“Training-scape” helps soldiers, wildlife

The controlled use of fire can remove or chew down older woody growth, periodically returning the habitat to a young stage, insuring that we keep enough young forest around so that the land supports the wildlife that need it. Fort Indiantown officials must continually use prescribed (also called controlled) fires to reduce the amount of woody fuel on the ground so that small fires don’t become big ones that jump out of the training area. This photo is from a prescribed burn in March 2011. Credit: Pennsylvania National Guard/Tom Cherry (from Flickr Commons)
This regal fritillary is at Fort Indiantown Gap in central Pennsylvania, one of very few places this butterfly can be found outside of the Great Plains region. Conservationists burn and scatter plant seeds to replenish native grasslands with food plants fritillaries need during different stages of their life cycle. Next to those grasslands lie literally thousands of acres of young forest. Credit: Pennsylvania National Guard/Tom Cherry (from Flickr Commons)

This rare regal fritillary is at Fort Indiantown Gap in central Pennsylvania, one of very few places this butterfly can be found outside of the Great Plains region. Conservationists burn and scatter plant seeds to replenish native grasslands with food plants fritillaries need during different stages of their life cycle. Next to those grasslands lie literally thousands of acres of young forest. Credit: Pennsylvania National Guard/Tom Cherry (from Flickr Commons)

This post comes to us from our partner site, www.youngforest.org, a resource dedicated to keeping young forest on our landscape. Let’s grow wildlife habitat together! Our agency is a partner for this specific Pennsylvania project, and one of our volunteers, Dave Putnam, has dedicated many efforts to it.

It sounds like a contradiction in terms: An active military base that’s a wildlife hotspot. But at Fort Indiantown Gap in central Pennsylvania (known simply as “the Gap”), staff conservationists are shaping a landscape for military training while simultaneously making and maintaining thousands of acres of wildlife habitat, including native grasslands and young forest, rare and getting rarer in the Northeast where mature forest increasingly dominates the land.

“Fort Indiantown Gap is one of the most biodiverse places I’ve ever been,” reports Forest Program Manager Shannon Henry, “and that’s because we proactively manage it.”

Nature enthusiasts from across the U.S. visit the Pennsylvania National Guard post to see the regal fritillary. Credit: Pennsylvania National Guard/Tom Cherry (from Flickr Commons)

Nature enthusiasts from across the U.S. visit the Pennsylvania National Guard post to see the regal fritillary. Credit: Pennsylvania National Guard/Tom Cherry (from Flickr Commons)

Henry works closely with Joseph Hovis, who heads the base’s Wildlife Section. On the 17,000-acre base more than 125,000 soldiers train each year. They need ranges where they can drive tanks and practice shooting weapons from rifles to cannons. Hovis’s and Henry’s job is to keep that “training-scape” functioning through prescribed burning, timber harvests, and brush-cutting.

“We keep the vegetation short – less than 10 feet on a shooting range, for example,” says Hovis. “Each year we apply fire to 3,000 to 5,000 acres and harvest timber on another 200 to 300 acres.”

Those activities yield the kind of periodic disturbances that once were common – disturbances that set back vegetative growth and give rise to patches of young forest and grassland that move around on the landscape. At the Gap, such ephemeral habitats provide food and cover for a broad range of creatures including woodcock, bobwhite quail, catbirds, towhees, brown thrashers, blue grosbeaks, box turtles, wood turtles, spotted turtles, smooth greensnakes, timber rattlesnakes – the list goes on and on.

Read the rest of this story at www.youngforest.org!

The controlled use of fire can remove or chew down older woody growth, periodically returning the habitat to a young stage, insuring that we keep enough young forest around so that the land supports the wildlife that need it. Fort Indiantown officials must continually use prescribed (also called  controlled) fires to reduce the amount of woody fuel on the ground so that small fires don’t become big ones that jump out of the training area. This photo is from a prescribed burn in March 2011. Credit: Pennsylvania National Guard/Tom Cherry (from Flickr Commons)

The controlled use of fire can remove or chew down older woody growth, periodically returning the habitat to a young stage, insuring that we keep enough young forest around so that the land supports the wildlife that need it. Fort Indiantown officials must continually use prescribed (also called controlled) fires to reduce the amount of woody fuel on the ground so that small fires don’t become big ones that jump out of the training area. This photo is from a prescribed burn in March 2011. Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ted Nichols/Released to Pennsylvania National Guard (from Flickr Commons)

One Comment on ““Training-scape” helps soldiers, wildlife

  1. Pingback: Binoculars – Best Tool for Nature Enthusiasts! ~

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