News

Survey Suggests Increase in Breeding Ruffed Grouse

MADISON – Roadside ruffed grouse surveys completed in spring 2017 showed statewide drumming activity increased 17 percent from 2016, based on data collected to monitor breeding grouse activity.

Ruffed grouse drumming

Male ruffed grouse drum in springtime to attract females./Ruffed Grouse Society

"An increase in breeding grouse activity hopefully will mean an increase in grouse nesting and brood rearing, which could mean more grouse for hunters to pursue this fall," said Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wildlife survey coordinator Brian Dhuey. "Ruffed grouse populations are known to rise and fall over a 9- to 11-year cycle, and the last peak in Wisconsin's cycle occurred in 2011 - survey results suggest that we have passed the low point in the population cycle and have started the increasing phase, which should continue the next few years as the grouse population moves toward the next peak."

Since 1964, roadside surveys to monitor the number of breeding grouse have been conducted by staff from the department, U.S. Forest Service, tribal employees, and numerous grouse enthusiasts and volunteers.

The northern and southwest regions of the state showed increases in 2017, while the southeast and central regions remained stable or showed small declines. While increases in the southwest part of the state were the largest by percentage, this area is not within the primary range for grouse. The increase in activity in southwestern Wisconsin follows near historic lows, and likely would not add significantly to grouse abundance in the state.

Results from the 2017 survey show that grouse populations in both the southwest and southeast regions remain well below historic levels. According to Mark Witecha, a DNR upland wildlife ecologist, the maturing of southern Wisconsin's forests and the resulting loss of dense, brushy areas that grouse need for cover has resulted in lower numbers of grouse in recent decades.

"Ruffed grouse rely on dense, young forest cover resulting from disturbances such as fire and logging," said Witecha. "Beyond actively managing state-owned lands, Wisconsin DNR is working to provide suitable grouse habitat through an extensive collaborative effort known as the Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership. The Partnership provides technical and financial assistance for young forest management on private lands, benefiting ruffed grouse and other wildlife species by helping maintain healthy and diverse forest communities."


Click here for a version of this news article that includes a link to full results of the 2017 statewide drumming survey.




Where Have the Ruffed Grouse Gone?

By Jerry Davis for the Wisconsin State Journal

TOWN OF BERRY -- Residents, particularly landowners, living in the driftless (unglaciated) areas of Wisconsin and adjacent states noticed when the whip-poor-wills called less often.

Ruffed grouse in winter

Ruffed grouse in winter. Grouse can stay hidden from predators in dense young forest habitat./WI DNR

After the 1980s, some also noticed the absence of ruffed grouse drumming in spring.

But a few “partridge” still remain here in southwest Wisconsin and across the borders in Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois.

Scott Walter flushed six ruffed grouse during the opening day of last fall’s gun deer season on his farm in Richland County.

The previous spring, a neighbor of Walter’s heard six male grouse drumming on his property.

Walter, a regional wildlife biologist living in rural Viola, is employed by the Ruffed Grouse Society/American Woodcock Society in their Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois’ district. Before that, he spent five years in the upland game wildlife section of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and 10 years teaching at UW-Richland, where he studied Wisconsin’s beloved timber gamebird.

One of Walter’s new responsibilities is to assist individuals and organizations in rehabilitating woodland habitat to better fit a host of wildlife, particularly ruffed grouse and woodcock.

Recently he spoke with about 30 landowners at the Town of Berry Town Hall, near Mazomanie.

Walter asked, and then answered, their likely question.

“What happened to the grouse in western Dane County and much of the rest of the driftless area?”

He quickly gave a pardon to wild turkeys, coyotes and the rest of the area’s predators but not to those who are not helping to create disturbances in their forests.

“A ruffed grouse is basically a hunk of meatloaf with feathers,” he said. “Is it a hawk’s fault if you released a rabbit on Lambeau Field and the hawk eats it, or would you blame the lack of the right habitat the creature needs to hide from predators?

aspen thicket

Dense regrowth of aspen after a timber harvest provides optimal habitat for grouse and woodcock./C. Fergus

“The area forests have matured and we’re no longer able to flush 40 birds in a day of hunting,” Walter lamented. “But we can bring them back to some level but not to what once was.”

