Fire and Mechanical Treatments for Kirtland’s Warbler Habitat Management in Northern Lower Michigan

June 7, 2016
The Ohio State University Chapter of The Fish and Wildlife Society visited the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Kirtland's Warbler Wildlife Management Area in the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan.
This news item originally appeared in the May 2016: Volume 7, Issue 5 edition of the Lake States Fire Science Consortium Newsletter and was written by Jack Rabe, President, The Ohio State University Chapter of The Fish and Wildlife Society.
 
On April 16th 2016, The Ohio State University Chapter of The Fish and Wildlife Society visited the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Kirtland's Warbler Wildlife Management Area in the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Dr. Greg Corace, from the Applied Sciences Program at Seney National Wildlife Refuge and Shelby Weiss, a M.S. Fellow at The Ohio State University, provided a tour regarding ecological approaches to land management for the benefit of wildlife. 
 
At the first site, we visited a recent jack pine clear-cut and a past clear-cut with reserves (managed biological legacies in the form of dead trees or snags). We could see some of the differences between a general clear-cut for Kirtland’s Warblers habitat and one conducted from more of a disturbance ecology (fire in jack pine ecosystems) perspective. At this site, we also tested out various field methods regarding data collection on snags. This experience provided us some hands-on experience with conducting forest research that pertained to real management practices, while also linking with knowledge gained in the classroom. Lastly, we headed farther north to visit a prescribed burn site that was next to a jack pine plantation. At this site, we could clearly see some of the visible ecological and structural differences between the two types of management strategies.
 
From these experiences, our group was able to gain a wide variety of knowledge regarding current and past management practices, as well as some hands-on field techniques for collecting forest data. For instance, by seeing the differences between management practices, we were able to see and learn the value of structuring management through an ecological, multi-species approach. The ecological focus produced heterogeneity with snags, coarse woody debris, leaf litter, and jack pine stands that provide for a diverse group of species. Aside from learning how to record specific data on snags as well as some general orienteering skills, we also learned the benefits of structuring management practices in a way that closely resembles the natural processes that would occur through something like a forest fire. Lastly, we also gained some valuable insight into what a position in the wildlife/forestry field may look like, how various agencies manage lands, and what are some of the many challenges in wildlife and forestry professions, especially related to fire.