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    Efforts to return natural fire to the Gila National Forest, New Mexico, have resulted in controversy regarding management of snags (standing dead trees). The importance of snags for wildlife, especially cavity-dependent birds, is well documented. Although general uses of snags by birds are known (nesting, roosting, perching, and foraging), we know little about the optimal number of snags needed to sustain populations of snag-dependent species. We know less of the types, numbers, sizes, and vigor of snags that would persist under a natural fire regime. Recently, efforts were initiated to understand relationships among snags, birds, and fire in fire-adapted ponderosa pine forests of the southwestern United States. Preliminary results suggest that fire exclusion has resulted in large numbers of old snags (dead greater than or equal to 6 years), but few recent snags (dead <6 years). In contrast, fewer old snags but more recent snags were found on areas experiencing a recent fire. Understanding snag dynamics under conditions that emulate natural fire regimes is key to understanding the ramifications of management efforts. For example, snags may need to be removed in order to hold a prescribed fire within the maximum manageable area. Although some existing snags are lost, replacement snags are created as a result of the fire. Information that details the range of variation of snag dynamics following natural fire events may help guide key management decisions made during the fire and satisfy ecological and safety concerns.

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    Boucher, Paul F.; Block, William M.; Benavidez, Gary V.; Wiebe, L. E. 2000. Implementing the expanded prescribed fire program on the Gila National Forest, New Mexico: implications for snag management. In: Moser, W. Keith; Moser, Cynthia E., eds. Fire and forest ecology: innovative silviculture and vegetation management. Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference Proceedings, No. 21. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 104-113


    fire, ponderosa pine forests, snags, Southwest, wildlife

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