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Richard L. Hutto
Year Published:

Cataloging Information

Fire Effects
Ecological - Second Order
Fire & Wildlife
Post-fire Management
Salvage Logging

NRFSN number: 14507
FRAMES RCS number: 15937
Record updated:

The bird species in western North America that are most restricted to, and therefore most dependent on, severely burned conifer forests during the first years following a fire event depend heavily on the abundant standing snags for perch sites, nest sites, and food resources. Thus, it is critical to develop and apply appropriate snag-management guidelines to implement postfire timber harvest operations in the same locations. Unfortunately, existing guidelines designed for green-tree forests cannot be applied to postfire salvage sales because the snag needs of snag-dependent species in burned forests are not at all similar to the snag needs of snag-dependent species in green-tree forests. Birds in burned forests have very different snag-retention needs from those cavity-nesting bird species that have served as the focus for the development of existing snag-management guidelines. Specifically, many postfire specialists use standing dead trees not only for nesting purposes but for feeding purposes as well. Woodpeckers, in particular, specialize on wood-boring beetle larvae that are superabundant in fire-killed trees for several years following severe fire. Species such as the Black-backed Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus) are nearly restricted in their habitat distribution to severely burned forests. Moreover, existing postfire salvage-logging studies reveal that most postfire specialist species are completely absent from burned forests that have been (even partially) salvage logged. I call for the long-overdue development and use of more meaningful snag-retention guidelines for postfire specialists, and I note that the biology of the most fire-dependent bird species suggests that even a cursory attempt to meet their snag needs would preclude postfire salvage logging in those severely burned conifer forests wherein the maintenance of biological diversity is deemed important.


Hutto, Richard L. 2006. Toward meaningful snag-management guidelines for postfire salvage logging in north American conifer forests. Conservation Biology. 20(4): 984-993.
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