Public Comment Record
for Indian Springs WMA's 15-year Vision Plan
The Public Comments Period Closed on February 28, 2015.
Thank you for your interest in the
Indian Springs Wildlife Management Area’s 15-year Vision Plan.
The Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) would like to thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on the Indian Springs WMA 15 year plan. It is encouraging to read the objectives for each tract and note the desire to create young regenerating forest habitat. What does seem discouraging is in the last noted creation of this habitat seems to have been the result of implementation of silviculture practices in the mid 1980’s. As stated these areas are now in the pole stage and would be classified as rather low in providing resources for many wildlife species.
Recognizing the importance of the sensitive habitats and those species present having state and federal status the remainder of the forested habitat ideally would consist of 15 to 20% in the 0-10 year age class. We realize the logistical difficulties in achieving this goal.
Maintaining one of the long term management goals to promote hunting and trapping opportunities and to enhance wildlife habitat diversity is commendable. The process of implementing actions on the ground to achieve this is daunting. RGS supports any management activities that provide the structural and age diversity necessary for population recruitment of those species utilizing young regenerating forests. These management activities provide a means to address current and potential forest health issues and encourage native vegetation. The outreach suggested will be critical due to expanding user groups and proximity to the metropolitan areas in order to accomplish the management desired.
RGS will continue to support active vegetation management leading to the ecologic balance of age and structure. This diversity is beneficial to forest interior birds and those species requiring young forest habitat.
Thank you for the opportunity and RGS will continue to support work on WMAs in Maryland. - Linda Ordiway PhD Ruffed Grouse Society
DNR Wildlife and Heritage Service
14038 Blairs Valley Road
Clear Spring, MD 21722
Dear Mr. Rohrback:
The Maryland Ornithological Society (MOS) appreciates the opportunity to submit these comments on the draft 15-year vision plan for Indian Springs Wildlife Management Area. We support the concepts of the draft plan, and we thank the Wildlife and Heritage Service (WHS) for developing it. Members of MOS are regular visitors to Indian Springs WMA at all times of the year, in fair weather and foul. We appreciate the good work of WHS in conserving and managing this excellent wildlife habitat.
MOS is a statewide nonprofit organization established in 1945 and devoted to the study and conservation of birds. Currently we have 15 chapters and approximately 1,600 members. Some are scientists and naturalists, but our membership includes people of all ages and all walks of life, from physicists to firefighters, legislators to landscapers. Birding is one of the fastest growing types of outdoor recreation. MOS members travel to our Maryland wildlife management areas from day to day, year round. We spend money on food, lodging, guide services, books, and souvenirs to support the local economy wherever we go.
Indian Springs WMA, in Washington County, was initiated in 1940 and now consists of 6,635 acres in four tracts: Kuhns Ridge, Hickory Ridge, Fairview Mountain, and Blairs Valley. The area is 92 percent in forested habitat, 8 percent in fields and small openings.
ISWMA has been recognized by Audubon as an Important Bird Area, and it is listed in National Audubon’s IBA website: http://netapp.audubon.org/iba/site/4089. The local contact for the IBA program is David Curson, Director of Bird Conservation at Audubon Maryland-DC: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following comments will track the section headings in the draft:
MOS supports the building of a new office facility for ISWMA to replace the deteriorated building, if the new building is designed using bird-safe standards to minimize mortality from birds striking glass surfaces. We endorse the comments submitted by the Baltimore Bird Club in a letter dated February 13, 2015, urging WHS to use bird-safe design guidelines that have been posted online by the American Bird Conservancy and the City of Toronto.
MOS supports land acquisition to add private inholdings and adjoining tracts, especially the lands that separate the Kuhns Ridge tract from the rest of the WMA. The growth of residential development in Washington County will mean more pressure for development of privately owned lands and consequently the loss of wildlife habitat values. The additions to ISWMA since 1969 have been funded primarily from Program Open Space. MOS has been a strong supporter of the POS program in our dealing with the Maryland General Assembly, and Indian Springs is a good example of its value for wildlife habitat conservation.
Unique and Sensitive Areas
We compliment WHS on the analysis of unique and sensitive areas within ISWMA, identifying species and ecosystems that benefit from public ownership and management of these lands and waters. As the draft observes, the WMA contains all or part of six ecologically significant areas and areas representing several rare natural community types. The draft identifies a number of rare, threatened and endangered species of plants and animals and the habitat needs of each.
