Category: Ecological Research
Title: Mexican Spotted Owl Habitat Monitoring, Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project, Dry Lake Hills Area. Progress Report.
Author: * Huffman, D.W., * Crouse, J.E. , * Chancellor, W.W., * Roccaforte, J.P.
Subject: Progress Report, Mexican spotted owl
Abstract: The Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project (FWPP) represents a unique partnership between the City of Flagstaff, the State of Arizona, and Coconino National Forest to help reduce hazardous forest fuels and potential for uncontrollable wildfire and flooding on approximately 10,544 acres of Coconino National Forest land. Two general areas of the Forest were identified for fuels reduction treatment -- Dry Lake Hills and Mormon Mountain. Much of this land is important habitat for the Mexican spotted owl (MSO), a federally threatened wildlife species. Habitat characteristics that are preferred by MSO for nesting and roosting include complex, multi-layered, mixed conifer and pine-oak forests on steep slopes. High quality habitat tends to have higher large tree densities and canopy cover, an abundance of large live trees and standing dead snags, and an abundance of large logs (Ganey and Balda 1994, Ganey et al. 1999, May et al. 2004). Although Mexican spotted owls are often found in forests with higher tree density and canopy cover, two primary threats to MSO populations are timber harvest (i.e., logging of larger trees) and stand-replacing wildfire. The recently revised MSO Recovery Plan (USFWS 2012) describes how hazardous fuels treatments may be conducted within Protected Activity Centers (PACs), i.e., designated protected sites where owls have been observed (US Fish and Wildlife Service 2012). However, presently there is very little information regarding how owls may respond to fuels treatments. Essentially no research has been conducted to test MSO responses to alternative treatment prescriptions and intensities within PACs. In collaboration with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), US Forest Service (FS), City of Flagstaff, and Greater Flagstaff Forests Partnership (GFFP), the Ecological Restoration Institute (ERI) at Northern Arizona University is helping to investigate MSO responses to changes in habitat characteristics associated with FWPP hazardous fuels treatments. Due to the importance of MSO conservation, findings from this work likely will serve as one benchmark for 2 evaluating success of FWPP. In summer of 2014, the ERI initiated installation of forest structure, vegetation, and fuels monitoring plots, and collected pre-treatment data in the Dry Lake Hills (DLH) area of FWPP. Specific objectives of 2014 work were to do the following: 1) quantify forest structure, vegetation, and fuels characteristics in PACs before hazardous fuels reduction treatments are implemented; 2) quantify forest structure, vegetation, and fuels characteristics in reference PACs that will not be treated under FWPP; and 3) make data summaries available to USFWS researchers and US Forest Service staff for their analysis. Funding for plot installation, data collection and analysis, and production of this pretreatment summary report was provided by FWPP bond funds (City of Flagstaff), Arizona Technology Research Initiative Funds (TRIF), and a USDA Forest Service grant (USDA-FS #14-DG-11031600-055) awarded to the Southwest Ecological Restoration Institutes (SWERI) under authorization of the Southwest Forest Health and Wildfire Prevention Act.
Source: ERI - Progress Report
Publisher: Ecological Restoration Institute/NAU