In other words, it should be possible for a spring turkey hunter to hear the putt, putt sounds of that “John Deere tractor of the spring woods.”

That’s the drumming sound a male grouse makes from a well-protected log, but would never be heard in the middle of a savanna or hay field.

“A few birds are still here, but scattered,” Walter said. “A hen will lay 12 eggs and that can begin to bring them back to some level.”

Forest succession is the problem; a maturing forest does not provide for the needs of ruffed grouse who need sections of young forest; otherwise they are too exposed to owls, hawks, foxes and coyotes.

Local development can hinder the bird’s survival, but that is not a major factor.

It may surprise those who still travel north to hunt that in the 1980s the grouse population was higher here than in northern Wisconsin, Walter said.

“The disturbances on the forest that kept a woods from maturing, from starting over, from creating some sections of young trees, particularly aspens, have been eliminated in many cases,” he said.

“Timber harvesting is a disturbance, but how that timber is harvested differs. The pulp industry in northern Wisconsin clear-cuts sections, which stimulate aspens,” Walter said. “We can do a patchwork of harvesting to create diversity. Grouse need some areas of dense, brushy forest.”

The acres of young forest in the driftless area have been reduced from about 300,000 acres in 1980 to 65,000 acres in 2015.

That patterns the reduction in grouse, too.


Learn more about ruffed grouse and how they use young forest habitat.




Valerie Johnson Hired as Forest Wildlife Specialist

SPOONER – Healthy forests are the centerpiece of the Ruffed Grouse Society and its sister organization the American Woodcock Society's mission, and this important mission is shared by many other conservation organizations.

By engaging with conservation partners, RGS/AWS can pool "time, talent and treasure" to have a synergistic impact on forest resources. RGS/AWS staff have captured this synergy through a novel collaboration with staff from the USDA - Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, which will support a new, full-time staff person dedicated to forest habitat development in northwestern Wisconsin.

Valerie Johnson

Valerie Johnson will help woodland owners plan and find funding for young forest habitat projects benefiting grouse, woodcock, snowshoe hare, deer, and many other kinds of wildlife.

Valerie Johnson recently began working in the first RGS/AWS forest wildlife specialist position in the Spooner USDA Service Center. Johnson will work with forest landowners to identify and implement sound forest management practices on their lands, emphasizing those that enhance or expand the young forest habitat base. From initial consultation to practice implementation, she will provide landowners with all the technical assistance needed to achieve their forest wildlife habitat objectives and will provide financial assistance via the application of federal Farm Bill conservation dollars.

"We are very excited to bring this initiative to fruition," said Josh Sherman, NRCS assistant state conservationist for field operations. "Private landowners manage the majority of forested land in Wisconsin, and through this position we envision being able to better provide needed technical and financial services to this community. We are thrilled to have someone of Valerie's energy and expertise on board."

Johnson is steeped in the North Woods lifestyle, is an avid hunter, and brings an abundance of experience and enthusiasm to the RGS/AWS conservation program. She earned her B.S. degree in geology and watershed management from Winona State University in Minnesota and a Master's in forestry and forestry recreation from UW-Stevens Point. She has an extensive background in forest management, having worked as a forestry technician for Wisconsin DNR and in various roles for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Park Service, and Illinois DNR. She currently serves as treasurer for the Wisconsin Chapter of the Society of American Foresters.

"I am extremely excited to begin this new journey as the forest wildlife specialist with the Ruffed Grouse Society/American Woodcock Society and our partners at NRCS and the Wisconsin DNR," said Johnson. "I very much look forward to helping landowners achieve their forest management objectives, getting to know local RGS/AWS members, and in building strong partnerships with my conservation colleagues throughout the region."

Johnson can be reached at ValerieJ@RuffedGrouseSociety.org.




New Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership Coordinator Hired

The Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership (WYFP) recently announced the hiring of Randee Wlodek as the partnership’s coordinator.

