Don't blame the birds

  Dear HCN,

William deBuys makes some good points concerning various groups coming to loggerheads in New Mexico, but it should be pointed out that when the Forest Service shut down all tree-cutting in the Southwest it was never appropriate biologically (HCN, 2/5/96). The angry firewood cutters needed piûon-juniper, but this is not an area frequented by Mexican spotted owls, the birds blamed for the ban.

The owls don't generally need piûon-juniper, although exceptions may occur as in the case of canyons surrounded by these trees. But it's not the norm.

So far, the literature shows that snags are not primarily used by these birds for nesting. They often make use of diseased live trees for nesting and roosting. Research has also found the birds prefer a multi-storied - meaning large and small trees - closed canopy of pine-oak with a good deal of large woody debris on the forest floor.

Lynn Sainsbury

Bonner, Montana

The writer has worked as a biologist in the Southwest.

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