How Sitka Blacktails, The Tongass And Hunters Benefit From Roadless Rule Restoration

The great and tireless folks at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Project is committed as any organization to preserving the outdoor lands that fish and wildlife thrive in and that we sportsmen and -women enjoy and also hope to maintain a healthy ecosystem for generations to come. More and more support has grown to return Roadless Rule protection to the pristine and massive Tongass National Forest.

The TCRP posted a great report on how a critical Tongass species, Sitka blacktail deer, would be among the four-legged beneficiaries of more protection from logging and other entities. Here’s a peek:

While many hunters view clearings from logging as beneficial for deer habitat, the severe winters in Southeast Alaska create a different situation, where old-growth stands are most beneficial. It’s true that young, open stands provide forage during snow-free months. However, a lack of mature trees to intercept snow often makes these food sources unavailable during Alaska’s harsh winters. Deer also face higher predation risks in snowbound open areas.

As these clearings transition into even-age second-growth stands (>20-30 years), the available forage is reduced substantially as the closure of the forest canopy virtually eliminates the understory. These conditions persist for the remainder of the 90- to 125-year timber harvest rotation (Schoen and Kirchhoff, 1984). Data from fecal pellet studies confirms that Sitka black-tailed deer use quality old-growth habitat year-round more than recent clearcuts and unmanaged, closed-canopy young growth.

In discussing the threats facing Sitka black-tailed deer, ADFG cautions, “habitat capability and deer numbers are expected to decline in some areas as large tracts of previously logged areas reach the closed canopy stem exclusion stage and become extremely poor deer habitat. Population models predict declines in deer carrying capacity in the Ketchikan area of 50–60 percent by the end of the logging rotation in 2054.”

In the long run, a deer population that is forced to rely on unmanaged clearcuts will suffer.

It’s a really good read. Check it out!