by Craig McArt
We who live in Eastman have chosen to live in a forest that we share with wildlife. Wildlife has a voice in the management of our forest through the Woodlands and Wildlife Committee. The committee also has the responsibility to provide us with information related to the stewardship of our natural surroundings. So, here goes:
An issue affecting the wildlife that apparently deserves better understanding in the community is the importance of retaining snags on our properties. Snags are standing dead trees, and retention of snags should be a key component of your forest management plan. Priority should be given to hardwood snags, as they remain intact longer. The only good reason for cutting down such a dead tree snag in Eastman is when it poses a threat to personal safety or property.
Some may feel that dead trees on their property present an unkempt appearance. Perhaps they feel it is an obligation of a good neighbor to remove them as an eyesore. Actually, a clean, “park-like” look often desired in suburban backyards is undesirable for wildlife and inappropriate for Eastman’s forested surroundings. Park-like landscapes lack the structure and diversity required for healthy wildlife habitat. Unless a snag is in danger of falling on your house, other structure, vehicle, boat or the like, you should consider leaving it in place as a benefit to wildlife.
Why is it important to wildlife that non-threatening snags be retained? Snags, which often contain cavities, are very important to many wildlife species, especially birds, but also invertebrates and some mammals. They provide birds important food and shelter resources for nesting and roosting. Forestry practice of selective removal of dead or diseased trees reduces the availability of nest sites. Good Forestry in the Granite State, available for free at www.goodforestry.org, describes recommended voluntary forest management practices for New Hampshire. Regarding the practice of retaining snags to help maintain populations of wildlife that require cavities for roosting and nesting, it lists the following species of New Hampshire forest birds that excavate cavities as well as those that use existing ones:
NH Forest birds that excavate and use tree cavities
NH forest birds that use existing tree cavities
Not only cutting of snags, but virtually any trees during birds’ breeding season should be avoided. Birds’ breeding season extends from May to August. Cutting trees during frozen ground conditions is preferable as it has no direct negative impact on the breeding bird community. Let’s all respect our wildlife neighbors, who had a claim to this place long before Eastman intruded.
Craig McArt is a veteran member of the Woodlands and Wildlife Committee who has recently joined the Grantham Conservation Commission.