The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department: Victory Basin Wildlife Management Area

Yes
Planning

The Long-Range Management Plan for the Victory Management Unit has been revised and includes climate change considerations. 

Vermont’s landscape contains a diversity of forest types, which provide important wildlife habitat. Just as trees and forests are likely altered as a result of a changing climate, many wildlife species will also be affected. This project considers how anticipated changes in climate may affect wildlife habitat across nearly 5,000 acres of forest and wetland.

Project Area

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department manages the Victory Basin Wildlife Management Area (WMA), 4,970-acre wetland and forest complex. The basin is home to a diverse array of natural community types, many of which are uncommon throughout the rest of Vermont. The dominant natural community is an extensive lowland spruce-fir forest that encompasses one of the largest deer wintering areas in the state. Many wildlife species are common in the WMA, including white-tailed deer, moose, snowshoe hare, brook trout and numerous types of birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Other less common species are spruce grouse and various boreal birds that are more commonly found farther north.

Management Goals

In trying to understand how climate change may affect the habitats and species present in this area, natural resource managers considered the potential effects of climate change on the WMA for inclusion in the long-range management plan. This stand is representative of the larger surrounding area and was intended to serve as a starting point to think about how climate change could affect the entire WMA. Managers are concerned that changing climate patterns could lead to a decline in the softwood component of the basin and an increase in hardwood cover.

Climate Change Impacts

The Victory Basin Wildlife Management Area, like the rest of the region, is expected to face strong impacts from climate change over the next 100 years. These changes may have important consequences for wildlife habitats and species. Some of the impacts stood out as having the greatest potential to affect the area include:
Warmer temperatures will cause compositional changes associated with changes in thermally suitable habitat (loss of cold-adapted species and increase in warm-adapted species)
Increase in overwinter survival of pests, such as balsam and hemlock woolly adelgid
Increased physiological stress, resulting in increased susceptibility to pests and disease, decreased productivity and increased tree mortality
Increased evapotranspiration, resulting in a decrease in soil moisture; moisture limitation/stress negatively impacts productivity and survival in many plant species
Decrease in winter snow pack, leading to change in deer and moose browsing patterns, which may affect regeneration
Lengthening of growing season resulting in changes in species competitiveness, especially favoring nonnative invasive plants

Adaptation Actions

Land managers from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources used the Adaptation Workbook to consider what actions could be used to respond to the anticipated effects of climate change on the Park. These actions have been evaluated and incorporated into the long-range management plan.

Area/TopicApproachTactics
Wildlife management area
1.1 Reduce impacts to soils and nutrient cycling.
1.2. Maintain or restore hydrology.
1.3. Maintain or restore riparian areas.
Enhance nutrient cycling and soil protection by retaining woody material on the forest floor
Match harvesting equipment to the site for soil protection
Minimize the number of skid roads and trails
Maintain roads in good condition and following all Acceptable Management Practices
Replace and enlarge inadequate culverts and stream crossing structures
2.1. Maintain or improve the ability of forests to resist pests and pathogens.
Manage Beech Mast Production Areas to promote resistant trees
2.2. Prevent the introduction and establishment of invasive plant species and remove existing invasive species.
Eradicate and/or manage of all non-native invasive plants
2.3. Manage herbivory to promote regeneration of desired species.
Avoid negative impacts of overbrowsing through deer and moose population management
3.3. Alter forest structure to reduce severity or extent of wind and ice damage.
5.1. Promote diverse age classes.
Manage for a multi-age, structurally diverse forest
4.1. Prioritize and maintain unique sites.
4.2. Prioritize and maintain sensitive or at-risk species or communities.
6.1. Manage habitats over a range of sites and conditions.
Maintain areas not subject to timber harvesting and rare and sensitive natural communities as potential refugia
Maintain and developing biological “legacies,” such as very old trees
Maintain lowland spruce-fir forests as potential refugia
5.2. Maintain and restore diversity of native species.
9.1. Favor or restore native species that are expected to be adapted to future conditions.
Maintain and develop a forest with a diversity of species and age classes
Retention of biological legacies from a variety of tree species
Promote natural softwood regeneration
Enhance natural softwood regeneration with underrepresented, native species such as white pine
Favor species expected to do better in a changing climate (such as red spruce over balsam fir)
7.1. Reduce landscape fragmentation.
7.2. Maintain and create habitat corridors through reforestation or restoration.
Maintain a landscape-scale focus, by planning in conjunction with the other nearby lands, and being mindful of management in the surrounding region
Reduce landscape fragmentation by closing designated roads in Core Area

Project Videos

Overview of the WMA: Video courtesy of Vermont Public Television

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Keywords

Management plan

Last Updated

Tuesday, May 15, 2018