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Evaluating Economic and Wildlife Habitat Considerations for Snag Retention Policies in Burned Landscapes

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Wildfires have become more frequent and intense in recent years in the western United States. Previous studies have investigated the potential environmental and economic impacts of active management in burned forest landscapes. No previously published study, however, has considered wildlife requirements for snags while planning salvage logging operations in postburned landscapes. We examined the potential impacts of 19 snag retention strategies using cable-based yarding systems over a 3-year time period since burn. The strategies were based on current research recommendations, operational needs, and state and federal policies. Potential impacts on two cavity-nesting bird habitats and the feasibility of each strategy were examined. We found that most snag retention strategies generated net revenues per unit volume of merchantable wood greater than $70/m3 immediately after a burn and $60/m3 3 years after a burn. Those strategies that focused snag retention on smaller-diameter stems had the highest net revenue values and higher productivity rates. We also found that the strategy that removed all merchantable snags did not produce the highest revenue. In general, decreased yarding distance and a smaller yarding system (e.g., shovel loader) resulted in greater net revenue per unit volume with increased time since burn. The salvage strategy that provided the most favorable habitat for the two cavity-nesting birds left all snags standing in the half of the salvage unit farthest away from the yarder. Our findings indicate that it is possible to provide adequate cavity-nesting bird habitat and generate net revenue during fire salvage operations.

Keywords: fire; policy; salvage; snags

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-04-01

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  • Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Western Journal of Applied Forestry covers the western United States, including Alaska, and western Canada; WJAF will also consider manuscripts reporting research in northern Mexico that has potential application in the southwestern United States.
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