T   oday, many nature-loving                                                                          home-owners are tryi...
attract specific species to a       property you have spring seeps       those species which require    given area. On the...
On the east coast, for                   shrubs and brambles, which are      to provide habitat for a greater    instance,...
sunlight or deer browsing, or          thinning, paying you for the           Other species are “edge    becomes a “monocu...
space, and the arrangement of             better than “benign neglect"           If you have a stream running    these com...
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Managing Woodlands For Wildlife


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Today, many nature-loving home-owners are trying to protect and enjoy some of our rapidly-vanishing wildlife habitat by buying properties hich
include woodlots. Some may even purchase larger tracts of land with more extensive forested areas.

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Managing Woodlands For Wildlife

  1. 1. T oday, many nature-loving home-owners are trying to protect and enjoy some of our rapidly-vanishing wildlife habitat Managing Woodlands by buying properties which include woodlots. Some may even purchase larger tracts of For Wildlife land with more extensive forested areas. Very often, and with the best of intentions, these landowners For more nature habitat information declare that they are going to Visit these helpful websites: leave the woods untouched, “for the sake of wildlife." A Plants Home A Birds Home Although their intentions are A Homesteaders Home good, they don’t necessarily represent the best approach for maximizing plant, animal, and bird diversity on a piece of woodland property. This is one of those instances where the “good news" and the “bad news" are the same: one size doesn’t fit all. Each property will have different “site factors," including variations in soil, moisture, sunlight, existing vegetation, and local wildlife. That makes it impossible to recommend the same practices for every property. In addition, different approaches are needed to Just as you would make a plan for the rest of your landscape, you should also study your wooded areas in terms of what management techniques you can use to reach your wildlife goals.© WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 1 A Plants Home
  2. 2. attract specific species to a property you have spring seeps those species which require given area. On the plus side, which will run quietly all winter, mixed vegetation. however, this means that you or vernal pools which supply have the opportunity to think critical habitat before drying up Wild turkeys, for instance, look carefully about what you in the summer. Whatever your for grasses and insects in open ultimately hope to accomplish, water resources, they should be clearings in the spring and and then formulate a specific valued and carefully protected summer, and nuts and berries in plan to be implemented in for wildlife. mature forests in the fall and stages, as time and money winter. allow. Cover can be anything from a brush pile to a stone wall, a hole The first thing to consider is You should study your in a tree to a rotting log. All the overall health of your property as it relates to the types of vegetation, from forest, regardless of its size. Law of Minimums, which herbaceous openings to shrubs Many of us, in response to the declares that, when a factor and mature trees, can be used dismaying loss of woodlands approaches its minimum, its for nesting and escape cover, due to industrial and relative effect becomes depending on the species of development pressures, have increasingly great. wildlife. come to think of every tree as sacred. In other words, whatever you Don’t overlook the are most lacking may have the importance of evergreens, We look at the cutting of a greatest impact, and you can which provide critical single trunk as an act akin to take steps to enhance that protection in the winter, as murder, and take the unbending missing element. well as food when supplies are viewpoint that “more is better." scarce. In some cases, we might literally All species of wildlife require be loving our trees to death. food, water, cover and space. Tree cavities can exist in both With thoughtful management, living and dead trunks, and “Save the old growth forests" you can ensure that your ideally there will be a variety of has become a rallying cry, and in woodland provides the maximum sizes, at different heights, some parts of the country it of each. throughout the woods. may be valid. Plants should supply a variety We can’t always control the Certain parts of our nation of food types, ripening at amount of space that we can contain ancient stands of different times. Blackberry and provide, but many species don’t trees which should be revered cherry are favored by 56 require a lot of acreage. For and protected from those who species of birds and animals, those that do, perhaps you can would harvest them strictly and are available during the get neighbors with adjoining for financial gain. Sadly, for summer and fall. Oak is a properties to work with you to most of us, the trees on our delicacy for 43 species, and can create a larger habitat. This own properties don’t fall into provide nourishment in the may be particularly valuable for that category. spring and winter. Rotting logs attract insects, Conservation can be defined as the wise use of our an important food source for many species, and rock piles are natural environment: it is, in the final analysis, the havens for the reptiles and highest form of national thrift – amphibians that feed the prevention of waste and despoilment while carnivorous birds and mammals. preserving, improving, and renewing the quality and A water source doesn’t have usefulness of all our resources. to be a large pond or a flowing – President John F. Kennedy stream. Perhaps on your© WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 2 A Plants Home
