Though the recommendations were adopted 15 years ago, they've been implemented inconsistently, making it difficult to measure their effectiveness. Despite the uncertainties, the Southwest Region still supports the groups-and-openings approach to forest management, and the recommendations currently provide guiding principles for the 11 national forests in Arizona and New Mexico as they develop new forest plans. At the national level, the Forest Service is taking pains to emphasize its commitment to ecologically based management, and the Goshawk Recommendations, with their food-web foundation, offer a concrete example. They've also helped the agency defend itself in multiple lawsuits over the years, and avoid having the goshawk listed as endangered.

"Let them sue," Reynolds says. "The science will hold up in court."

Coffee cups empty, Reynolds' field crew fidgets in their seats, and the meeting draws to a close. "After all these years, I'm still wandering around the woods looking for hawk shit," Reynolds says, and everybody laughs. "I really am pissed off," he insists, but the grin spreading below his big, white mustache betrays him.

Last summer marked the seventh anniversary of Reynolds' intended retirement from fieldwork. But funding came through for a 21st season on the Kaibab and Reynolds couldn't say no. He insists that this year he'll have less of a hands-on role, but hundreds of nights spent in a sleeping bag at Big Springs imply that, for him, quitting goshawks is easier said than done.

Ally Cofer, a graduate student who's been with the project for eight years, is already halfway out the door, binoculars under one arm and a binder of topographic maps under the other.

"Find a bird," Reynolds says, almost chanting the words.

"I'll try," Cofer replies, half-smiling, like she's hearing a joke for the thousandth time.

Reynolds isn't joking, though. After all these years in the field, he's condensed "Have a nice day" and "Get to work" into a single parting phrase. He lifts his mug and drains one last sip as Cofer steps out into the sun. "Find a bird," he says again, this time to her back.