Wildlife Viewing: Habitat Management 101

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WESTFORD, Vermont (WCAX) – To ensure wildlife conservation in the state, a key job of the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife is to work with private landowners and other stakeholders on the management of habitat. One such project includes a new nature trail in Chittenden County.

Just outside Westford Elementary School, local students and state officials are hard at work on a habitat management project.

“Habitat management is really about getting actively involved in the forest and cutting down trees, taking care of invasive plants, creating structure and diversity so that it can be home to many different species,” said said Andrea Shortsleeve, habitat biologist with the Vermont Department. fishing and wildlife.

This work has been done over the past year by Chittenden County Forester Ethan Tapper and students from the Vermont Technical Center Forestry Program.

“Students went out and selected trees, helped Ethan add more sunlight to the forest floor, grow more regeneration, add a little more structure. You can see how messy it is behind me. This is part of our goal. We really like having messy forests for all the different creatures to crawl around and eat bugs,” Shortsleeve said. “As we can see right now, we’ve opened up the canopy, so we’re getting a lot more sun now on the forest floor so everything can grow. Later in the winter, when the snow falls, it will fall differently on all these different piles of logs and branches, creating pockets for weasels, mice and all that stuff to find a place in the snow.

A few steps down the same path, visitors can already see the impact of the work completed just a few years ago.

“What we’re looking for is a patch cut that was 90% clear. About four years ago we came in with a Brontosaurus, we ground this whole site — a machine that grinds these trees and creates a layer of mulch. A lot of the brush that we saw earlier was here. And then over time, as the trees regenerate and grow, the ferns start to grow, and that kind of brush grows back into the ground, and we’re left with this really nice piece of young forest habitat,” said Dave Adams, habitat biologist at Vermont Fish & Wildlife. “The seed bank is here, it just needs some sunshine. And that’s what these big cuts are all about.”

Shortsleeve and Adams say that most wildlife in Vermont prefer habitat between 0 and 25 years old. They say it starts with pollinator habitat. “We talk a lot about our birds and our bats, our deer and our turkeys, but insects and pollinators are really the mainstays of the habitat. Without insects, without the caterpillars that these insects come from, we don’t have bird life, we don’t have this biomass that is incredibly important,” Adams said.

“We offer a free program, technical assistance. They can call us and have a biologist come over and start talking about different habitat ideas. Then, depending on the work you choose to do, it can be very inexpensive – just chopping firewood – and we can go up from there depending on the activities. »

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