Volunteers Improve Public Land Hare, Whitetail Habitat on State Forest

A small but effective volunteer crew gathered north of Mio on Saturday and improved snowshoe hare, whitetail and grouse habitat across 48 acres of publicly accessible land in the Grayling State Forest. The project was part of the Outdoor Life award-winning On the Ground partnership between Michigan United Conservation Clubs and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to build a conservation community through volunteer fish and wildlife habitat improvement projects.

Hinge cutting allows the felled tree to stay alive, providing cover and food for wildlife.

Hinge cutting allows the felled tree to stay alive, providing cover and food for wildlife.

“We’re dropping trees, trying to hinge-cut mostly spruce and fir for snowshoe hare habitat,” said Brian Piccolo, wildlife biologist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

The hinge-cut trees will provide horizontal cover and structure for hares, which already have vertical cover in the stands with lowland conifers. They’ll also provide enhanced habitat for other game species, as well.

“Deer will really benefit from downed hinge-cut trees. If [the trees] stay alive, deer will use them for bedding cover, said Piccolo.  “Also drumming logs for grouse, grouse cover. Bears will get in there and use those areas too. Primarily game species: grouse, bear, snowshoe hare, deer.”

Brad Robinson with his habitat hook.

Brad Robinson with his habitat hook.

Hinge-cutting involves a different technique than notch cutting. Rather than cutting a notch on the front of the tree opening to the direction the tree should fall, then completing with a back cut, hinge cuts start with a shallow back cut. Volunteer Brad Robinson, a member of the Lower Peninsula Deer Management Initiative, brought a device called a habitat hook to guide the tree in the direction of the fall, which helps compensate for the lack of a notch to guide the tree. This allows the stump to remain attached to the trunk of the tree so that the tree can stay alive, providing more cover and shelter than bare dead limbs and also providing  a wildlife food source.

 

Volunteers improved wildlife habitat across 48 acres of state forest.

Volunteers improved wildlife habitat across 48 acres of state forest.

Volunteers met at the DNR station in Mio, then convoyed to the stand location off Mt. Tom Road. They divided into crews of two and hinge-cut 100 trees across three stands covering 39 acres, then cut another 30 trees at another stand covering nine acres, improving wildlife habitat on a total of 48 acres. And they finished by noon, just in time to grab lunch at the Paddle Inn. In addition to lunch, volunteers all received an On the Ground t-shirt and a subscription to the digital edition of Michigan OutofDoors Magazine.

Grants from partners fund the purchase of equipment necessary for volunteers to get the job done.

Grants from partners fund the purchase of equipment necessary for volunteers to get the job done.

On the Ground is a public private partnership between Michigan United Conservation Clubs and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to build a conservation community through volunteer fish and wildlife habitat projects. It is funded by grants from the Michigan DNR, Consumers Energy Foundation, Enbridge Energy Partners, Healing our Waters, and the Community Reinvestment Fund, which is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development Sustainable Communities program to the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission as part of the Mid-Michigan Program for Greater Sustainability and is administered by the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council.

 

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