As more acres are converted into pine plantations, roadside management becomes more important for wildlife. Roadsides if managed properly can provide habitat for various wildlife species. Development of these areas is relatively inexpensive and requires very little maintenance.
During the first few years of pine growth, an abundance of grasses and weeds provide seeds, insects, and browse (depending on past land use, site quality and preparation). Deer, turkey, quail, rabbits, songbirds, and small mammals commonly use these areas for food, nesting and protective cover. However, as seedlings grow and canopies close, roadside management becomes more important to provide the habitat lost in the interior portion of the pine plantation.
Trees and brush should be removed on both sides of the roads approximately 30-60 feet. Initially, trees may need to be cut and a small dozer used to clear these areas. Every 2-3 years after initial clearing roadsides should be mowed so sunlight can reach the ground and to prevent the invasion of hardwoods and pine trees. We want to produce weeds, grasses, blackberries, honeysuckle, greenbriar, etc. Wild turkeys will use these areas for nesting, brood rearing, and foraging. Deer will be attracted to these areas due to an increase in forage production. To further enhance and diversify roadsides, food plots and/or mast producing trees (persimmon, sawtooth oak, and crabapple) can be planted along portions of the roads. Do not plant food plots where they can be seen from public roads.
Day-lighting roads can reduce road maintenance cost. Sun and wind will be able to reach the roads and reduce drying time, thus decreasing damage by vehicles. To further reduce damage, culverts should be installed where needed to decrease the distance water will have to travel in ditches.
Roads can be bad for wildlife if access is not controlled. As wildlife becomes more visible, people management becomes essential. People can be managed by installing gates on roads, preventing road hunting, poaching and illegal dumping. Under a roadside management program, a gate will be the most important wildlife management tool.
Article written by Claude Jenkins, Wildlife Biologist, Alabama Wildlife Federation