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Forests for the Birds – An Egg-Sighting Edition

Think Spring! At the Alliance, we have birds on the brain. After a few months of colder weather, shorter days and muted colors, we get excited to see the first signs of Spring throughout the Bay watershed. From the first erupting skunk cabbages, budding willows and blooming wildflowers, to the early courting songs of red-winged blackbirds, robins and woodcock, another glorious season is breaking through – bringing us all a fresh perspective in these unprecedented times.

For a quick introduction of forest ecosystems, check out the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Atlas of the United States for a beautiful overview of forest types, forest birds and other wildlife, and the benefits of trees.

We hope this inaugural edition of “Forests for the Birds” sparks your curiosity and tickles your sense of humor! Mostly, we hope you draw a little inspiration – to learn something new, take action and appreciate the natural gifts of the Bay watershed.

Young Forests and Early Successional Forest Resources

The old saying goes, “Hindsight is 20-20.” This is true for most landowners that don’t recognize the importance of young forests and subsequently miss out on opportunities to improve long-term forest health and to enhance the early successional stage of wildlife habitat. This phase of ecological succession occurs after a stand-replacing or partial canopy removal event, and the diversity that develops in this stage helps secure robust plant and animal populations for years to come.

For a good, concise article about early successional habitat, read the forgotten stage of forest succession: early-successional ecosystems on forest sites from The Ecological Society of America, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

Of course, tons of materials are available for landowners and natural resource professionals on the subject of young forest management. We have compiled a few resources that have made an impact for us in our work with private landowners and sustainable land management in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides financial and technical assistance to private landowners to address natural resource concerns and deliver environmental benefits such as improved water and air quality, conserved ground and surface water, increased soil health and reduced soil erosion and sedimentation, improved or created wildlife habitat, and mitigation against increasing weather volatility. This voluntary conservation program helps landowners make conservation work for them. 

Landscape Conservation Initiatives are one component of EQIP and include a variety of forest management programs and practices in the Chesapeake Bay watershed such as Working Lands for Wildlife. A map of Working Lands for Wildlife Target Species and Projects shows program priorities throughout the United States. In the Chesapeake Bay watershed, priorities include the bog turtle, American black duck and golden-winged warbler, just to name a few. Young forest and early successional habitat management is a focus for some of the target species. 

For more information about USDA programs and eligibility requirements, please contact your local USDA Service Center.

The Young Forest Project

The Young Forest Project is a cooperative partnership that provides education and resources on the importance of young forests and the wildlife that use these habitats. Links to federal and state programs that provide financial and technical assistance that specifically targets young forest improvements are also provided.

The Young Forest Guide also provides landowners with “how-to” forest management practices to increase the quantity and quality of early successional habitats on private lands.

The Ruffed Grouse Society/American Woodcock Society

The Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) creates healthy forest habitat for the benefit of ruffed grouse, American woodcock, and other birds and wildlife. RGS provides biologists and consultants to private landowners and government agencies to develop these early successional habitats using sustainable forest management practices.

In addition to facts and information about ruffed grouse, American woodcock, maps and hunting tips, RGS also has a listing, by state, of programs and contact information to improve young forest habitat for these bird species.

Also, check out Tree Talk YouTube videos from the Alliance’s very own Ryan Davis!

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Holly May Watershed Forester, Pennsylvania Office

In September 2017, Holly May joined the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay as a Watershed Forester.

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