WRE Plantation Management
The great success of the Wetlands Reserve Program (Wetland Reserve Easements “WRE“) has resulted in a MAV of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi that is replete with young developing bottomland hardwood (BHW) plantations. As succession advances, canopy closure occurs and understory vegetation becomes sparse. These conditions often persist until competition induced mortality occurs or the stand incurs catastrophic changes, such as wind-throw.
Most plantations lack the species diversity, richness and structure evident in naturally regenerated bottomland hardwoods. In many cases, stand manipulation may be warranted to improve these attributes, enhancing ecological values. Prescribed treatments within these developing stands may be necessary to insure that WRE program goals (e.g., habitat for migratory birds, protection of native flora and fauna, protection and enhancement of open space and aesthetic quality, etc.) are met.
The first entry treatment assessment tool, developed by the Tri-state Conservation Partnership at the request of NRCS, provides straightforward guidance in evaluating young stands and reasonable next steps regarding thinning. It is intended to support NRCS natural resource professionals and cooperating conservation partners with addressing wildlife habitat concerns in a manner which is compatible with or furthers ACEP-WRE priority wildlife and other objectives. These recommendations also are available in a landowner-friendly, summarized brochure, as shown below.
When active management is determined to be appropriate, it is recommended that stands should be manipulated with the primary goal of creating desired forest conditions for wildlife (DFCW), such as increasing complexity of forest structure and diversity, as described by LMVJV Forest Resource Conservation Working Group (2007).