Landscape Vegetation Analysis project improves habitat for wildlife

The Troublesome Ridge shrub mowing project was the first project completed through the Landscape Vegetation Analysis (LaVA) specifically focused on improving habitat for wildlife, primarily mule deer. Other wildlife, such as sage grouse, will also benefit from this habitat enhancement project.

 LaVA was developed to address landscape-level tree mortality from bark beetles and the overall lack of disturbances in the Medicine Bow National Forest. LaVA was finalized in 2020 and allows over a quarter million acres of vegetative management to occur over the next 15 years. The purpose of LaVA includes improving timber stand health, reducing fuel for fires,and improving wildlife habitat among other goals. 

The prescribed shrub treatments were implemented to reduce canopy cover, increase herbaceous plant growth and availability, diversify the age class structure of the shrub community, increase the palatability and nutritional value of shrubs for wildlife, and reduce conifer encroachment. Pre-treatment monitoring was conducted to quantify shrub canopy cover,  shrub composition, and herbaceous plant species diversity. 

The mechanical treatment was conducted by WGFD Habitat and Access personnel using 100 horse power tractors, twenty foot wide batwing mowers, and chainsaws. Shrubs were mowed six to ten inches above ground height which reduced canopy cover and removed approximately 50% of shrubs from the mowed area. 

The remaining shrub community will supply newer regrowth for wildlife, along with increased access to forbs. WGFD Habitat and Access personnel mowed the shrubs in a mosaic pattern. This helps ensure there is still cover for small birds and mammals and reduces the hard edge or corridor effect that predators often exploit when hunting. The partners plan to repeat this treatment in five to seven years, further diversifying the age class structure of the shrub community.

The Troublesome Ridge project was designed and implemented as a cooperative project between the United States Forest Service (USFS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Mule Deer Foundation (MDF), Saratoga-Encampment-Rawlins Conservation District (SERCD), Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD), and the Upper Cedar Creek Ranch (UCCR).  

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