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Author: Robert Frey

Using science to preserve biological diversity and improve habitat in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument: A new Decision Support Tool

We are excited to announce a new Decision Support Tool describing more than a decade of Klamath Bird Observatory (KBO) science in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument — Using science to preserve biological diversity and improve habitat in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.

The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument was the first U.S. National Monument set aside specifically for the preservation of biodiversity. It was created in 2000, the same year KBO was officially incorporated. (Check out the post here for the full story of KBO science and the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument.)

KBO’s new Decision Support Tool highlights recent studies from KBO scientists and partners and demonstrates how we used science and birds as indicators to inform an adaptive management process in the Monument. The Monument was created to protect biodiversity, including migratory birds that need protection to prevent or reverse recent population declines. The Monument’s establishment, and its expansion in 2017, provided increased protection for critical habitats that many priority migratory bird species need, including oaks and grasslands that are among the most at-risk habitats in the western United States. When the Monument was established KBO completed a study that demonstrated measurable impacts of livestock on the Monument’s migratory birds. Results from this and other studies informed a process to eliminate livestock grazing from most of the Monument. KBO then did a follow up study that showed the measurable benefits of removing cattle from the Monument for migratory birds in oak woodlands.

Like KBO’s other Decision Support tools, this new four-page document is intended for managers, conservation resource professionals, and anyone else that is interested in how science can be used to make natural resource management decisions and measure the effectiveness of management actions that incorporate bird and habitat conservation objectives. Click here to find the DST on Avian Knowledge Northwest!

Science Brief: Using KBO science to identify bird conservation opportunities in timber stand management

Forests in the Klamath Mountains Ecoregion, centered within the core of Klamath Bird Observatory’s focus region, are home to a diversity of wildlife, including birds. While old-growth forests receive a lot of attention, species such as Black-throated Grey Warblers, Rufous Hummingbirds, and Olive-sided Flycatchers all use habitat features of younger, early-successional forests, such as broad-leafed trees and shrubs, edges, or snags.

Because most of the early-successional forest in our region is privately managed, Klamath Bird Observatory recently worked with several partners to identify conservation opportunities for birds in southern Oregon’s private timber stands. With support from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, we worked alongside the American Bird Conservancy, the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI), and private forest management companies (Hancock Forest Management, Weyerhauser, and Lone Rock Forest Resources) to learn more about how privately managed timber stands can provide habitat for birds.

One of the main goals of the project was to identify opportunities for improving early-successional forest bird habitat on privately-managed timber forests, and asking what management practices might make those habitats of greater value to birds. As a first step, we produced a scoping document titled Sustainable Forest Management: Opportunities for Bird Conservation on Private Timberlands in the Klamath Mountains, Oregon. It identifies focal bird species and habitat features that are important in the early successional forest of our region. This document compiled information from forest bird conservation plans and identified potential management action on private lands that would benefit many of those bird species.

The next step was to study how bird species use private forests in southern Oregon, and how different characteristics of timber stands contribute to habitat quality. To do so, we used species distribution models (SDMs), developed from 16 years of bird survey data from across the Klamath Mountains Ecoregion. Our unique SDMs use historical bird survey data and unclassified land cover imagery to develop a mathematical model that can be used to predict where species will occur on a landscape (See Using Birds to Predict Habitat Conditions for more information about our modeling approach). One of the advantages of using a model to predict bird habitat is that it allowed us to identify and rank the bird habitat potential for a large number of privately managed timber stands on the landscape. While KBO did field work on a small sample of those stands to check the models, our research using KBO’s larger region-wide dataset was ultimately able to provide information about bird habitat on over 2,100 privately managed forest stands in the region!

Finally, to learn more, we conducted two workshops with forestry professionals to understand how management can create high-quality early-successional habitat for birds. We visited some of the stands, talked about the results from our research, and discussed the management that may have contributed to how different timber stands ranked in our analysis. The workshop led to some successful conversations about practices that can be easily incorporated into existing forest management plans to create habitat for birds. Our workshops and research ultimately led to the development of two factsheets that highlight some of the key opportunities for bird conservation in private timber stands in our region. We’ve compiled the resources from this project as a manager’s guide on Avian Knowledge Northwest. Click here to read more and to download the factsheets!

Strategic Conservation Planning with the Klamath Siskiyou Oak Network

OpenOakWoodland OpenUnder All 2Oak habitats support a high diversity of birds and other wildlife species but are threatened by conifer encroachment, invasive species, and fragmentation. Since 2011, KSON partners have already successfully leveraged over $7.5 million dollars of public and non-federal funding to restore 6,500 acres of oak woodland in southern Oregon and northern California. In 2012, KSON was awarded a DOI Partners in Conservation award for its collaborative conservation work.

