Virginia CZM Program: 2011 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:VA CZM logo

11.04

Grantee:

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

Project Title:

Migratory Bird Habitat Enhancement - GATR Tract, Mockhorn Island WMA 

Project Description as Proposed:

This project enhances migratory bird habitat on the state-owned GATR tract of the Mockhorn Island Wildlife Management Area (WMA) located at the southern tip of the Eastern Shore of Virginia. The tract was previously used as a federal military facility, and vegetation on the property has been largely unmanaged since the change of ownership. The tract is currently dominated by an overstocked pine forest with minimal understory.  The few open areas are mostly vegetated with honeysuckle and/or fescue grass. A derelict cinder block building and asphalt parking area, remnants from the property’s previous use, occupy a location desired for wildlife habitat.  Phragmites occurs in the wetlands.

An overstocked pine forest will undergo a timber harvest, allowing sunlight to stimulate under- and mid-story plant growth.  Small forest openings will be created and planted with fruit-producing shrubs.  The interior of the clearings will be planted with native plants.  Hardwood seedlings will be introduced in other forest gaps.  Vegetation will be selected in part based on desirability by and suitability for migratory birds.  Existing mid-story woody vegetation and logging debris will be mulched.  Walking paths will also be created, providing opportunities for wildlife viewing and serving as firebreaks for prescribed fire applications.  Larger honeysuckle patches will be mechanically cleared.  Most invasive plant species will be treated with herbicide.  The rehabilitated areas will be planted with shrubs or grasses. The vacant concrete building and asphalt parking lot will be demolished and removed.  The resulting field will be planted with hardwood seedlings and shrubs. 

These habitat management efforts will result in a substantial increase in the tract’s ability to support, provide cover for, and supply the nutritional demands of migratory birds prior to further migration south to Central and South America.  No piping plovers are present nor do any sea turtles nest at the GATR tract. 

Federal Funding:

$64,549 

Project Contact:

David Norris, 804.829.6580; david.norris@dgif.virginia.gov 

Project Status:

6/15/2013 - 9/30/2014; Project Completed 

Final Product Received:

Final Report Migratory Bird Habitat Enhancement at GATR Tract, Mockhorn Island Wildlife Management Area (PDF)

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

This project enhances migratory bird habitat on the state-owned GATR tract of the Mockhorn Island Wildlife Management Area (WMA), located at the southern tip of the Eastern Shore of Virginia. The tract was previously used as a federal military facility, and vegetation on the property has been largely unmanaged since the change of ownership. The 356-acre tract was dominated by an overstocked pine forest with minimal understory.  The few open areas were mostly vegetated with honeysuckle and/or fescue grass. A derelict cinder block building and asphalt parking area and remnants from the property’s previous use occupied a location desired for wildlife habitat.

Through this project, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and its subcontractors, improved the habitat at the WMA by restoring 141 acres of desirable habitat using a number of proven management techniques. Selected areas of the pine forest were harvested, including creating six forest openings (approximately ¼- to ½-acre in size each), which reduced tree density substantially to allow sunlight to stimulate under- and mid-story plant growth.  Fruit-producing shrubs, important food for migrating birds and other species, were planted in the openings to create better forest-field transition zones.  Existing mid-story woody vegetation and logging debris was mulched.  Walking paths were created during logging, providing opportunities for wildlife viewing and serving as firebreaks for use when prescribed fire is applied on the WMA.  The use of fire as a management tool will be important in maintaining a valuable herbaceous understory on the property.  Larger invasive honeysuckle and privet patches were mechanically cleared.  These patches and other more spotty occurrences of invasive plant species (including Sericea lespedeza and fescue) were treated with herbicide to remove these undesirable species and promote native plant growth.  The vacant concrete building and asphalt parking lot, located in an area desirable for native habitat restoration, were demolished and removed.  The resulting one-acre field was remediated and planted as a forest clearing.

The restored areas continue to be monitored for herbivory, particularly by white-tailed deer, and chemical deterrents will be spot-applied as needed.  Additional habitat restoration work will occur outside of this grant, particularly in the openings, including planting of hardwood seedlings and a seeding mix of native grasses, forbs, and flowering plants.  Long-term application of fire will help maintain suitable understory and grasses.

Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or email: Laura.McKay@deq.virginia.gov

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy to Virginia.Witmer@deq.virginia.gov

 
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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000


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