The Young Forest Project

Wildlife Needs Young Forest Habitat to Survive

Most people know what old-growth forest is. Same with wetlands. Both of those habitats are needed to have diverse wildlife and a healthy land.

Box turtle

The box turtle is one of many wild animals that depend on young forest./J. Mayes

Another type of habitat is less well known, yet every bit as important.

It’s called young forest, and it's essential for many different animals from small reptiles to large mammals. Many birds need this habitat, too, including ones that breed and nest in mature forest. Young forest is used by rare species of wildlife and by those that are more abundant. Unfortunately, the amount of young forest in the eastern United States has dwindled over the last 50 years, and the many wild animals that require it have seen their populations decline as a result.

What is young forest? It’s the shoots and sprouts of young trees springing up again in incredible numbers from the root systems of older trees following a timber harvest. It's an old field filling in with saplings and shrubs. It's a swampy tract thick with shrubs. Young forest can be a pine barrens greening up again following a controlled burn carried out by a trained fire crew.

To keep the land healthy, we need a balance of different habitats. As we have come to understand the value of wetlands, we’ve stopped draining them and even begun restoring them. We've protected thousands of acres of older forest, benefiting the animals that live there. Now we need to meet the challenge of providing enough young forest for wildlife.

Brown thrasher in young-forest habitat

Brown thrashers need the food and cover provided amply by young, regrowing forest./E. Guthro

Partners Make It Happen

Collaboration between partners leads to more efficient use of funds and more creation of young forest for the animals that need it. Many agencies, organizations, companies, municipalities, and landowners have joined the Young Forest Project and begun making this important habitat on lands they own or manage. Partners use science-based Best Management Practices to create young forest in locations where it will do the most good. They look for new conservation partners to join in this effort to keep common creatures common and to save wildlife whose numbers have been falling.

We believe that when people understand the importance of young forest and the reasons for the many management techniques used to create, renew, and maintain it – and when they are kept informed of ongoing habitat creation projects – they will welcome and support the actions needed to safeguard our native wildlife.

Making Young Forest

This website introduces the wild creatures that need young forest. It shows how partners are carefully recreating the kinds of natural events that once provided a steady supply of young forest. It tells the story of how your neighbors – towns, land trusts, businesses, and owners of working farms and woodlands - are helping wildlife by creating this valuable, vibrant habitat.

Want to make some young forest? These contacts can help. Your state wildlife agency can also provide advice. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service's Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) help conservation-minded landowners help young-forest wildlife. Organizations like the Ruffed Grouse Society, Pheasants Forever, and National Wild Turkey Federation can also help. Licensed foresters can lay out and supervise a commercial logging cut that may pay for itself while improving conditions for wildlife. For non-commercial projects, full or partial funding may be available.

Forest Doesn't Stay Young Forever

Young forest is ephemeral: It most cases, it lasts only 10 to 20 years before it becomes older forest, often less useful to wildlife. Making and renewing young forest is an ongoing task – and one that can be done in a way that delivers sustainable forest products while providing critically needed homes for our region’s wildlife. This cooperative effort will help preserve our natural heritage for our children and grandchildren.

Welcome to the Young Forest Project.