The NWTF and the USDA Forest Service recently completed wildlife habitat enhancement projects on the Finger Lakes and Green Mountain National Forests, two national forests administered as one unit that encompass parts of Vermont and New York.
“The NWTF has a long-term partnership with the Finger Lakes and Green Mountain National Forests that goes back over a decade,” said Matt DiBona, NWTF district biologist. “Through our Challenge Cost Share Agreement, we’ve impacted hundreds of acres and improved forests and early successional habitat for a variety of wildlife, including wild turkeys, deer, grouse, woodcock, black bears and more.”
The most recent projects completed through this partnership entailed restoring a 10-acre forest opening in Stratton, Vermont, and maintenance on a 24-acre field in Rochester, Vermont. Both are part of the NWTF’s Connecticut River Focal Landscape.
“The opening in Stratton gradually reverted to forest and required a brontosaurus mulching attachment and an excavator to grind down the trees,” DiBona said. “The equipment easily reduces an 8-inch diameter tree into woodchips. Forest openings such as this one provide important habitat and structural diversity. Now that the site has been cleared, it will be maintained periodically using either prescribed fire and/or brush hogging to prevent woody encroachment.”
Similar to the 10-acre forest opening in Stratton, the project in Rochester was a large field that was experiencing woody intrusion, having gone approximately three to five years without forest management.
“The northern portion of the Rochester project had not been treated recently, and oaks, aspen, birch and maple saplings had started to retake the area,” DiBona said. “This required the use of a skid steer and brush cutter attachment to handle these woody stems that were up to 1 to2 inches in diameter.”
DiBona also noted how large fields such as this one provide important brooding and nesting habitat for wild turkeys and other ground-nesting species and that sections of the field provide valuable soft mast to support wildlife in fall and winter. In addition, these fields offer excellent habitat for pollinator species such as birds, bees and butterflies.
“When you come to the NWTF’s Colonial forests here in New England, especially on national forests, you’re able to see what over a decade of partnership can accomplish,” Dibona said. “We look forward to continuing this partnership, and ones like it, in New England for another 10 years.”