Of Woodpeckers and Harvests: Finding Compatibility Between Habitat and Salvage Logging

The western United States is home to many woodpecker species that are strongly associated with recently disturbed forests, including post wildfire and post-beetle outbreaks. These types of landscapes are favored habitat because the dead and dying trees provide nesting and foraging substrates. When managing these landscapes, managers must balance providing habitat for woodpeckers considered species of conservation concern with conducting salvage logging sales that generate economic revenue for the surrounding communities. Until recently, managers couldn’t be certain where suitable woodpecker habitat was located and whether the salvage logging would negatively impact the population.

Vicki Saab, a research wildlife biologist with the Rocky Mountain Station, has spent over two decades studying the habitat niches of disturbance-associated woodpecker species in post-wildfire landscapes. These data form the basis of FIRE-BIRD, a new habitat mapping tool that managers can use to locate probable woodpecker habitat within the area.

To demonstrate how FIRE-BIRD can be used to inform management decisions, Saab collaborated with the Malheur National Forest and the Blue Mountains Forest Partners on an experimental salvage logging study called the Canyon Creek Experimental Salvage Study. This 4-year project seeks to determine how 3 woodpecker species responded to 3 different salvage harvest levels. Although the data are still being collected, early analysis reveals that FIRE-BIRD is a valuable tool that can bring transparency to a salvage logging sale and assist managers in reserving wildlife habitat. Click here to read the report!