Timberlands and Deer in the Northern Rockies
Since 1880 fires and logging have altered the general aspect of large portions of the virgin coniferous forests of the northern Rockies to a diverse admixture of timber remnants, second growth timber reproduction and pole stands, and brushfields of varying sizes. The seral shrubs in the forest understory and clearings in many areas are important as winter range for white-tailed deer and mule deer. Logging is the most effective and least expensive habitat management tool at the disposition of the game manager. The current disparity between the apparent economic values of the timber resource and the indefinite value of game, however, will preclude logging specifically to aid game for some time to come. Temporary increases of good deer forage are produced on Douglas-fir--ponderosa pine sites about 10-15 years after logging and then it gradually declines, with poor forage shrubs and tree reproduction gaining dominance in the understory composition. Current extensive cutting to control insect damage on grand fir sites has limited potential for improving white-tailed deer winter ranges due to a less favorable seral succession and the rigid habitat requirements of this deer. They are subject to heavy periodic winter mortality on the marginal, heavy snowfall ranges where seasonal availability of forage is equally as important as species composition and volume. Cutting alone cannot produce good winter ranges where terrain is unsuited to deer. Excessive timber operations in any one area tend to produce too many roads which increase hunter access to the detriment of quality hunting. Other factors to consider are upsets in numbers and distribution of game animals following the profound ecological impact of large cuttings and fires, with the possibility of depredations on adjacent timber reproduction. Experimental habitat manipulation by logging, controlled fires, thinnings, and herbicidal sprays is recommended.
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Document Type: Journal Article
Affiliations: Director, Wildlife Extension, Montana State University, Missoula
Publication date: 1963-10-01
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