Compilation by Robyn Darbyshire
Stephens, S. L., S. W. Bigelow, et al. (2014). “California Spotted Owl, Songbird, and Small Mammal Responses to Landscape Fuel Treatments.” BioScience 64(10): 893-906.
A principal challenge of federal forest management has been maintaining and improving habitat for sensitive species in forests adapted to frequent, low- to moderate-intensity fire regimes that have become increasingly vulnerable to uncharacteristically severe wildfires. To enhance forest resilience, a coordinated landscape fuel network was installed in the northern Sierra Nevada, which reduced the potential for hazardous fire, despite constraints for wildlife protection that limited the extent and intensity of treatments. Small mammal and songbird communities were largely unaffected by this landscape strategy, but the number of California spotted owl territories declined. The effects on owls could have been mitigated by increasing the spatial heterogeneity of fuel treatments and by using more prescribed fire or managed wildfire to better mimic historic vegetation patterns and processes. More landscape-scale experimentation with strategies that conserve key wildlife species while also improving forest resiliency is needed, especially in response to continued warming climates.
FULL TEXT LINK: http://bioscience.oxfordjournals.org/content/64/10/893.abstract
Zamora-Cristales, R., P. W. Adams, et al. (2014). “Ground-Based Thinning on Steep Slopes in Western Oregon: Soil Exposure and Strength Effects.” Forest Science 60(5): 1014-1020.
Soil effects in vehicle trails were assessed on two cut-to-length thinning units that were very steep, averaging 65 and 58%, respectively. The thinnings in a young Douglas-fir forest included a harvester-cut, cable-yarded unit (harvester-cable) and a harvester-cut, forwarder-yarded (harvester-forwarder) unit. Steep vehicle trails covered 10% of the thinned area of harvester-forwarder and 15% of harvester-cable, and exposed soil occurred in 3% of the sample points in trail transects in harvester-cable and 7% of those in harvester-forwarder. After one harvester pass on harvester-cable, soil strength in vehicle tracks near the surface (25‐200 mm) was 19‐34% higher than that in undisturbed soil and 33‐40% higher after a second vehicle (forwarder) pass on harvester-forwarder; the latter unit also showed 21% higher strength in the 225‐300 mm layer after the second pass. Slash accumulations on the trails appeared to reduce vehicle effects on soil strength near the surface (25‐100 mm) on one of the units (harvester-forwarder), whereas no clear relationship was seen with variations in trail slope. Dry season operations, limited passes, slash in trails, and low ground-pressure vehicles with enhanced stability and traction features helped control soil disturbance and probably kept it within agency guidelines.
Negrón-Ortiz, V. (2014). “Pattern of expenditures for plant conservation under the Endangered Species Act.” Biological Conservation 171: 36-43.
An estimated 31% of the native plant species in the United States are considered at risk of extinction, and 11% receive protection under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA). But with current and projected threats, many at risk non-listed plant species will need protection under the ESA. Recovery priority guidelines based on a ranking system exist to help identify the most cost-effective use of limited resources to recover listed species. I analyzed how expenditures on listed plants from 2007 to 2011 corresponded to this system, the species’ status, and the year first listed. While the majority of species listed under the ESA are plants, they received < 5% of the funding for species recovery from federal and state agencies; thus they have the lowest per-species funding. Among plants, spending per species was greater for threatened than for endangered species and positively associated with recentness of listing date. Expenditure allocation was consistent with the ranking system, as higher priority species received more spending. Recovery progress could be significantly increased if more resources are allocated according to this system. In addition, I recommend: avoidance of biases that support specific projects or a few charismatic species; augmentation of the ESA budget to finance projects for the species in conflict with development and growth; cost-benefit analyses of increasing recovery funds for plants (since the cost estimated to recover a plant species average much less than a vertebrate species); and a broadened plant conservation message at local, regional and global scales.
Tepley, A. J., F. J. Swanson, et al. (2013). “Fire-mediated pathways of stand development in Douglas-fir/western hemlock forests of the Pacific Northwest, USA.” Ecology 94(8): 1729-1743.
Forests dominated by Douglas-fir and western hemlock in the Pacific Northwest of the United States have strongly influenced concepts and policy concerning old-growth forest conservation. Despite the attention to their old-growth characteristics, a tendency remains to view their disturbance ecology in relatively simple terms, emphasizing infrequent, stand-replacing (SR) fire and an associated linear pathway toward development of those old-growth characteristics. This study uses forest stand- and age-structure data from 124 stands in the central western Cascades of Oregon to construct a conceptual model of stand development under the mixed-severity fire regime that has operated extensively in this region. Hierarchical clustering of variables describing the age distributions of shade-intolerant and shade-tolerant species identified six groups, representing different influences of fire frequency and severity on stand development. Douglas-fir trees >400 years old were found in 84% of stands, yet only 18% of these stands (15% overall) lack evidence of fire since the establishment of these old trees, whereas 73% of all stands show evidence of at least one non-stand-replacing (NSR) fire. Differences in fire frequency and severity have contributed to multiple development pathways and associated variation in contemporary stand structure and the successional roles of the major tree species. Shade-intolerant species form a single cohort following SR fire, or up to four cohorts per stand in response to recurring NSR fires that left living trees at densities up to 45 trees/ha. Where the surviving trees persist at densities of 60-65 trees/ha, the postfire cohort is composed only of shade-tolerant species. This study reveals that fire history and the development of old-growth forests in this region are more complex than characterized in current stand-development models, with important implications for maintaining existing old-growth forests and restoring stands subject to timber management.
FULL TEXT LINK: http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/12-1506.1
Hoover, K. and M. J. Stern (2013). “Constraints to public influence in US Forest Service NEPA processes.” Journal of Environmental Planning and Management 57(2): 173-189.
The Forest Service is mandated to involve the public during agency planning efforts, but involving the public does not necessarily mean the public will gain any influence over the planning decision. An earlier survey revealed that Forest Service team leaders commonly desire greater levels of public influence than they achieve in their planning processes. Informed by interviews with 16 Forest Service employees experienced with leading planning processes, this research explores the constraints to desired public influence. We found that agency personnel serve as key ‘gatekeepers’ to public influence through their decisions and actions during the process. Efforts beyond required procedures appear to often be necessary to translate normative public comments that might otherwise be dismissed into substantive public influence on analyses and subsequent decision making. Key constraints include a lack of perceived self-efficacy and fear associated with conflict, a lack of leadership commitment to public influence, overwhelming workloads and normative beliefs about the public informed by past and current negative interactions. Conversely, key catalysts include perceptions of self-efficacy in effective communications, strong normative commitments to the value of public influence at multiple levels within the agency, manageable workloads and recognition of discretion in addressing public comments by process leaders.
FULL TEXT LINK: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09640568.2013.849232