on Dec 09, 2011 08:56 AM • Views 5049

Work is under way on a habitat project in western North Carolina.

Media Contact: Carolyn Rickard

RALEIGH, N.C. (Dec. 9, 2011) – The USDA Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission announced today that work is under way on the first wildlife habitat enhancement project in western North Carolina conducted under a unique agreement between a federal agency and state agency.

“The project and master agreement leverage federal and state resources to restore habitat by promoting new forest growth for wildlife,” said Marisue Hilliard, National Forests in North Carolina forest supervisor. “While this project is modest in size, we hope that it is the first of many that will benefit a wide variety of species.”

The National Forests in North Carolina and the Commission signed earlier this year the master stewardship agreement that includes this project. This agreement was the first of its kind between the USFS and a state agency. Subsequent projects will improve wildlife habitat in areas through establishing important grassy and brushy areas for nesting and cover, improving the health and vigor of oak species, and creating other special or priority habitats. Other project areas may include the Cheoah and Nantahala Ranger Districts in the Nantahala National Forest as well as the Uwharrie National Forest.

This first project encompasses about 15 acres in an area known as “Catpen,” near Max Patch, a mountain bald with 360-degree scenic vistas. Catpen is near the North Carolina border in the Appalachian Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest. Planning is under way for phase two of the Catpen Project, which will improve Max Patch Pond.

In phase one of the project, the Wildlife Commission is clearing away woody debris around native apple trees to open a young forest area. The goal is to increase wildlife food sources such as apples and acorns.

“The Catpen Project will benefit deer, turkey, grouse, bears, neotropical songbirds and other species,” said Gordon Warburton, regional supervisor for western North Carolina.

Young forests, which provide habitat for numerous wildlife species, have declined in the Southern Appalachians.

The Wildlife Commission is providing the equipment, staff and technical expertise for this and other projects implemented under the master agreement. The Commission is working closely with Forest Service biologists to maximize the benefits of these wildlife projects. The projects employ some local workers and use locally purchased materials and supplies. The agencies will also contract with small businesses on the stewardship projects.

The Catpen Project meets objectives in the Pisgah National Forest land and resource management plan. The efforts also will contribute to goals under the Commission’s Wildlife Action Plan.

The project is made possible by stewardship contracting authority, provided by Congress for the Forest Service until 2013.