A graduate of Michigan Technological University, Wlodek has participated in numerous conservation and research projects, including a study of golden-winged warbler genetics in Michigan and a reforestation project in the rainforests of Australia. She began work with the WYFP in August.

Randee Wlodek

Randee Wlodek with male golden-winged warbler.

Wisconsin's forests support a robust timber industry and vibrant and diverse populations of game and nongame wildlife, and provide scenic beauty and outdoor recreation to the state’s citizens and visitors.

Established in 2011, the WYFP brings together 15 conservation and industry organizations to work to give public land managers and private landowners the knowledge and tools they need to sustain the health and diversity of the state's forests.

Said Jeremy Holtz, a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources biologist who serves as WYFP facilitator: "Randee brings a wealth of experience in forest wildlife management, and she has a driving passion for forest management and wildlife conservation. She will help lead our WYFP team and ensure that northern Wisconsin landowners receive outstanding service as they engage in management of their forested acres."

"I'm excited to become a part of the WYFP team," said Wlodek. "I’ve had a lifelong association with the wildlife of our northern forests, and being able to work with the WYFP and landowners across northern Wisconsin to enhance their habitat is a dream come true."

Wlodek added, "Young forest conservation is a critical and pressing issue, and we absolutely need landowners to understand how they can contribute to our conservation efforts. I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish together."

Noted Holtz about the WYFP: "Our goal is to ensure that land managers understand the critical role of disturbance in maintaining a diverse and functional forest ecosystem."

Owing to a lack of natural and manmade disturbances in recent decades, said Holtz, "We have seen major declines among many species of wildlife – from American woodcock to golden-winged warblers – that are adapted to dense, young forest habitats." Those habitats arise following disturbance caused by floods, fires, storms, and management activities like timber harvesting. The WYFP, Holtz said, "works diligently to promote active forest management that addresses this critical conservation issue."

WYFP partners include federal and state agencies, wildlife and forestry organizations, timber companies, and private landowners. The group provides outreach, education, and advice for landowners interested in enhancing forest wildlife habitat on properties they own or manage.

Over the past five years, hundreds of northern Wisconsin landowners have benefited from WYFP efforts, and habitat on thousands of forested acres has been created and improved.

The WYFP coordinator position receives funding from the Ruffed Grouse Society, Wildlife Management Institute, and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

For more information on the WYFP, contact Randee Wlodek, WYFP Coordinator, (715) 369-1180, dnryoungforest@wisconsin.gov.

Additional media contacts:
Jeremy Holtz, WYFP Facilitator
Phone: (715) 365-8999
E-Mail: Jeremy.Holtz@Wisconsin.gov

Dan Eklund, WYFP Steering Committee Vice-Chairman
Phone: (715) 762-5194
E-Mail: deklund@fs.fed.us




Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial

In 2016, Wisconsin commemorated a century of bird conservation within and across the state's borders. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources invited citizens to join in celebrating that important milestone by attending bird conservation events, volunteering for bird-related conservation projects, helping birds in local areas, and spending time birding on Wisconsin's scenic public lands.

Learn more about how you can help and celebrate birds.

The beautiful golden-winged warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera) was Wisconsin DNR's Bird of the Month for June 2016. This songbird actually benefited from widespread clearcutting in the 1800s and early 1900s. A bird of young or wet shrubby habitat with scattered trees, the golden-winged warbler began to decline as young forests and thickets aged. Human development in areas with shrub habitat greatly reduced the species in southern Wisconsin, and hybridization with blue-winged warblers was also a problem, especially as blue-winged warblers shifted their range north. Most nesting golden-winged warbler populations in the state currently occupy the aspen and alder thickets of northern Wisconsin.
Golden-winged warbler by Ryan Brady
Key points to remember:

Wisconsin is home to over 20 percent of the world’s nesting golden-winged warblers, meaning the state has high "stewardship responsibility" for the species.

The state's Young Forest Initiative, which seeks to manage young forest habitat for plants and wildlife, is working to improve conditions for golden-winged warblers and other birds such as rose-breasted grosbeaks, brown thrashers, and American woodcock.

