Fish & Wildlife Ramps Up Habitat Improvement Projects

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The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is increasing its wildlife habitat improvement work on state Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) in order to help resident wildlife populations.

Paul Hamelin, a wildlife habitat biologist, joined the department's staff in 2004 to plan, prescribe and administer projects designed to improve habitat for many species on Vermont's WMAs. The department manages 86 WMAs ranging in size from a few hundred acres to over 22,000 acres. In almost all cases, these areas were purchased with revenue from the sale of hunting licenses and a federal tax on hunting equipment.

In many cases, acquisition of Vermont's WMAs helped conserve important habitats, but they also were purchased to provide public hunting areas for present and future generations of Vermonters and visitors. Fortunately, all of us are able to enjoy these areas.

Hamelin works out of Fish & Wildlife's St. Johnsbury office and manages habitat improvement projects statewide with assistance from other Agency of Natural Resources personnel and contractors.

A summary of habitat improvement projects on WMA's during the past year and a list of planned and ongoing timber harvests for this year is an impressive array of work that clearly reflects Hamelins dedication to his job.

A total of 21 timber harvests designed to improve habitat on 14 WMAs are scheduled for 2006. Eight of these are already in process. Eight others have been sold and will be active soon. Five additional projects are marked and ready to sell.

"Species that depend on young forests, including deer, bear, moose, ruffed grouse, snowshoe hare, and woodcock will benefit immensely from this active forest management," said Hamelin. "Songbirds that thrive in shrub habitats and are declining in numbers, including the chestnut-sided warbler and Eastern towhee, will prosper as well. Additional benefits from sustainable timber harvests on these public lands are derived from a thriving forest products industry, which translates to local employment in rural areas, locally produced wood fiber for Vermont consumers, and revenues obtained from a productive, working landscape."

A total of 347 acres will be clearcut, and 1,552 acres will be selectively cut - for an overall total of 1,899 acres being treated through timber harvests.

In 2005, forty-five acres of openings and old fields on six WMAs were reclaimed by mechanical and hand clearing. Eighty-nine additional acres of old fields on nine WMA's were mowed. An additional seven acres on one WMA was treated with a controlled burn to kill woody growth. Scattered on WMA's throughout the state, these field and shrub habitats are particularly valuable to many wildlife species, and significantly enhance the diversity, productivity, and recreational benefits of the properties. They are typically small, scattered openings dominated by shrubs in a primarily forested landscape. Maintained by periodic mowing or burning, they provide a great diversity of foods (seeds, berries, nuts, grasses, forbs, and insects) as well as cover for wildlife.

Seven and one half acres of apple trees, plus an additional 214 trees were released from competing vegetation on four WMAs.

A total of 747 acres of hay or cropland on 10 WMAs was maintained through agricultural leases to nearby farmers.

Three acres of a deer wintering area on one WMA was treated to accelerate the growth of winter deer shelter this year, and more will be scheduled for the future.

For Further Information please contact: Paul Hamelin at 802-751-0101 or email to paul.hamelin@state.vt.us