By Brendan Prusik
In 2015, Randolph Community Forest (RCF) provided $30,000 seed money to launch development of an exciting and powerful tool that would change the way many landowners, foresters and biologists enhance and restore wildlife habitats in the Northeast. That seed was used to leverage additional funding from US Forest Service, State and Private Forestry. With additional funding, substantial development was able to begin early in 2016. Further, significant contributions of time and talent are provided by John Lanier, Wildlife Biologist, The University of NH and many others.
Dirt to Trees to Wildlife (DTW) is a tool that combines science from three disciplines to inform landowners, foresters and biologists as they implement treatments that enhance and restore wildlife-breeding habitats in the Northeast. DTW provides prescriptions that are location-specific for more than 330 wildlife species. Almost one third of these species have been identified as Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN), worthy of extraordinary management consideration.
Location-specific recommendations are made possible by a comprehensive inventory of soils established over decades of work by US Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. New Hampshire contains over 1,400 distinct soils. These soils are grouped based on common characteristics that influence what vegetation will grow on them. Several forest types naturally occur on each of the twenty-four soil groups depending on the successional stage of that forest. In total, DTW considers eighteen forest types and three non-forest types. For ease of conversation, all 21 types are referred to as “forest types”.
Each forest type provides specific habitat needs. DTW provides a list of wildlife species that prefer a given forest type for breeding. If a wildlife species is considered SGCN, detailed management techniques for that species are provided (these detailed management techniques are compiled from numerous sources and are considered the most up-to-date understanding for each SGCN). After identifying the area of interest and mapping current forest types a user will receive the following components for use in a comprehensive forest management plan:
1. A narrative that explains attributes and limitations of DTW components and how the components are integrated.
2. Table comparing existing forest type with potential forest types for each soil group.
3. A map to show the location and other attributes of forest stands.
4. Forest management guidelines that will maximize value for wildlife-in-general for each forest type.
5. Lists of wildlife species that use each forest type (existing and potential) for breeding.
6. Access to detailed techniques for each SGCN that use a given forest type for breeding.
The components will allow the user to make informed decisions after comparing contributions of various potential breeding habitats with the breeding habitats of the current forest type.
As the scientific understanding of SGCNs evolve, a steering committee made up of natural resource professionals will receive and integrate new information into DTW. The steering committee will also receive feedback from landowners, foresters and biologists in order to improve functionality and address discrepancies of the tool. It is intended that DTW is not a final word. Rather, it relies on user feedback to remain current.
“This is excellent news!” states David Willcox, member of The Randolph Community Forest Commission “now landowners will be able to identify their land on a map so they can apply DTW on their own property!”
Randolph community members and guests have an opportunity to attend the first public demonstration of DTW as its development nears completion. On August 5th, 2017 at 9:oo am, during the annual Randolph Community Forest celebration, John Lanier, wildlife biologist and author of the tool will join Brendan Prusik of UNH Cooperative Extension to present RCF compartment 4b as an example of how the tool is used.