Recent research has shown golden-wings also use older forest habitats in proximity to their young-forest breeding areas, suggesting that a mosaic of different habitat types may best serve this species.

On their wintering sites in Central and South America, these warblers occupy forest canopies, preferably near open areas. Montane forest may also be an important habitat.




RGS and USFWS Agreement Provides $50,000 for Wisconsin Young Forest Habitat

The Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) has partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to expand support for young forest habitat restoration efforts across northern and central Wisconsin.

A new agreement secures $25,000 in FWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife program funding for forest management practices that will benefit ruffed grouse, American woodcock, golden-winged warblers and other young-forest-dependent wildlife species over the next three years.

RGS and USFWS representatives

RGS/AWS biologist Scott Walter and Kurt Waterstradt, Wisconsin State Coordinator of the USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife program, celebrate approval of a new agreement bringing $50,000 in dedicated funding to young forest habitat efforts.

RGS has also committed an equal amount of staff time and habitat funding over this time period, resulting in $50,000 in total support for critical habitat efforts in the state.

Landowners across northern and central portions of the state will be eligible for assistance, with support focused on identified priority areas for woodcock and golden-winged warblers. The Partners for Fish and Wildlife program provides technical and financial assistance to landowners interested in enhancing fish and wildlife habitat on their land.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service has long been a leader in private lands conservation work in Wisconsin, and we’re thrilled to be able to collaborate with their staff and bring additional resources to address our shared mission of supporting healthy forests in the state,” noted RGS and American Woodcock Society (AWS) regional biologist Scott Walter.

“This agreement is a great example of how, by partnering with agencies that have similar conservation goals, we can magnify our ability to meet conservation objectives,” Walter added. “This agreement also brings assistance to those who own 90 percent of the land in the upper Midwest – private landowners.”




Record Habitat Funding in Wisconsin from RGS/AWS

By Jane Fyksen, Agriview

Ruffed grouse, American woodcock, golden-winged warblers and numerous other wildlife species require regenerating forest stands that develop following timber harvests and other forest-management activities. The Ruffed Grouse Society and its sister organization the American Woodcock Society are providing $80,340 through the Wisconsin Drummer Fund to 15 projects in Wisconsin that will enhance young forest wildlife habitat and increase hunter access to prime hunting areas.

American woodcock

American woodcock will find more young forest habitat in Wisconsin thanks to management projects funded by the Ruffed Grouse Society/American Woodcock Society./E. Dresser

Partners will bring an additional $130,000 to complete these projects, resulting in more than $210,000 in forest habitat improvements during 2016.

More than 880 acres will be directly enhanced. Funds used to support expanded landowner outreach efforts and forest access-road improvements will indirectly support habitat improvements on thousands of additional acres. More than 45 miles of hunter walking trails will also be created or enhanced with the funds.

To accomplish the projects, RGS/AWS will partner with the U.S. Forest Service, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Class ACT Charter School in Park Falls, the counties of Price, Ashland and Bayfield, and the Golden Sands Resource Conservation and Development Council.

The Wisconsin Drummer Fund was initiated in 2010 to let RGS/AWS funnel funds raised at chapter events, and through direct member donations, to proactive forest conservation work in Wisconsin. Since then, more than $376,000 has been made available to support 85 Wisconsin young-forest-related projects, enhancing an estimated 8,704 acres of habitat and improving hundreds of miles of hunter walking trails. The funds have been matched by other agencies and organizations, resulting in more than $1 million worth of projects being funded in Wisconsin since 2010. This year marks the sixth straight year for record funding levels under the program.

