Forest Investment Account

Abstract of FIA Project 6074008

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Comparison of deer winter ranges defined in the Yale, Silverhope and Manning landscape units

Author(s): Keystone Wildlife Research
Imprint: White Rock, B.C. : Keystone Wildlife Research, 2003
Subject: Forest management, Ungulata, Habitat, British Columbia, Ungulates, Wintering, Forest Investment Account (FIA)
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Land Base Investment Program


Rocky Mountain mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus hemionus), Columbian black-tailed deer (O. h. columbianus) and hybridized individuals (generally referred to as deer throughout this report) are a regionally important resource within the Fraser TSA (FTSA). The BC Ministry of Water, Land, and Air Protection (MWLAP) has an objective to increase deer populations in Region II (Lower Mainland), to ensure that a healthy, viable population level is maintained and provides increased opportunities for hunter harvest. The Fraser TSA Licensee Co-operative Association (FTLCA) is composed of forest licensees operating within the Fraser TSA. Under the Provincial government's New Era Agenda, forest licensees have been given increased responsibility to ensure the conservation of non-timber resources, including deer winter range (DWR), within their respective operating areas. Identification and development of detailed management strategies for maintenance of deer habitat functionality is important to MWLAP and the FTLCA and integral to long-term forest management planning (Freeman 2000). There have been two initiatives to identify deer winter range in the Manning, Silverhope and Yale Landscape Units (LUs). A deer management plan was prepared by SDF Environmental Contracting (Freeman 2000) in co-operation with Ministry of Environment staff, in which 121 Deer Management Units (DMUs) were delineated. Identification of the DMUs was based on topographic and vegetative (from forest cover mapping) features, firsthand/professional knowledge and judgement, and three days of aerial field-truthing. A total of 9,614 hectares of critical (Classic) winter range was identified on the maps associated with that management plan. Freeman (2000) states 'the general management within each DMU is designed to sustain the integrity of the habitat function it provides until it can be replaced by alternate vegetation within the DMU.' Classic or core winter ranges form the basis of the unit and should be maintained (deferred from harvest). The intermediate and forage components of a DMU are available for forest development but should incorporate harvest and silviculture strategies compatible with deer use (Freeman 2000). A Provincially standardised, ecosystem-based approach was used to classify deer winter range by Keystone Wildlife Research Ltd. in 2000-2001, as part of an environmental program completed for the International Forest Products Innovative Forest Practices Agreement (IFPA). Capability and suitability ratings define the relative importance of various mapped ecological units to wildlife populations for the purpose of making land management decisions (RIC 1999). Initially, queries were produced that selected high and moderate suitability deer habitat from draft ecosystem maps. Later on, the methodology followed Resources Information Standards Committee (RISC; formerly RIC) standards for habitat capability/suitability modelling and mapping (RIC 1999), which includes the development of a ratings table and habitat model (Keystone 2001). The deer habitat model and ratings were refined based on two years of fieldwork completed during winter 2000 and summer 2000 and 2001. The final ratings table was run on the final ecosystem maps (Green 2000), also completed as part of the IFPA environmental program. The resultant deer capability/suitability map assigned a winter shelter and food rating to every polygon. A total of 13,701 hectares of suitable winter shelter habitat (shelter classes 1 and 2) was identified using the Keystone (RISC) model. Application of the RISC methodology for deer winter range identification has potential to reduce timber harvesting impacts by allowing the selection of suitable non-contributing or already constrained forest first to meet deer requirements. Any additional required areas can be rotated on the contributing land in order to reduce the impacts. Local agency staff expressed concerns regarding the use of Keystone's deer coverage, including the slope breaks used as criteria for capable habitat, and maintained that the DMU model, prepared with MWLAP staff input, was more accurate. However, using ecosystem-based maps to identify areas of potential wildlife habitat is a provincially accepted approach (RIC 1999). To alleviate MWLAP concerns, an overlay of the two themes was completed and only overlap areas identified by both sets of deer winter range maps were used as old-growth management area (OGMA) selection inputs. The purpose of this document is to assess and compare the two deer winter ranges (DMU and RISC DWR) and to discuss management options for the deer winter range resource within the three LUs. Winter range recruitment and re-creation methods (Nyberg et al. 1986) are being tested as adaptive management experiments to assess their effectiveness in the study area.

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Updated July 25, 2006 

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