Weyerhaeuser Company, Northern Maine

Timber Company Committed to Woodcock, Young Forest, and People

When Henning Stabins was a boy, he lived on Cape Cod near a cranberry bog. “I used to get a thrill from going outside at dusk in the spring and listening to the woodcock singing near the bog, and watching their mating flights,” he says. Now a biologist for Weyerhaeuser, a large timber company with extensive holdings in North America, Stabins has maintained his affection for American woodcock and developed considerable skills as a birder, naturalist, and wildlife scientist.

Biologists inspect young forest habitat

Weyerhaeuser biologist Henning Stabins, right, and WMI's Gary Donovan inspect lush regrowth of aspen following clearcut timber harvest./C. Fergus

Stabins works in Maine, where Weyerhaeuser owns and manages some 865,000 acres in six counties. Recently, he designed an ambitious young forest habitat project on the company’s Fogg Farm tract, a 1,200-acre parcel in central Maine south of Long Pond in Somerset County. To get the project rolling, Wildlife Management Institute biologist Gary Donovan, U.S. Geological Survey woodcock researcher Dan McAuley, and Kevin White with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service joined Stabins and fellow Weyerhaeuser biologist Ray Ary for a tour of Fogg Farm. The conservationists discussed how commercial timber harvests could be set up to favor woodcock and their habitat needs.

Stabins and Weyerhaeuser forester Clarence Begin then divided the tract into 65 timber-harvest blocks, giving consideration to terrain, soils, tree species, and road access. On the map, the harvest blocks resemble parts of a jigsaw puzzle; on the ground, the units where timber cutting has taken place are already offering a bonanza of food and cover to woodcock and the many other animals with which this popular game bird shares the landscape.

Fogg Farm timber harvest blocks

Timber harvest blocks on Fogg Farm. Different colors indicate different harvest years.

The first round of cutting began on Fogg Farm in 2012, through the use of even-aged, or clearcut, timber harvests to remove trees from some of the blocks. Those first entries will be followed by additional timber harvests in other blocks at roughly 10-year intervals over the next three decades. The result will be a mosaic of different-aged woodlands, a habitat pattern that will benefit woodcock, ruffed grouse, white-throated sparrows, yellowthroats, and a host of other birds, as well as snowshoe hares, moose, deer, black bears, bobcats, and other creatures that need young, vigorously regrowing forest.

The cutting blocks surround Fogg Farm, an old abandoned farm along Fogg Brook. This is a wild part of Maine: the tract lies within the Moosehead Region Conservation Easement, a 350,000-acre area where sustainable forest management must be practiced and where public access for recreation is guaranteed in perpetuity.

Woodcock Singing Grounds

Around the former home site are several old fields that will be mowed periodically so that male woodcock can use the openings for their springtime breeding displays – the singing and flighting that inspired Stabins when he was younger. A brook runs through the tract, and the damp soil edging this watercourse provides a good growing environment for alder, a shrub that, when young and dense, provides excellent feeding habitat for woodcock. The surrounding hills and rolling terrain include stands of aspen, birch, and red maple to be harvested in years to come.

American woodcock in profile

American woodcock is just one of many birds that will seek out and use new young forest on Fogg Farm./T. Flanigan

In addition to harvesting six of the 65 timber blocks between 2012 and 2014, Weyerhaeuser is cutting swaths through the alders in places where the wiry shrubs were getting old and becoming too open to be top-quality habitat. The alder-dominated area near the center of the project covers around 75 acres. Around this core, the cut-over hardwood blocks of different ages will yield dense young forest: prime daytime feeding habitat and also nesting habitat for woodcock.

Grassy fields around the old homestead will function as ground-roosting cover for woodcock in late summer and early fall. Log landings and other small clearings will act as additional singing grounds and roost areas. Stabins sited the log landings where several different age-class management units intersect, so that breeding male woodcock will find singing grounds close to the nesting, brood-rearing, and feeding habitats that hens and their young will use later.

In each cutting block, loggers will leave some large-diameter trees as future snags; as they mature, these forest giants will develop cavities that breeding birds and hibernating mammals can use. When the snags finally fall, their logs will provide drumming stations from which male ruffed grouse can call in females for mating in spring.

Log landing on Weyerhaeuser lands, Maine

After logs are removed from log landings, these open areas will function as woodcock singing grounds in springtime./C. Fergus

In areas that support aspen, the even-aged cutting will promote a vigorous regrowth of those trees. “In addition to being a much-sought-after timber product,” notes Stabins, “aspen is a great fit for wildlife. It’s dense when it shoots up following logging. As it gets a few years older, the partial sunlight that comes through the trees’ crowns gives rise to abundant plant growth on the forest floor.” A range of wildlife take advantage of the diverse plants and shrubs that make up an aspen understory, feeding on insects, berries, and seeds and finding hiding cover to avoid predators.