Wisconsin Drummer Fund Projects approved for 2016 include:

  • Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership — 21 northern Wisconsin counties and 13 partner organizations
  • Wildlife Openings and Hunter Walking Trails — Taylor and Price counties – U.S. Forest Service
  • White River Wildlife Area Aspen and Alder Regeneration — Ashland County, Ashland County, and Wisconsin DNR
  • Trott Hunter Walking Trail Rehabilitation — Ashland County, Ashland County Forest and Recreation Department
  • Ruffed Grouse Habitat Management and Enhancement — Forest County, U.S. Forest Service
  • C.D. Besadny Fish and Wildlife Area Grouse and Woodcock Habitat — Kewaunee County, Wisconsin DNR
  • Marathon County Alder Regeneration — Marathon County, Wisconsin DNR and Marathon County Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry
  • School Forest Ruffed Grouse Project — Ashland County, Class ACT Charter School, and Ashland County Forest and Recreation Department
  • Woodboro Lakes Wildlife Area Trail Enhancement — Oneida County, Wisconsin DNR
    Black River Country Forest Opening Management -- Jackson County, Wisconsin DNR
  • Borst Valley Wildlife Area Wildlife Shrub and Alder Regeneration — Trempealeau County, Wisconsin DNR
  • Mud Lake Wildlife Area Grouse and Woodcock Habitat — Door County, Wisconsin DNR
    Price County Forestry Aspen Age-Class Breakup — Price County, Price County Forestry Department
  • Central Wisconsin Demonstration Forest Project — Green Lake, Outagamie, Portage, Taylor and Wood counties; Golden Sands Resource Conservation and Development Council
  • Bayfield County Buckthorn Removal — Bayfield County, Bayfield County Forestry and Parks Department

Visit www.ruffedgrousesociety.org for more information or contact RGS/AWS regional wildlife biologist Scott Walter at ScottW@RuffedGrouseSociety.org or 608-538-3840.




State Professional Forestry Chapter Joins WYFP

The Wisconsin Chapter of the Society of American Foresters (WI SAF) recently joined the Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership, adding a respected, accredited group of natural resource professionals to the statewide effort to increase the amount of young forest to benefit wildlife, people and forest health and diversity in the Badger State.

Mature aspen in Wisconsin

Wisconsin SAF members play a major role in managing the 16 million acres of public and private forested land in Wisconsin./C. Fergus

“WI SAF is excited to partner with the diverse groups involved in this effort,” said Tom Hittle, past State Chair and current State Policy Chair for the chapter. “This presents an excellent opportunity to enhance the connection between professional resource managers, landowners, and the entire Wisconsin forestry community.”

The Society of American Foresters is the national scientific and educational organization representing the forestry profession in the United States. Founded in 1900 by famed conservationist Gifford Pinchot, it has grown to become the largest professional society for foresters in the world.

The SAF’s mission is to advance the science, education, technology and practice of forestry; to enhance the competency of its members; to establish professional excellence; and to use the knowledge, skills and conservation ethic of the profession to ensure the continued health and use of forest ecosystems and the present and future availability of forest resources to benefit society.

The Wisconsin chapter has about 400 members who “represent all segments of the forestry profession in Wisconsin,” Hittle said. “Our membership includes natural resource professionals in public and private settings, researchers, CEOs, administrators, educators, forest technicians and students.”

According to the group’s website, Wisconsin SAF members in their various professional jobs play a major role in managing the 16 million acres of public and private forested land in Wisconsin.

Snowshoe hare

Snowshoe hare (shown here in summer pelage) is one of many kinds of Wisconsin wildlife that need young forest./T. Berriman

Those forests, the website notes, “provide a variety of benefits for Wisconsin residents and the nation in the form of wildlife, water, recreation and forest products. The forestry profession has adapted to changing priorities for Wisconsin’s forests. During the early days of economic and community development, the emphasis was on timber production. Today, foresters manage for a rich diversity of forest resources to achieve landowner objectives and meet society’s needs and the needs of future generations.”

Added Jeremy Holtz, Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership facilitator, “The mission of the Society of American Forests – to be responsible stewards of the earth’s forests while meeting society’s vital needs – is directly in line with that of the WYFP.”

Holtz also noted that “Many of the cooperating foresters and forestry professionals we already work with through the Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership are affiliated with or receive training from SAF. This is the first professional society to formally partner with our group. The Society makes a great addition to the diverse composition of our partners, who include forest industry representatives, government agencies and non-government organizations.”

