Larry Irwin retires from NCASI

Larry Irwin has announced his retirement this year after 28 years with NCASI. His last day at the office will be June 30.

Larry started his NCASI career in 1986 as a Program Manager with responsibility for initiating the Western Wildlife Program. Larry worked closely with Member Companies and trade associations to identify priority technical information needs, assemble financial support, and develop an initial technical studies program.

During the early phase of the Western Wildlife Program, Larry spent significant time reviewing the scientific basis for National Forest management plans. He also designed and initiated early field research to improve understanding of forest habitat relationships for northern spotted owls and elk.

Under Larry’s direction, the Western Wildlife Program has addressed some of the most significant biodiversity-related issues of our time. Through long-term research, the Program has developed some of the largest databases available documenting spotted owl population dynamics, movements, survey methods, and habitat relationships. These data confirm that northern spotted owls occur in managed forests and that, in some forest types, thinning can be used to enhance habitat suitability as well as reduce the risk of uncharacteristic wild fire.

This long-term research also enabled the Western Wildlife Program to identify forest management options that can be used to produce wood and fiber while maintaining or even improving suitable habitat for the owl over time.
Larry also led development of elk research designed to test questions about how forestry affects habitat quality for elk, an important game species in the West. At the time the studies were initiated, a paradigm prevalent within the scientific and forest management communities was that elk habitat quality and body conditions were limited in many locations by availability of thermal cover, especially on winter ranges. Thus, it was assumed that forestry practices that reduced tree cover would diminish elk habitat quality.

However, Dr. Irwin and his colleagues used captive elk and other novel approaches to document the importance of summer forage conditions to the health of elk populations and to confirm that forest management can be used to enhance availability and nutrient content of summer forage. As a result of efforts led by Larry, forest managers in the West now recognize the importance of evaluating and considering availability of high-quality summer forage when developing land management plans.

Research led by Dr. Irwin has addressed many other topics important to foresters and wildlife managers, including forest habitat relationships of northern goshawks, marbled murrelets, amphibians, songbirds, forest bats, and other taxa. In addition, Larry’s research has increased awareness that both physical environmental factors and vegetation structure are important in determining habitat quality for forest-related species.

In recognition of Larry’s many important contributions, he was named a NCASI Fellow in 2012.

We thank Larry for his outstanding service to our industry and wish him a long and happy retirement.