Hunting prep: Managing your land for wildlife

Owning property is so ingrained in the American Dream, our Founding Fathers almost wrote, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of property” when they wrote the Declaration of Independence.

The line we all know today, “The pursuit of happiness” is a concept many citizens better comprehend. While acquiring land is great, managing it is where the happiness part evolves. 

It takes time to see the results, but it’s immensely gratifying and amazing. Living on a lake is the dream for many but there’s only so much of it to go around, so a lot of residents purchase multi-acre parcels. There are other landowners with property for investment or recreation purposes. Whatever the motivation for owning land, many property owners want to manage it for their own benefit as well as wildlife. 

Don’t know where to begin or have misconceptions of the best management practices? Start simple. Life requires food, water, shelter and space so if you can put together something on your piece of land that offers all four you’ll really go a long ways toward attracting a variety of species of wildlife. 

Leaving a stewardship legacy

At one time the concept of managing your property meant having a pristine bluegrass lawn and a garden full of exotic flowering plants. That concept has shifted to a more ecologically sound concept involving the preservation and restoration of natural habitats. 

Most people want to be good land stewards and have something they can pass along to their kids to enjoy visiting and doing activities such as hiking, bird watching, and hunting. 

There are a lot of public organizations that can assist landowners with various projects. Those organizations include the DNR’s private lands program, local soil and water conservation districts, and county/city/township naturalists. Each of these entities have staff members who want to help property owners best manage their land but don’t know where to begin. 

Water quality benefits

You don’t have to live on a lake, river or stream to improve water quality. All property owners impact water quality because they reside within a watershed. 

Spring tree plantings are wrapping up for 2016, but the results they produce for wildlife will pay dividends for years.​Carrol Henderson, DNR nongame wildlife program supervisor, has written several books on the subject of landowners managing their property for native plant and animal species. 

“A lot of the things people have done for yard management in the past was because that’s how it always was done by the neighbors or their parents – but when you equate that to what’s happening to lake water quality and declining fish and wildlife diversity, people begin to see that they can make a change that benefits them and the area around them,” he said. 

Most people with a chunk of land want to see more wildlife and be more immersed in a more genuine outdoors lifestyle than suburban and city lots provide.

Henderson said more property owners are rediscovering the value and enjoyment of working in concert with nature for a higher quality of living while at the same time protecting water quality. The best first step a property owner can make is to contact a naturalist or natural resources expert. Some programs even offer grants or cost-sharing plans.

No matter how large or small your property might be, it is part of a bigger system. One of the keys to management is learning to appreciate the native forest, plant community and wetlands to see the bigger picture of how your land fits into the landscape.

Spring tree plantings are wrapping up for 2016, but the results they produce for wildlife will pay dividends for years.

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