The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources is planning to harvest hundreds of acres of trees at the wildlife management areas of Dewey Lake and Yatesville Lake.
The Kentucky Finance Cabinet issued requests for bids recently, seeking companies interested in harvesting timber from 225 acres at Dewey Lake and from 141 acres at Yatesville.
Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources Public Information Officer Kevin Kelly said that the timber harvest will take place in different locations on these wildlife management areas to collectively total 225 acres at Dewey and 141 acres at Yatesville. The harvest comes as part of a habitat improvement project, he said.
“We’ve got 225 acres on Dewey, 141 acres on acres on Yatesville, but those won’t be contiguous blocks, or continuous blocks,” he said. “It’ll be kind of spread out in smaller blocks, the timber harvest will, and so it just won’t be a 141-acre patch where timber’s been harvested.”
He said there is “very little” open land in each of these wildlife management areas. He explained that the Dewey Lake Wildlife Management Area includes more than 9,172 acres, and said that harvesting 225 acres of timber accounts for about 2.5 percent of the timber there. He also explained that the harvest of 141 acres will account for about one percent of the timber at Yatesville, where the wildlife management area includes 13,191 acres.
“It’s a very small percentage of acreage at both of these areas, but we think it can have big benefits for wildlife in the long run,” he said.
The department published a ruffed grouse and young forest management plan in 2017, following two years of data collection. Public hearings were held in several areas regarding this plan, and respondents also answered surveys online and in other ways. The focus of the plan is improving habitats for grouse, a bird that lives primarily on the ground and requires “second growth forests” for nesting and food. With this plan, the state hopes to double the number of grouse in the focus areas within 10 years.
Grouse hunting was once prevalent in Appalachian areas, but the number of grouse available for hunting declined as the state’s forests matured. The plan calls for harvesting timber from wildlife management areas to improve the habitat for grouse.
“Timber harvest is an important piece of that plan,” Kelly said. “Timber harvest and habitat improvement really speak to the heart of our mission here at the department, and that’s conserving and enhancing fish and wildlife resources. This, in the long run, we believe, will benefit wildlife, not just grouse, but deer, turkey, elk, a lot of songbirds.”
The nine songbirds in the state’s plan that are expected to benefit from the young forest areas created through the timber harvest include several types of warblers, the Eastern Whip-poo-will, American Woodcock, Red-headed Woodpecker, Field Sparrow and the Yellow-breasted Chat.
Kelly said animals and birds can benefit from the removal of timber because it provides open areas in an otherwise dense woodland.
“They can really benefit when we go in and harvest some timber,” he said. “It creates what we call early successional habitat and that’s really favorable to wildlife. They like those open areas. They like the open areas in the forest. It’s good for nesting habitat. It’s just diversifies the landscape.”
He said the timber harvest “should be a win for wildlife and wildlife habitat” in these wildlife management areas and explained that it could also improve the health of the forest.
“It can,” he said. “So, by removing some trees ... we’ll take Dewey, for example. There’s six percent open land and 88 percent of Dewey Lake WMA is forested, so removing some of those trees that are so densely forested, removing some of those trees will encourage growth of the beneficial oak and hickory trees, the wildlife rely on those for what we call mass — the acorns and the hickory nuts. It just kind of opens it all up and allows new growth to start and it’s in that new growth that we know that grouse like, turkey like.”
He mentioned ice storms and tornadoes that damaged forests in Eastern Kentucky and other areas years ago, reporting that the department learned that grouse used the fallen timber and clearings in those areas after those events.
“We saw a rebound in those types of areas, so we know they’ll use it. We know they’ll use that habitat,” he said.
Kelly said there is interest in improving grouse hunting in the state.
“There’s a lot of interest in it,” he said. “We hope that grouse hunters get excited about this. We think it’s going to help.”
He said the company awarded the contract to harvest the timber will benefit from the sell of the timber, as well as the department. He reported, however, that the state is not expecting a monetary windfall from the project.
“This is not a money-making endeavor for the department,” he said. “We will get some proceeds back from the sale of the timber, but because it’s on both of these wildlife management areas, they’re on Corps property, any money generated from the sale of the timber that we get back has to be spent on these properties.”
He said the funds could be used for infrastructure improvements and improving fire breaks to prevent forest fires.
Kelly reported that the department is working with a forester who will be guiding the project. He said the timber harvest could begin as early as December and continue through March.
“So, there are considerations here for the Indiana bat habitat,” he said. “So, there will be a period of time during the year that there will not be any timber harvest allowed out of considerations for Indiana bats.”
Those who would like to submit bids for timber harvesting of these wildlife management areas are required to attend a mandatory site visit to the Dewey Lake WMA before Nov. 18 and submit sealed bids no later than Nov. 21. At Yatesville, prospective bidders are required to view the WMA before Nov. 18 and submit bids by Nov. 22.
To schedule a site visit for Dewey, call, (606) 784-6428. To schedule a site visit to Yatesville, call, (606) 474-8535.
To obtain a bid form or for information, contact Wendell Harris, Division of Real Properties, at, (502) 564-9831 or email, Wendell.email@example.com or James Woods, wildlife biologist, at, (606) 474-8535 or email, James.firstname.lastname@example.org.