"We're mostly managing forest edges and fields here in the St. Lawrence Valley," says Andrew Hinickle, a biologist for Audubon New York, the state program of the National Audubon Society. Those management efforts create more breeding and feeding habitat for golden-winged warblers, along with dozens of other kinds of wildlife that use the same type of cover as those beleaguered songbirds. "We’re not generally going into the woods and making clearings," Hinickle continues. "It’s more about maintaining and improving on what's already here."
The Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry, in the state's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, manages 2.2 million acres of woodland, 13 percent of all forested lands in the Keystone State. The Bureau brings in around $25 million each year from harvesting timber on approximately 14,000 acres. That income helps fund the Bureau’s operating costs, with 10 percent of those dollars channeled into forest-regeneration projects.
New Addition to State Forest System Features Young Forest
A significant young forest restoration project continues to expand on the 25,000-acre Clermont Tract in northern Pennsylvania’s McKean County. With guidance from the Wildlife Management Institute and funding from the Wildlife For Everyone Endowment Foundation, conservationists planted 12,400 seedlings in 2015, the project's sixth year. The planting is part of an ongoing effort to improve wildlife habitat and to monitor wildlife populations, including the American woodcock and other young forest species.
Foresters and wildlife biologists with Lyme Adirondack Forest Company (an affiliate of The Lyme Timber Company) and the Wildlife Management Institute have sited a young forest habitat demonstration project on part of Lyme’s 239,000-acre ownership in the Adirondacks of upstate New York.
Refreshing a Habitat Management Area and a Woodcock Trail
In the 1930s, a wave of farm abandonment swept through the northeastern United States. In central Pennsylvania’s Stone Valley, in Huntingdon County, many farmers gave up on tilling the shaley soil and moved away, their lands purchased by the U.S. Resettlement Administration. Shrubs and small trees filled in the tired eroded fields, which soon began producing bumper crops – not of corn and oats, but rather of woodcock, ruffed grouse, deer, and songbirds like brown thrashers and indigo buntings.
“Mattaponi Wildlife Management Area has some of the best woodcock habitat in Virginia,” says WMI biologist Steve Capel, “certainly the best woodcock habitat on a Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries WMA.”
The WMA, in central Virginia’s upper coastal plain, includes extensive floodplains along 6.5 miles of the Mattaponi and South Rivers – damp soils that offer prime earthworm-feeding for woodcock.
Carving Out Cottontail Habitat in a Forested Setting
Cranberry Mountain Wildlife Management Area includes 469 mainly forested acres, with some grassy and weedy fields, on a mountain east of the Hudson River where New York’s Putnam and Dutchess counties meet. The state Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) owns and manages the property.
Monongahela National Forest’s 919,000 acres lie in a region The Nature Conservancy considers “an area of global ecological importance” thanks to its many and varied habitats. This working forest is home to many kinds of wildlife and provides clean water, timber products, and recreation for humans from rock climbers to hunters.
It sounds like a contradiction in terms: An active military base that’s a wildlife hotspot. But at Fort Indiantown Gap in central Pennsylvania (known simply as “the Gap”), staff conservationists are shaping a landscape for military training while simultaneously making and maintaining thousands of acres of wildlife habitat, including native grasslands and young forest, rare and getting rarer in the Northeast where mature forest increasingly dominates the land.
Ten years ago Carl and Mary Graybill built a handsome Colonially inspired house on 5.5 acres near Annville in southeastern Pennsylvania. Carl is the retired director of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Bureau of Information and Education. He and Mary love watching wildlife – which was not all that common on the intensively farmed landscape where the Graybills built their new home. So they decided to do something about it: Turn part of a farm field into young forest.