The Forest Service has proposed positive changes in their management of maintained “wildlife openings” in two Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) in the London Ranger District of the Daniel Boone National Forest in order to promote native vegetation. The 88 wildlife openings cover 131 acres in the Cane Creek WMA (Laurel County, including Van Hook Falls) and Mill Creek WMA (Jackson County, near S-Tree campground), and are maintained primarily for the benefit of game species and hunting opportunities. The Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail crosses both WMAs. The openings are currently managed through mowing in cooperation with the Kentucky Division of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR), and are mostly dominated by fescue, autumn olive, and other non-native invasive species. Wildlife openings are also sometimes planted with forage crops.
Wildlife opening in Stearns District showing autumn olive and fescue.
The Forest Service has proposed a set of flexible management practices to remove invasive plants and transition vegetation in the openings to native grasses and pollinator habitat species. Proposed practices include plowing and disking, mastication, prescribed fire, and mowing. Herbicide use is not included in the proposal. While these maintained openings are not “natural,” historically the Cumberland Plateau had corridors or inclusions of grassy woodland and prairie-type communities, likely persisting through a combination of grazing and browsing by bison and other herbivores and periodic burning by Native Americans. These natural communities are nearly gone from the landscape. Transitioning wildlife openings to native vegetation will likely benefit a number of species, including pollinator species like the Monarch butterfly. It is also a highly preferable alternative to the current practices being used to meet the Forest Service’s game management objectives.
Satellite image showing wildlife openings (pale green areas) in Mill Creek WMA.
Be sure to include “London Ranger District Wildlife Opening Maintenance” in the subject line and in your comment letter.
Comments can also be mailed to:
London Ranger Station Jason Nedlo, District Ranger Daniel Boone National Forest 761 South Laurel Road London, Kentucky 40744
The Forest Service does not currently have a copy of the proposal on their website, but you can download it from our site by using the icon below. You can also download and read Kentucky Heartwood’s comments below that.