Restoring high priority habitats for birds: aspen and pine in the interior west
This paper describes a long-term habitat restoration project in the Blue Mountains ecoregion, northeast Oregon, that we initiated in May 2000. We focused our restoration activities on two habitats previously identified as being high priority for birds: quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) and ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa). In the interior West, these two habitats have become heavily degraded as a result of ungulate herbivory, fire exclusion, and logging associated with Euro-American settlement. To begin to restore these important habitats, we established 12 permanent study sites, initiated restoration treatments (fence building and conifer removal in aspen; prescribed burning in pine), and collected baseline ecological data (birds and habitat) to describe reference conditions. In two years (2000–2001), we built approximately 7 km of fence around existing aspen stands, burned 400 ha of pine, monitored 816 nests of 46 bird species, and intensively sampled vegetative characteristics at a variety of scales. In 2002, we added another 0.75 km of fence, built 180 protective cages around individual aspen trees, and burned another 400 ha of pine. In this paper, we describe our study area, monitoring techniques, restoration activities, brief summaries of breeding bird abundance and nesting success, project progress to date, and future plans.