The NWTF is teaming up with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, West Virginia Division of Forestry and the Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture on a unique upland habitat enhancement project. The Cerulean Warbler Forest Enhancement project is funded through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, part of the 2014 Farm Bill. It will enhance 4,000 forested acres and restore 75 mine-land acres on private lands over a five-year period.
According to NWTF’s project coordinator Kyle Aldinger, West Virginia is seeing a decline in cerulean warbler populations.
“Cerulean warblers are migratory songbirds that breed in heavily forested areas of North America and winter in South America,” Aldinger said. “Over the past decade, their population here has fallen by about 4 percent per year. Conservation for this species in West Virginia mainly depends on various types of active forest management that help open the forest canopy. These openings are important. Birds use the large trees adjacent to them for singing, nesting and foraging. Singing acoustics are better in these openings. The large trees also extend branches into the opening. These are limbs where females prefer to nest.
“Cerulean warblers breed in large tracts of forest with mature trees, especially oaks and hickories. In mature forests, under the natural course of events, older trees eventually die from disease or damage. The openings created in the canopy allow sunlight to reach the forest floor.” This sunlight enables many plants crucial to nesting and feeding to sprout.
Many West Virginia forests are relatively young, based on a forest’s typical lifespan.
“They need our assistance,” Aldinger said. “The Cerulean Warbler Forest Enhancement Project provides private landowners the financial and technical means to actively manage their forests and help create ideal habitat conditions.”
Expected funding totals $1.43 million over the next five years. Currently, 34 of the Mountain State’s 55 counties are in the songbird project’s focal area. Increased habitat diversity resulting from this work also benefits other native wildlife, such as ruffed grouse, wild turkeys and white-tailed deer. Interested landowners should contact Aldinger at (304) 284-7595 or firstname.lastname@example.org.