New York's Young Forest Initiative Making a Difference

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is doing big things for wildlife: The goal of the agency’s Young Forest Initiative, launched in 2016, is to manage forests on over 90 wildlife management areas (WMAs) across the state to create more than 12,000 acres of new young forest habitat.

American woodcock

American woodcock on nest in young forest habitat./C. Fergus

Habitat managers, foresters, and biologists work to create and improve thickets of tree seedlings and saplings, shrubs, grasses, and wildflowers to provide food, cover, and nesting places for hard-pressed species including New England cottontail, golden-winged warbler, and whippoorwill.

Game animals such as American woodcock, ruffed grouse, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, and snowshoe hare also take advantage of food and cover created mainly through carefully planned and carried out timber harvests.

To chart the progress of the Young Forest Initiative, biologists conduct long-range surveys of wildlife on management areas that have received treatments to create young forest.

Their goals include documenting baseline status of different wildlife populations before management takes place; assessing target species’ response to management activities; and avoiding harm to sensitive wildlife such as bats, raptors, and certain songbirds.

So far, natural resource professionals with New York’s Young Forest Initiative have:

  • inventoried more than 152,000 acres of forestland on selected WMAs across the state;
  • produced 44 habitat management plans;
  • held 31 meetings to talk to the public about young forest and habitat management;
  • written 50 silvicultural prescriptions to make habitat on project areas;
  • created 665 acres of new young forest on 14 WMAs in 15 different counties.

The Department of Environmental Conservation recently published a report on young-forest-related activities between 2016 and 2018.

It’s worth reading, since it documents the science underpinning the agency’s efforts to provide much-needed young forest on public lands, where hunters, birders, and the general public can get the feel of what young forest is like and enjoy the wildlife that use this important habitat.

The report is easily understandable, explaining “What We Did,” “What We Found,” and “Next Steps” for eight target species (woodcock, deer, grouse, wild turkey, golden-winged warbler, New England cottontail, and snowshoe hare), plus laying out the process for avoiding harmful impacts to sensitive wildlife.

Download a PDF of the report below.