The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission has been working on restoring wetland amphibian habitats in Richmond County, and has started a new project covering 21 acres.
The land is located near Dobbins Heights, and is on Wildlife’s gameland.
“We’ve only been restoring these habitats for two or three years now,” said Jeff Humphries, wildlife diversity biologist with the commission. “We’ve done three or four in the Sandhills, from a quarter acre to about three acres.”
The natural wetland habitats that the commission is working to restore are areas that typically hold water in the cooler months, and dry up in summer.
“These habitats are important because they don’t support fish,” said Humphries. “That is important for amphibian survival.”
The decrease in natural fires clearing out the wetland areas has caused trees and brush to flourish, which lessens the wetland. In turn, the amphibians begin to disappear.
“Right now our goal is to just go in and clear out the trees and brush that are preventing the area from being an open, grassy pond,” said Humphries. “We’re not expecting to get everything back, but this is a long-term project so we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Humphries compared the 21 acre wetland area to a “Carolina Bay,” which is an isolated wetland in a natural shallow depression, largely fed by rain and shallow groundwater. These areas are important for promoting flood control and water availability; water quality; erosion control and wildlife habitat.
This particular area was drained sometime around the 1940s, and was left with a ditch to drain the water out. The ditch was plugged about 15 years ago, but the overgrown area has remained dry.
“There are quite a few species of amphibians, like tiger salamanders, that we’re losing in the southeast, and we’re hopeful that restoring these habitats will encourage some of them to come back,” said Humphries.
“The improvement of habitat benefits the health and well-being of native species,” said Mark Dutton, sergeant with the law enforcement division of the commission. “The goal is to see species, like amphibians and birds, come in and make a home.”
This most recent wetland restoration project is still in the beginning stages. The most recent action taken was the application to the NC Division of Water Quality for and Isolated and Non-404 Jurisdictional Wetlands and Water Permit. The public is invited to comment in writing to the Division of Water Quality via fax at 919-807-6494. Written comments can be mailed to NC Division of Water Quality, Wetlands, Buffers, Stormwater, Compliance and Permitting Unit, 2321 Crabtree Blvd. Raleigh, NC 27604, attn: Ian McMillan.
— Staff Writer Kelli Easterling can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.