't even want to think about what will happen when the next big storm comes through here. It, quite frankly, scares the hell out of me. The storm we had this Feburary (2006) had slightly over 55 mph gusts. Here two trees were blown down. One was a fir tree 30 inches in diameter and 80 feet tall; the other a hemlock, about half that size that was snapped in half by the force of the wind.

In the areas around us where the forest has been removed, there is now grass growing that was not there before. Some of it is up to 6 tall by the end of summer.

2004: under brush very sparse. ( very dry spring ): In 2004 the underbrush was almost as scarce as it is in the winter time. There was not much rain in the spring and there was an ice storm in Janurary that destroyed much of the salmon berry and elderberry bushes, the tops of some fir trees, and many branches on most fir trees here. During the covering by the ice you could hear branches breaking and crashing to the ground about every 10 minutes or so for 24 hours. A 4 inch diameter piece of the large fir tree next to a building broke off along with several hundred pounds of ice and fell through the roof, forcing replacement of the entire roof.

For the past 2 days the (Chinook) wind has been blowing hard. 20 inch diameter alders can be seen oscilating half-way down from the top (approx 50 feet up from ground level). The fir trees, of course, have more violent motion. The motion is varied sometimes up to 1 foot.From my past exeprience of listening to weather reports and watching the motion of trees in storms, my estimate is 40mph gusts 75 feet above average terrain. This has come after snow and sub freezing temperatures for 10 days. Here, 2 inches of snow fell, followed by a very brief ice storm that caused no major changes I could see.

  The area mentioned above ( the trees affected by the clearcut on the property to the southwest of ours ) that had over half of the trees blown down has now started to heal. Whoever owns the property has, so far, allowed the forest to start to return. The trees there are mostly hemlock, and they are now about 8 to 10 feet tall. It will take them about 80 more years to return to the size of the trees that were ripped up by the wind. The effect to our property has been that alder trees have sprung up on the edge of the forest where they had all but died out earlier ( 1979-1985 ). The amount of sunlight that shines through the forest increased when those trees were blown down back then, to this extent: before the storm and the clear-cut removed the trees, we never saw a sunset directly; now the sunset is visible whenever the sky is clear during sunset. This is as viewed 400 feet north east from the edge of the destroyed property.

The amount of precipitation at this location has been far below normal for Jan/Feb/March,( the winter creek has not run ) and temperatures have been above normal. For the past 3 weeks we have had summer-like weather, with temperatures in the upper 60's during the day. Normally the maple leaves that have fallen are a wet cover on the ground at this time of the season. Not so now. They are quite dry. Big leaf maples have started to bud. Elder berry bushes have leaves now. Some of the salmon berry bushes in moderate sunlight have blossoms. The pileated wood peckers are active now, I have seen 2 pairs so far. The blackberries have started new leaves. Dandelions have started their spring growth and are very tasty. In the garden, the sorrel is growing very nicely and has been most of the winter. It has started its more rapid growth now and also, has a very good flavor. The sunrises are beautiful in the forest, but sadly each day there is more and more burned-looking brown dead foilage visible on the hemlock trees, and the sunrises only make this painfully obvious. Spiders have started spinning their webs.

2005-03-20, 0500 AM: HEAVY WIND
Experiencing wind gusts to 40 mph; winter-like weather. The wind is supposed to die down slighly by later this morning. It is fierce now. Explosive gusts; by the sound it is strong enough to knock out the power. The summer-like temperatures stopped this past week. Wind, rain and winter-like temperatures have prevailed since the 14th (considered "normal" by most). I'll check the "bucket" when it is safe to go outside.

2005 Feburary and march were unusually dry and warm. Temperatures reached the lower 70's. Maple trees have blossoms and leaves started now(2005-04-16) although they have slowed their growth the past 3 weeks. Salmonberry, Alder, blackberry, have leaves also. Dandelions have some blooms and much new growth. vine maples have no leaves at the lower levels. Some have leaves at the top.

All measurments here are in "the" clearing ( approximately .35 acres with trees surrounding ). The container has straight sides, flat bottom. Accuracy of measurements: plus or minus five percent of true value.

