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Snags, Logs, and Brushpiles

Countless species rely on dead wood for habitat.

Give some simple considerations for wildlife and your woodlands will become a wildlife paradise. One key ingredient crucial to forest wildlife is dead wood—snags (and dying portions of living trees), logs, and brushpiles.

Untouched forests contain a large amount of dead wood. Logging operations, however, often clean up these woody debris. Leaving dead or dying wood is one of the most important contributions you can make to wildlife. Wildlife conservationists say that up to 20 percent of a forest’s wildlife may depend upon dead and dying trees, stumps, logs, and brushpiles and other woody debris for survival.

Thriving in Dead Wood

Two declining woodpeckers provide an example: Lewis’s woodpecker in the West and the red-headed woodpecker in the East. Both birds often nest in cut or burned forests where scattered trees, sparse underbrush, and plentiful snags provide the ideal habitat for gathering and storing tree nuts, catching insects, and nesting. The birds use snags for all three purposes. Unlike many other woodpeckers, these declining species generally do not occur in suburban and urban areas. The cavities they excavate are later occupied by flying squirrels, bluebirds, snakes, lizards, and other wildlife.

Wildlife managers and foresters across the country encourage landowners to keep these features on their lands. Whether or not they realize it, the future of our country’s wildlife sits squarely in the hands of private land stewards, who hold far more forested acreage than is owned by federal and state governments. Habitat loss and forest fragmentation and degradation are main drivers in the declines of forest plants and animals. You can make a big difference by considering how you can enhance your property to best share it with local wildlife.

These pages to help you create and manage dead wood on your land. Here you can read about why snags, logs, and brushpiles are important, which types of wildlife they attract, and how you can maintain and create these elements on your land. As part of a forest plan that incorporates diverse tree species when possible and uneven age management, snags, logs, and brushpiles greatly enhance the wildlife value of your land, while returning nutrients to the soil and promoting rich new tree growth for many years to come.

These elements are presented in three categories, each examined here:

Snags and cavities in living trees

Logs

Brushpiles

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