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Individual Highlight

Fire is for the Birds: How Two Rare Species Influence Fire Management Across the United States

Photo of A cavity tree for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker in a thinned and burned longleaf pine stand, Calcasieu Ranger District, Kisatchie National Forest, Louisiana.
A cavity tree for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker in a thinned and burned longleaf pine stand, Calcasieu Ranger District, Kisatchie National Forest, Louisiana. Snapshot : A national team of scientists examined two case studies that compare and contrast the value of prescribed fire and thinning to manage habitat for two endangered species: the red-cockaded woodpecker and the spotted owl. A key to success in managing the woodpecker in the south has been active prescribed burning programs along with thinning and other management for multiple species. Similar approaches would likely benefit the spotted owl in the west.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Guldin, James M. 
Research Station : Southern Research Station (SRS)
Year : 2019
Highlight ID : 1563

Summary

The U.S. Endangered Species Act has enabled species conservation but has differentially impacted fire management and rare bird conservation in the southern and western U.S. In the south, prescribed fire and restoration-based forest thinning are commonly used to conserve the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, whereas in the west, land managers continue to suppress fire across the diverse habitats of the northern, Californian, and Mexican spotted owls. Although the habitat needs of the woodpecker and the owl are not identical, substantial portions of both species' ranges have historically been exposed to relatively frequent, low- to moderate-intensity fires. Active management with fire and thinning has benefited the red-cockaded woodpecker but proves challenging in the Western U.S. USDA Forest Service research suggests that the Western U.S. could benefit from the adoption of a similar innovative approach through policy, public–private partnerships, and complementarity of endangered species management with multiple objectives. These changes would likely balance long-term goals of spotted owl conservation and enhance forest resilience.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Joseph L. Ganey - Rocky Mountain Research Station
  • Regions 5 and 6
  • Serra J. Hoagland - Rocky Mountain Research Station
  • Warren Montague - ?Poteau Ranger District, Waldron, AR??, Region 8, Ouachita National Forest
  •  ???Thomas Spies - Pacific Northwest Research Station
  •  ?John J. Keane - Pacific Southwest Research Station
  •  ?Paul F. Hessberg - ?Pacific Northwest Research Station
  •  ?Raymond Davis - Pacific Northwest Research Station
  •  Malcolm P. North - Pacific Southwest Research Station
  • ? Washington Conservation Science Institute
  • University of California at Berkeley
  •  ? University of Idaho
  •  Environment and Climate Change Canada
  •  Northern Arizona University?
  •  Tall Timbers Research Station
  •  University of California at Berkeley?
  •  University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point