2005-03-30, PRECIPITATION:
In the last 10 days there has been approximately 2.5 inches of rain and the temperatures have been near "normal".

2005-04-01, PRECIPITATION:
In the last 2 days there has been approximately .75 inches of rain and the temperatures have been near "normal".

2005-04-03, PRECIPITATION:
In the last 2 days there has been approximately 1 inch of rain and the temperatures have been near "normal".

2005-04-16 10:30 AM pdt, PRECIPITATION:
In the last 2 days there has been approximately 1.5 inches of rain and the temperatures have slightly below "normal".

2005-04-20 7:00 AM pdt, PRECIPITATION:
In the last 4 days there has been approximately .875 inches of rain. Temps normal and 19th was clear.

2005-04-28 7:00 AM pdt, PRECIPITATION:
In the last 8 days there has been approximately .125 inches of rain. The 27th was sunny and warm in the afternoon.

2005-05-12 7:00 AM pdt, PRECIPITATION:
In the last 14 days there has been approximately 1.75 inches of rain. Most of this has been in the past 4 days.

2005-05-16 7:00 PM pdt, PRECIPITATION:
In the last 4 days there has been approximately 1.85 inches of rain. About half of this was on the 15th.

2005-05-18 4:00 PM pdt, PRECIPITATION:
In the last 2 days there has been approximately .60 inches of rain. Since March 30 2005, there has been approximately 10.95 inches of precipitation here.

a link to blackberry info

About the author:
He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Washington (June 2006). With the exception of time in the Navy on sea duty, he has lived in or near large forested areas in Washington state all his life and has maintained an organic vegetable garden ( shade grown ) for 25 years.

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references for study

Cook, S.S. (ed.) 1997. Wetland Plants of Western    
Washington & Northwestern Oregon. Seattle Audubon
Society/Washington Native Plant Society (The Trailside Series), Seattle.

Gunther, E. 1981.  Ethnobotany of Western Washington. University of 
Washington Press, Seattle.

Hickman, J.C. (ed.) 1993. The Jepson Manual, Higher Plants of California.
University of California Press, Berkeley.

Hitchcock, C.L. & A. Cronquist. 1990. Flora of the Pacific Northwest.
University of Washington, Press, Seattle.

Kingsbury, J.M. 1964. Poisonous Plants of the United States and Canada. 
Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

Kuhnlein, H.V. & N.J. Turner. 1991. Traditional Plant Foods of Canadian 
Indigenous Peoples. Nutrition, Botany and Use. Volume 8.  In: Food and 
Nutrition in History and Anthropology, edited by S. Katz. gordon And 
Breach Science Publishers, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Lombardi, A. 1996. Respecting the Knowledge: Ethnobotany of Western Washington.  
Washington State Historical Society. Washington State Capiral Museum, 211 W.
21st Ave, Olympia, WA 98501.

Pojar, J. & A. MacKinnon (eds.) 1994. Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast. 
Lone Pine Publishing, Redmond, Washington.

Turner, N.J. 1979. Plants in British Columbia Indian Technology. B.C. Provincial 
Museum Handbook No. 38, Victoria.

Turner, N.J. 1995. Food Plants of Coastal First Peoples. Royal British Columbia
Museum. University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

Turner, N.J., R. Bouchard and D.I.D. Kennedy. 1980.   Ethnobotany of the 
Okanagan-Colville Indians of   British Columbia and Washington.   B.C. 
Provincial Museum Occasional Paper No. 21, 179 pp.

Turner, N.J. & R.J. Hebda 1990. Contemporary use of bark for medicine by two 
Salishan native elders of southeast Vancouver Island. Journal of 
Ethnopharmacology 229:59-72.

Turner, N.J. & A.F. Szczawinski. 1990. Common Poisonous Plants and Mushrooms 
of North America. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon

Turner, N.J., L.C. Thompson, M.T. Thompson and A.Z. York. 1990. Thompson 
Ethnobotany: Knowledge and Usage of Plants by the Thompson Indians of 
British Columbia. Royal British Columbia Museum Memoirs No. 3, Victoria.

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