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Prescribed Burns and Appalachian Grouse


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UplandVirginia

I’ve been spending a lot of time looking on google earth and gis to locate young forest habitat in VA and WV. Most of the prescribed burn sections do not look any different from the old growth in most National Forest land from google earth. 
 

Anyone have any thoughts on whether or not those burns are worth exploring with the canopies looking like they do? 

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For the predator non believers:   Let me review quickly what I believe  is the history of ruffed grouse in southern app for last 150 years .  Grouse were NOT plentiful way back there in virgin fo

I have been patient for now the better part of a lifetime. Fire wont cut it in the east.  Never has. Reality is the mountains were homes , farms, timberlands before the forests were created. The edge

9000+ acre fire in my area ive seen 0 benefit after 3-4 years. Clear/ regeneration cutting is the only method I have seen any real change from. It must start there. 

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grouse28

Most prescribed burns hereabouts take out the underbrush and species of trees that are susceptible to heat.

The fires never really get hot to take out mature trees. Opens up the forest floor to new growth.

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Mountain-man

It depends a lot on the fire. How intense the fire was, has it been burned more than once, slope and even aspect affect if there was canopy mortality. Generally the bigger burn units  and steeper slopes tend to get more hotspots and therefore more early successional habitat as a result of the way they ignite the bigger units. There are some tricks to looking at the photos to see what you are looking for but you generally need to walk it to be able to compare what you see on the map and what is on the ground. Once you walk a few you will be able to pick out the likely features. 

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vabirddog

9000+ acre fire in my area ive seen 0 benefit after 3-4 years. Clear/ regeneration cutting is the only method I have seen any real change from. It must start there. 

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Mountain-man

I agree that clear cuts are the way to go but the political reality right now is that fire is a tool that can be used. Any manipulation is better than none. There is money in the budget for fire and it doesn’t get bogged down in lawsuits. Not all fire is created equal though and often it takes a few fires to get things right. To get the right canopy mortality they have to burn it HOT and that is typically best done on days when escape is highly likely or best with wildfire conditions. Not days most want to burn. The biggest concern I have with fire is the return interval (how often fire is returned to the block) is often too short to see grouse benefit to the greatest extent. About the time it is getting good they burn again. USFS wants to mimic what was here historically and fire scar data suggests a 7 year return interval historically so that is what they are shooting for. The good news is that grouse were bountiful when that was the way it was managed in pre Smoky bear days so I suggest being patient with the fire but we also cannot stop pushing clearcuts.

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How will those big wild fires in the nc mountains that occurred a year or so ago effect the woods for grouse.  I know in some areas on the parkway there was a very hot fire many years ago and there are just big overgrown fields basically with no trees really.  

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tomato can

The big fire that was along the blueridge between Lynchburg and Charlottesville opened up the canopy a bit. This was 3-4 years ago.  It changed the understory, before it was a rhodo/laurel hell hole with feet of leaf litter everywhere.  Now there are different types of plants.   I went up there to check it out after the fire, it was still smoking and I saw snail shells everywhere.  I fish the creek (home of bright red crayfish) a good bit (home of 9 inch brookies occasionally)  but I have not hunted it, so I don't know if the birds have come back (I go elsewhere) though friends have sent me a lone pic of a bird walking around the logging deck along the edge of the fire a year or two later.  

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vabirddog
1 hour ago, tomato can said:

The big fire that was along the blueridge between Lynchburg and Charlottesville opened up the canopy a bit. This was 3-4 years ago.  It changed the understory, before it was a rhodo/laurel hell hole with feet of leaf litter everywhere.  Now there are different types of plants.   I went up there to check it out after the fire, it was still smoking and I saw snail shells everywhere.  I fish the creek (home of bright red crayfish) a good bit (home of 9 inch brookies occasionally)  but I have not hunted it, so I don't know if the birds have come back (I go elsewhere) though friends have sent me a lone pic of a bird walking around the logging deck along the edge of the fire a year or two later.  

No. Changed the canopy where?  Burned the ground clean. Burned laurel and rhodo. Thought it would at least boost turkey in the area. No. Cut timber. Disturb the ground a little. 

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Cooter Brown
20 minutes ago, vabirddog said:

No. Changed the canopy where?  Burned the ground clean. Burned laurel and rhodo. Thought it would at least boost turkey in the area. No. Cut timber. Disturb the ground a little. 

Agreed.  If anything the big fires of a few years ago were a net negative in most areas in my observation.

 

As Mountain-man said USFS is in love with prescribed burns now because they can do it without major pushback from preservationists, and few in the FS are willing to fight for anything more.

