These are probably the most crucial meetings to date as the Forest Service is beginning to define their management areas. This sets in motion what they can and cannot do on USFS lands in particular locations for the next 15-20 years. We want to keep options open for wildlife management. Each of the scheduled meetings will be from 4:30-7:30 p.m., will follow the same agenda and present the same information and opportunity for review and comment. Since they are all the same format you don’t have to attend them all. Meeting dates and locations: Nantahala Ranger District: Oct. 28 at the Tartan Hall in Franklin; Appalachian Ranger District: Nov. 3 at Mars Hill College, Broyhill Chapel in Mars Hill; Tusquitee Ranger District: Oct. 30 at the Tri-County Comm. College, Enloe Building in Murphy; Cheoah Ranger District: Nov. 6 at the Graham County Community Center in Robbinsville; Grandfather Ranger District: Nov. 13 at McDowell Tech. Comm. College, Room 113 in Marion
As concerned sportsmen ask the US Forest Service to consider the following points for wildlife: Support habitat and focal area recommendations from the NC Wildlife Resources Commission; Support a diversity of habitats for a diversity of wildlife; Keep all of the forest open for potential management for wildlife during the planning cycle (except for congressionally mandated areas such as Wilderness, Inventoried Roadless Areas); Focus on restoring young forests on 8-12% of the land. Meet goals specified for early successional habitat recommended by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission; Ensure that the following species are used as focal species and species of conservation concern: Golden-Winged Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Wood Thrush, Ruffed Grouse, White-Tailed Deer, Turkey, Elk, Woodcock, Bird Diversity; Open forest stands by thinning stands to benefit wildlife; Promote use of prescribed fire to establish wildlife habitat.
We should also ask that the Forest Service ensure all habitat management tools are available forest wide for wildlife habitat management: Timber Management: Use silvicultural treatments such as clear-cutting, seed tree harvests, overstory removal with residuals, and shelterwood harvests to provide the proper structural conditions; Mechanical Clearing: Mow and bush-hogging. This includes daylighting openings with chainsaws, boom mowers or other mechanical means. Also includes mechanical means used to restore young forest conditions; Prescribed Burning: Use burning to promote or suppress woody vegetation growth by controlling burn intensity and timing (growing season vs. dormant season); Herbicide Application: Apply herbicides that selectively target woody plant growth, especially in combination with other management tools such as fire, grazing, or mowing to retard plant succession and prolong the period of habitat suitability; Agricultural Practices: Seeding, fertilizing, topdressing, discing, seed-drilling.
Not a week goes by at the store that a hunter doesn’t come in the store lamenting the lack of game animals to pursue on our public lands. We have the lowest deer density in the state and ruffed grouse numbers are at all time lows. If you do not like the current condition then it is within your power to make it change. There is an old saying that 80% of life success is just showing up. If you do not show up for one of these meetings then the cause of low game populations can be seen in the mirror every morning when you get ready to start your day.
Speaking of game populations, I’m not hearing of much success among deer and bear hunters in the mountains. The biggest problem is probably related to the abundant acorn and hard mast crop this year. Animals will only travel as far as they need to eat. Feeders are not very effective when a deer only has to move 50 or 100 yards to eat and get back in cover. Maybe things will improve before gun season begins.