Habitat Improvement Planned For Highland Wildlife Management Area

I had the pleasure recently of speaking with Gary Norman, game bird conservation project leader with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, who described the efforts the Department had made to increase grouse and turkey populations after they had fallen. Another one of those efforts will take place in Highland Saturday, with a habitat improvement project planting shrubs in the county’s Wildlife Management Area, and Mr. Nelson explained.

“I’m really excited about the weekend. We have a project that we want to invite the public to participate with. It’s kind of a different project, in that we want to do a bunch of shrubs, but we want to do it in a different manner.”

“We plant them in a cluster, if you will, with fencing that we hope will keep deer out. Of course, deer are real notorious for jumping over fences, so one thing we want to try different is to put them in small clusters or enclosures. They’re going to be about 12 foot diameters and the thinking is, the deer, while they can easily clear a six foot fence , which is what will be using, but we believe that they don’t like to jump into narrow or confined areas. So we’re going to put this fencing up in a 12 foot circular area, put a couple of 2X2’s across the enclosure, so give it another visual effect that it’s a tighter spot to jump in and out of. We’re hoping that we can avoid any browsing of deer on the shrubs.

“And the shrubs are being paid for by the National Wild Turkey Federation. The local chapter there, the Little Switzerland chapter is helping fund the shrubs, the protective shelters we’re going to be putting around the shrubs, stakes, and that kind of stuff. So we want to give them recognition and thanks for cooperating and participating with the project.”

He continued, “We’ll be planting them in the Jack Mountain area of the Highland Wildlife Management Area. The area is unfortunately composed of two habitat types – open areas and the more mature woods that are there, and we don’t have a lot of good shrub communities in between. So what we’re trying to do with these plantings is provide a lot of additional food for turkey and grouse and other wildlife, but too, we want to provide a seed source. I realize we’re not going to be able to plant shrubs everywhere on the mountain there, but we will provide a lot of food, plus we’ll provide hopefully a lot of seed that can be spread in other habitats on the Management Area and maybe even carry elsewhere. So we’re looking at shrubs that provide a value for wildlife, but they aren’t invasive shrubs – American Plum, others, that are good solid wildlife foods. So we’ll be planting about 20 of those clusters.”

Mr. Nelson welcomed interested volunteers.

“I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to actually have it – you know, suitable weather –  I realize we have snow right now, but the forecast, I understand, is for a lot warmer weather the rest of the week and even pretty warm weather on Saturday. Nine o’clock, just head out to the Wildlife Management Area, the Jack Mountain the site. There’s a kiosk the first kiosk that you come to, the map on it, is the first one that comes to on the Jack Mountain road. That’s the one coming off of Route 250 headed south. Saturday, it’s our hope to have several crews out on Saturday. And we’ll be doing everything from planting the shrubs, to erecting fence, to just help out. I’m hopeful that the weather will cooperate. People should be prepared to be working in the field, so heavy boots, certainly a warm jacket, gloves, and a good hat. We may be able to provide lunch for folks, I’m not sure about that just yet, hope able to do that. If not, folks ought to be thinking about bringing a sandwich anyway. We will have something to drink for everybody.”

“It won’t be anything overly stressful, so hopefully we’ll have a good time, and hope to provide people a free calendar – a little bit of a thank you for helping us out with it.”

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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