Smokey the Bear—co-created by the Ad Council and the Forest Service—has been the enlightened spokesman of fire suppression since he appeared in 1944. Climate threats facing the Black-backed Woodpecker. I had never spent any time in a burned forest until a few years ago. Then — if you’re lucky — you’ll hear it: the accelerating drum of the Black-backed Woodpecker. Fire is known to help wildlife through opening up forests and increasing the amount of grasses for elk and deer, but this little woodpecker also shows us how burned forests are ecologically unique and necessary. A habitat that will provide a home for one of Montana’s most unique and poorly-understood species -- the black-backed woodpecker. What is not a mystery however, is that if you want to see black-backed woodpeckers, your best bet is to venture into a recently burned forest. The public doesn’t like the smoke, and if [the fire] escapes, your ass is on the line for liability. Listen weekly on the radio, Sundays at 12:55 p.m., Tuesdays at 4:54 p.m., or Fridays at 4:54 p.m.,  or via podcast.). The Pacific Sun publishes every Wednesday, delivering 21,000 copies to 520 locations throughout Marin County. Burned forests are one of the least understood and most dynamically changing forest types we have, and these special birds have evolved to exploit them. Currently, there are 19 major wildfires burning in California. Have you ever walked around in a recently burned forest? Copyright © 2020 Weeklys. “It’s a reflection of a long, evolutionary history,” Hutto said. Foresters call this “salvage logging.” The idea is that, since all of the seeds in the soil burned up, no trees will grow back for a long time, so they might as well cut the burned trees down and replant the forest. We’ll only be able to know once the fires are over. And, as climate change makes fires larger and more difficult to control, the use of prescribed burns is more important than ever, for people and for wildlife such as the black-backed woodpecker. In the great stands of old cottonwood trees along prairie rivers, chemical skirmishes are taking place between beavers, cottonwoods, and a certain species of beetle. According to the Institute for Bird Populations, with 18 of the largest 20 fires ever recorded occurring since 2003, After seeing many photos of burned neighborhoods, How a Marin County Woman Found her Birth Parents, San Rafael Artist Receives National Spotlight for Artists Sunday, North Bay Food Banks Ramp Up Efforts as Winter Sets In, Galleries grapple with stay-at-home reality. “This bird [the black-backed woodpecker] screams fire,” said Dick Hutto, an emeritus professor at the University of Montana. In fact, researchers found that this species has the most shock-absorbent skull in the genus Picoides. Black-backed woodpecker occupancy as a function of elevation and latitude (shown here as three descending panels at 42°, 38.5°, and 35.5° N, respectively) for forests affected by two different disturbance agents, fire and bark beetle outbreaks. Black-backed Woodpeckers are strongly associated with recently burned forests in the western U.S. But, for many ecologists, this thinking is damaging. At the time he was leading bird surveys for Point Blue, a nonprofit research and conservation organization. I knew that Ceanothus was the genus name of a large group of western shrubs and I even knew enough to recognize a few of the individual species back then. The Pacific Sun, America’s longest published alt-weekly, publishes every Wednesday and is available at locations throughout Marin County, California. Black-backed woodpeckers are known as engineers of the forest. “It’s pretty unequivocal that salvage logging, at least within a home range of a black-backed woodpecker, is going to have negative consequences [for the bird].”. It was made up mostly of manzanita and mountain whitethorn bushes, with tall Jeffery pines and red fir dotting the flat expanse. However, this extreme environment, which you will call hell, is home for the native black-backed woodpecker. One of those areas where perhaps last summer you saw flames leaping out or smoke billowing? If there is anything to learn from the black-backed woodpecker, it is that fires are a natural part of the California landscape, and it might be time to bring fire back. “It’s not a choice of whether we have fires or want fire,” Burnett said. There is the pileated woodpecker, which eats ants almost exclusively and lives in large dead Ponderosa Pines. 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