The majority of forests in the northeast are privately owned, which has a global impact on wildlife habitat. Access to forest lands in the northeast is critical for breeding regimes of dozens of neotropical birds who travel thousands of miles to get there. For some of these species 90% of their global population breeds in this region and some are currently experiencing a decline. The NorthWoods Forestry Center has developed a program to assist private landowners safely manage land with habitat conservation and access in mind. The 2009 plan; Forester for the Birds, was developed collaboratively by Audubon Society in Vermont and the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. This program unifies research gleaned from expert conservation biologists with practical methodology that foresters implement when working directly with landowners.
Foresters are encouraged to meet annually, at a minimum, with landowners to discuss the status of their conservation easements, land and forest management, resources available to them and possible improvements for habitat value. Ideally, forest management plans, easement requirements and restrictions and modifications for habitat improvement are congruous with landowner desires and needs, however, balance must be achieved and compromises may be necessary. For example; harvesting needs to be minimized, if possible, especially during breeding season. Also, silvicultural treatments and management plans need to be developed which, perhaps, aim to create or improve habitat for target species, as identified by conservation biologists as critical. However, ownership goals also need to take a primary role in planning. While timber is a big moneymaker in these parts, responsible management, even with bird habitat in mind, is also beneficial for the forest.
The Vermont Land Trust has taken the recommendations and guidelines set forth in Forester for the Birds to heart, they requested that the Audubon assess their 360 acre property; Mud Pond Forest in Greensboro. They are implementing the plan, a timber harvest will be conducted in February, the forest will basically be thinned by removing the lowest grade trees and creating canopy gaps to enhance the forest’s vertical structure. Target species which will benefit from modifications include; black-throated blue and green warblers, ovenbirds and scarlet tanagers. The site will be used as a demonstration project for the program.
Creating and improving habitat for internationally breeding and migrating birds is a fantastic example of acting locally with a global perspective. It is important to remember that we live in a global ecosystem, while we hear about the negative impacts of our actions all the time, we also have the ability to positively impact the global environment. Act locally, think globally and make a difference.