Contact: Mark Lance, Southeastern States Coordinator
Why it Matters: The establishment of an oak/pine savanna would provide quality habitat for quail populations which have been on a continual decline across the Southeast for decades primarily due to loss of habitat. This habitat project would restore habitat for the South’s most iconic upland species as well as improve habitat for whitetail deer, wild turkey, and American woodcock as well as numerous nongame species and pollinators.
While members of the local community opposed to the habitat project on the Bridgestone/Firestone Wildlife Management Area (WMA) have expressed concerns about harvesting hardwood species and the supposed consequential negative impact on wildlife populations and hunting opportunities, utilizing active forest management practices, including harvest of both hard and softwoods, to improve wildlife habitat is critical to supporting robust and diverse wildlife populations.
Located on the Cumberland Plateau, the Bridgestone/Firestone WMA provides important hunting access in middle Tennessee, but much of the Plateau is comprised of mature, closed canopy forests that do not meet the habitat needs of quail or other shrubland/early successional dependent species.
Harvesting timber opens the forest canopy to allow sunlight to stimulate growth in the understory. This type of active management benefits a wide range of species, many of which are disturbance dependent and require young forests and other seral habitats to survive. Ruffed grouse, for example, used to be common on the Plateau, and their range formerly extended into north Alabama. Today, however, ruffed grouse are not common on the Plateau due to the loss of young forests.
In the absence of natural disturbances like wildfire, wildlife managers stimulate forest regeneration through timber harvesting. Used in conjunction with prescribed fire, timber management can be used to create mixed oak/pine savannas that offer favorable conditions for many wildlife species. For example, wild turkeys thrive in savanna/woodland habitats due to the abundance of brood rearing cover as well as a diversity of foraging opportunities.
Proponents of the project understand that while there may be fewer trees from which to hang tree stands and a few gray squirrels may have to find new nest trees, the long-term benefits to wildlife outweigh any perceived negative impacts. Creating savannas will increase habitat diversity and improve the overall health of the ecosystem, supporting increased hunting opportunities for Tennessee’s sportsmen and women.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) supports using active forest management tools to create healthy forests and support quality wildlife habitat. CSF supports the quail restoration plan proposed for the Bridgestone/Firestone WMA and encourages members of the hunting community to attend the upcoming meeting on October 4 at 6:00 p.m. (CST) to express their support for the habitat project.
For more background on this quail habitat restoration project, please click here.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?