Pine and spruce trees provide excellent cover. Why don't I see them on state land?
Curt Vacek, Minnesota DNR area wildlife manager in the Appleton area wildlife office, provided this morsel of knowledge:
If you visit enough state lands, you will find conifer plantings. In most cases they are artifacts of past wildlife management practices when we weren’t armed with as much science and knowledge. We’ve found conifer plantings in the prairie region are really only beneficial during the harshest winters. And in many cases, the plantings are too small to be very helpful. To truly benefit pheasants and deer during a harsh winter, a conifer planting needs to be a block of at least 25 acres. So, outside of a very bad winter, there's a block of habitat doing little to help the local prairie wildlife. In fact, they can harbor predators and other species that kill or drive out the wildlife we’re hoping to maintain.
Cedar can also spread rapidly and will often take over grasslands, threatening the species that live there. Fortunately, winter cover is not in short supply as we have extensive areas of dense willow and cattail stands that readily protect wildlife in all but the harshest winters.
In short, to maximize the use of the limited state land we own, we are better served focusing on habitat that is readily used year round rather than something that serves a very limited purpose.
Thanks for asking!