Explaining Habitat's Work on WMAs: Mechanical Techniques Make Big Changes

Explaining Habitat’s Work on WMAs: Mechanical Techniques Make Big Changes

Written by Molly Kirk/DWR

Photographs Matt Klein/DWR and Tom Hampton/DWR

When Virginia DWR personnel apply land administration practices to DWR’s wildlife administration areas (WMAs), they use a wide range of methods. Deciding which methods to make use of and when entails an excessive amount of consideration and takes under consideration many alternative long-term and short-term objectives. Funds for this habitat work come from a looking and fishing license, entry allow, boat registration, and Restore the Wild membership gross sales.

Though particular practices might be utilized at a small or site-specific scale, a part of the administration course of entails contemplating the consequences of administration functions on the encompassing panorama. Managers consider the long-term outcomes and implications of every software underneath present situations. In lots of instances, a short-term final result might not be the tip aim as there may be usually a niche between software and reaching desired habitat outcomes.

For instance, clearing is finished to rejuvenate teams of timber that can’t tolerate shade akin to oaks and hickory that produce arduous masts, or meals for wildlife akin to acorns and walnuts. The outcomes aren’t rapid, however clear slicing creates favorable situations to encourage the expansion of mast producing species and obtain the aim of making a forest with a powerful oak/walnut part of the long run.

Habitat administration strategies fall into classes: mechanical, agriculture, forest administration, aquaculture and wetland administration, in addition to just a few others. We’ll first discuss concerning the mechanical strategies DWR personnel use when managing habitats on WMAs.

dredging or digging

Shoveling and digging is the usage of a bulldozer, entrance loader, shovel, or comparable soil-moving gear to maneuver filth, soil, particles, and different supplies. The aim of this software is to preserve and improve a wide range of habitats and infrastructure on WMAs.

These applied sciences are used to create and replenish wildlife clearances in forest and open land habitats, set up fireplace strains, restore wetlands, and assemble and keep roads. Bulldozers are used to take away timber and different woody vegetation to create forest openings, that are preserved in native grasses and grasses to supply habitat for wildlife. Hearth strains created throughout dredging are used to comprise particular fires to satisfy habitat targets. Excavators are used to revive and create wetlands by means of the development of dams and the set up of water management buildings. Roads and trails are constructed and maintained with bulldozers and different heavy gear. This apply is relevant on the state degree.

Working heavy gear is comparatively costly and also can trigger soil displacement if Greatest Administration Practices (BMPs) aren’t carried out. Heavy gear replaces shovels, shovels, and different hand instruments. Considerations about wildlife that aren’t in a position to unfold quickly from working areas might be mitigated by consciousness of the species’ presence and implementing time constraints of the 12 months.


Scraping is the cultivation of the highest layer of soil with a disc or harrow in order that the acid layer is damaged as much as expose the naked soil. Tractor pulling instruments are generally used. Sorts of instruments embrace disc harrows, chisel head harrows, spring tooth harrows, and chain harrows. The aim of the specified habitat is to ascertain and keep an early successive herbaceous plant/plant neighborhood.

This method is often utilized in fields and forest cuts to resee or create a brand new herbaceous plant. The disc is used to interrupt up the sod cap, put together seedbeds, and create fireplace breaks for prescribed burn. When used as a hearth breaker, streaks might be left as naked soil, however their seeds are sometimes sown in wheat or rye as inexperienced streaks. The timing of early succession habitat creation needs to be adjusted to attenuate the influence on wintering birds. Permitting vegetation to face through the higher a part of the winter months gives essential winter cowl for songbirds. Fields are sometimes managed by rotation over a three-year interval; This apply is relevant on the state degree.

Weeding is comparatively cheap and may promote the expansion of much less dense weeds and weeds, a situation favored by quails and plenty of different fowl species. Related habitat situations might be created by gentle tillage. Nevertheless, this method usually leaves the bottom floor tough, and tweaking is required to clean the floor. Hearth described for comparable results can be utilized within the administration of fallow fields. It needs to be famous that mowing isn’t an alternative choice to peeling the place naked floor or an open construction is fascinating.

chopping drum

Drum slicing is the usage of a heavy trolley (bucket) to tug a big metallic cylinder (drum) with longitudinal slicing blades to dislodge and lower woody stems. The drum is often stuffed with water to extend the burden. The aim of barrel-cutting is to preserve and improve early successive habitats.

This method is usually utilized in outdated fields or deforestation the place woody vegetation have grown too giant for bush hogs. Barrel slashing is used to preserve early successive habitats by controlling infestation of woody vegetation. The slicing blades of the drum chopper break by means of woody vegetation and expose naked soil. Shredded areas are often burned within the barrel the 12 months after shredding and this apply is relevant statewide.

Barrel shredding is a comparatively costly course of, requiring the usage of a heavy bucket and particular transport gear for towing. Curler chopping isn’t sensible in areas with giant logs, particles, or stems greater than six inches in diameter, on steep slopes, extraordinarily damp areas, or areas with giant rocks. Drum clipping can lead to good development of native grasses and never dense weeds, a situation favored by quail and plenty of different fowl species; Nevertheless, wooden particles remains to be left within the chopped space, making it inaccessible to farm gear.

