Manna from Heaven for Enoree Wildlife

It’s November and sunlight streams through a stand of pine trees, with a few hardwoods in the blush of fall color, after a thinning project on the Enoree Ranger District. The remaining mature pines will regenerate the stand over time, perpetuating the renewable timber resource.

Loading the seed hopperBut the work in this stand isn’t finished, and a further opportunity presents itself. Working with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the Forest Service has prepared the stand for aerial reseeding to provide forest wildlife with temporary cover, browse and forage through the chilly months ahead.

At a nearby helispot, an expensive seed hopper supplied by another partner--the National Wild Turkey Federation--is attached to a helicopter and filled with a seed mix of winter wheat and clover. Every 15 minutes or so, the ship lifts off, distributes its load and returns for refills. This effective application method assures large-scale areas of food and cover for a couple of years and provide a more secluded hunting experience away from the district’s permanent and more intensively managed wildlife openings.

Copter in sky for seeding“We try to seed between 200-400 acres a year, depending on timber harvest rotation and site availability,” said Forester Chris Evans. “We find these areas are visited by deer, turkey and quail. For hunters, they offer good opportunities to harvest game away from our more concentrated-use hunting areas.”

Hunting is one of the most prevalent uses of the national forest in the piedmont of South Carolina. All of the general forest area of the Enoree Ranger District is actively managed for wildlife through partnership with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

“But habitat improvement projects like this offer equal benefit to a variety of nongame species including songbirds and migratory birds,” said Evans. In spring, aerial reseeding of harvested areas would consist of brown top millet mixed with native species, when available. Natives could include little bluestem, big bluestem, Indian grass, partridge pea, purple top, inland sea oats and others. Some of the native seed is harvested from local production fields.

“ It’s a great opportunity to invest proceeds from timber harvest back into the national forest, benefitting our wildlife species, our partners and one of our largest groups of forest visitors.”