Date of Award:

1996

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA)

Department:

Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning

Advisor/Chair:

Craig W. Johnson

Abstract

Many species of wildlife use roadside vegetation as habitat. The ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) utilizes roadsides for all types of cover. Because pheasants are nonmigratory and generally live their entire lives within a 1- to 2-mile radius, pheasants are excellent indicator species to predict both quantity and quality of roadside wildlife habitat. Pheasants were introduced to Utah in the late 1800's. Populations climbed until pheasant habitat occupied 2-4 percent of the total land area in Utah. Populations began to decrease in the 1950's. Since 1962, pheasant populations in Cache County, Utah have dropped 2.71 percent annually. Experts believe the decline in pheasants is directly related to decreased habitat. They attribute the decrease to land use changes.

Cache County roadsides currently support 3,643 acres of wildlife habitat and have the potential to support over 15,000 acres. To evaluate roadside habitat in Cache County, a roadside vegetation inventory was conducted. This was done by conducting a windshield survey of Cache County roadsides in agricultural areas. Next, vegetation density was measured along roadside transects using a Daubenmire frame and vertical profile board.

The results showed Cache County roadsides did not support quality wildlife habitat. The exception was wetlands that contained significant stands of cattail. The evaluation found current maintenance practices of mowing and spraying roadside vegetation has degraded the plant communities and created dense monocultures of a few grass species.

A questionnaire was completed by county weed supervisors throughout the state of Utah as well as Utah Department of Transportation personnel and other people associated with the managment of roadside vegetation. The questionnaire provided information about current roadside maintenance practices and attitudes.

As a result of the roadside vegetation data and the questionnaire, the study determined that healthier roadside plant communities are possible if current maintenance practices and standards are modified. These modifications should include 1) spot spraying herbicide to eradicate weed species, 2) mowing only 10% of the right-of-way, which will provide more residual nesting cover in the unmowed areas, and 3) allowing woody vegetation along the backs! ope of ditches and other areas where motorist safety is not compromised. By modifying maintenance practices and implementing diverse seed mixes, roadside plant communities will support quality wildlife habitat.

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