The Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) supports the proposed management areas revealed by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) for the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests in western North Carolina because it addresses a nationwide concern QDMA has with the lackof young forests (less than 10 years old) in our National Forests.
The USFS is revising its Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests Land and Resource Management Plan. The plan will guide management of these forests, which constitute approximately 1.04 million acres, for the next 10 to 15 years. As part of the revision, the USFS has created two management areas that cover approximately 700,000 acres where science-based forest management activities can be used to create a diverse array of wildlife habitat.
A major concern for the many plan revision participants, including QDMA’s Southern Appalachian Branch, is a documented lack of young forests on these forests. According to USFS data, just 0.6% of these forests are calculated to be in the 0-10 age class, which is down from an already low 3.0% over the last 15 years. QDMA recommends having 20 to 30 percent of an area’s forest in young stands. This leaves 70 to 80 percent in pole and mature stands. Additionally, the USFS data noted that some wildlife species that depend on young forests for all or part of their life have experienced population declines over the last 20 years.
“Forest management is an art and a science and it takes the blending of the two to be successful,” said QDMA’s Director of Education and Outreach Kip Adams. “Numerous wildlife species rely on forested habitats, and many require a mix of age classes to fulfill their habitat needs. Given that few wildlife species survive exclusively in a single age class forest, and that forest succession continually marches toward an area’s climax species, management programs are necessary to maintain healthy forests and biodiversity in the wildlife communities. Fortunately, silvicultural practices such as timber harvesting and prescribed burning can provide the range of habitat conditions needed by species ranging from frogs to songbirds to white-tailed deer.”
Proper habitat management is important for successful wildlife management programs. In forested environments, habitat quality is partly governed by the tree species present on a site and their range of age classes. A range of age classes is important as young forests provide abundant forage and cover at ground level – components lacking in mature forests. Removing the forest canopy and allowing ample sunlight to reach the forest floor creates young forests. This provides ideal growing conditions for new seedlings, allowing a flush of new vegetative growth. The majority of this growth is within 5 feet of ground level, so in addition to providing cover, it is easily within the feeding zone for numerous wildlife species.
According to USFS forest inventory data, during the past two decades the U.S. has gained over 139 million acres of forestland – a 28 percent increase.
“That sounds good, but nationally only 18 percent of our forestland is in the young stage, and this percentage has declined during the past two decades,” said Adams. “If this trend continues, our habitat will support fewer deer, upland game birds, ground nesting songbirds and many other wildlife species.”
QDMA strongly supports an increase in the amount of young forests created on the National Forests, and we also support restoring habitat components such as tree species composition and canopy structure in a variety of ecosystems. Additionally, QDMA supports retaining a diversity of management options including timber harvest, prescribed burning and other vegetation management techniques to provide wildlife habitat for species that need a variety of forest habitats such as interior, edge, young and old forest.
QDMA, the 2013 North Carolina Conservation Organization of the Year, joins our Southern Appalachian Branch, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and other organizations in supporting the U.S. Forest Service’s proposed management area framework.
“We want to make sure there is adequate acreage assigned to management areas that prioritize wildlife habitat and restoration,” said Kyle Brown of QDMA’s Southern Appalachian Branch. “If we don’t have adequate acreage in Management Areas 1 & 2, then the Forest Service will be limited on where it can prioritize habitat management and forest restoration. We also want to make sure the Forest Service has the forest management tools available, including timber harvest, to be able to create much-needed habitat for a diversity of wildlife.”
The U.S. Forest Service is currently asking for comments on the proposed management areas by January 5, 2015. Public comments can be e-mailed firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the Nantahala and Pisgah Forest Land Management Plan, please visit www.fs.usda.gov/detail/nfsnc/home/?cid=STELPRDB5397660.
QDMA is dedicated to ensuring the future of white-tailed deer, wildlife habitat and our hunting heritage. Founded in 1988, QDMA is a national nonprofit wildlife conservation organization with more than 60,000 members in all 50 states and Canada. To learn more about QDMA and why it is the future of deer hunting, call800-209-3337 or visit www.QDMA.com. QDMA can also be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TheQDMA and Twitter at www.twitter.com/TheQDMA.
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