Holtz added, “We look forward to working with WI SAF members as our Partnership expands various programs such as outreach, landowner assistance and monitoring of wildlife response to forestry practices on public and private forests across Wisconsin.”




Farm Bill Funds Wildlife Habitat, Healthy Forests in Great Lakes States

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, announced in January 2015 that a robust grant program will pay for young forest habitat creation in the Great Lakes States starting this year and running through 2019. The project is part of a nationwide Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) funded through the 2014 Farm Bill.

Golden-winged warbler male

Golden-winged warbler male captured for banding by biologists. Habitat for the species will get a boost from new funding.

This particular RCPP, “Improving Forest Health for Wildlife Resources,” will fund numerous on-the-ground habitat projects plus pay for planning future young forest creation efforts in Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Around 64,000 acres of new habitat will be created in the region, spurred by $5.5 million awarded by NRCS – funding that has attracted commitments for an additional $6.2 million from conservation partners that include state and federal agencies, universities, nongovernmental organizations, and county forests.

The program, administered by the American Bird Conservancy, will emphasize creating habitat to benefit the golden-winged warbler, which has suffered one of the steepest population drops of any songbird species, with a decline of more than 3 percent annually over the last 40 years across its range. The RCPP aims to create new breeding habitat on a total of 64,000 acres of private and public lands in Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin, resulting in a population increase of approximately 16,000 warblers in four years. Funding will provide technical support to private landowners whose properties lie within designated golden-winged warbler focal areas, helping them plan and carry out conservation management actions on their lands. Prescribed practices may include aspen management, timber-stand improvement, and shrubland restoration.

Prime young forest created through management activities.

Prime young forest habitat created by management activities will offer food and cover to dozens of kinds of wildlife from songbirds to bears.

“This is a great time to be a private landowner who wants to manage forested land,” says biologist Amber Roth with the Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership, the delivery mechanism for funding habitat projects in the Badger State. Jeremy Holtz, with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, explains: “The Partnership now has unprecedented resources to draw from in providing advice and helping to pay for habitat work. We plan to create and renew thousands of acres of young forest across northern Wisconsin in places that will have the greatest positive impact on wildlife populations that need our help.” Adds Roth, “The work will promote forest health and diversity while making sure our woodlands include both young and old forests and a diverse mix of tree species. Additionally, many local forest-based businesses and communities will be supported by this new work.”

See additional resources at the bottom of this article to download Best Management Practices for golden-winged warblers and American woodcock.

Other wildlife that will benefit from habitat made for golden-winged warblers include white-tailed deer, black bear, moose, Canada lynx, ruffed grouse, American woodcock, whip-poor-will, and a range of songbirds from alder flycatchers to black-billed cuckoos.

Groups participating in the project include: American Bird Conservancy; USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge; Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge; Minnesota Department of Natural Resources; Woodcock Minnesota; Beltrami County, MN; The Conservation Fund; Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; U.S. Forest Service; Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest; Ruffed Grouse Society/American Woodcock Society; Wisconsin Woodland Owners Association; Wisconsin County Forests Association; Wildlife Management Institute; The Forestland Group; Pheasants Forever; National Wild Turkey Federation; Michigan Department of Natural Resources; Louisiana-Pacific Corporation; Michigan Tech University; Indiana University of Pennsylvania Research Institute; Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development; the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Wisconsin State Implementation Committee; and the following Wisconsin County Forests: Bayfield County Forest, Douglas County Forest, Florence County Forest, Lincoln County Forest, Marathon County Forest, Price County Forest, and Taylor County Forest.

Landowners who want to help wildlife by making much-needed young forest can contact Randee Wlodek, 107 Sutliff Ave., Rhinelander WI 54501, 715-369-1180, dnryoungforest@wisconsin.gov.



Major Grant Funds Wildlife Habitat Projects Across Northern Wisconsin

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), a conservation grant-maker created by the U.S. Congress, recently awarded $400,000 over two years for a project characterized as “Creating Early Successional Forest that Maximizes Forest Productivity for Wildlife.” The grant – which has attracted matching commitments of $920,432 from conservation partners – will be used to make much-needed young forest in Minnesota and Wisconsin, improving forest health and tree diversity while helping wildlife.

