Roadless areas are for the birds

Pine Grosbeaks. Photo by Neil Hannan, Courtesy NPS.

A few years ago, The Wilderness Society and the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit to stop logging in an inventoried roadless area in the White Mountain National Forest. The legal action caused quite a stir in New Hampshire conservation circles. A number of organizations even filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the Forest Service plan to log in the Wild River roadless area.

I was a bit surprised that “conservation” groups would go out of their way to support logging.

There was one group that left me scratching my head — they normally would be out front when it comes to protecting bird habitat. No matter how I tried to put myself in the shoes of decision makers there, I just couldn’t understand why they would actively support the logging of roadless areas. Birds like trees, right?

Last week a consortium of bird groups released The State of the Birds 2010 Report on Climate Change. The report is framed around climate change and is divided by bird “type”. I was particularly interested in birds from my neck of the woods — northern New England. While the findings across the board are sobering, the news for forest dependent species is better than some.

As I read through the report, I came across recommendations for minimizing stressors and increasing resilience to climate change. Wouldn’t ya know — protection of roadless areas is important for birds! The section titled "Key Steps" states "Short-term actions should focus on managing forests to increase resistance to change and promote resilience. Managers can help forests resist climate change by protecting forests with high ecological integrity such as National Forest roadless areas and by improving forest health and reducing undesirable (or extreme) effects of fires, insects, and diseases."

Unfortunately, we lost the lawsuit and the Wild River area was logged. Looking forward, I can only hope that all of us working in conservation err on the side of caution and put ALL our energy and resources into protecting the few remaining wild places left. The birds are counting on us.

photo: Pine Grosbeaks. Photo by Neil Hannan, Courtesy NPS.