Monday, March 25, 2013

Young Forests Equal Healthy Habitat For Wildlife

White-Tailed Deer are the most recognizable game species in Pennsylvania. They are also the species that often ranks the highest on the list of objectives in woodland owners management plans. On the other hand, clearcutting is usually not on woodland owners lists and is often frowned upon. However, clearcuts can be beneficial to white-tailed deer and many other species of wildlife that benefit from young forest conditions. 

Forest clearcut year 1 immediately following the harvest

Same site just 2 growing seasons later

Currenty, there is an initiative to create more young forest conditions across the landscape, see blog post dated April 30, 2012. Over the past 50 years the number of acres of young forests in the north east and upper mid-west have declined dramatically and with it, the wildlife that depended on young brushy forest conditions. Species like the golden-winged warbler, woodcock, ruffed grouse, easter towhee, brown thrasher and others. The list of wildife that need young forest is great and includes at least 89 species of birds, mammals, and reptiles. For a complete listing go to the "Who Lives There" page of the Wildlife Management Institutes Young Forest Project web site. Current conservation plans call for creating more than 600,000 acres of young forests annually in the northeast to restore populations of these wildlife species.

The Northeast Association of of Fish and Wildlfie Agencies recently published a booklet entitled Talking About Young Forests. This is a great resource for anyone interested in helping to create or maintain young forest habitat on their property or for those that just want to learn more about the initiative. Another useful site is which speaks more specifically to the plight of the woodcock, also known as the timberdoodle.  Timberdoodle populations have declined about 1% each year since 1960 as a result of young brushy forests growing into mature timber.   

Recall that I opend this post talking about white-tailed deer.....well what about deer? Deer need young forests too. Young forests provide important components of deer habitat including food and cover, with food being the number one limiting factor across most of Pennsylvania. A 2000 Clemson University publication pulled together a literature review of past research on white-tailed deer and clearcutting. The findings are quite telling. 

Here is a quick summary of just some of their results:
1. Clearcuttings have been found to enhance deer habitat in most regions, even in the snowbelt portions of the northcentral and northeastern states, providing that nearby shelter against cold winter winds is available.
2. The first few years after clearcutting, deer foods increase to their highest level of abundance and availability.
3. Without forest disturbances deer become overly dependent on acorns, a food source that often is unreliable.
4. Following canopy closure, a decade or two after clearcutting, the forage supply declines and remains scarce until another regeneration cut is made. To avoid such a feast or famine situation, an even flow of deer foods can be maintained by making clearcuts smaller and more frequent.

Read the full publication: Effects of Clearcutting on White-tailed Deer

Talk to your forester or wildlife biologist about providing habitat for deer and other wildlife species today.

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