CORVALLIS - In an unusual turn of events that reflects the changing trends of modern forest management, some researchers at Oregon State University will soon be hauling logs back into the forest.

This isn't really a bizarre plan to restock harvested timber. It's actually part of an interesting experiment that scientists from the OSU College of Forestry are conducting to help determine the value of leaving large logs behind during harvest operations as a way to encourage wildlife habitat.

"Our forest practice laws now require that some wood be left behind during most harvest operations to provide habitat for wildlife and promote biodiversity," said John Hayes, an associate professor of forest science. "This wood probably does play some important ecological roles, but the fact is we would like to have more solid experimental data to demonstrate that."

The current experiment, which will continue literally for decades, will help provide more scientific answers to the value of fallen timber, how it is used by different animals and the broader role it plays in forest ecology.

Next week, researchers will use helicopters to place a number of logs up to 40 feet long in McDonald and Dunn Forest, the research forests operated by OSU north of Corvallis. The particular placements will be in forests that were clearcut about 10 years ago and now have replanted trees about eight feet tall.

Over time, the logs should become habitat for small mammals such as voles, mice, chipmunks, squirrels, amphibians and even weasels, Hayes said, which use the logs for burrows, protective cover, foraging or a moist microenvironment some of them call home.

The scientific monitoring of this process should provide data of value in the development of future forest management practices and laws, Hayes said.

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John Hayes, 541-737-6589