Study to Evaluate Management of Pine Plantations for Wildlife Habitat and Timber Profitability

Much of Georgia and the Southeast are dominated by natural and planted pine plantations and this landscape feature is expected to continue to increase in occurrence.  Many forest owners value both timber revenue and the recreational value of supporting wildlife.   Unfortunately, meeting both timber and wildlife management objectives can be challenging, often requiring tradeoffs.  Management tools like forest stand thinning and prescribed fire can in some circumstances positively affect both the net present value of timber stands and the value of those stands for wildlife.  However, no objective guidelines exist on how best to prescribe forest thinning regimes or fire for the mutual benefit of both land use objectives.  Therefore, Dr. Karl V. Miller and Dr. James Martin initiated a research project designed to create a decision support tool for assisting forest landowners, foresters, and wildlife biologists.  Allison Gordy is the M.S. graduate student working on the project. Together they are evaluating the effects of 3 mid-rotation timber harvest regimes, with and without prescribed fire, on deer forage availability, value of the habitat to northern bobwhite, and net present value of the timber stands. Their goal is to identify the treatment combination resulting in optimization of financial returns and wildlife habitat quality.  The research, funded by Georgia Department of Natural Resources began in Spring 2016 and is being conducted on 5 study sites located in the Piedmont of Georgia.