CANFIELD Wildlife expert promotes woodlands
Ninety-three percent of Ohio's forest land is privately owned.
By PETER H. MILLIKEN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
CANFIELD -- Through prudent stewardship of their property, owners of wooded land can provide a thriving wildlife habitat at all stages of growth and regrowth of their trees, says an Ohio State University wildlife specialist.
"It is actually possible to harvest trees in a way that's sensitive to the needs of wildlife," said Amanda D. Rodewald, an OSU assistant professor of wildlife ecology.
Timber-harvesting strategies that promote wildlife habitat include retention of some trees, both living and dead, retention of some fallen logs and brush piles, and retention of trees along stream banks, she said.
Rodewald was here recently to address a meeting of the Northeastern Ohio Forestry Association at Mill Creek MetroPark's Experimental and Educational Farm. Most association members own forest land and manage it for timber and firewood, enhanced wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities.
More than 80 percent of North American vertebrates (animals with backbones) use the forest habitat at some time in their lives; nearly one-third of Ohio is forested; and 93 percent of Ohio's forest land is privately owned, she said.
"The welfare of wildlife really comes down to decisions that are made by private landowners like yourselves," Rodewald told the audience.
In developing a land-management plan, landowners must first identify their objectives, whether they are gaining income from harvesting timber, obtaining timber or firewood, maintaining wildlife, protecting the watershed or promoting natural beauty.
If wildlife habitat promotion is a major goal, landowners should decide whether their desire is to promote habitat for game or mature forest species, rare or endangered species, wildlife diversity or wildlife viewing opportunities, Rodewald said.
After identifying the goals, the next steps should be to inventory one's property, contact experts and consultants and write an action plan, she advised.
All wildlife has four basic needs -- food, water, shelter and space, she said, adding that different types of plants and animals are associated with different stages in the recovery of a forest after trees are cut down. "The species change as the forest ages," she said.
Soon after trees are cut down or a farm is abandoned, grassy areas attract cottontail rabbits, voles and field sparrows. Later in the succession process, woody shrubs, seedlings and saplings provide white-tailed deer, rabbit, ruffed grouse and songbird habitat.
A young, pole-sized forest continues to provide habitat for ruffed grouse and deer, and when the mature forest returns, salamanders, flying squirrels, pileated woodpeckers and wild turkey thrive, says an OSU extension fact sheet she distributed at the meeting.
"No one stage in succession is more valuable than another. They're all important. They all have been part of our landscape historically," Rodewald said.