Mt. Nebo Wildlife Management Area is one of 41 WMAs around the state and is the only one located in Garrett County. This 1,800-acre area consists mostly of forest habitat with a significant amount of wetland and wetland shrub habitat and lesser amounts of upland or open, early-succession habitats. Of the 528 vertebrate species documented to occur in Maryland, 236 may be found at Mt. Nebo. The WMA is located along MD Route 219, midway between the town of Oakland and Deep Creek Lake.
It has been said, "Wildlife management isn't
brain surgery. It is much more complicated than that!" This concept becomes
evident as one tries to understand the various ecological communities, the
intricate ebb and flow of resources, and the changing effects of time on the
habitats for each of these 236 species. Each species has its own requisites of
food, cover, water and space and often relies on different habitats for feeding,
sleeping and breeding. To further complicate things, these habitats may be
specific to seasons of the year or affected by climate and weather patterns.
Short of development, most land use changes will provide beneficial habitat for some species and perhaps be less favorable to others. One way we may try to determine the best management practices for a given area is to look at the habitat types or species populations that are declining. Our management approach can then be tailored to address those declines.
Field to Forest...and
Everything in Between
According to U.S. Forest Service data, Maryland forests comprise mostly saw timber (greater than 12-inch diameter) sized trees, considered a late succession stage. This more mature timber occupies 66 percent of the forestland base, an increase of six percent since 1986. Although forested habitats are being lost to development, the existing forest is maturing. Currently the early succession or seedling/sapling age forest is limited, comprising only 11 percent of Maryland's forestland base. However, we are not alone; throughout the Northeast early succession forest habitat is being lost to maturing forest as well as development.
For the Birds
In an effort to address this trend of losing young forest stands, Mt. Nebo WMA is managed to provide excellent habitat for early succession forest bird species. The large wetland complex found in the heart of the WMA has excellent alder and shrub habitat that is used extensively by species like woodcock and alder flycatchers. Small patch forest cuts have been created throughout the area since the 1970s to extend the early succession forest cover and expand the available habitat for these and other popular species such as ruffed grouse. For years after the initial cuts were made, annual surveys conducted showed that the habitat manipulation was successful in distributing grouse populations throughout the area. The most recent forest regeneration cuts, made to supplement and continue providing early succession forest habitat at Mt. Nebo, were completed in 2002.
Much planning goes into deciding if, when and where to conduct habitat management as dramatic to the landscape as a timber harvest. We try to place these harvest areas where they will provide the most benefit to the target wildlife species and have the least negative impact on other species. For this reason, we locate harvest sites adjacent to areas that already have forest fragmentation, such as along roadways, power line rights-of-way or field edges. The largest area of contiguous forest as well as all stream corridors and riparian areas on Mt. Nebo are kept free from timber harvest and management equipment. These areas will continue to support mature forest habitats.
At Mt. Nebo WMA, our goal is to provide habitat for a wide variety of wildlife species by conducting forest harvests to provide key early succession habitat while maintaining the integrity of contiguous forest and riparian habitats. Though no one acre or one area can be all things to all wildlife, through careful planning and discussion we can make the best management choices for the species in the greatest need. Thus, consistent with the WMA mission statement noted earlier, Mt. Nebo WMA is managed to provide a mix of diverse habitats supporting a variety of wildlife populations for the citizens of Maryland to enjoy. The next time you are in Garrett County, plan to stop by and visit this diverse wildlife management area - you'll be glad you did.
For more information about Mt. Nebo WMA, visit the DNR website at www.dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/western/mtnebo.asp
Rick Latshaw is a habitat biologist with the DNR Wildlife and Heritage Service in the Western Region. Pete Jayne is the Associate Director for Regional Operations for the Wildlife and Heritage Service.