Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership

Making Habitat on a Landscape Scale

Create fresh habitat for woodcock and golden-winged warblers, and more than 60 species of wildlife will quickly benefit. That’s the concept guiding the Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership (WYFP), in which federal and state agencies, wildlife and forestry organizations, timber companies, and private landowners have joined forces to bring more young forest to the Badger State.

News! WYFP is proud to add a new partner, one that's well-versed in forest management to improve forest health and help rural economies thrive. Check out this and other exciting news stories reporting on WYFP's ongoing success.
Callie Bertsch, WYFP habitat coordinator, explains the program's goals when interviewed by Natalie Jablonski on WXPR's Midday Classics radio program. (Go to the link and scroll down to listen.)

Wisconsin family makes young forest

Wisconsin DNR's Jeremy Holtz, right, visits three generations of Kroening family interested in making young forest on their land.

Wildlife scientists note that golden-winged warbler and American woodcock numbers have dropped by more than 50 percent across those species’ ranges in recent decades. Conservationists estimate that nearly a million acres of new young forest is needed in Wisconsin alone to restore populations of those two birds to 1970s levels.

Other wild animals whose numbers have also been falling share the same dense habitat: birds like alder flycatchers, white-throated sparrows, American redstarts, and whip-poor-wills; mammals such as moose, snowshoe hares, bobcats, and Canada lynx; and reptiles like the eastern massasauga, black racer, and wood turtle. More common wildlife, such as black bears, whitetail deer, wild turkeys, ruffed grouse, and a host of songbirds also home in on the enhanced food and cover that young forest offers. Songbirds that breed in mature woods take their newly fledged young to feed on the insects and fruits produced abundantly in young forest, where the thick habitat protects the inexperienced youngsters from predators as they grow and develop. And during the fall migration, birds of many species drop in to fuel up on fruits and seeds.

Watch a video explaining what the Wisconsin Young Forest Project is all about.

Educating and Engaging Landowners

"This is not an effort to cut old growth forest or to convert stands of northern hardwood to faster-growing aspen with an eye toward creating forest products," says Amber Roth, a habitat biologist with the Golden-Winged Warbler Working Group and the Wildlife Management Institute.

White-throated sparrow by Tom Berriman

White-throated sparrows nest and feed in thick young forest habitat./T. Berriman

"Instead, our goal is to educate and engage landowners who are not currently managing their forested lands, so that they’ll consider all of their management options and, we hope, decide to make and enhance young forest for wildlife in appropriate places."

WYFP partners agree to "identify, promote, and deliver conservation programs that assist landowners with land management through the use of combined resources between agencies, organizations and companies." That kind of cooperation will pay dividends for the wild creatures that depend on young forest, also known as "early successional habitat."

Says Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources biologist Jeremy Holtz, "By pooling agency and partner resources and conducting this effort in a structured way, we can do landscape-scale habitat work while helping local economies through sustainable timber harvesting. Correctly planned and carried out, young forest projects boost outdoor recreation, as folks have more and better opportunities to watch wildlife and to hunt."

Check out these habitat projects in Wisconsin. Learn how landowners have been making habitat, and find out about large-scale projects on public lands where you can see young forest and hunt and observe the diverse and abundant wildlife attracted to those places.

Why make young forest on your land?

  • Increase browse and bedding cover for deer
  • Provide critical feeding and nesting cover for ruffed grouse, woodcock, and other resident birds
  • Create protective cover for young and migrating songbirds
  • Make habitat for rare and imperiled wildlife like the golden-winged warbler and more than 40 other Species of Greatest Conservation Need
  • Mimic natural disturbance events that improve forest diversity by adding new ages and types of trees and shrubs
  • Create openings where you can watch wildlife
  • Improve access throughout your land on woods roads, trails, and paths

Get started with WYFP:

If you are a landowner and would like to learn more about young forest management on your property, answer a few simple questions online. The coordinator will contact you to discuss your property in more detail, answer questions, and provide information. If young forest management sounds like a good fit for your interests and your property, the coordinator will schedule a site visit to help plan the next steps, develop management recommendations, and help you apply for financial assistance with one of our partners in order to get management completed.

Randee Smith, WYFP Coordinator
315 S. Oneida Ave., Suite 206
Rhinelander WI 54501
telephone (715) 966-5160