What is Young Forest?

Wildlife Needs Young Forest

Young forest is a type of habitat needed by a host of wild creatures both rare and common.

Regrowing aspen provides great cover and food for wildlife.

Young trees - like these aspens on a working woodland in Vermont - come back quickly after logging./C. Fergus

Young forest depends on light.
When older trees are removed – by a natural event like a flood or fire, or by humans’ logging or habitat management efforts – sun reaches the ground. In that life-giving light, plants flourish: vines, wildflowers, shrubs, small trees. In the Northeast and Upper Midwest, favored with ample rain and a long growing season, plant life can come in so densely that a person will find it pretty darned hard and, depending on how thorny it is, maybe even impossible to enter the resulting thick habitat. But wild animals don't mind that thickness. In fact, they seek it out.

Different Kinds of Young Forest

Several different types of habitat can be considered “young forest.”

Think of an abandoned field coming up in small trees like aspens, maples, and birches. Or brushland thick with blackberry, hawthorn, and dogwood. Or a low wet area overgrown with alder, winterberry, and pussy willow.

Towhee in young forest

Eastern towhees love the food resources and shelter that a young, regrowing forest offers./USFWS

Young forest can spring up on dry infertile land: a barrens after a fire has swept through it, killing taller trees and spurring a new ground-level growth of seedlings and shrubs.

A young forest can be hardwood trees growing back in a woods after a storm or a logging operation. With the shade-producing branches and leaves suddenly gone, the same trees’ root systems or stumps send up a riot of shoots. A new clearcut looks raw and scruffy, but it doesn’t take long – only a year or two – before it transforms itself into a verdant patch of young forest humming with life. Wild life.

Young Forest Needs Renewing

Young forest usually lasts for only 10 to 20 years. After that, it becomes less useful to many kinds of wildlife. Young forest can be renewed through periodic timber harvesting, mowing with heavy-duty machines, or the controlled use of fire. To benefit a broad range of wild creatures, conservationists may create a mosaic of different-aged habitats on a given tract of land.

The Young Forest Project is all about helping wildlife by making sure we provide enough of this productive, essential habitat.