Frequently Asked Questions
Basically, it’s young trees and shrubs growing together densely. Young forest can be an old field coming up in saplings, a wetland thick with shrubs, or trees springing back on a wooded tract after a timber harvest. For a non-technical guide to making young forest habitat, consult the Young Forest Guide published by the Wildlife Management Institute.
Generally only 10 to 20 years. After that, it becomes older forest. Having forest with a mixture of different-aged patches (young, middle-age, and old) is important to benefit the greatest variety of wildlife. Many conservationists suggest creating new areas of young forest every five to 20 years, depending on the size of a forested property.
These bird can't live in mature woods, and they've been getting rarer over the last 50 years as the young-forest habitat they need has been vanishing. Sixty-five reptiles, birds, and mammals – all of which need young forest – are considered species of greatest conservation need in the Northeast and Upper Midwest.
Yes, they do! A wide range of creatures use young forest during part or all of their life cycles. As well as rare wildlife, more-abundant animals seek out this habitat for food, shelter, or rearing their young, including wild turkeys, black bears, white-tailed deer, and deep-woods birds like warblers and thrushes.
Natural forces once caused an ebb and flow of thousands of acres of regrowing forest and shrubland. But we no longer let fires burn unchecked or beavers build dam complexes that flood vast areas of woodland and kill trees. Now it's our responsibility to recreate such natural processes through science-based habitat management.
A lot more than we have now. Scientists estimate that 7 to 15 percent of eastern North America used to be young forest before humans changed the landscape and began preventing natural forces, such as fire and flooding, from making large expanses of this type of habitat. Today about 5 percent of the Mid-Atlantic region is young forest, and only about 2 percent of New England.
Unless we actively create more young forest, many wild creatures -- including a host of colorful songbirds -- will rarely be seen or heard. Canada lynx numbers may never rebound. The New England cottontail and Appalachian cottontail could end up on the Endangered Species list – and maybe even go extinct. Our region will become even more dominated by mature woodlands, affording fewer habitat options for wildlife.
They mimic natural events like wildfires and windstorms by using controlled burning and heavy-duty machines to knock back older growth and stimulate the dense regrowth of trees and shrubs. They plant native shrubs for food and cover. Clearcut logging, carefully sited and carried out, can be a great way to create young forest. Private landowners can be part of the team, too. Learn more by reading the Young Forest Guide published by the Wildlife Management Institute.
Not if it's carefully situated and conducted. In fact, forest birds such as thrushes, tanagers, and warblers actually need the dense habitat that young forest provides: Adult birds take their young into insect- and fruit-rich regrowing clearcuts to grow strong and build up fat before migration.
In general, making different age classes of woodland helps wildlife because it creates a mosaic of habitats – a richer and more-diverse forest that benefits a broad range of creatures and not just a select few. In heavily forested landscapes, research has shown that timber harvests do not cause forest fragmentation. But in heavily fragmented landscapes, clearcuts may lead to further fragmentation and increase the amount of “edge habitat,” something that can affect forest-interior birds. Seek out advice from a professional forester or a habitat biologist to minimize forest fragmentation.
Many federal and state natural resource agencies, land trusts, and wildlife groups use timber harvests to create young forest and improve overall woodland health while helping wildlife. Organizations like the Nature Conservancy, Audubon, the Ruffed Grouse Society, and the National Wild Turkey Federation favor creating and renewing young forest. Towns, land trusts, and municipalities are also making this important habitat.
Timber harvesting provides jobs while yielding valuable, renewable forest products from furniture-grade wood to paper pulp to wood chips that can be burned to generate electricity. Other ways of creating young forest can be more expensive, but they're worth it because they help protect our rich wildlife heritage.
Clearcuts can look raw and desolate -- but that's only temporary, as shoots and saplings soon green up and reforest the land. Young forest can be quite attractive, in the way that it reveals the land's contours. And wildlife love it!
Partners in the Young Forest Project are setting up a network of Habitat Demonstration Areas throughout the northeastern and northcentral states. Find out more about these important management efforts right here on youngforest.org.
Yes, you can. Since most land in the Northeast is privately owned, it’s vitally important for wildlife’s sake that landowners help make and maintain young forest, especially in tracts 5 acres and larger. Read the non-technical Young Forest Guide published by the Wildlife Management Institute. Then contact your state wildlife agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, the U.S.D.A. Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Ruffed Grouse Society, or a certified forester to learn how to proceed. For projects that help wildlife, full or partial funding may be available.