Our state of the State when it comes to habitat for critters of the young forest has been in decline. Deer, rabbits, woodcock and grouse are some of the important game species that require either the heavy hand of man or Mother Nature to create some coverts for them.
Prior to colonization, fire of the type and size that burned unimpeded until the next ample rainfall was a likely source of creation. Even during the calmer periods, dominant trees eventually die then fall to the forest floor taking down some of their brethren in the process. This also lets in some sunlight to many a former shaded patch of understory, to in effect, hair it up with brambles, briars, brush and yes those new sprouts of tree growth. A little sunlight is all it takes for a young forest to flourish.
As one of the most heavily forested states at nearly eighty percent of its landscape, West Virginia doesn’t have it all that bad and we are the envy of many others for it. It’s just that our trees are mostly mature now and getting more that way unless something changes. The normal process of aging is one thing that even a growing tree has no tonic for.
Nevertheless, the 2012 year derecho and Hurricane Sandy storms are two powerful examples of what She delves out, knocking back many an older trees’ growth. Likewise, we haven’t had a widespread forest fire season in some time and are a bit past due… There is still a base demand for paper products and thus pulpwood even though Newsweek and other print media have now gone digital altogether.
The Great Recession has wreaked havoc on housing and thus the demand for structural wood products has been in the tank. But houses too get old, fall down, burn, get eaten by termites or get wiped out by the thousands in monster storm events that are becoming ever more common. There is thus a pent up demand for housing’s main ingredient and the log trucks are stirring again. Mr. Chainsaw will be making some music to the delight of the wildlife species that crave the young forest.
So for all those lonesome rabbit, grouse, woodcock and deer hunters that haven’t had it so good the past decade or more, help is on the way. Now it’s their turn as Mother Nature and man begin to convert a bit of that aging forest into some “second growth.” She hasn’t had it any other way over the eons, so why would things change now?
If it weren’t so, some of the most beloved of game and a host of other wildlife species would have well gone the way of the dinosaurs.