Aspen emblazon the landscape with yellows and oranges each fall. However, over the last 150 years, stands have declined by as much as 95% due to fire exclusion, grazing, and drought. We are restoring these trees, which provide habitat to over 70 species of wildlife, and learning more about their decline.
In 2000, we began to restore aspen in Wallowa County with the US Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, and private landowners. To promote sprout regrowth in degraded aspen stands, we built fences around them to exclude browsing animals such as deer, elk, and livestock. We also thinned competing conifers and applied prescribed burning. With our partners, we have built over 50 aspen enclosures with more than 8 miles of fence since 2000.
To determine the effectiveness of our restoration techniques, we monitor birds, which are easy to study and respond quickly to change. We hope to secure more funding for our monitoring efforts in order to learn how our restoration efforts improve aspen stands. Results suggest that restoration has increased the number of aspen sprouts reaching maturity, but in-depth monitoring data would show how this has impacted bird and wildlife habitat.
Fence Type Effectiveness
In 2009, we compared the effectiveness of fence types on aspen restoration success and the ability to keep out deer, elk and cattle. We found:
Long-term Habitat Monitoring
In 2000, we initiated a long-term aspen habitat restoration and monitoring project in Wallowa County along with partners from USFS and Idaho Department of Fish and Game. We established permanent study plots, implemented restoration treatments, and collected baseline data about birds and habitat. We found:
If you have a degrading aspen stand on your property, try the following steps to promote regeneration:
"Effectiveness of Fenced Exclosures in Aspen Restoration: An examination of several fence types" examined the effectiveness of different types of fences to exclude browsers (deer, elk and cattle) and support aspen regeneration. The 5 fence types studied were: barbed wire, buck & pole, outrigger, poletop panel and woven wire. The poletop panel was the most successful fence type in all categories that was tested.
Get the Aspen Report PDF Here
"Restoring High Priority Habitats for Birds: Aspen and Pine in the Interior West" describes a long-term habitat restoration project in the Blue Mountains ecoregion, northeast Oregon, that was initiated in May 2000. Restoration activities were focused on two habitats previously identified as being high priority for birds: quaking aspen and ponderosa pine. This paper describes the study area, monitoring techniques, restoration activities, brief summaries of breeding bird abundance and nesting success, project progress to date, and future plans.
Get the Aspen-Pine in the Interior West PDF Paper Here
For questions, contact us.