The Young Forest Project
Wildlife Needs Young Forest to Survive
Most people know what old-growth forest is. Same with wetlands. We need both to have diverse wildlife and a healthy land.
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.
Some of the animals that need young forest are ruffed grouse, American woodcock, and whippoorwill; bobcat and Appalachian and New England cottontail; and box turtle, wood turtle, and green snake. White-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and a broad range of songbirds home in on the food and cover offered by young forest.
Unfortunately, the amount of this habitat has dwindled over the last 50 years, and, as a result, more than 60 kinds of wildlife have suffered serious population declines in New England, the Mid-Atlantic states, and the Midwest.
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 must meet the challenge of providing enough young forest for wildlife.
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, land trusts, companies, and towns have joined the Young Forest Project and begun making this important habitat on lands they own or manage.
Private landowners making young forest are key to this partnership. (Download the non-technical Young Forest Guide to learn more about creating habitat.) Conservation partners use science-based Best Management Practices to create young forest in locations where it will do the most good, keeping keep common creatures abundant and helping wildlife whose numbers have been falling.
Want to see some young forest? A growing network of demonstration sites lets landowners and nature-lovers check out this habitat and the wildlife that thrives there.
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.
If you decide 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.