In 2020, with the support of a grant from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, KSON finalized its Strategic Conservation Action Plan for oak conservation in the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion. Strategic conservation planning is a science-based process that helps regional conservation partnerships plan for the future. Why prioritize? Both time and conservation dollars are limited, so identifying the projects that have the most impact is important. Strategic planning helps identify the species, habitats, and places that most need our help, and the conservation actions that are likely to be effective. Ultimately, partnership-based strategic conservation planning is how we can have the most impact at a regional scale for oak habitat conservation.

Science-based maps of oak habitat help us identify priority restoration areas and set specific, measurable goals. The KSON Strategic Action Plan serves as a road map for oak habitat restoration actions across the region for the next 10 years, and enhances our ability to protect and restore oak habitats for birds and other oak-associated animals and plants.

For more information about the KSON Strategic Action Plan, click here to contact the KSON coordinator.

Oak Woodland Restoration on the Scott River Ranch

California’s oak woodlands have been dramatically reduced over the past two centuries.  Numerous factors have contributed to this decline including the encroachment of coniferous species into oak habitats following the disruption of historic fire regimes.   Oaks are slow-growing, shade-intolerant species that can be rapidly overtopped and suppressed by faster-growing conifers.  Initially, suppression leads to crown dieback in the oaks and reduces acorn production.  Over time as more of the oak crown becomes shaded the oaks eventually die. Making Oak Woodland restoration a priority.

On the dry east side of the Scott River Valley in Siskiyou Co., CA, juniper encroachment poses a major threat to the health and function of oak habitats.  To address this issue the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Lomakatsi Restoration Project partnered with the Scott River Ranch to perform oak woodland restoration to reduce juniper encroachment on 91 acres of oak habitats.  Treatments focused on removing junipers growing within 10 feet of oak to reduce competition for resources including sunlight, water, and nutrients.  This approach removed approximately 85 percent of the junipers while leaving scattered large junipers for habitat diversity.  An additional 164 acres of juniper reduction are planned for the ranch beginning in 2018.

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Before (Left): Oak encroached by juniper pre-treatment on the Scott River Ranch, Siskiyou Co. CA, October 2014

After (Right): Open grown oak free from competition following juniper reduction treatments on the Scott River Ranch, Siskiyou Co. CA, October 2015.

Using Birds as Indicators in Oak-Chaparral Restoration Projects

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A number of oak obligate bird species are in decline, making oak habitat restoration a priority.  Oak-chaparral plant communities, characterized by open-grown oaks with a thick shrub understory, provide important habitats for wildlife. Sometimes they require reduction during restoration as chaparral can burn at high severity and threaten large, old oaks and other high-value resources (e.g. homes).

KBO 2017 Oak woodlands and chaparral DST v3.1 cover page 72ppi 2.8x3.6     KSON identified the research need to inform landscape and site-level planning when chaparral reduction is warranted to reduce fire risk and meet oak restoration objectives. Klamath Bird Observatory research found that retaining large patches of chaparral and prioritizing retention in a landscape context will help ensure sufficient habitat remains for chaparral-associated birds. As part of KSON’s adaptive management strategy, management recommendations are being incorporated into restoration design.  The results from our study of chaparral can be found in a decision support tool, Oak Woodlands, and Chaparral: Aligning chaparral-associated bird habitat needs with oak woodland restoration and fuel reduction in southwest Oregon and northern California.


Why Oaks?

Oaks in the Klamath Siskiyou Bioregion…

What makes them so special?

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  • Oak habitats contain a diversity of vegetation types, including woodland, chaparral, and mixed oak/conifer
  • Oak habitats are some of the most biodiverse habitats in southern Oregon and northern California (many endemic plants, and more than 300 vertebrate species)
  • Oak woodlands are an Oregon Conservation Strategy Habitat (ODFW 2006)
  • Oaks provided critical physical and cultural resources for native people
  • Oak are fire-adapted and was maintained using burning as a management tool
  • A mosaic of oak vegetation provides fire resilience to the landscape
  • Oak woodlands have experienced losses up to 33% in California and up to 95% in Oregon
  • Threats include conifer encroachment, oak densification, intense fire, overgrazing, invasive exotic species, development and fragmentation

Where we work

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KSON is focused in the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion of southern Oregon and northern California, a geography that shares similar oak communities dominated by Oregon White Oak and California Black Oak.



Contact Klamath Siskiyou Oak Network

Interested in learning more?

We seek to build a vibrant collaboration that engages landowners, public agencies, non-profits, and other community members in the vital goal to conserve our region’s oak resources.

Sign up for our email list to hear about upcoming events and outreach activities. Contact the KSON coordinator for more information or to join our email distribution list.

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