ELKINS, W.Va. — A long time problem with wildlife on the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia is the lack of adequate habitat diversification.  Over recent decades, active logging on the forest has slowed tremendously for a variety of reasons.   Even work aimed at solely at improving wildlife habitat has been slow to  develop.

The result has been a noticeable drop in some wildlife species, particularly whitetail deer, in the state’s highest reaches.   Now, in 2017, there are efforts ongoing to change the direction.

“On the Monongahela National Forest we have a large, complex landscape that is in need of a lot of work,” said Clyde Thompson, Supervisor of the Monongahela National Forest. “So we’ve embarked on efforts to restore the landscape in terms of watershed, spruce forest restoration, and oak-hickory types and get that back into a healthy condition and do it in a way to support jobs and local communities.”

Thompson, speaking on a recent edition of West Virginia Outdoors, said some of the work is underway.  The need now is to get more of it going.

“I was out with the directors of both Division of Forestry and DNR and the Ruffed Grouse Society and looking at things already happening with their mulcher and so forth. ” he said. “There’s a lot of success there already. We’re seeing a lot of acres where folks are working together, but the question now is how do we step this up and do more.”

The effort could be enhanced by Congressional action.  U.S. Senator Joe Manchin has sponsored the Sportsmen’s Act and Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act, which will increase access and education opportunities for hunters on Federal land.    The Senator issued the following statement after meeting with Thompson on the program.

“As a lifelong hunter myself, I understand the importance of maintaining public land. The National Forest is a source of recreation for many hunters and benefits the local communities’ economies. During my time as your Governor and now as your Senator, I have continued to hear from sportsmen, sportswomen, and community leaders that we can be doing more to support, preserve and enhance the Monongahela National Forest,” Senator Manchin said. “These forest restoration projects will provide for a healthy, sustainable, working forest to support our local timber industry and be enjoyed by sportsmen and sportswomen.”

The plan is to harvest 11 Million board feet of timber on the National Forest in the years to come according to Manchin’s office.

Timber sales are a part of the solution, according to Thompson, but they can’t be the sole action.

“Any time we get out of balance on managing public lands we’re going to get objections.  We have a mix of publics that look at the landscapes for all sorts of different purposes,” he said. “If we swing too far one way or the other in our management–say we lock it up and don’t do anything or we turn everything into a commercial plantation, you’re going to get  objections to both sides of that.”

Thompson, as supervisor of the forest and all of its uses, believes the best approach is to engage user groups like Trout Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federations, the Ruffed Grouse Society, and other organizations with input and hands-on work to help with those projects.

“A key point is that a lot of the accomplishment we’ve made is not being done necessarily because of the National Forest.  It’s being done because of partners,” Thompson explained. “We work with the Turkey Federation and Trout Unlimited, the Nature Conservancy, and the Canaan Valley Institute. It’s because of accomplishments of those groups who want to see things done.”

Thompson promised the plans are in the works to move forward on various projects and assured the public will start to see the changes.  He hoped the pace of those changes and improvements would be vastly stepped up moving forward.

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