Work is under way on the first wildlife habitat enhancement project in Western North Carolina that relies on an outside group to act as stewards within the national forest.
The U.S. Forest Service has contracted with the N.C. Wildlife Commission to carry out a stewardship plan for an area near Max Patch on the Haywood-Madison county line.
The project calls for clearing away woody debris around native apple trees in phase one to open up a young forest area. The goal is to increase wildlife food sources such as apples and acorns. This is to benefit deer, turkey, grouse, bears, neotropical songbirds and other species.
The project encompasses about 15 acres in an area known as “Catpen,” near Max Patch, a mountain bald with 360-degree scenic vistas. Phase two of the Catpen Project will improve Max Patch Pond.
More habitat projects are planned under a master stewardship agreement between the Forest Service and state Wildlife Commission. Subsequent projects will improve wildlife habitat by establishing important grassy and brushy areas for nesting and cover and improve the health and vigor of oak species. Other project areas may include the Cheoah and Nantahala Ranger Districts in the Nantahala National Forest.