The draft notes that the extensive forests of the WMA support a variety of Forest Interior Dwelling bird species. We suggest adding to this section a reference to two at-risk bird species that are found in Indian Springs WMA: Worm-eating Warbler and Wood Thrush.
We also urge that four other at-risk bird species be added to the management objectives. These species may have significant populations in ISWMA, but we don’t have enough data to be sure. Management should provide for them: Prairie Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Whip-poor-will, and Willow Flycatcher.
While the Golden-winged Warbler may no longer be found in ISWMA, shrubland management as contemplated in this plan will help the Blue-winged Warbler, which is also on the WatchList for species of conservation concern, maintained by the American Bird Conservancy and National Audubon Society.
The draft mentions hunting as the primary use, with bird and wildlife watching and hiking as secondary uses. Inasmuch as this plan deals with a 15-year period, we urge WHS to elevate the role of bird watching, wildlife watching and hiking. With the growth of residential communities in Washington County, there will undoubtedly be an increase in non-hunting uses during the next 15 years. Outside the hunting season ISWMA is well suited to these uses because it is near Interstate 70, it is only 15 miles from Hagerstown, and it is readily accessible in all weathers except the most severe weeks of winter.
We urge WHS to plan more pro-actively for these uses in the 15-year plan. Constructive measures could include providing more and better-marked foot trails with trailhead parking areas and kiosks with maps and wildlife information. An improved online trail map should be posted; the one now linked to the Indian Springs webpage is of little help to visitors unfamiliar with the area. DNR has posted more useful trail maps online for state parks such as Patapsco Valley (http://dnr2.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/central/patapsco.aspx) and printed trail maps are on sale at park offices and through online ordering.
The plan should provide for more use of volunteers in ISWMA. In fact, volunteers are already helping. A member of MOS is the volunteer trail overseer who maintains the blue paint blazes for the Tuscarora Trail as it passes through the Kuhns Ridge unit, under management by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. WHS should consider organizing a “friends of Indian Springs” volunteer group to support recreational use, trails and visitor facilities. Other DNR areas such as Soldiers Delight and Patapsco Valley State Park have benefited from volunteer groups that help with trail construction and maintenance, removal of invasive plants, and educational programs to introduce visitors to the wildlife and natural features of the area. MOS members are active in several such groups.
Long Term Goals
We applaud the goals described in the draft. The emphasis on management for forest interior habitat is appropriate for this heavily forested area. Control of the deer population should be a priority, as in most Maryland forest sites. When there are too many deer, the understory and herbaceous plants are lost, and with them many species that depend on them.
We support the specifics laid out for each habitat management unit in the draft plan.
Thank you for the opportunity to review and comment on this draft.
Sincerely, Kurt R. Schwarz, Maryland Ornithological Society Conservation Chair
DNR Wildife and Heritage Service
14038 Blairs Valley Road
Clear Springs, MD 21722
Fax: 301 842 1026
Dear Mr. Rohrback:
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Indian Springs Wildlife Management Area’s (ISWMA) 15-year vision plan. The Baltimore Bird Club is a group of nature lovers and birdwatchers with 300 members in Baltimore City and Baltimore County. While the club is based in Baltimore, members frequently visit Western Maryland for its excellent bird watching opportunities. The club was delighted to read that the ISWMA 15-year vision plan included using green materials and technology for capital improvements. Bird-friendly design is a vital yet frequently overlooked shade of green building technology. The ISWMA vision plan must include a requirement that any building on the WMA be designed and built with recognized, scientifically proven, bird-friendly standards.
Many animals fall victim to unintentional man-made hazards. Birds are no exception. Research has shown that in North America, glass kills millions, perhaps up to a billion birds per year.(1) Strikes occur at night and during the day. Birds do not recognize reflections of trees and vegetation, and do not see glass at all - instead they see a clear passage to what’s on the other side. We wanted to make sure that your agency does not fall victim to the problem that many new building owners find themselves with: a costly, state of the art building that is lethal to birds. This is already an issue in Maryland - The Maryland Historical Society building in Baltimore was featured in a National Audubon Magazine article on this very issue.(2) Everyday office buildings with large windows and well-intentioned nature centers also kill birds, especially when they are constructed in areas with large bird populations. Considering Indian Springs WMA is listed as an Audubon Important Bird Area, bird-friendly design there for any building is critical.
