Conservation of the American Goshawk (Accipiter atricapillus; hereafter goshawk) has been contentious in relation to forest management. Higher quality goshawk nesting habitat is generally considered to consist of contiguous tracts of mature forest, due to goshawks’ large home ranges, territoriality, and food requirements. The large trees of mature forest have the greatest economic value to timber companies. We used long-term (1965–2019) data from 281 goshawk nest site locations in the Black Hills National Forest (BHNF), South Dakota, and Wyoming, USA, to evaluate (1) abiotic and biotic factors associated with goshawk nest site habitat suitability (hereafter habitat suitability); (2) changes in habitat suitability over time; and (3) the effect of anthropogenic activities and natural disturbances on habitat suitability. We evaluated forest attributes across five spatial scales relevant to goshawks, used information-theoretic methods to rank and select models, and assessed the predictive capability of the best-approximating models using the concordance statistic. The best-approximating model had excellent predictive capability (concordance = 0.821). Forest attributes at the 12-ha scale were a better predictor of goshawk habitat suitability than covariates evaluated at the point or >12-ha scales, indicating the importance of managing goshawk habitat beyond the nest tree, but within the nest stand. Goshawk habitat suitability was positively related to mean percent canopy cover and median canopy base height, and negatively related to variability in canopy base height within 12 ha of the location. As mean percent canopy cover within 12 ha of a location increased, goshawk habitat suitability increased more slowly in burned compared to unburned areas. Commercial thinning treatments were more likely to occur in closed canopy forest that already had a higher likelihood of goshawk nesting, and we documented a positive relationship between habitat suitability and the interaction of canopy cover with commercial thinning. Goshawk habitat suitability was negatively related to slope and distance to drainage bottoms, and positively related to distance to ridges, which may be related to microclimatic factors. Our results indicate goshawk habitat suitability decreased across the BHNF over the past three decades and much high-quality nesting habitat was lost during this period due to a combination of unsustainable timber harvest and natural disturbances. Minimizing forest management activities that decrease canopy cover and canopy base height, and increase variability in canopy base height in areas of high- and medium-quality goshawk habitat are likely to slow the loss of higher-quality habitat and allow development of future nesting habitat. In addition to informing management, this study demonstrates the value of using existing long-term legacy datasets in conjunction with time series of remotely sensed habitat attributes to evaluate changes in habitat suitability for raptors in heavily managed landscapes with extensive natural disturbances.

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