During the past several months we attended several state forest compartment reviews. Our state forest is broken down into individual forests of somewhere around 500,000 acres. They are broken into compartments of several thousand acres, which are then broken down to individual stands. Over a ten year period the entire forest is reviewed.
One of the latest forest management strategies is retention of tree or shrub species during harvest. There is an internal review team within the DNR to review compliance.
The simple act of leaving tree tops and brush piles behind after a timber harvest provides some of the most critical habitat in the interim before new growth appears. If tree tops are left after harvest they provide an important source of food for deer the current or following winter. Deer use them extensively to bed down. They provide nesting habitat for wild turkeys, ruffed grouse and other ground nesting birds. Several years ago Missouri published a study that revealed that a large number of Wild Turkeys in the Ozarks were nesting on the utility right of ways where tree tops and brush piles were left behind.
When the DNR Forest Management Division conducts an aspen clear cut no cover is left. When the new growth of aspen and berry bushes appear Ruffed Grouse, woodcock, rabbits, hare and many other wildlife species are drawn to the new growth. This is a predator’s wildest dream come true as there is no escape cover. The retention of tops provides escape cover. Snowshoe Hare are a species in decline due to loss of habitat. The simple act of leaving tops behind after an aspen harvest can increase their numbers as those of Cottontail rabbits.
Tree tops not only benefit those species mentioned but reptiles, amphibians and insects as well. Eventually they disappear to enrich the soil. We realize that there appears to be no obligation from the forest management people but why are NO tops retained after every harvest? At one of the recent compartment reviews a forester explained that the loggers have a half a million dollars in chippers that have to be fed. So the bottom line is we must feed chippers and TO HELL WITH WILDLIFE! Are we the only people who care?
During November we received a letter from the DNR that invited us to help plan habitat management efforts across the northern Lower Peninsula. To focus these efforts the Wildlife Division is developing a list of featured species to direct future habitat management. The Wildlife Division developed a list of nominated featured species. Listed for the northern lower marten, warblers, sparrow, rattlesnake, plover, thrush, woodcock, elk, grouse and deer. Guess what wildlife species is missing. Right-Wild Turkey. There is currently a statewide list, a southern Michigan list and the northern lower list and the Wild Turkey does not appear on any of them.
As we have documented time after time that there is not one compartment within our state forests that contain the minimum habitat requirements of the Wild Turkey, even though a portion of our turkey hunting license is restricted and required by state law to be used for turkey management. It is hard to believe that there was not one wildlife biologist in Lansing that did not nominate the Wild Turkey for habitat management.
On January 14 we attended the featured species meeting at Mt. Pleasant. We were the only conservation organization represented. We nominated the Wild Turkey and they will appear on the lists. We will watch very closely to see where the Wild Turkey appears in its final form. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Wild Turkeys could be found living and traveling in our state forests one day?