A wood fire goes a long way to making a house a cozy home, but woodcutters might also think of their neighbors while cutting a winter wood supply.
Many firewood collectors do not recognize the value of the partially or completely dead standing trees they see in the forest. These woodland features, called snags, support a complex system of life. By understanding a little about snags, people who appreciate Idaho's wildlands come to value them and leave some here and there, changing their woodcutting habits to benefit wildlife.
In Idaho, about 50 species of birds and 25 species of mammals nest, roost, forage or take shelter in snags. Artificial snags are now being placed in many places that have lost snags. At Wolf Bay in the Panhandle, artificial snags create hunting perches for bald eagles which frequent the area in the late winter to feed on kokanee salmon, as many of the natural snags have been removed during road construction in the area. Plants and invertebrates also benefit from snags, which eventually fall and provide watershed protection and the nutrients that create rich forest soils.
Many of the snags woodcutters fell are left on the ground because they are too far decayed to make good firewood. This only speeds up the process of the snag becoming a soil enhancement, by dropping it before or while it provided a home for wildlife.
Before dropping a snag, look for any fungal growth on the main trunk. If you see any, there are better, more solid trees around to heat your home as this snag has already begun to decay and will soon be a home for wildlife. Look for any signs of current wildlife use such as nesting cavities or signs of roosting. Woodpecker holes indicate there are many insects already inhabiting the tree, and insects are the last thing you want to bring into your home. Leaving such trees standing will benefit wildlife.