MDIFW Undertakes 3,139 Shrub Plantings for Wildlife Habitat in Scarborough Marsh WMA

ArrayAugust 3, 2018 at 6:05 pm

By Jeremy Clark, Resource Manager – Lands Program Since Fall 2016, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) Regional Biologists and Resource Managers from the Lands Program have planted over 3,100 shrubs to bolsterwildlife habitat at Scarborough Marsh Wildlife Management Area. The Scarborough planting project aims to fast-track the succession of once-maintained fields to shrubland and young forest habitat. This habitat supports a wide array of game and non-game wildlife species and is part of a multi-state, regional initiative to create suitable young forest habitat for the New England cottontail rabbit (NEC). [caption id="attachment_3058" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Main shrub planting area (Encircled in green) showing weed-matted plants (black dots) as of May 4, 2018, Note the existing shrubland habitat (darker brown) to the top and right of the new planting area.[/caption]   MDIFW collaborated with the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge (RCNWR) to fund an intern position to work in a greenhouse and grow the plants from collected seed and hardwood cuttings. This work was already being undertaken by Refuge Staff for similar projects on their lands, and with MDIFW funding for an intern position, RCNWR could grow a minimum of 2500 plants for MDIFW habitat enhancement projects. In spring 2017, MDIFW began by planting 375 shrubs. In summer 2017, MDIFW treated invasive plant species (autumn olive, multi-flora rose, buckthorn, and Asiatic bittersweet) to favor native shrub species. The planting locations were brush-hogged to facilitate hole drilling and planting activities. The Lands Program utilized a tractor-mounted auger to drill roughly 2040 holes.  The remaining holes were hand-dug by Staff with shovels. [caption id="attachment_3056" align="aligncenter" width="595"] Planted shrubs adjacent to existing shrubland habitat (background) to boost transition from field to shrubland.[/caption] In fall of 2017, 2,264 additional shrubs were planted by MDIFW Staff, in cooperation with RCNWR and with assistance from volunteers with the Friends of Scarborough Marsh and Portland Boy Scout Troop 41. Shrubs were strategically planted adjacent to existing shrubland habitat to quickly expand and increase the amount of habitat on the WMA. Native shrub species planted included: bayberry, willow, arrowood, silky and red-osier dogwood, speckled alder, elderberry, Virginia rose, chokeberry, grey birch, and wild grape. Native shrub species complement existing, developing shrubland and grow well in the old field sites with a heavy clay component to the soil.  Each plant was set in the holes, backfilled with soil, watered, and covered with a weed mat to minimize early competition from surrounding grasses and plants. The Maine Forest Rangers generously assisted by providing fire hose and water bags that were transported to the planting site to water newly planted shrubs. The Scarborough Fire Department was also generous with their time and equipment to facilitate filling of the water bags. In Spring 2018, the Wildlife Division Staff of MDIFW gathered for an annual Division meeting, which included spending a day planting an additional 500 shrubs, sharing a few stories and laughs in the process. [caption id="attachment_3052" align="aligncenter" width="595"] MDIFW staff gathered for an annual Division meeting and planted an additional 500 shrubs[/caption] In addition to the planting, during the winter of 2017-2018, roughly 3.6 acres of young aspen were mowed to facilitate root-suckering and create dense, young forest habitat near the plantings. In 2018, a 0.3-acre area was cleared of undesirable shrubs and stumps to create a food plot specifically to enhance foraging opportunities for New England Cottontail rabbits. These activities will supplement developing habitat. This project could not have been achieved without the collaboration and generous assistance from Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge Staff, MDIFW Staff and Regional Biologists, Maine Forest Rangers, Maine Warden Service, Wildlife Management Institute, Inc., Scarborough Fire Department, Portland Boy Scout Troop 41, volunteers from Friends of Scarborough Marsh, and the generous assistance and access given by neighboring, private landowner, Roger Delaware.