Preserving Healthy Habitats
We never forget that hundreds of animal species call our forests home. That is why we are deeply involved in efforts to help wildlife survive and thrive.
A healthy forest requires a "mosaic" of timber growth—young trees, middle-aged, and older—similar to that which existed in North America before European settlement. The more our forests resemble such an ecosystem, the more likely we are to preserve biodiversity.
In addition to silviculture practices designed to support the well-being of wildlife, we regularly work with local, state, and federal agencies on research projects to increase our understanding of forestry's effects on specific species.
- We initiated a joint research project with the University of Idaho and several government agencies to determine the relationship between forestry and reproduction among northern goshawks. Our conclusion: Goshawks are tolerant of timber harvests near their nesting areas, so long as 40 percent of their nesting habitat remains intact. We also found that weather is an important factor in determining goshawks' nesting success.
- For 12 years, our biologists worked with the U.S. Forest Service's Northern Region to monitor songbirds so that we might better understand their habitat needs and long-term population trends. We monitored population levels of nearly 100 species of songbirds and developed bird-habitat relationship models for 67 of those species.
- In 2006, we initiated a multiyear study of the fisher, a mostly nocturnal mammal that preys on porcupines, snowshoe hares, and other small mammals. While the once-plentiful fisher has disappeared from much of the western United States, Idaho's Clearwater region is home to one of the largest fisher populations in the country. We are working with the University of Idaho, the State of Idaho, and several non-profits to better understand how fishers use managed landscapes.
- The Canada lynx has been listed as a threatened species since 2000. Starting in 2004, we worked with the University of Minnesota, the U.S. Forest Service, and others to look at the lynx's relationship with its habitat and with its main prey, the snowshoe hare. The study has documented an increase in the numbers and reproduction of lynx, which make their dens in areas of thick undergrowth and downed trees.
- We supported an ongoing bird research project with UPM-Kymmene and the University of Minnesota's Natural Resources Research Institute. The project resamples bird communities in a working forest landscape to determine what changes have occurred in breeding bird composition over time, whether patch size dynamics of the forests or bird use of the forests changed over a 20-year period, what is nesting success of breeding birds in recently harvested forests and what bird species use young forests during the post breeding season.
- At the forest stand level, questions have been raised about the effects of even-aged forest management on biological diversity. We have been involved in a study to help determine what level of individual or group tree retention is beneficial for different species of wildlife. Recommendations for retaining trees in harvest units typically include varying amounts of either scattered, individual trees or clumped retention. The objective of this study was to determine if communities and species of birds, bats and beetles respond to varying levels of tree retention within stands of red pine and jack pine.
- The red-cockaded woodpecker has been listed as an endangered species since 1970. Its numbers are believed to have dropped to an estimated 15,000 from an original population of 1.5 million. In 1995, we entered into an historic partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to create a habitat conservation plan, or HCP, for the red-cockaded woodpecker, providing a variety of strategies for encouraging the bird's recovery. More recently, we rewrote the HCP and embedded it in a 16,000-acre conservation easement in prime red-cockaded woodpecker habitat. This easement with the Nature Conservancy and the State of Arkansas, known as the Moro Big Pine working forest conservation easement, sets these lands apart in perpetuity.
- Biologists from The Wildlife Company monitor the red-cockaded woodpecker's population on our lands, conducting an annual survey and banding all newly fledged birds. Our researchers also regularly use "video peepers" to investigate the tree cavities where the red-cockaded woodpecker nests. Monitors have observed 24 birds on our lands, including nine potential breeding groups.