This past December our organization was represented at the state forest compartment reviews within four counties in the DNR Cadillac district. Once again, we were the only ones other than DNR personnel present. Where were the “save the habitat – save the hunt people?”
Among the management objective we examine are: Is Forest Management maintaining four 10 year age class for aspen, if so are they in close proximity to each other? This is not only critical habitat for Ruffed Grouse, but also habitat for woodcock deer, rabbits, hare, turkeys and 70 species of song birds of which 30 percent are in decline?
If there is a winter deer yard within the compartment are they managing for 1-9 year old aspen? As cedar is no longer a viable food source for deer, rabbits and hare aspen is the major source of food available.
For previous articles in this series, please visit these links:
Are tree tops left behind after harvest or are they being chipped for use as fuel for a co-gen plant or some other use? Tops provide an excellent source of food for deer the following winter after harvest. They provide cover for ground nesting birds such as turkeys, grouse and woodcock. They provide escape cover from predation for every specie of wildlife drawn into the new growth, as well as bedding areas for deer. As they rot they provide habitat for insects beneficial to many wildlife species and eventually enrich the soil. After the scorched earth policy of the DNR for the past years there are no tops left after harvest and the result is a decline in wildlife on our state forests.
For the first time it was noticed that within some stands in various compartments the words “add grouse and hare specs at final sale”. These are a formula for the retention of tops and logs within the harvest. We have campaigned for a number of years for the retention of tree tops after harvest, only to fall on deaf ears. The DNR “Michigan Woody Biomass Harvesting Guidance” calls that for under most conditions it is advisable to retain approximately 1/6 to 1/3 of the harvested tree tops and limbs. Unfortunately it is intended as a general guide. We have learned that guides usually go nowhere.
Is Forest Management creating 6 to 12 percent of the compartment as openings as their own plan call for? Is the Wildlife Division maintaining existing openings as food sources? Year after year the answer is absolutely not! It is hypocritical for the DNR to put out a press release that they received a grant to create several openings in a state game area as critical habitat for the spring ritual and later brooding for woodcock and then provide none on our 3.9 million acres of state forests. In the same light how can they put out press releases and articles on creation of brush piles on state game areas as critical habitat for rabbits and then create none on our state forests?
Forest openings that contain grass are a critical component of habitat necessary for many species of birds and animals including Wild Turkeys and deer, yet they barely exist on our state forests. Out of the 25,1245 acres reviewed there were 252 acres of grass opening listed. The first compartment of 2,477 acres listed 23 acres of opening, with many following with single digit openings. One 3,024 acre lowland compartment had no openings. Year after year we have brought up this issue only to fall on deaf years. The DNR claims that they are always looking for public input into their plans. Smoke and mirrors?
Over the past 31 years we have been attending meeting after meeting and have given written testimony on many state and national forest plans, let alone strategic plans, only to find that we wasted more time. The latest state forest plans are Regional State Forest Plans. On January 4, 2013 we drafted a letter on the northern lower peninsula forest plan accompanied by documentation of the need for establishing and maintaining critical wildlife habitat as part of the plan. In DNR statements the plan will he wildlife friendly but we haven’t seen any sign of that.
The DNR established a Wildlife Habitat Grant Program that began in October 2013, funded by a portion of the revenue of the hunting sand fishing licenses sold each year. Grants are available to enhance and improve the quality and quantity of game species habitat. There is nothing wrong with an individual or an organization creating some sort of habitat on state owned land but one of the most critical needs is to create and maintain openings within our state forests after timber harvests. The only way this can be accomplished is through the DNR themselves. This can be accomplished through sub contracting. They can’t claim a lack of money. There are millions dollars that should be available through the turkey and deer range funds.