In April 2012, the Sitka Ranger District created 8 artificial gaps in the young growth forests in Starrigavan Valley. Since that time SALMoN has been monitoring the effectiveness of this popular wildlife habitat restoration technique.
Starrigavan was logged in the early 1970’s. The trees that grew back, called young growth, eventually grew so thick that the forest floor was too shaded to grow effective forage plants for wildlife, especially deer. The created gaps are essentially small clearcuts, about 1/4 to 1/2 acre in size, that are intended to mimic the primary natural disturbance pattern in old growth forests – windthrow.
Measures from which SALMoN are collecting data to study the effectiveness of this technique include:
- the response of understory plants (species canopy cover using plot frames)
- the effect of deer browse on the response of understory plants (deer exclosures)
- wildlife activity in the gaps (using trail cameras)
- climate variables such as temperature and snow loading (temperature data loggers)
The photo gallery below shows student volunteers building fenced deer exclosures and collecting data as part of these studies. The video shows student volunteers from the University of San Francisco helping out in August 2013.
This project was supported with funding from the National Forest Foundation. Founded by Congress in 1991, the National Forest Foundation works to conserve, restore, and enhance America’s 193-million-acre National Forest System. Through community-based strategies and public-private partnerships, the NFF helps enhance wildlife habitat, revitalizes wildfire-damaged landscapes, restores watersheds, and improves recreational resources for the benefit of all Americans.