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FIRE-BIRD: A GIS tool for applying habitat suitability models to inform land management planning

Date: September 04, 2019

Photograph from on top of a hill looking down on a landscape of dead and dying trees. Green vegetation in the foreground, blue skies with big white clouds in the background.
Disturbed forests, such as those that recently experienced wildfire, are the preferred habitat for a number of woodpecker species. However, these dead and dying trees also have economic value when salvage logged (Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service).


Western North America is occupied by several woodpecker species that are strongly associated with recently disturbed forests, including post-wildfire and post-beetle outbreaks. These types of landscapes are favored habitat because the dead and dying trees provide nesting and foraging substrates. When managing these landscapes, managers must balance providing habitat for woodpecker species of conservation concern with conducting salvage logging operations that generate economic revenue for local communities. Increases in size and severity of wildfire and insect outbreaks are expected to continue with climate change, allowing more opportunities for post-disturbance salvage logging and forest restoration activities. We developed FIRE-BIRD, a GIS tool to help managers make the best decisions for maintaining habitat of key wildlife species, while still allowing economic benefits to local communities.


Habitat suitability models can inform forest management for wildlife species of conservation concern. Models quantify relationships between known species locations and environmental attributes, which are used to identify areas most likely to support species of concern. Managers can then limit negative human impacts in areas of high suitability or conduct habitat improvements in areas of marginal suitability. We developed FIRE-BIRD, an ArcGIS toolbox, to map habitat suitability for disturbance-associated woodpeckers of conservation concern to help inform locations for management activities in predominantly burned forests of the Inland Northwest and Northern Sierras. The suite of species currently included (black-backed [Picoides arcticus], white-headed [Dryobates albolvartus], Lewis’s [Melanerpes lewis], and hairy [D. villosus] woodpeckers) makes the GIS tool best suited for postfire management and restoration treatments in dry mixed-conifer forests.

Key Findings

  • Each woodpecker species requires different habitat characteristics for population persistence in a post-wildfire landscape, and these habitat characteristics should be considered when managers are developing salvage logging and restoration projects.
  • Studies have found that in the 10-12 years following salvage logging that selected harvest levels provided habitat for multiple woodpecker species.

Featured Publications

Saab, Victoria A. ; Latif, Quresh ; Dresser, Matthew A. ; Dudley, Jonathan G. , 2019
Latif, Quresh ; Saab, Victoria A. ; Haas, Jessica R. ; Dudley, Jonathan G. , 2018
Latif, Quresh ; Saab, Victoria A. ; Mellen-Mclean, Kim ; Dudley, Jonathan G. , 2015
Saab, Victoria A. ; Russell, Robin E. ; Rotella, Jay ; Dudley, Jonathan G. , 2011
Saab, Victoria A. ; Russell, Robin E. ; Dudley, Jonathan G. , 2009
Russell, Robin E. ; Saab, Victoria A. ; Dudley, Jonathan G. , 2007
Saab, Victoria A. ; Russell, Robin E. ; Dudley, Jonathan G. , 2007

Principal Investigators - External: 
Quresh S. Latif - Bird Conservancy of the Rockies
Forest Service Partners: 
Kim Mellen-McLean (retired), Region 6
William Block (retired), Rocky Mountain Research Station
John Lehmkuhl (retired), Pacific Northwest Research Station
Amy Markus, Fremont-Winema National Forest
Amy Unthank, Steve Beverlin, Lori Stokes, Malheur National Forest
Denise Pengeroth, Helena National Forest
Jodie Canfield, Custer-Gallatin National Forest
Kent Woodruff, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
Sam Hescock, Anna Egnew, and Mary Faurot (retired), Payette National Forest
Larry Donohoo (retired), Boise National Forest

External Partners: 
Susan Jane Brown, Blue Mountains Forest Partners and Western Environmental Law Center
Mark Webb, Blue Mountains Forest Partners
Research Location: 
Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Montana, California