  3. 3. On the east coast, for shrubs and brambles, which are to provide habitat for a greater instance, there was almost no in turn overshadowed by shade- variety of plants and animals. forest left by the late 1850’s, intolerant tree species. after the combined forces of To rearrange a common farming, and the ability of These would include pines, saying, too often we fail to see steam engines to move timber cherry, birch, and yellow poplar, the trees for the forest. Take a for financial gain, cleared the trees which you generally find walk on your own property and land of trees. Thus, our mature growing in open areas or along study specifics, rather than eastern forests today are not the edges of established just looking at the overall original, and, more importantly, woodlands, where they can grab “woods." they are all about the same enough sunlight to survive. age. Take along a notebook and The final stage sees the some plant identification guides While some species of wildlife dominance of hardwoods, if you are not yet familiar with do need mature forests to including oaks, sugar maples, what grows there. provide habitat, many others and beeches. The entire process require younger, secondary takes about a century when Is there a predominance of growth forests, or low-growing nature is left to mature on its just one or two species of open spaces, and these are in own. trees. Do the trees have space short supply. to grow, with full crowns of In addition to the loss of leaves in the top canopy of the To understand the crisis, it is plant diversity, the problem woods, or are the trunks too necessary to think about the with having the majority of our close together and the leaf workings of forest ecology. You forests reach maturity at the crowns crowded and might be familiar with the term same time is that we no longer suppressed. Are there “forest succession." This simply have the other stages – the hardwood seedlings growing describes the normal process prairies, shrubby areas, and with enough light to nurture whereby nature, when not shade-intolerant trees – them. interfered with by humans or available for those wildlife natural disasters, follows a species which require them for Oak seedlings, for example, will constant and distinct pattern survival. only grow in sunlight, so a solid of regeneration. canopy of shade means that The answer isn’t to cut down there will be no younger oaks Starting with cleared land, all of our mature trees and coming along to replace the the first plants to appear are start over, but rather to older ones which die in the grasses and herbaceous become aware of the problem future. perennials. These are followed by and take reasonable measures If you notice a lot of stumps, or double trunks (resulting from cutting and resprouting), you can assume that your woods were logged in the past. What about the “understory" OVERSTORY plants, those perennials and shrubs which should exist at different heights underneath the taller trees. Are there any. UNDERSTORY What types are thriving, and is there a variety of species. HERBACEOUS LEVEL Often today the understory Forest Stratification vanishes, due to lack of© WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 3 A Plants Home
  4. 4. sunlight or deer browsing, or thinning, paying you for the Other species are “edge becomes a “monoculture," wood that he removes. dwellers," thriving in the shelter consisting of only one species. of shrubs and small trees on the Spicebush is a nice shrub, for In that case, it is highly fringe of the woods, and making instance, and provides good recommended that you hire a use of nearby grasses to find crops of berries, but on its own consultant forester who will insects and seeds. certainly can’t sustain the come in and mark the variety of wildlife that you’d like appropriate trees to be Another group of birds, to encourage. harvested, working towards notably game birds like woodcock your goal of improving woodland and grouse, depends on open This is the time when you diversity and wildlife habitat. areas bordered by fairly dense, have to start to make some low, shrubby vegetation in which difficult decisions. You may Unlike some commercial they can hide from predators. love each and every individual enterprises, your forester won’t tree, but would careful and be targeting just the largest, The same diversity in habitat thoughtful thinning of the most valuable trees. He or she requirements applies to other woods be better for the health will put the job proposal out for types of wildlife, so establishing of the whole ecosystem. bids, and will do the negotiating priorities may be necessary. and follow-through with the Would removing some trunks logger, making