Trees targeted for removal at Iroquois Refuge
According to one staff member of the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, The Comprehensive Conservation Plan is a 15 year planning document calling for the layout of habitat management, strategy and public use opportunities, staffing, and infrastructure including buildings in and around Casey Rd. headquarters. The documentation of the plan should be completed by fall.
One component of the CCP, habitat management, entails “conifer plantation.” Conifer plantation calls for the removal of non-native evergreens as well as some deciduous shrub species. The species targeted for removal are evergreens, including Norway spruce, Scotch pine and Australian pine. Some white pine, a native tree, will also be removed. The process will be a twofold operation; some trees girdled, others taken by loggers.
The above mentioned tree species will be replaced with eastern hemlocks and a mix of hard wood species. “We are trying to make more of a natural system,” said the staff member.
The conifer plantation phase has caused concern for some, as indicated by an unsigned letter I received recently. While in no way discourteous, the author voiced concern at the notion of removing decades-old evergreens. The letter is as follows:
“I write this letter to express my concern over the policy implemented on the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. They are considering girdling all the Norway spruce and other evergreens on the refuge. Their stated purpose is to remove non-native species of trees from the refuge. I have been eye witness to literally hundreds of mourning doves flocking to those spruce and pine trees at dusk. The spruce groves in particular have provided excellent cover, helping to establish a large population of mourning doves on the refuge.”
“I have also witnessed coopers hawks and sharp shinned hawks hunting the spruce groves for doves. If the evergreen trees provide such excellent habitat for mourning doves, coopers hawks and sharp shinned hawks, which are all protected species, is it wise to destroy the habitat in which they thrive? The doves don’t seem to mind nesting in non-native species of trees!”
The writer makes good points – but he’s not done. Also, it should be noted, beginning in the second sentence of the paragraph below, the letter writer and Refuge staff seem to be in partial agreement.
“Surely the destruction of habitat will have a negative effect on these birds, upsetting the natural balance between bird, predator and habitat. If the Refuge wishes to restore native species of trees to the area, wouldn’t it be more productive to plant hemlock trees, which once flourished in the Alabama swamps? As the hemlocks grow, the spruce and pines groves could be allowed to die out slowly, without causing such a negative impact on native populations of protected bird species. Nature moves slowly. Why not allow slow changes that can support populations of wild life without man’s drastic intrusions? Be a refuge for the birds. Isn’t that your mission?”
All things considered, there are those who see habitat management as a good thing while others believe that nature, left to its own devices, works things out in its own way and in its own time.