North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC)

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) manages over 2,000,000 acres of diverse habitats all across the state from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Outer Banks.

 

Tasked with conserving and sustaining fish and wildlife resources through wise use, scientific research, and conservation-focused strategies, the NCWRC places a huge emphasis on sustainably managing its forest resources. Since 2014, F4 Tech has been assisting the NCWRC in conducting a statewide forest resources inventory on public game lands to promote endangered species habitat conservation, longleaf pine ecosystem maintenance, and long-term sustainable management strategies that benefit the state’s diverse flora and fauna.

Starting in 2014, F4 Tech has conducted an inventory on a selection of NCWRC’s game lands in all three major ecoregions: the mountains, piedmont, and coastal plain. Wildlife managers in each of these regions have their own unique conservation priorities specific to their area’s management goals. Despite the differences, one theme prevails for the entire state: long-term forest management.

For example, the coastal and southern piedmont regions are home to extensive longleaf pine forests that NCWRC is looking to conserve and expand. These forests support populations of the red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW), an endangered species. RCWs require very specific habitat conditions that can be characterized as open and park-like:  old overstory pines and an understory dominated by a variety of herbaceous species.   NCWRC coastal and piedmont managers have developed a long-term forest management program focused on RCWs that includes the harvesting of timber (mainly loblolly pine and midstory hardwoods that impact habitat quality), prescribed burning, habitat monitoring, and longleaf pine planting. These activities support RCWs and the native plant community that occurs in longleaf pine forests along with other rare and threatened species. Additionally, the NCWRC is restoring longleaf pine on sites adjacent to confirmed RCW occurrences in order to expand wildlife habitat, and hopefully, RCW populations.

As a part of this project, F4 Tech has delineated and mapped stands using GIS across dozens of NCWRC game lands.  We have also developed customized data collection schemes to complement NCWRC’s habitat restoration goals and provided data that NCWRC needs to support the implementation of its RCW habitat conservation plans. In addition to the traditional collection of overstory tree data, F4 Tech also collects data on midstory and understory vegetation, which directly supports habitat analyses. This data is used in a customized RCW matrix for the region, which analyzes these measures to determine if a forest stand can support RCWs. Another feature of F4 Tech’s custom data collection software is the ability to record non-native and invasive species encountered within inventory plots and stands. This information is later extracted and used to map the presence of invasive species across NCWRC’s land holdings. NCWRC uses this data to target specific areas for invasive species removal in order to further their goals of restoring wildlife habitat.

As data is collected across game lands and regions, F4 Tech analyzes the inventory data and provides deliverables to NCWRC. These deliverables include but are not limited to RCW habitat matrices, stand boundary maps, species breakdowns by stand and region, and customized reports to aid NCWRC in achieving their habitat restoration goals. These deliverables provide NCWRC with helpful information to adjust their long-term habitat conservation strategies to more effectively manage for these endangered birds.