A New Silent Spring: Where Are the Turkeys?
"That habitat is declining, including on our national forests. The acreage of timber harvested on federal land has fallen dramatically in the last 30 years, thanks mostly to environmentalists. The mere mention of cutting a tree in a national forest is often met with a lawsuit, even though timber harvest ultimately results in outstanding wildlife habitat. Even private landowners are cutting fewer trees.
Those that do often replace mast-bearing hardwoods with fast-growing pines. There were about a half-million acres of planted pines in Arkansas in 1980. There are an estimated 2.5 million acres today. Similar trends are taking place throughout the Southeast.
While young stands of planted pines can be outstanding nesting and brood-rearing habitat, they age out. What starts as an impenetrable jungle of blackberry thickets, native grasses and volunteer trees within the planted pines evolves into a monoculture of loblolly pine trees in a decade or so. Nesting cover and bugging habitat eventually disappear, leaving behind a forest floor devoid of cover.
All of those factors—the loss of suitable habitat, a few springs of unfavorable weather and increased predation—may be merging to put a 1-2-3 punch on turkeys in some regions."