Every year, a few hunters who enjoy public land hunting on Arkansas Game and Fish Commission wildlife management areas will arrive to their traditional stand location only to realize that their favorite tree to hang a stand in has been removed by a logging operation during the summer. The feeling of being displaced can be heartbreaking at first, but the change is necessary if hunters hope to continue having excellent results on the public land owned by the AGFC.
Martin Blaney is the statewide habitat program coordinator for the AGFC. He’s heard from many concerned hunters and even state representatives about logging operations during his 31 years implementing forestry practices for wildlife habitat on WMAs. But there is much more going on in tree harvests than money. The forest management practices are necessary if we wish to continue meeting the habitat needs of wildlife in the future.
“The first thing I usually ask someone who visits one of these sites is for them to tell me where the young oaks are underneath the taller trees,” Blaney said. “There aren’t any because the forest canopy is “closed”, blocking most of the sunlight. Oaks don’t grow in the shade, so you have to create holes in the canopy and let sunlight hit the forest floor. That way we have a better chance of replacing this forest with oaks and have a good mix of ages within the same stand.”
By varying the ages and density of individual trees, habitat biologists are able to create more habitat conditions suitable for a variety of game and non-game animals, while managing those forests for the future.
“If all of the trees in a forest are the same age, called “even-aged” management, when productivity decreases in those dominant trees, there’s nothing available to take their place.” Blaney said. “Instead of having to start over from the beginning by clearcutting, we use uneven-aged forest management and try to keep a constant supply of the next generations of shade intolerant trees, like oaks, growing to fill that need.”