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    Author(s): Joseph L. GaneyJose M. Iniguez; Shaula Hedwall; William M. Block; James P. Ward; Ryan S. Jonnes; Todd A. RawlinsonSean C. KyleDarrell L. Apprill
    Date: 2016
    Source: Forest Science. doi:
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Rocky Mountain Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (150.0 KB)


    The Mexican spotted owl (Strix occidentalis lucida) was listed as a threatened species in 1993, primarily because of concerns over the loss of late seral forest habitat to timber harvest and wildfire. A recovery plan prepared for this owl subspecies explicitly assumed that nesting (and/or roosting) habitat was a primary factor limiting distribution of Mexican spotted owls and provided four desired conditions for identifying and managing potential owl nesting/roosting habitat in forested habitat. We used data collected at nest sites of Mexican spotted owls in the Sacramento Mountains, New Mexico, to evaluate how well these desired conditions and associated forest structural attributes described nesting habitat in this area. All nest sites included in our analyses successfully fledged young during the study. These nest sites generally featured higher levels of the structural attributes included in the desired conditions (total basal area, density of trees >46 cm in dbh, percentage of basal area in trees 30 - 46 cm dbh, and percentage of basal area in trees >46 cm dbh) than the surrounding stand, yet only 46 - 87% of sampled nest sites met single desired conditions and only 22% met all four conditions simultaneously. The best generalized linear models using combinations of these four structural attributes plus canopy cover to distinguish between nest sites and random sites within owl home ranges all contained canopy cover and percentage of basal area in trees >46 cm dbh. Relative importance values were high for both of these attributes (1.000 and 0.983, respectively), and confidence intervals around parameter estimates included zero for all other attributes. The present combination of four desired conditions did not consistently identify nesting habitat in this area, required managing for levels of structural attributes that were greater than levels typically observed at successful owl nest sites, and did not include canopy cover, which was the single best predictor in the Sacramento Mountains. We recommend revising the desired conditions in the Sacramento Mountains to emphasize canopy cover and some attribute measuring the large tree component. We also recommend repeating this assessment in other geographic areas to determine how well the desired conditions for those areas describe nesting habitat for owls.

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    Ganey, Joseph L.; Iniguez, Jose M.; Hedwall, Shaula; Block, William M.; Ward, James P., Jr.; Jonnes, Ryan S.; Rawlinson, Todd A.; Kyle, Sean C.; Apprill, Darrell L. 2016. Evaluating desired conditions for Mexican spotted owl nesting and roosting habitat. Forest Science. doi:


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    adaptive management, basal area, canopy cover, large trees, management recommendations, Mexican spotted owl, recovery planning, Strix occidentalis lucida

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