On May 10, 2016, the state announced that its Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) are thriving. In its recently released annual report, the state claimed that 4,156 acres of habitat were improved over the course of 2015.
WMAs are increasingly important in providing a place for people to enjoy wildlife-associated recreation as more of the state is developed. The WMAs also contain key habitats for a diverse array of wildlife species from bats to black bears and spruce grouse to snowshoe hare.
The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department annually manages 90 WMAs and many riverfront parcels totaling more than 133,000 acres to conserve fish, wildlife and their habitats and for people to enjoy while hunting, fishing, trapping and pursuing other wildlife-based recreation.
A key factor in providing places for many different wildlife species to feed, raise young and find shelter is to have an abundance of different types of habitat available. A mix of mature hardwood and softwood forests, as well as areas with young saplings and open fields, all help provide habitat that allows wildlife to prosper. Habitat is constantly changing as trees take over fields and as they grow through different stages of development. Maintaining different habitat types requires ongoing management and maintenance.
Each year the Fish & Wildlife Department reports on habitat improvement and maintenance work it performs on the WMAs scattered throughout the state. In addition to the 4,156 acres of habitat improved, the report highlighted the following achievements:
- 800 acres were purchased, conserving high priority habitat for wildlife and endangered plants.
- 4,400 trees were planted to stabilize riverbanks and restore floodplain forest habitat.
- 310 wild fruit and nut trees were maintained.
- 1,873 acres of grassland and cropland were maintained
- 239 acres of old fields and shrubs were mowed or burned
- 40 dams were maintained to manage 1,644 acres of wetlands
- 400 acres of timber were harvested to stimulate young forest growth habitat
- 602 nest boxes for ducks were maintained
Eleven parcels ranging from three to 2,875 acres are currently in various stages of acquisition, according to a state press release. Seven to ten of these are expected to be acquired in 2017.
Federal taxes paid by hunters on firearms, ammunition and archery equipment, plus hunting license fees, have made it possible in the past to acquire WMA lands and restore and manage habitat for wildlife.
“We acquired many of these WMAs over the years because of the unique habitat they contained, and because they would provide places for people to enjoy wildlife recreation in the future,” said Paul Hamelin, the state wildlife biologist responsible for coordinating the habitat work that gets done on WMAs. “It’s a great feeling of accomplishment to know that today’s children and grandchildren will have accessible places to go where they can enjoy Vermont’s wildlife.”
For more information download the full 2015 report on WMAs at www.vtfishandwildlife.com.