Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Roosevelt Elk Shaped Land Use Policy on Olympic Peninsula

On a trip up the Hoh River valley to examine a potential large deep-seated landslide I got to take in the elk herd that occupies the valley.

This herd was one of two I observed just west of and outside of Olympic National Park. The herd is one of the few "unmanaged" elk herds. The elk on the Olympic Peninsula are on the large side compared to other elk. These elk played a significant role in the land management history of the Olympic Peninsula. 

C. Hart Merriam, head of the USDA Division of Economic Ornithology and Mammalogy named the Olympic elk (Cervus canadensis Roosevelti). The name was in part to honor then Assistant Naval Secretary Theodore Roosevelt (theodorerooseveltcenter.org/Research/Digital-Library). Merriam recalled the detail which Roosevelt pointed out regarding an specimen.

Theodore Roosevelt was an avid hunter and conservationist. As a hunter he became interested in protecting his name sake elk and attempted to create a reserve for the elk in the Olympics, but was blocked by Congress. He later used the Antiquities Act in 1909 to create Mount Olympus National Monument.

Three decades later Franklin Roosevelt pushed for the creation of Olympic National Park further protecting the elk range.      

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Rain Forest to the Big Dry

This winter has been on the wet side. But despite that my trip to the Hoh River on the west side of the Olympic Range was all sun.

Hoh River and Mount Olympus

Sunshine in the temperate rain forest of Sitka spruce, western hemlock and western red cedar

This view of Olympus was a surprise. I had driven this haul road numerous times but had no sense of the mountains as it was raining on all previous trips 

After a couple days on the outer coast I headed east to the high plains east of Washington and the Rockies to the Big Dry of Montana. I paid lots of attention to the weather reports as I navigated to and from my destinations.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Landslide Split Tree Stump

I assess a lot of slopes for potential landslide hazards as part of my work. The bluff slope of this inspection was obviously not stable. There was recent slope movement on the steep slope. And the top edge was failing along much of the bluff.

Fracture along outer edge of steep bluff from slope movement expanding into the upland above the older slides on the slope.

Given the wet weather over the past two months, slope failures on steep glacial drift soils is not surprising. Landslides can rip roots apart and twist trees. Indeed we observed roots that had been broken by the soil moving away down the slope.

Broken roots hanging above dropped down slide block

But, the tree stump pictured below is the first time I have seen a split stump ( I have seen split and splintered trees on landslides)  

Split and offset stump on landslide

The slide was taking place within glacial marine drift. While the definitive shells were not present, the marine drift was over consolidated by past wetting and drying and has distinctive vertical fracturing from the consolidation. The vertical fractures can lead to blocks of the upper hard drift breaking and sliding down steep slopes.

Fractured drift underlying upper slope

Hard silt/clay drift