The ISWMA vision plan mentions the American Woodcock multiple times. This species is susceptible to window collisions. The Baltimore Bird Club’s “Lights Out Baltimore” project consists of a group of dedicated volunteers that seeks to quantify the number of birds killed by window collisions in the area. Volunteers monitor for bird strikes with glass and buildings in the downtown Baltimore Inner Harbor area approximately five days per week during the peak four months of migration (September, October, April, and May). Volunteers have found 72 American Woodcock, and in total over 2,000 dead and injured birds glass since Fall 2008. We also frequently find Wood Thrush, another at-risk species that has been observed at ISWMA. A list of birds found since monitoring began is available at http://www.lightsoutbaltimore.org. The DNR Wildlife and Heritage Service lists its goal as “To maintain, enhance, and protect sustainable and diverse wildlife populations”. Bird-friendly design of any building at Indian Springs WMA, or on any building within the agency’s purview, is an integral part of achieving this goal.
In July 2011, San Francisco adopted mandatory bird-safe building guidelines to help reduce migratory bird fatalities and injuries in areas of the city important to migratory birds. Ironically, green building has increased hazards for birds because of its increased use of glass for energy conservation.(3) Energy conservation should not, however, be at the expense of birds, especially when it is an office building for employees whose mission is to preserve wildlife and their habitats. FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program) has collected over 41,000 dead and injured birds in Toronto alone. In response, Toronto published its own bird-friendly Development Guidelines, which can be found at http://www1.toronto.ca/city_of_toronto/city_planning/zoning__environment/files/pdf/development_guidelines.pdf. The American Bird Conservancy also has guidelines at http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/BirdFriendlyBuildingDesign.pdf.
The Baltimore Bird Club would welcome the opportunity to discuss bird-friendly design with your agency. It is critical to address bird-friendly design in the initial design phase of your building – retrofits and can be costly and less aesthetically pleasing. As the adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This building would be a pioneer in Maryland, along with projects in Chicago, New York, and Toronto in implementing bird-safe design and heightened awareness of this issue. Please feel free to contact Lindsay Jacks, Lights Out Baltimore Coordinator, at LindsayJacks@yahoo.com, or Wendy Olsson at email@example.com if you have any questions. Thank you for your consideration and for the opportunity to comment.
Sincerely yours, Wendy Olsson Baltimore Bird Club, Lights Out Baltimore Project
A Chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society
One of the larger QDMA cooperatives in the state borders ISWMA to the West, comprising 4,000 acres. We'd like to see the state get on board with us in some way and devote ISWMA to our cause. If not the whole WMA, maybe a portion of it? The Kuhn's ridge tract?
This would be a great wma to gauge public interest in QDMA and see what the long term outcome would be. – M. K., QDMA
I am an avid bird hunter. I would like to see included in the management plan the harvest of timber to create new growth providing habitat for grouse and woodcock. Thank you for allowing the hunting public a chance to voice our ideas. - A. B., NAVHDA and RGS
I am a hunter and support this plan. I feel all State owned forests should be managed so that each forest is in various stages of succession. This plan includes these forestry practices and I am in concurrence with the plan. - J. M.
I am an avid bird hunter and would like to see better/more timber harvests in all the WMA to help keep the forests healthy! - H. H., Ruffed Grouse Society Backbone Chapter
I am happy to see the work that is being done in Maryland and would like to encourage you to move forward with your plans. In addition I wish that you would keep woodland management and creation of young forests in the forefront of the planning process. As a hunter and birder I am interested in supporting our Maryland bird populations. Thanks, - J. C.
First we need to maintain a healthy ego system, wildlife habitat, and that can be accomplished by doing more timber management and creation of young forests! I'm a Hunter, Hiker, Fisherman, Hunters Education Inst. for the state of Maryland, NRA Member, NRA Range Inst. Member of the Ruffed Grouse Society, Member of Turkey Federation, Member of Pheasants Forever, Bulls-Eye Youth Shooting Inst., Outdoors Women's Life Inst., and enjoy the outdoors with my family and grand children.... Habitat and mother nature needs our help and the creation of young forests is a great start! Lets get started NOW !!!!! -T. O., Ruffed Grouse Society
It has been a few years since I have done any hunting at ISWMA, only on the Blair's Valley tract. Since then I have been busy managing my own little piece of the forest I have .
I am a true believer in what a good forestry management plan can do to benefit your natural habitat and wildlife.
After looking through your Vision Plan it looks like your on the right tract to restoring the habitat and helping the wildlife.
As for my opinion I would maintain a sound forestry management program with a focus on early successional habitat to benefit both game birds and whitetail deer, and continue to promote all hunting, trapping and fishing. -
Thanks and keep up the good work, - S. E.
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