Sierra Club: “Cutting Trees to Save the Birds”

I was surprised to see this in Sierra, the magazine of the Sierra Club:

Cutting Trees to Save the Birds: How managing Maine’s “baby bird factory” can save eastern songbirds

“Gallo [a wildlife biologist] explains that healthy forests include a variety of vegetation. A dense understory allows birds to hide from predators, while open-and-closed canopies fit the different needs of many bird species. Standing dead wood provides cavities for nesting and attracts insects that birds feed on, while gaps in the trees mimic natural disturbances, allowing seedlings to sprout. “

This isn’t directly related to federal forest management, but if the Sierra Club is touting active forest management on private lands, maybe they’ll come around to accepting work on federal lands.

“The Forest Stewards Guild is now working to adapt and bring bird-centered forest programs to Rhode Island and North Carolina, said Amanda Mahaffey, the Northeast region director. They’re also looking to the Great Lakes states and Oregon. “

4 thoughts on “Sierra Club: “Cutting Trees to Save the Birds””

  1. The paragraph following the one you quoted is pretty relevant, too:
    “Maine’s forests today are a remix of human activity, invasive plants and insects, a warming climate, and tree species decimated by beech bark and other diseases. Abandoned farms have returned to forest, although the trees are smaller, younger, and more homogenous in age and size.”

    Where federal lands are degraded this kind of restoration could make sense. Also when the owners of the federal lands (us) agree with these goals:
    “In the most recent U.S. Forest Service National Woodland Owner Survey for Maine, family landowners cited beauty, wildlife, and nature as their top three reasons for owning.”

    And when there is “a good, strong scientific bird conservation rationale behind what you’re trying to do.”

    Then I think most people would support the idea “that selective thinning, which can be a single tree or a half acre, helps biodiversity and enhances wildlife habitat.”

  2. As character on the old ‘Laugh-in’ television years ago might have said, “Verrrry interesting”!

    I was at a forestry conference in Pittsburgh a few years ago and, on a field trip, we were in a forest talking about wildlife habitat. The biologist was saying how forest trees provided nesting but it was the openings that provided the forage (seeds and insects). He said these openings (i.e., food) were critical for feeding the young and to build strength for their long flights south; birds need both trees and openings.

    He was speaking specifically about eastern birds so I asked him if that was the case with western birds. With a wink, he said things were “different” in the West.

    I was at an Ore. St. University workshop some years ago and the speaker (an OSU professor) was saying how, over a large landscape, federal forests provided less habitat diversity than private forests. This was because federal ownerships tended to be landscape-scale and, with recent emphasis on old-growth reserves, did not provide much diversity.

    Taken together, I think the case can be made that there is a need across the landscape for everything from old-growth to early seral stages; all of one is probably no better than all of the other.

    • Dick

      Re: “Taken together, I think the case can be made that there is a need across the landscape for everything from old-growth to early seral stages; all of one is probably no better than all of the other.”
      –> Yes, the case has already been made and discussed on this site many times over the years. This is long established scientific fact. The emphasis on old growth that removed a great deal of forest management from our federal forests was a colossal mistake made by allowing the un-informed and mis-informed and those who touted freezing our old forests in time to have too large of a say in setting forest policy. Think about it – You will eventually loose your current old-growth when it dies of old age but if you have a relatively uniform distribution of acreage by age class you will always have old growth. However, if you let young growth become too small a proportion of acreage (i.e. our current west coast), eventually old growth will become insufficient to support the current populations of NSO and other species that depend on that niche in the ecosystem. You can’t have old if you don’t have enough young to grow to be old. And that’s exactly what happened when the enviro’s political influence ran the professional foresters out of the federal forests.

  3. I totally agree, Dick, and so does NFMA. Problems occur when there is “not enough” of something to sustain species. That has rarely been the case for species needing early seral forest habitat. The KIrtland’s warbler is a notable exception. The issue has been raised on the Nantahala-Pisgah forest plan revision, but the facts don’t seem to support it. Usually the argument for early seral wildlife species is there is not enough habitat to hunt them (such as game birds in the east, and big game in the west). That’s an area where the Forest Service has a lot more discretion.


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