sure that the If you have some open areas, open up the canopy and let in remaining forest is left as you might let a portion grow up more light, thus encouraging undamaged as possible. naturally, allowing the grasses seedlings to grow, and letting to get tall enough to provide more diverse understory plants If you are planning extensive good habitat. develop. improvements to your property, selling some of the If this area comes abruptly Would the cutting back of a lumber which is overcrowded up to the woods, consider shrub species that has crowded might be a way to finance your either cutting down some of out most other kinds of plants other plans, while improving the trees along the outer edge allow for more variety of wildlife habitat at the same time. of the woodland and letting food and nesting options. nature replace them with How do you decide what shrubs and seedlings; or speed If your woodland is large changes, if any, to make in your up the succession process by enough (generally at least 10 woodland. Your first step, after planting them yourself along acres), it might be financially studying your property, should the edge of the forested area. rewarding for you to have a be to think about what wildlife commercial logger do the you want to encourage. Even if Having a “soft" layered edge, you are mainly interested in one with a gradual blending of specialty, such as birds, there grasses into shrubs and then The health of our are still choices to be made. into trees, is nature’s way of growing, and usually will attract forests and the ability Some species need large, the greatest diversity of plants of future generations to unfragmented tracts of woods. and wildlife. enjoy the full array of While most of us can’t provide forest wildlife depend on the 100 or 1000 acres of If you are still hesitant to forest needed by these species make changes in your forest, a balanced approach to for survival, we might remember that humans really forest management and successfully attract “interior don’t manage wildlife, they forest wildlife dwellers." Those birds need manage habitat. mature forests with high conservation. canopies and as little “edge" Species will come – or stay – Ruffed Grouse Society (that area where woodland and reproduce – in response to meets field) as possible. appropriate food, water, cover,© WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 4 A Plants Home
  5. 5. space, and the arrangement of better than “benign neglect" If you have a stream running these components. when it comes to promoting through your property, perhaps wildlife diversity. you can encourage your In addition, humans aren’t the neighbors to join you in only forces causing change. There is a lot of concern today protecting the health of that Browsing deer, when over- about “riparian buffers." These waterway by planting trees abundant, can remove a forest are the woodlands which border and protecting any woodlands understory; insects, such as a stream or other source of that already exist. gypsy moths, can defoliate water, where the forest soil and large areas of canopy cover, mat of tree roots are crucial for Stewardship of the land is a thus changing the amount of filtering out pollutants before responsibility, but it is also a available light; beavers alter they enter the water supply. joy, and there is no better water levels; and disease can learning experience for both nearly wipe out entire The trees also shade the children and adults. populations of trees, such as water, keeping it cool enough for occurred with chestnuts and certain aquatic species. Look at your property with elms in this country. an eye to management, and In many cases, these buffers you will reap the rewards for We humans are the only have become very narrow or have years to come, as well as creatures who can plan disappeared altogether. In some having the satisfaction of changes with a view to the states, there is money available knowing you are helping to greater good, and sometimes to help you restore or create sustain nature’s diversity for thoughtful activism can be riparian buffers. future generations. RESOURCES This article was written by Maryland Master Wildlife s Cooperative Extension Service (to find an office in your state): Habitat Naturalist Cathy http://www.reeusda.gov/1700/statepartners/statetext.htm Gilleland. s Forestry and Wildlife Education site: For more information or for www.naturalresources.umd.edu the name of a Master Wildlife Habitat Naturalist in your area, s USDA Forest Service: download the NED Forest Stewardship please contact: Planning Guide at: www.fs.fed.us/ne/burlington/index.htm WindStar Wildlife Institute s Your State Department of Natural Resources: www.dnr.state.md.us/forests (other states can be found with a E-mail: wildlife@windstar.org web search) http://www.windstar.org s Your local Farm Service Agency (to locate an office in your state): http://www.fsa.usda.gov/ WindStar Wildlife Institute is a national, non-profit, s Natural Resources Conservation Service: http:// conservation organization www.nrcs.usda.gov/ whose mission is to help individuals and families s Penn State (lots of information to order on forest establish or improve the wildlife management): habitat on their properties. http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/forestry.html© WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 1 A Plants Home