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Burley Farms Wildlife Habitat Work Underway

Burley Farms Wildlife Habitat Work Underway

The management plan for SELT’s Burley Farms in Epping places a high priority on retaining and enhancing the high value wildlife habitats found there.  The 237-acre property is mostly composed of mature forests that have been managed well for decades, and these forests are slated to continue on that path. The management focus is on areas that have not been forested for very long, or that are just now reverting to woods after being actively farmed in the past.  In a state that has more than 80% of its land base covered by forests, it’s important that we begin to focus more attention on these non-forested habitats.

At Burley Farms, these include two old hay fields that are connected by a low lying meadow, a young white pine forest abutting some of the actively managed hay land, and an old potato field that was planted to red pines and Christmas trees around 1970.  The plan recommends that these areas be clear cut now and that in the future, SELT manage these areas as shrub or young forest thickets, or as old field habitats.

Drivers on Route 125 in Epping undoubtedly noticed when the project began last summer as the view was dramatically enhanced from the road to the 45-acre beaver pond.  A whole tree chipping crew, working with our forester Charlie Moreno and property manager Phil Auger, harvested the 13-acre white pine stand mentioned previously.  This was an actively used pasture until about 1970 and the trees are now 45 feet tall.  Most of the white pine is in poor condition due to repeated attacks by the white pine weevil, a native beetle that causes the trunk of affected trees to have multiple, twisted stems with little economic value making the decision to clear cut this stand much easier.  Whole tree chipping is a fully mechanized (no chain saws) harvesting technique in which low value trees are chipped.  The chips are sent to one of the numerous biomass burning plants in the region that generate electricity.

While the change in the landscape is dramatic, we anticipate that within a short time, sprouts and dense new growth will green up this area due to these fertile farm soils.  In order to keep this area young and dense – the target habitat –  periodic “mowing” with a mechanical, small tree grinder will be required at five to ten year intervals.  Stay tuned for opportunities to visit the Burley Farms and see the transformation.

To learn more about the ways in which sustainable forest management benefits wildlife visit www.youngforest.org or www.extension.unh.edu/Shrublands.