By Don Mallicoat –
If you have read other local papers you may have seen articles about the U.S. Forest Service initiating their long term planning process for forests in North Carolina. Folks, this is a big deal. The Forest Service Plan determines how our National Forests will be managed for the next 15 – 20 years. So far the papers have focused on recreational uses such as hiking and mountain biking. There is a move afoot to transition the National Forests in our mountains from a multiple use plan to one focused on recreation. It is up to hunters to stop that move.
We need to let our voices be heard. Our National Forests in western North Carolina are a wildlife desert thanks to the local environmental movement. Here is a chance to reverse that trend by getting involved and attending one of the public hearings planned in each of the Ranger Districts. In our local area that includes the Appalachian District on February 25th at Mars Hill College’s Broyhill Chapel. The other is for the Pisgah Ranger District on March 18th at the Transylvania County Library in Brevard. Both are scheduled from 6 – 9 p.m.
Now here are some things to think about before you go. Don’t just go and say, “We need more hunting”. They are looking for substantive comments. Do your research. Get facts and data to support your position. What kind of facts are we talking about? Here are some I came up with after about thirty minutes of internet research. The American Bird Conservancy, not a hunter group, has listed the loss of early-successional habitat in Eastern Deciduous Forests as one of its Top 20 most threatened bird habitats. Birds that need that are the Golden-winged and Kentucky warblers and the ruffed grouse.
Speaking of the ruffed grouse, it is listed among the Audubon Society’s Top 20 Most Common Birds in decline. Across the country its numbers have decreased by 50 percent in the last forty years. The Appalachian Cooperative Grouse Research Project, conducted over 8 years to include in North Carolina, found that grouse need a mixture of forest stages to provide food, breeding, and shelter cover throughout the year.
Our mountains have the lowest density of deer per square mile of any region in the state. Although it is not as hospitable for deer as rural farmland of the eastern state, the habitat needs of deer are not being met by a contiguous mature forest stand. Those places in the mountains with the highest density of deer are also those that have the most mixture of forests types.
And how can we forget about bears? Much has been written about bears in this column. If you look at the feeding habits of bears, there is little to no spring and summer forage for bears in a mature forest stand. They also need openings and edge cover that provides wild berries and bugs. Their move into our local neighborhoods is directly attributed to a loss of that mixed forests on our public lands. The list could go on.
So think about the hunting opportunities you will be missing if you do not let your voice be heard. More importantly, think about the future of hunting in our mountains for your children and grandchildren if the Forest Plan for the next twenty years does not focus on wildlife habitat. Please, do your research, go to the public meeting and let your voice be heard. Wildlife depend on you. The bikers and hikers don’t care.
The 2013 spring turkey season has changed to allow for a longer youth turkey season in which adults can accompany more than one youth. The youth-only season will be open from the first Saturday in April — April 6 this year — to the following Friday, April 12. An adult can accompany more than one youth during this Spring Youth-Only Wild Turkey Season. The adult must be near the youth. The bag limit for the entire week is one bird.
“With hunter recruitment as a major goal of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, we are continuously looking for ways to bring more youth into the woods,” said David Cobb, chief of wildlife management for the Commission. “Adding these extra days to the youth season will give our newest hunters a better chance of bagging a bird, and get more youths and adults into the field.” Now is the time to start planning that youth turkey hunt.