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25 years after Northwest Forest Plan, birds still declining

Cara J

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In the 25 years since the Northwest Forest Plan was initiated, bird species still are not recovering, researchers found, despite sweeping protections the plan brought to old-growth forests in Washington, Oregon and California. While the plan reduced losses of old trees to logging, they found, losses to wildfire are on the rise. “Ultimately it turned out that this forest is in gradual decline since the plan,” said Oregon State University professor Matt Betts, co-author of a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Betts, Ben Phalan, who was a research associate at OSU and their colleagues wanted to perform a sort of 25-year check-up on the plan so see how the forest was faring since the plan was put in place. They expected to find mature forests had increased over the years, the species that depend on them would be on the rise and young, pre-forest landscapes — early seral ecosystems — would be decreasing. “But that’s not what we found,” Betts said. Instead, they discovered that fires continued to claim older trees and create more early seral ecosystems on public land, while logging continued on private land. Using birds as an indicator of forest health, they [...]

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