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Understanding the influence of local and landscape conditions on the occurrence and abundance of Black-backed Woodpeckers in burned forest patches

Author(s): Richard L. Hutto, Deborah Austin, Sallie Hejl
Year Published: 2007

Wildfire is the predominant disturbance agent in the Northern Rockies. The nearly annual occurrence of wildfire at some point in a larger landscape has served as the environmental backdrop against which our native wildlife species have evolved. A number of native species have, in fact, become dependent on wildfires or wildfire-created habitats and are nearly restricted in their distribution to such conditions. The suppression of wildfires during the past 70 years may have placed many of these fire-dependent species at risk. Excessive fire suppression in the past has also led to the occurrence of more severe fires than would have occurred historically, necessitating fuels reduction treatments to prevent unnaturally severe fires in the future, restore site productivity on heavily burned areas, and protect residual live trees within the burned area perimeter. These activities must be accomplished in the face of meeting the needs of fire-dependent species as well. Unfortunately, while there is strong evidence from the literature that we need to maintain burned-forest habitat for wildlife species, there is little information about precisely how much, where, or in what structural condition. The lack of information is greatest for species such as the Black-backed Woodpecker, which appears to be relatively dependent on dense stands of fire- killed dead trees, and is a sensitive species in the USFS Northern Region for this very reason. This project will investigate the response of Black-backed Woodpeckers to fires of varying prefire management history, fire severity, and post-fire salvage treatments within the mid-elevation mixed-conifer forest types. Data will be used to better understand the conditions needed by this fire specialist, to evaluate the ecological consequences of pre-fire fuels treatments and post-fire salvage logging, and to significantly improve our ability to design future treatments with predictable results in terms of the response of fire-dependent birds. Additionally, the project will provide demonstration sites that will: 1) expose agency officials and the public to basic fire ecology and the complex interrelationships involved; 2) demonstrate how different pre- and post- fire timber harvesting activities can be accomplished while minimizing the negative effects on the most fire-dependent species; and 3) promote a greater understanding for the need to include certain forms of fire in the management of northern Rockies ecosystems.

Citation: Hutto RL, Austin DL, Hejl S.2007. Understanding the Influence of Local and Landscape Conditions on the Occurrence and Abundance of Black-Backed Woodpeckers in Burned Forest Patches. JFSP Final Report for project #04-2-1-106, 17p.
Topic(s): Fire Communication & Education, Public Perspectives of Fire Management, Fire Effects, Ecological - Second Order, Wildlife, Fire & Wildlife, Birds, Black-backed woodpecker, Fuel Treatments & Effects, Fuels
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Technical Report or White Paper
NRFSN number: 15635
FRAMES RCS number: 15359
Record updated: May 24, 2018