CORVALLIS, Ore. The northern spotted owl, a threatened species in the Pacific Northwest, would actually benefit in the long run from active management of the forest lands that form its primary habitat and are increasingly vulnerable to stand-replacing fire, researchers conclude in a recent study.
Whatever short-term drawbacks there may be from logging, thinning, or other fuel reduction activities in areas with high fire risk would be more than offset by improved forest health and fire-resistance characteristics, the scientists said, which allow more spotted owl habitat to survive in later decades.
Decades of fire suppression and a "hands-off" approach to management on many public lands have created overcrowded forests that bear little resemblance to their historic condition at the expense of some species such as the northern spotted owl, researchers said.
The findings were published in Forest Ecology and Management, a professional journal, by researchers from Oregon State University and Michigan State University.
"For many years now, for species protection as well as other reasons, we've avoided almost all management on many public forest lands," said John Bailey, an associate professor in the Department of Forest Engineering, Resources and Management at Oregon State University.
"The problem is that fire doesn't respect the boundaries we create for wildlife protection," Bailey said. "Given the current condition of Pacific Northwest forests, the single biggest threat facing spotted owls and other species is probably stand-replacement wildfire."
In the recent project, scientists used computer models to compare what would happen to vulnerable forest lands if they were managed, or simply left alone. They found that over a long-term period of about the next 75 years, active management of sites with high fire hazard would be more favorable for spotted owl conservation.
A "risk averse" strategy in
|Contact: John Bailey|
Oregon State University