Forest Stewardship in the Empire State

Conservation Success in NWTF’s Colonial Forests

For the last six years, the NWTF has been proud to partner with the Wildlife Management Institute and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in the Hudson Valley and the Southern Tier regions of New York.

The partnership seeks to increase and enhance young forest and shrubland habitat on privately owned lands in targeted NWTF Focal Landscapes, in the Catskills, Hudson Valley and Allegany Mountains regions of New York State.  

“This project is improving habitat and educating private landowners throughout the state,” said Kaylee Resha, NWTF wildlife biologist. “With the help of biologists and foresters, active management is making forests healthier and more productive.”

To date, the NWTF has contributed $82,809 to private land forest management to improve wildlife habitat and overall health and productivity of forests in the Empire State. 

“Through forest management practices, landowners can create a mosaic of even- and uneven-aged forests across the landscape, creating much-needed diversity,” Resha said. “Because young forests are dynamic — always changing, always maturing — there is a constant need for creating this type of critical habitat.”

(timber cut adjacent to a food plot)

Forest management through this partnership includes a variety of techniques, including: 

•    Treatment and removal of nonnative invasive plant species.    

•    Setting succession back using “Chop and Drop” to diversify forest age class.                                         

“‘Chop and drop’ timber cuts are similar to seed tree cuts, but they retain the course woody debris on the ground,” Resha said. “The opened canopy allows sunlight to the ground which releases the understory layer allowing it to flourish. This type of forest management mimics natural wind disturbances that leave trees on the ground, which protects regenerating trees and shrubs from deer browse. This provides newly emerging tree seedlings an easy and cost effective level of protection from detrimental deer browse impacts.”

•    Aspen regeneration cuts.  

“Chopping and dropping mature aspen provide grouse drumming logs and ground nesting habitat,” Resha said. “The rapidly growing regenerating trees offer cover that is highly sought after by wildlife.

•    American beech suppression.

“Areas that are infested with Beech Bark Disease provide little wildlife value,” Resha added. “A variety of herbicide and cutting methods are used to permit enough sunlight to reach the forest floor to give desirable hardwoods a chance to grow.

This project has greatly increased wildlife habitat for wild turkeys in New York, providing much-needed nesting and brood-rearing habitat. 

“In New York, much of the land is forested, and those forests are mostly mature with little to no understory” Resha said. “Turkeys, being ground-nesting birds, are aided by understory and brushy vegetation low to the ground. This provides additional cover from predators as well as from the elements. Having thick escape cover adjacent to a reliable food source may help vulnerable poults escape both aerial and terrestrial predators.”

In addition to wild turkeys, many other species are benefitting from the forest management, including New England cottontail, American woodcock, ruffed grouse, Eastern towhee and white-tailed deer, among others.

Just like many of the states in NWTF’s broader Colonial Forest region, the land base in New York is primarily privately owned. Working with private landowners through partnerships, like the NWTF has with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Wildlife Management Institute, is crucial to educate about and implement forest stewardship.

Given the success of the partnership, the collaboration between the NWTF, NRCS and WMI is set to continue for the foreseeable future.

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