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vabirddog
13 hours ago, Mountain-man said:

so I suggest being patient with the fire

I have been patient for now the better part of a lifetime. Fire wont cut it in the east.  Never has. Reality is the mountains were homes , farms, timberlands before the forests were created. The edge and timbering created esh reliably. Throw in the chestnut blight,  industrial timbering and the appalachians were one big grouse cover. Think George Evans Days. Then NF were created and we started with Sound forest management for forest production, habitat, conservation and for “the benefit of man and sustainability for future generations”.  About the 80s the eviro- preservationist started blocking management by our trained foresters until it was virtually stopped altogether. Now your forest is in a nursing home, it wants to play, yearns to be vibrant and diverse again but it cannot renew itself. The children are gone and it sits staring at its sunset. Oh we revere it. It has been magnificent. But it is old and cant do much anymore and they wont let it. 

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Is there a difference in the USFS out of the mountains vs in the mountains.  Around here they are cutting a lot . More than I've seen in many years.  I know it has positively helped mr bob out.  Ive seen more in the last few years than in the previous 10 plus.  Clear cutting and thinning has been really benifical.

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Cooter Brown
1 hour ago, mccuha said:

Is there a difference in the USFS out of the mountains vs in the mountains.  Around here they are cutting a lot . More than I've seen in many years.  I know it has positively helped mr bob out.  Ive seen more in the last few years than in the previous 10 plus.  Clear cutting and thinning has been really benifical.

The biggest difference is the FS personnel on the District and how willing they are to put in the effort and fight the fight to get the timber work done.  I don't think mtn vs flatland really enters into it.  Some mtn areas see more work than others today.  Most see none.

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quailguy
1 hour ago, Cooter Brown said:

As Mountain-man said USFS is in love with prescribed burns now because they can do it without major pushback from preservationists, and few in the FS are willing to fight for anything more.

 

53 minutes ago, vabirddog said:

About the 80s the eviro- preservationist started blocking management by our trained foresters until it was virtually stopped altogether. Now your forest is in a nursing home, it wants to play, yearns to be vibrant and diverse again but it cannot renew itself. The children are gone and it sits staring at its sunset. Oh we revere it. It has been magnificent. But it is old and cant do much anymore and they wont let it. 

 

About a decade ago I was in a quail lease that included the USFS forester (and wife) who supervised 3 US NF in Texas. A fanatic quail hunter, they had 6-8 setters, horses and a trailer to carry them all. This guy was very knowledgable, with an MS in Wildlife Management from a well known Southern Ag school.

That was back when there were still a few, damn few, coveys in East Texas. So I asked him why he was quail hunting with us when he had all that to quail hunt. Too few birds. Well, what about clear cutting, timber sales, burning to get rid of brush, etc. 

He said, they could burn, but the safety criteria were too tough to burn much. He also said everytime they tried to  set up clear cuts, small clear cuts,  hopefully in the best spots for the birds, they got sued by the tree huggers. Well I said, you've surely got lawyers, take 'em to court and you will eventually win. 

No, we don't have lawyers he said. The Justice dept is supposed to give us attorney services, but we are so far down the priory list we almost never get a lawyer and therefor cannot defend ourselves in court. And, the crazies against cutting one tree know it, so they sue, we fold, and that is that.

 

What about volunteer help I asked, DU, QU,  before it went Tango Uniform. Nope, crickets.

I was stunned to hear that and then I personally emailed a number of DU and QU type organizations and all I got was crickets.  

Crickets.

If anyone REALLY wanted to reestablish wild quail east of I35 in Texas, the East Texas NF are the place to go. almost a million acres of public land, 100 years ago men from the North and Houston/Dallas used to travel by train to my home town in East Texas to hunt quail and they shot a pile of birds. 

Not anymore.  Probably never again. 

Gone with the wind.  

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vabirddog
1 hour ago, mccuha said:

Is there a difference in the USFS out of the mountains vs in the mountains.  Around here they are cutting a lot . More than I've seen in many years.  I know it has positively helped mr bob out.  Ive seen more in the last few years than in the previous 10 plus.  Clear cutting and thinning has been really benifical.

Pine vs hardwood. Flat vs mountain.  You only see the trees at the edge and local pressure to cut for economic reasons are much stronger.  Dont cut a tree in the vista no matter how sterile the habitat.  A lot of the same sentiment has hurt quail. Mowed green fields. Clean woods. A sterile environment. Quail and grouse habitat isn't pretty.  A brown weedy field isnt presentable. We have to change that so people can really See it. Same with ag. Dense weedless corn beans. Fescue and bushogging.  I have a hard time faulting a farmer making a living though and without them we would have nothing in the way of gamebirds but the messier the better. 
 

btw I saw some nice varying aged cuts and wildlife plantings in the SC mtns the only time Ive been there a few yrs ago. They look like they do a good job. 

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tomato can

I do find timbering in the National Forest in the last three years. The forester in the Pedlar district is doing something.  I always wonder if there are any grouse to repopulate these timbered areas adjacent to the blue ridge.  And how long does it take the VGDIF to update there habitat locater program?

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