Evaluating some proposed matrices for scoring sub-optimal red-cockaded woodpecker foraging habitat in relation to the 2003 recovery planThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
We have used RCWFAT (an ARC-INFO program that evaluates RCW habitat) to examine the 2003 Red Cockaded Woodpecker (RCW) Recovery Plan, which will influence silvicultural activities on large tracts of southeastern forests. The new plan includes 11 specific characteristics of forest stands that constitute “Good Quality Foraging Habitat” (GQFH) and requires 120 to 200 acres of GQFH for each RCW group. To evaluate the criteria requires a minimum data set that is not met by most product-based forest inventory data. The criteria of GQFH also define ideal RCW habitat. When used as a pass-fail system, the criteria of the Recovery Plan are a poor ecosystem management tool. On the Oakmulgee Ranger District, where the RCW population is declining, only 2 of 189 clusters had sufficient GQFH. On Ft. Bragg, NC, where the RCW population is increasing, only 19 of 496 clusters had sufficient GQFH. Few foraging areas met all of the criteria, and few would meet the criteria after a single silvicultural treatment. An effort has been underway to develop a method to rank less-than-ideal habitat. We examine three alternatives considered in the pursuit of such a method. Scoring of individual stands has proven relatively consistent in all three alternatives. Due to the complexity of interaction among the 11 criteria, efforts to establish scores for entire cluster forage partitions have produced inconsistent results.