With this apply, environmental issues are minimal since soil disturbance is proscribed, and remaining woody particles reduces erosion. The remaining woody particles improves cowl for a wide range of invertebrates and small vertebrate species. Curler chopping needs to be timed in early successive habitats to attenuate the influence on wintering birds. Permitting the vegetation to face through the higher a part of the winter months gives vital winter cowl for songbirds.

Early cascading habitat restoration in fields with brush or harvested cuttings usually requires shoveling, brushing, or barrel slicing. Described fireplace enhances the usage of these mechanical strategies and may usually be used alone to realize comparable outcomes.

lower or shear

Shearing or bush hog refers to the usage of a farm tractor geared up with a big rotary mower or side-mounted sickle bar mower to chop grassy and woody vegetation in fields and clearing forests and alongside roads and trails to keep up these areas in early cascading weeds/forb habitats. The target of this software is to preserve and improve early successive habitats, highway edges and related habitats.

Mowing stimulates herbaceous vegetation and prevents woody vegetation from rising and bypassing the sphere, which may trigger early successive herbaceous habitat loss. To keep away from injury to nests and younger wildlife, time restrictions needs to be utilized all year long, avoiding nesting and brooding seasons and permitting regrowth for winter meals and canopy. Mowing can be used to stop woody vegetation from encroaching on roads. Sustaining grass cowl alongside roads and paths creates helpful linear habitats for a lot of kinds of wildlife foraging, grazing, and nesting. This apply is relevant on the state degree.

Shearing is labour-intensive, however inexpensive than different mechanical means which can be usually used to impede succession. Mowing slows the pure technique of changing openings into shrub cowl after which into forest habitats as pure succession happens. Mowing creates straw and reduces naked floor. Options to mowing embrace utilizing herbicides to kill invasive woody vegetation and utilizing prescribed burning to stimulate grass cowl and kill woody vegetation.

Overlaying (water axe)

Overlaying is a floor clearing apply wherein woody vegetation is lowered to chips by a rotary cutter head mounted on a Bobcat or giant rubber drained loader. Mulching is used to create early successive habitats in areas which have turn out to be overgrown with woody vegetation.

This method is utilized in outdated fields or deforestation the place woody vegetation have grown too giant for bush hogs. The cutter head barely disturbs the floor of the soil, mixing the chips with the topsoil. This motion stimulates the creation of native grasses and grasses that present meals and canopy for wildlife in favor of early successive habitats. Overlaying can be utilized in intermittent areas to preserve early successive habitats and is relevant statewide.

Mulching is a comparatively costly apply and isn’t sensible in rocky terrain, moist areas, or on woody stems greater than six inches in diameter. Overlaying doesn’t kill woody vegetation, and stem development will happen. Mulching results in good regrowth of native grasses and never dense weeds, a situation favored by quail and different ground-nesting fowl species. Wooden chips and particles decompose inside just a few years, including vitamins to the soil.

Relying on the terrain, lined areas might be milled and cultivated. Environmental issues are minimal since soil disturbance is proscribed, and remaining woody particles reduces erosion alternatives. Returning brush-filled fields or felled cuttings to early successive habitats often requires dredging or roller-cutting the place mulching was not sensible. Described fireplace enhances the usage of these mechanical strategies and may usually be used alone to realize comparable outcomes.

highway building

Roads on WMAs are developed by excavating and eradicating obstacles (akin to rocks, particles, vegetation, and soil) on a predetermined path. Development and upkeep work is carried out by DWR staff, chartered contractors, timber patrons and collaborators. Bulldozers, motor graders and excavators are the first gear used to type facet slopes and highway surfaces. The roads are constructed of earth supplies discovered on the location and lined with both a pure floor or gravel.

WMA routes are used to navigate WMAs from public roads. WMA strategies present entry to habitat administration, wildfire suppression, leisure entry, analysis research, backcountry emergencies, and patrols. WMA roads could also be continuously open, open seasonally, or continuously closed to public vehicular site visitors. WMA customers use the routes for looking, fishing, climbing, biking, and watching wildlife. Laying of gravel, water rails, extensive slope, floor slope, trenches and ditches throughout building is taken into account to regulate floor water discharge on roads and driveways to stop erosion. Strategies developed solely for harvesting timber are often then sealed and their pure floor stabilized, utilizing a mixture of finest administration practices (BMPs) and agricultural strategies to stop erosion. This apply is relevant on the state degree.

The event and upkeep of a everlasting and correctly constructed highway system gives protected, long-term use and ends in minimal destructive environmental influence. Street building is comparatively costly and planning is critical for highway websites with minimal influence on panorama and wildlife assets. Using BMPs reduces environmental influence and prices. Street building can have an effect on aesthetics, water high quality, wetlands and floodplains, wildlife populations, habitats, distinctive geographic traits, and historic and cultural options. For public car entry and administration, there are not any sensible alternate options to roads.

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