WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA FORESTRY
Many tools are used in the management or manipulation of the forest ecosystem in order to create and maintain desirable wildlife habitats. The basic means in which to have wildlife habitat is by managing the vegetation of the landscape. There are different ways to make a desirable plant community grow on the areas designated primarily for wildlife. Some methods include, planting trees in an old field that has become fallow, thinning a timber stand by removing trees with little or no wildlife value, or clearcutting a stand to completely create a new habitat. Of course before the ground work starts there needs to be a well thought out plan. Through sampling and evaluation of the existing forest managers can learn what is beneficial and what is lacking.
A detailed forest inventory is carried out to evaluate current habitat conditions for each WMA that the LDWF owns. The information gathered gives managers a closer look at many habitat components which allow them to make sound management decisions. The Forestry Section inventories approximately 50,000-70,000 acres, consisting of one to several entire WMAs, each year to assess habitat conditions on WMAs throughout the state. A forest inventory is a systematic sampling of the forest resources present within a landholding. Unlike a basic forest inventory, used primarily to appraise timber value, our forest inventories include data on both forest and wildlife habitat components. This additional data allow LDWF Wildlife Division personnel to make long-term management decisions as well as providing a better picture of the current wildlife and forest habitat conditions. During the inventory process tree measurements are recorded which include species, diameter, and height. With this information managers can calculate timber volume, diameter distribution, and species composition. Trees are also classed based on their crown position and overall condition. Additionally, the amount of sunlight penetrating the overstory, midstory and understory vegetation is recorded as well as the hydrologic-forest type. The understory and ground vegetation is sampled to determine the density and species composition of seedlings and saplings found on the area. Vine abundance, snag density, and other factors which have species specific value are also acquired.
Due to the extensive land base the Department owns not all of the acreage can be monitored and managed annually in great detail. Therefore, an entry schedule has been developed based on the complete inventory of each WMA. To ensure that no area is overlooked, WMAs are divided into management units called compartments. These units range in size from 500-2000 acres and are delineated using natural and man-made boundaries such as roads and waterways. All WMA compartments are scheduled for review on an entry schedule of 10-20 years depending on the number of compartments on a given WMA and the vegetative growth rate for that particular WMA. For most WMAs, at least one compartment is entered and evaluated each year. The order in which compartments are entered for management is based on the current forest and wildlife habitat conditions found during the forest inventory process. LDWF Forestry Section assesses approximately 15,000-20,000 acres annually and develops compartment prescriptions which detail the forest management practices that will be used to enhance wildlife habitat. Approximately 6,000-8,000 acres are managed through timber harvest annually to enhance wildlife habitat for both long and short-term benefit.
The restoration of bottomland hardwood sites is the primary function of the reforestation program. Since 1968 the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) has reforested over 20,000 acres of old-fields purchased thru the Department's land acquisition program. These areas are generally adjacent to existing Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) and add to the land base available for public use.
The bulk of the acreage was planted during the last decade. Between 200,000 and 700,000 seedlings (500-2,000 acres) have been planted annually since the early 1990's.
Reforestation is an integral part of habitat restoration which involves watershed management, as well as, re-establishing the natural plant community. Careful attention is given to selecting tree and shrub species which would normally be found on the given site being planted. The flooding regime and soil characteristics are the primary factors which determine which type of trees will be planted.
LDWF is one of several agencies involved in a massive effort to reforest and restore tens of thousands of acres of bottomland hardwood sites in several states throughout the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley. Public and private lands are being "put back into trees" with a variety of funding sources including federal cost-share programs, and donations from both private industry and non-profit conservation organizations. LDWF only plants trees on its WMAs and uses all aforementioned funding sources as well as self-generated dollars and personnel time.
Due to the large demand for seedlings, long-term planning is necessary to secure enough seedlings to complete annual planting jobs. This is accomplished by keeping a sufficient supply of seed in cold storage to grow the number of seedlings projected to be used over the next two planting seasons.
As many as 10 WMAs may receive some degree of reforestation each year. Though individual fields are planted with 4 to 12 species of trees and shrubs, as many as 30 species are used annually to restore the variety of sites found in the state-wide WMA system.
