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Habitat Management

A challenge to you all.

Most on here have properties that they manage. I am fortunate to be able to get on properties across the US and see a wide diversity of habitats, management styles and terrains. No matter where my travels take me, I see a need for people to do more. Here is what I challenge you all to improve upon.

Soil. Soil is not dirt, soil is alive, thriving and full of activity by organisms. There is over 90% of property managers who have improperly balanced soils. This might be low or high pH’s. It could be either low or high potassium levels. It could be micronutrient deficiencies or toxicities. The majority of lands I am on have soils that are over fragmented. The is a lack of living roots and things like worms. Recall the days of our youth where it seemed we could dig with a shovel most anywhere that there was moisture and we could find a worm?

Since soil comes near and dear to me, here is some extra words in this area. The wildlife industry recommends generic fertilizations for forages yet there is a complete lack of understanding what is really being removed from the soil each year. How on earth can one fertilize when they do not know how much forage is consumed by wildlife and the nutrient composition of that forage. The soil and forage testing laboratories lack any meaningful libraries and sample repetitions. This leads to a guessing game and why I see such a high percentage of excess phosphorous and deficient levels of potassium in the soil. Just like wildlife genetics change, forage genetics change. Nutrient levels of forages have changed from when I first entered the forage world in 1991.

Erosion. Erosion comes from water, wind or even mechanical means. Any land with over 1% slope can experience erosion. Once soil is gone it can take over 90 years to rebuild what was lost. It’s a rarity to see properties managed for wildlife that have contour strips planted into perennials. It’s rare that I see streams and rivers with erosion control methods. Anytime there is not living roots, cover crops or residue covering the land, there can be erosion by wind or rain.

Trees And browse. This is one area we are seeing an improvement on, but we can do better by learning how to better manage trees. It’s beyond planting trees and selectively cutting them. Whether your hinge cutting, stump cutting or clear cutting, there is positive and negative affects on the land. If we have too moist of environment, how does that affect beast, foul or even things like ticks? If we are not maintaining quality bedding and habitat for our wildlife, how does that affect them both short term and long term? It takes but a moment to fall a tree and decades to get back to where we were.

Wildlife health. Some will argue that no one planted food plots or supplemented wildlife decades ago. Yep, that was then, this is now. Wildlife evolves. Their growth and maintenance requirements change because of environment, body type, predation and society being more up close with their habitats. There is no simple solution. There is no 1 size fits all program. There are many ways to positive affect health of our wildlife and some cost very little. Sometimes it’s a matter of brains and brawn. Some only costs time and calories.

My challenge is to take a pen and paper and jot down a list of things you’re currently doing that are positively affecting your habitat. Next, write down things that are negatively affecting your habitat and wildlife. Lastly, create a plan for 2020 where your creating more check marks on the positive side and less strikes on the negative. It doesn’t need to be work. It can be a simple exercise to “audit” yourself. It can be thought of as benchmarking. Do this once a year and then in time look back and see how the process has evolved. Happy Planning! Be well.

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