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Forest Wildlife
Richard H. Yahner, Carolyn G. Mahan,
and Amanda D. Rodewald
What is a Forest?
Group of trees in defined area
► Geography – dependent
 Coniferous forests
►Examples: Pacific coast
Douglas fir, Rocky
mountain lodgepole pine
 Deciduous forests (Eastern)
►Examples: Lake States
Aspen/birch, Central
Mountains oak/hickory
History of Forests
► Pre-European forest
covered 2/3 of North
 Disturbance regime: wildfires, native Americans
► 17th
century – 21st century
 53% decline in forest coverage
 Timber harvesting, non-native pathogens (e.g.,
Chestnut blight, agricultural clearing
► Loss
of all but 3-5% old growth forest
► Second growth forest dominates today
Forest Management and Ownership
► Commercial, reserved,
and noncommercial
forestlands—focuses on timber resources
► Forests used by 80-90% of N. American
► Ownership of forests effects management
decisions for wildlife
 East—dominated by private
 West – dominated by public (e.g., US Forest Service)
Early Legislation
► Forest
Reserve Act (1891)
 Created first forest reserves
► Organic
Act (1897)
 Established National Forest
Service (later, USFS)
 Theodore Roosevelt and
Gifford Pinchot (1st Head,
USFS) set aside millions of
► Weeks
Law (1911)
 Created state and national
partnerships for forest land
Other Legislation
► Multiple
Use and Sustained Yield Act (1960)
 Forests may be managed for wildlife and other uses
► National
Environmental Protection Act (1969)
 Environmental Impact Statements required
► Forest
Rangeland Renewable Resources
Planning Act (1974)
 Coordinated activities on federal lands including
wildlife management
More Recent Legislation
National Forest Management Act (1976)
 Viable populations of vertebrates must be maintained on
federal lands
Emergency Salvage Timber Act (1995)
 Expedited reviews for salvage timber operations on federal
Renewable Resources Extension Act (1978)
 Created Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act
Forest Conservation Relief Act (1990)
 Set aside harvestable land for protection of endangered
Early Successional Forest
Occurs after a disturbance
 Primary
 Secondary
Early successional forest wildlife
 American woodcock, New England cottontail
 Use fire and cutting to maintain
Forests and Fires
► Some
forest trees need
 Aspen, pitch pine, oaks
► Prescribed
 Controls non-native plants
 Creates habitat for
bobwhite quail, ruffed
grouse, Kirtland’s warbler
► Habitat
by fire
mosaic created
Forest Management
Uneven age
 Trees of different ages retained via selective cutting (size
class or age classes) or thinning
 Seed tree, shelterwood, clustered clearcuts
Creates or maintains habitat for wildlife
 Hooded warbler, ovenbird, eastern cottontail, fox squirrel
Even age
 Clearcutting
 Promotes early successional habitat
►Size of cut influences wildlife species
Even- and Uneven-aged Forest Stands
Distribution of tree sizes in an even-aged forest stand (A) and
an uneven-aged forest stand (B)
Recommendations for Wildlife-Sensitive
Timber Harvesting
Protection of important habitat
features (e.g., vernal pools)
Enhancing vertical diversity of
Retention of forested buffers along
Retention of overstory trees
Retention of dead and decaying
Retention of woody debris
Creation of meandering edges
Maximizing forest interior habitat
Retention of old forest stands
Forest Fragmentation
Transformation of a large
expanse of forest into a
number of smaller patches
of smaller total area, which
are isolated from one
another by a matrix of
habitats unlike the original.
Creates edge--Junction of
two landscape elements
(plant communities, land
uses, or successional stages
Edge Created by Forest Cutting
Edge Effects on Wildlife
Birds—increased nest parasitism by
brown-headed cowbirds; increased
nest predation
Small isolated forest patches may
not support area-sensitive species
like neotropical migrants, large
mammalian predators
Corridors or connections between
patches help diminish
fragmentation effects
Forest reserves should minimize
edge, be continuous, large (~ 30
ha), with minimal disturbances
Species Area Curve
Biodiversity and Forests
► Biodiversity (biological diversity)
► Ecosystem
 Management with biodiversity values included
 Applies to variety of spatial scales (local, regional,
Managing Forests for Wildlife
main considerations
Education (forests as outdoor laboratories)
Recreation (hunting, hiking, bird watching)
Regional and Global influences (countering effects
of global climate change, stabilizing soils, habitat
Forest types, ownership, and legislation can affect the value of forests to wildlife.
Plant-forest succession resulting from fire, chemicals, or management systems
can have profound effects on forest wildlife. For example, uneven-aged forest
management can influence wildlife distribution and abundance differently than
even-aged forest management.
Several practices (e.g., retention of unique habitat features or overstory trees in
harvested stands) can have positive effects on forest wildlife.
The impacts of forest management, however, cannot be considered solely from
the stand level (e.g., stand size), but must take into consideration landscape
features (e.g., characteristics of surrounding landscape).
Several types of models are available to predict wildlife species occurrences and
adjust forest-management regimes.
Successful forest management in the future will be contingent on biodiversity
conservation and ecosystem management to ensure a sustainable, productive, and
healthy forest for the benefit of wildlife while simultaneously providing
educational and recreational values.