How is wildlife protected in a working forest?
Openings have always occurred in the forest. Historically, they were created by wind or fire, and many animal species have adapted to use these spaces, feeding on the abundant and nutritious vegetation that flourishes in young, open forests.
Natural openings contain standing dead trees called snags, patches of live trees and down logs – all of which are important habitat. Timber harvest also creates openings that are used by many species, though a tradeoff of timber production is that fewer down logs and standing trees are left behind.
Leaving wildlife habitat during harvest.
So when a harvest is larger than 25 acres, Oregon’s forest practice laws require leaving “structure” in the clearing to somewhat mimic a natural opening.
Standing trees. Loggers and landowners must leave standing live trees or snags – at least two per acre of harvest, each at least 30 feet tall and 11 inches in diameter. Snags provide homes for owls, woodpeckers, bats, squirrels, wood ducks, raccoons and many other animals. More than 50 species of birds and mammals use snags for nesting, feeding and shelter.
Down logs. Crews must leave at least two logs, each measuring at least 10 cubic feet, per acre on the ground. Rotting logs are home to hundreds of species, including amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, not to mention insects that are, in turn, food for other animals.
Location, location, location. Trees and down logs don’t have to be left in each acre. They may be combined into small groves and are often left near streams, lakes or wetlands.
Special requirements. The Oregon Department of Forestry can require that a harvest be modified to protect sensitive wildlife sites, such as areas actively used by bald eagles, osprey, northern spotted owl and other species of concern.
"We can look at how natural disturbances create open habitat and use that as a reference when we are looking at the openings we create through forest practices. On small family woodlands – and on private industry lands, too - I see a lot of really good work being done."Wildlife biologist, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Two extension foresters explain wildlife habitat proteciton in Oregon’s working forests