MDC says winter a good time for improving woodlands and savannas

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Kansas City
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Kansas City, Mo. – Winter is a good time to undertake improvements to woodlands and savannas. Using selective removal of trees and brush, or tools such as prescribed burns, land managers can enhance the native grasses and flowering plants growing beneath trees or in openings. Both game and non-game wildlife benefit from native plants for food and cover. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) can assist land managers with planning and connect them with cost share or grant programs for habitat improvements.

“You’re trying to open the tree canopy and let more sunlight in,” said Dave Niebruegge, MDC private land conservationist. “Fire in prescribed burns helps keep the woody brush and young trees down, and that helps the native grasses and woodland forbs.”

White-tailed deer like browsing and bedding down in the openings. Wild turkey nest and feed in the native plant growth. The native plants host insects that birds and other wildlife feed upon in summer and provide seeds in winter. Pollinators such as bees and butterflies use the wildflowers.

At the same time, selective tree thinning can encourage desirable trees such as oaks. They produce acorn mast crops that wildlife feed upon. Long-range timber management can also boost good quality sawlogs for sale.

An MDC forester or private land conservationist will for free help a landowner do a tree inventory and develop and timber stand improvement plan. MDC staff can connect property managers with contractors that remove trees and brush according to the plan. Grants and cost-share financial help to pay for improvement costs are available from MDC and through federal and private conservation programs.

“There’s multiple financial assistance programs out there to help landowners get their property done,” Niebruegge said.

For more information about MDC assistance with woodland and savanna habitat improvement, visit