(Associated Terms and Information Relevant to Reforestation)
Seed production age: on good sites, planted trees can begin seed production at a relatively young age. The following observations have been made on various WMAs. Acorns were produced on water oak and Nuttall oak at age 12; white oak, overcup oak, willow oak, obtusa oak and burr oak at age 14; sweet pecans produced fruit after 15 years; black cherry, crabapple and mayhaw produced fruit at 5 years post planting.
Planting density: spacing is dictated by the harshness of the site; where above average mortality is anticipated seedlings are planted 10x10 (435 per ac). If excellent survival is expected only 12'x12' spacing (300 per ac) is used. For enrichment planting (adding a new species to an area with nearly sufficient stocking already) only 200 trees are planted per acre.
Growth rate: the oldest plantation (planted from 1968-1972) is also on one of the best sites. In 1998 cherrybark oak, water oak, and willow oak were 12-20 inches in diameter with some individuals reaching 26 inches. These trees are over 100 feet tall and have been producing acorns for over 15 years.
The following Wildlife Management Areas have had some degree of tree planting conducted over the past 10 to 15 years:
Atchafalaya Delta, Attakapas Island, Bayou Macon, Bayou Pierre, Big Colewa Bayou, Boeuf, Buckhorn, Elbow Slough, Grassy Lake, Hutchinson Creek, Loggy Bayou, Marsh Bayou, Ouachita, Point Au Chein, Pomme de Terre, Red River, Russell Sage, Sandy Hollow, Sherburne, Spring Bayou, Three Rivers, Union, Waddill Refuge, Walnut Hill.
The information gained from the forest inventory allows the forester to make the best decision on how a stand can be managed to benefit wildlife and meet the desired objectives. Cutting and removing trees from a forest is one of the major forest management tools used by foresters and wildlife biologists. A commercial timber harvest is a feasible way to manage for wildlife where there would not be other incentives. This manipulation of the forest makes it possible for desirable wildlife habitat to be created. The primary objective of timber harvests conducted by the LDWF is to create favorable wildlife habitat; a second benefit comes from the revenue generated from the sale of the timber. The money earned from timber sales goes back into wildlife management. Depending on the management objectives and the forest condition of a compartment unit, the wildlife forester will decide if a timber harvest will be needed to create, improve, or maintain desired wildlife habitat.
Depending on the management needs of the compartment LDWF foresters will use one, or a combination of harvesting methods. The main harvesting methods include: single tree select thinning, group select thinning, seed-tree, shelterwood and clearcut. Much of what is removed includes dying, unhealthy or diseased trees that have minimal longterm wildlife or timber value.
Timber sales are awarded to the highest bidder among a list of individual timber companies and logging contractors. The timber company enters into a contract with LDWF detailing how the logging operation will be conducted. LDWF personnel monitor the logging operation and will shut down the logging if any violations are made.
The prescription is our compartment management document. As with a doctor's prescription for medication when you have an ailment, the compartment Rx details what the technical staff recommends as appropriate to address maintaining or enhancing habitat components within the compartment. The prescription contains information on the present condition of the forested habitat, soils within the compartment, any unique or natural areas within the compartment, and particular concerns that have been addressed relative to that particular compartment or WMA. The Rx addresses the forested habitat for the short and long term, with prescribed practices drawn out for the current entry period, and any necessary references for future entries so noted.
Research is an important part of our habitat management program on the WMAs. Just as continuing education is important to maintaining employees’ skills and knowledge of new technology in any job, research provides managers insight into new management practices or techniques that can be applied on the job, thus insuring optimal benefits of the WMA forest/wildlife resources.
Research projects are not only geared at learning about the growth characteristics and management techniques used on the WMA forests, but also at the interrelationships of the forests with certain wildlife species of concern, including white-tailed deer, squirrels, Wild Turkey, migratory birds and even insects and small mammals. We work jointly with the State Universities, Federal and State Government agencies, and private corporations to attempt to unravel some of the questions we have regarding the best methods to sustain suitable wildlife habitat components in our forested systems for the long-term, while providing short and long-term recreational benefits to the WMA users.