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TWRA Shares Three-Phase Plan For Habitat Project In White County

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
TWRA Shares Three-Phase Plan For Habitat Project In White County

The bid process to survey phase I of White County’s Centennial Wilderness Area forest conversion has been completed.

TWRA shared the plan for the three to five-year project Thursday at a Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting. Region Three Wildlife Program Manager Brandon Wear said phase one has completed the bid process.

“It will occur simultaneously on both The Farm and the Big Bottom Unit, so on the north and the south side of the WMA,” Wear said. “We plan to do this in three phases and each phase will be approximately one year. Those contracts will go out to bid, be awarded, and once they are awarded they will run for one year.”

According to Wear, a total of six plots have been designated to become a grassland-like environment. The north side or, “The Farm,” will result in 825 acres. The south side or the, “Big Bottom,” will yield 1,221 acres.

“We’re not going to operate within 1,000 feet of the rim line,” Wear said. “We are going to stay out of that buffer zone. These are the maximum acreages impacted that would be converted to quality, early succession habitat.”

Wear said the cutting is a part of TWRA’s strategic plan of quail habitat restorations. Wear said the Bridgestone Firestone WMA was identified as an anchor to improve quail populations.

“We have to do all that we can to improve the habitat conditions on the ground on those areas that we can influence like our WMAs,” Wear said, “That’s why it’s an anchor area with the idea that if we can improve the quality and quantity of habitat conditions there first, we can help those populations grow and expand those efforts.”

Wear said the cutting will be based on a tree coverage average that considers the size of trees rather than the number. Opening the canopies through this project would allow more sunlight to enter and facilitate growth on the ground, Wear said.

“Our native grasslands across the state and across the southeast have been in decline for decades probably a century,” Wear said. “But, we’ve lost over 99 percent of those grasslands including savannas and shrublands throughout the southeast and specifically on the Cumberland Plateau.”

Wear said the selection of the cutting also pertained to existing quail habitats at the WMA. Wear said the species does not migrate well and need to be connected for the bird to move in.

At the same time, 74 species of greatest conversation need are directly linked with the grassland habitats, Wear said. Other game species such as deer stand to benefit from the habitat restoration.


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