Monday, September 14, 2009

Cutting Trees Helps Wildlife

Many of Connecticut's rare and endangered species are dependent on shrubland habitat, which has become rather uncommon in modern times. Shrubland was always a natural part of the Connecticut landscape, forming several years after an area was burned over by uncontrolled wildfires or leveled by hurricanes, allowing sunlight to reach the forest floor and shrubs and saplings to form a dense thicket.

Shrubland is great for wildlife. The photo below was taken during the Covert's Project at Goodwin State Forest, which is managed for wildlife habitat. This is done primarily by careful logging, which mimics the natural forest disturbance of blowdowns or fire.

I used to see lots of this kind of habitat in northern Wisconsin growing up, on lands owned and logged by the paper companies. At the time I don't think I explicitly knew that shrubland were needed for wildlife, I just knew that I tended to see a lot of animals there. In more populated areas like Connecticut, however, people tend to think that cutting down trees is bad, and that shrubland is ugly, in the same way that people used to think that forest fires were bad for forests (most people now know better). Another problem is that invasive species can take over, so instead of saplings and native shrubs, you have a field of multiflora rose and Autumn Olive.

Our most significant shrubland in this area is probably the powerline corridors. Unfortunately, some shrubland species cannot use the corridors because the habitat is too narrow and too close to edge habitats that foster harmful species such as the cowbird. Even so, I alway enjoy coming out onto the powerlines when I'm hiking, and keep my eye out for wildlife.

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