Here at Sparta Mountain WMA, we're creating young forests and fostering the growth of old forests. Just as our human society needs senior citizens and pre-schoolers, our woods need young trees that will one day grow to be old trees.
As we continue to carry out our management work in the property’s 3,461 acres, we will leave 82% of the forest as it is and manage 18%. On 9%, we will retain most of the trees and create characteristics similar to old-growth forests. Of the remaining 9%, we will manage 3% to retain about half the trees in order to increase vegetation growth under the canopy and 6%, for young and open forest habitats, where few trees will be retained. This management combination provides more diverse habitats for a greater variety of wildlife species.
Fostering Old Growth Forests
We will manage between 140-320 acres to create conditions similar to old growth and climax forests. With this forest management, we aim for old growth forests to account for 9% of the forest in Sparta Mountain WMA.
Creating Young Forests
We will create no more than 208 acres of young forest by reducing most of the overstory trees at a site, which averages to about 20 acres of young forest habitat per year for the next ten years. The management each year will account for less than one percent of the more than 3,400 acres of Sparta Mountain WMA.
How we create young forests and foster old growth forests
In order to create young forests, we mimic natural events such as forest fires and storms. The management might look a bit messy at first, but once the sunlight reaches the forest floor, tiny trees and plants begin to sprout and turn into the shrubby habitat loved by so many birds, small mammals, and insects such as butterflies. In addition, forests that are diverse in age are less susceptible to forest pests, diseases and wind and fire damage.
Can't We Just Let Nature Take Its Course?
In the early 20th century here at Sparta Mountain, much of the area was logged, which created an even-age forest.
After the seeing the negative effects of this type of logging, people who loved the environment thought that it was best not to intervene with the forest, let nature take its course.
But when trees in a forest are all the same age, as they are after logging, the trees become vulnerable to disease and insect damage. An even-aged forest also has fewer habitats for a diversity of wildlife.
An even-aged mature forest, like much of forests of Sparta WMA, needs more habitat diversity. So foresters find the balance by keeping the mature forest while fostering old growth forests and creating new young forests.