Arizona's ponderosa pine forests are severely stressed by drought, over-crowding, and bark beetle infestations. Under current forest conditions, ponderosa pine forests are extremely susceptible to catastrophic wildfire and are providing marginal habitat for some wildlife species. In response to the threat of wildfire and to improve habitat conditions for plants and wildlife, forest restoration treatments are being initiated in parts of Arizona. Forest restoration is a new science and relies heavily on the process of adaptive management. That is, land managers change their approach to restoration as new information becomes available. It is therefore critical to continue to provide new information to land managers on how restoration activities affect our wildlife.
In 1996, the Arizona Game and Fish Department joined a team of scientists from the Bureau of Land Management and the Ecological Restoration Institute at Northern Arizona University to research the effects of forest restoration on wildlife. Wildlife with different spatial and habitat requirements may respond quite differently to restoration treatments. Therefore, AGFD personnel chose a suite of focal wildlife species that were associated with different forest habitat conditions. In 1997, we began investigating short-term responses to forest restoration for the following focal groups: mule deer, western bluebirds, migrating passerines, lizards, and tassel-eared squirrels.
This research is being conducted on the Mt Trumbull study area in the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument. The study area is located in the Unikaret Mountains in northwestern Arizona, approximately 60 miles southwest of Fredonia.
From 1997-2000, we collected pre-treatment data. This is information on how our focal species were using the study area prior to the initiation of restoration treatments and serves as a comparison for our post-treatment data. Currently, we are entering the first post-treatment stage. Using state-of-the-art technology, such as Global Positioning System collars on mule deer and radio-telemetry on western bluebirds, and conventional techniques, such as surveys for forest songbirds and pitfall traps for lizards, we are investigating wildlife responses to a changing forest. In 2003, we collected data on mule deer habitat selection, western bluebird nestling survivorship, and lizard distributions in restoration-treated habitats. We expect to begin the migrating passerine and tassel-eared squirrel post-treatment components in 2004. By the end of the 2005 season, we expect to have completed our initial assessment on short-term wildlife responses to forest restoration. Our long-term work, however, will have only just begun. We have published numerous reports and journal articles.
The adaptive management process of forest restoration requires that we continue to improve our understanding of wildlife responses to restoration. As our knowledge expands, we will be able to provide valuable recommendations regarding wildlife needs to the land managers who are making forest restoration decisions.
For more information contact:
Larisa Harding, Arizona Game and Fish Department
5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85086-5000.
Phone: (623) 236-7301 E-mail: email@example.com