Habitat management for better native plant communities that benefit endemic wildlife species is a noble concept, but many landowners do not properly plan their management endeavors. There is a logical sequence of steps that a landowner should follow once they have decided to plan or manage for wildlife. Not only is a wildlife management plan a must, but property owners need to think about their long term desires.
What are your goals? Decide exactly what you would like to do for wildlife and wildlife habitats. Do you want more individuals or a few game species, more birds at your feeder, better white-tailed deer, more ducks on your ponds, or a greater diversity of species in your woods. Do you wish to qualify for a wildlife tax exemption? First and foremost, write down your goals.
What do you really love to work with? Inventory the wildlife and habitats that you already have. After all, you have to know what you have before you know what you need to do. Spend time on your land learning how to identify both the vegetation and the wildlife. Keep a record of what you find and draw a map of the property that includes different types of vegetation, water, springs, cover and other key elements.
What am I willing to trade for wildlife? Diagnose problems and management needs. Decide whether you have the time and money to reach your objectives. Managing for wildlife may require passing up some firewood in a dead tree, modifying existing vegetation, planting some specific species to jump-start an enhancement project, giving up grass for grazing to allow bird nesting and whitetail fawning habitat, or taking land away from other use.
Design a plan. Include a map, a description of the species you wish to benefit, a summary of the planned activities and a timetable for completion. This is where you identify the objectives — the management practices you will implement within a given time. Completing objectives allows you to achieve your goals. In addition, a timetable will help you put everything in perspective. At this point, consultation with a professional will help you design the right plan for your land and make sure that wildlife habitat benefits the most.
Carry out the management plan. Once you are aware of the management techniques available to achieve your objectives, put those tools into action. Many habitat management techniques can be found on this site and from the local department of natural resources. How your carry out your plan will depend on what species you are interested in and the current status of your land.
Evaluate your progress. Keep a journal of your management activities and observations and take photos. Learn how to count or estimate the abundance of species by using various survey techniques and from reading habitat signs. Objectives are always measurable. Without the ability to measure and record it may be difficult to identify changes over the years, even though positive changes may be happening right under your nose. Photos often show dramatic changes over a series of years in areas where habitat management have taken place. A journal will not only provide a yardstick by which to measure your success, but it will also be a source of enjoyment as you look back on the development of your land.
In short, decide what you want to do and then move forward with developing a wildlife management plan to guide you through the process of creating better wildlife habitat on your property. A clearly defined plan will keep you from jumping from project to project and give you a long term vision for the enhancement of your land.