Says WMI’s Donovan, “It’s my belief that diversifying size and age classes of a wooded tract by clearcutting different harvest blocks should not be considered forest fragmentation.” He’d rather that term be applied to sites that are held longterm in a deforested conditions, such as fields, parking lots, house lots, and the like. Donovan describes the habitat that results from clearcutting as “variegated and dynamic. Right from the get-go, the regrowing forest has added value for wildlife.” First there’s a flush of grasses and forbs, leading to an increased population of insects that provide excellent food for songbirds – especially young, newly fledged birds that are still growing, and those building up fat for autumn’s southward migration. Small mammals like mice and voles find these habitats attractive; in turn, they support populations of reptiles, such as snakes, and larger mammals that feed on the small fruit-, vegetation-, and seed-eaters.

Baseline Surveys

Stabins and Ary conducted baseline surveys on the number of male woodcock singing at Fogg Farm in 2010 and 2012 before timber harvests began. They are confident that in years to come, those numbers will rise dramatically as more habitat continues to be created and more woodcock start using it.

Handling a captured American woodcock for scientific research

Woodcock biologist Dan McAuley, right, helps a Jackman High School student put a leg band on a woodcock captured on Fogg Farm./H. Stabins

Weyerhaeuser considers educating the public about sustainable forestry to be an important part of its mission. To that end, Stabins and Ary visited the Forest Hills School in nearby Jackman, where they gave a presentation on wildlife habitat and forest management and invited students and their parents and teachers to come help capture woodcock and attach radio-telemetry devices to the birds. Woodcock scientist Dan McAuley with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Orono, Maine, field station and WMI biologist Donovan worked with Stabins, Ary, and the Forest Hills students and parents to capture 14 woodcock and equip them with leg bands and miniaturized radio transmitters paid for by Weyerhaeuser. During the following summer, Stabins and his colleagues monitored the birds’ habitat use. The woodcock moved around on the Fogg Farm tract and actually spent more time outside of the management area. (Later, the Forest Hills students prepared a poster describing the project and displayed it at their school.) As habitat improves on Fogg Farm, woodcock will use the tract more consistently.

“As a responsible timber company, Weyerhaeuser works to build partnerships with local communities on many different levels,” Stabins notes. He predicts that Fogg Farm will become a popular destination for grouse and woodcock hunters. Also, bird watchers and nature enthusiasts will enjoy more and better opportunities to view wildlife when hiking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing on the tract. Users will learn about sustainable forestry practices through signage and continuing programs in local venues. (Weyerhaeuser’s operations are certified by the Sustainable Forestry Institute, a nonprofit organization that promotes responsible scientific forestry activities and tree harvesting practices.)

Woodcock hunter and dog

Weyerhaeuser allows hunting on most of its lands. Here, a Brittany spaniel retrieves a woodcock for a bird hunter./T. Flanigan

Weyerhaeuser’s operations elsewhere on the company’s 865,000 Maine acres also provide an ongoing stream of young forest for wildlife. The company isn’t simply concerned with making a profit: It works hard to take care of the environment. Says Stabins, “We protect key stands of older forest, safeguard rare and endangered species, enhance fish habitat in streams, and maintain deer yards, which are critically important to deer populations during Maine’s winters.” Company biologists like Stabins and Ary study wildlife such as Canada lynx, common loons, rusty blackbirds, spruce grouse, Bicknell’s thrush, and bald eagles, and advise foresters on how to best tailor timber-harvesting operations to help those animals.

Woodcock populations thrive when all the habitat components that they need are located close to one another. On a landscape scale, the goal of habitat management is to create a mosaic of quality habitat that can support a population of 500 woodcock in autumn, following the year's breeding season. The Fogg Farm tract with its 1,200 acres should be able to support well over 500 woodcock, as well as healthy populations of other wildlife both rare and common. And thanks to the ongoing timber-harvesting schedule, that productivity should continue indefinitely.

South Solon Project

Stabins and WMI’s Donovan also collaborated on a second woodcock and young forest project, this one on Weyerhaeuser holdings near South Solon in Somerset County. The first timber harvest on this 80-acre parcel took place in winter 2013, when two blocks totaling 18 acres were cut. The tract is divided into eight cutting blocks, averaging 10 acres in size. Weyerhaeuser will come back at 10-year intervals until the timber on all 80 acres has been harvested. Then the cycle will begin again, with 40-year-old trees harvested and a new batch of young forest produced. As at Fogg Farm, a range of different-aged forest stands will always be available to wildlife on the South Solon tract.


Weyerhaeuser Company, U.S. Geological Survey, Ruffed Grouse Society/American Woodcock Society, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Forest Society of Maine, Maine Forest Service, Land Use Regulation Commission, Jackman High School, Wildlife Management Institute

How to Visit

For more information, or to arrange a site tour, contact biologist Henning Stabins, Wildlife Biologist, at 207-453-1045 or Henning.Stabins@weyerhaeuser.com.