Female golden-winged warbler on nest.

Funding will result in new breeding habitat for golden-winged warblers across northern Wisconsin.

Grant monies will continue funding the position of Habitat Coordinator for the Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership, currently held by Randee Wlodek, based in Rhinelander, WI. It will also fund a new forester technician position with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, as well as private consulting foresters across northern Wisconsin who work directly with landowners. Personnel will identify private and public lands where making young forest can deliver the greatest benefits to wildlife, including golden-winged warblers and American woodcock, two birds considered to be “guild species,” or representatives of the suite of different wild creatures that need young forest, also known as early successional habitat.

The goal is to create at least 1,000 additional acres of young forest in Minnesota and Wisconsin on sites near known territories of golden-winged warblers. Scientists studying these migratory birds believe that “new adults arriving in the spring are attracted to sites already occupied and seek to establish new territories in the area,” says Amber Roth, wildlife biologist and Vice-Chairperson of the Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership. “It’s highly likely that new habitat created within five miles of existing golden-winged warbler territories will be quickly occupied by the warblers,” which will then use the fresh habitat for breeding and rearing young.

Biologist prepares mist net to trap warblers.

Biologists will monitor warblers on sites where habitat has been created using Best Management Practices to benefit golden-winged warblers and American woodcock.

The NFWF grant will also fund outreach efforts and workshops explaining the benefits of young forest to folks who are positioned to create this important habitat: private foresters, as well as natural resource professionals in state and federal agencies. Workshops will show how wildlife benefits when foresters use Best Management Practices, or BMPs, when planning and carrying out timber harvests and other land-management actions.

See additional resources to the right and on the homepage to download Best Management Practices for golden-winged warblers and American woodcock.

The NFWF funding will also help biologists carry out a monitoring program to measure the short-term response of golden-winged warblers and American woodcock to habitat created using the BMPs. Essentially, biologists will count the number of singing males of each species in a given area, which will provide an index to the quality of the habitat. Monitoring will take place on at least 40 young forest sites on public and private lands that were created through, or that meet the criteria of, “Best Management Practices for Golden-winged Warbler Habitats in the Great Lakes Region: A Guide for Land Management and Landowners,” a document previously produced by scientists (available as a download at the bottom of this article). Monitoring studies will also yield a list of other bird species found in association with golden-winged warblers and woodcock in areas where young forest and shrubland have been created or renewed.

Says Roth, “We’re very excited that NFWF has chosen the Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership, along with our colleagues in Minnesota, to receive and use these important funds. I feel that it’s a testament to the ongoing commitment of Wisconsinites to create homes and habitats where all wildlife can thrive.” Jeremy Holtz, Chairperson for the Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership, adds: “This grant supplies us with new resources to help landowners manage their forests in ways that will benefit wildlife whose populations have fallen in recent years as the amount of young forest has dwindled on the land.”

Dense aspen and birch following timber harvest.

Thick habitat growing up following timbering. Such cover offers abundant food and cover for wildlife.

Habitat created through the NFWF grant should result in a significant increase in the population of the golden-winged warbler, now under consideration by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Not only will golden-winged warblers and woodcock thrive in the new habitat, but other wildlife will also home in on the resulting food and cover, including deer, bear, moose, bobcats, Canada lynx, ruffed grouse, whip-poor-wills, a variety of songbirds, and many reptiles.

Key partners in the Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership include private landowners, state and federal agencies, American Bird Conservancy, Ruffed Grouse Society/American Woodcock Society, Pheasants Forever, National Wild Turkey Federation, Wisconsin County Forest Association, The Forestland Group, Louisiana-Pacific Corporation, and the Wildlife Management Institute. The American Bird Conservancy will administer the grant.

Landowners who want to help wildlife by making young forest can contact Randee Wlodek, WYFP Habitat Coordinator, 107 Sutliff Ave., Rhinelander WI 54501, 715-369-1180, dnryoungforest@wisconsin.gov.