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Wednesday, April 10, 2013
READER INPUT: On Easter Sunday, Wayne Thacker of Bumpass was reading an Associated Press article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch about the loss of habitat for rabbits in New England.
Thacker's first thought was that you don't have to go to New England to observe wildlife habitat problems. Look no father than the 1.5-million plus acres of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Virginia. Here you will find a number of wildlife species being held back by the scarcity of early growth forest which offers thickets, shelter, nesting, food and escape habitat in the wake of timber harvests.
"I know it presents a problem for me and my dogs, as we hunt ruffed grouse," Thacker. said. There also are economic implications.
Let's let Thacker tell it like he sees it:
BILL: The remarkable loss of young forest habitat along the Central and Southern Appalachian Mountains contributes directly to serious declines in many game and non-game species, including grouse, golden-winged warblers, American woodcock, wild turkey and white-tailed deer.
The lack of active national forest management, including clear-cut timber harvests at 100-year rotation on suitable land, has created an increasingly imbalance of far too much old growth and not nearly enough young forest thickets. Over the past 20 years, wildlife enthusiasts and biologists have witnessed the decline of young forests and a corresponding decline in a number of wildlife species in Virginia's national forests. We have lost an estimated 100,000 acres of quality habitat on just the GW alone.
While the forest service continues to harvest small amounts of timer and attends to habitat in certain locations through stewardship projects and other methods, Virginia's Department of Game and Inland Fisheries actively manages forests more aggressively, specifically on Wildlife Management Areas. The Department also assists private land and homeowners to effectively manage farmland and backyards to support a variety of wildlife.
The forest service could do well to expand on the department's example and their own current efforts to actively manage much more of Virginia's national forest land. Each of us who enjoys a national forest ramble can also help restore the old and young forest balance. We can help by not objecting to forest management, by creating quality habitat on the land we own and by supporting the forest service in creating young forests.
We could also work with our favorite conservation organizations to educate the public about the importance of young forests and the timber harvest methods to create them.
Address questions/comments to Bill Cochran at firstname.lastname@example.org
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