By: The Working Forest Staff
The American Forest Foundation (AFF) and Domtar together announced a new partnership to help family and private woodland owners in northwest Pennsylvania and southwest New York improve habitat for at-risk bird and wildlife species.
In addition to AFF and Domtar, the partnership includes the National Audubon Society’s New York and Pennsylvania state programs (who will manage activities on the ground), the Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture, U.S. Forest Service, Ruffed Grouse Society, National Wild Turkey Federation, and other state and local organizations. It will focus its efforts in the Upper Allegheny and Sinnemahoning watersheds, with a specific focus on the area surrounding Johnsonburg, PA.
“A core of our business, beyond simply providing quality products, is to ensure that the places in which we source are healthy and sustainable,” said Paige Goff, VP Sustainability for Domtar. “The American Forest Foundation has been a key partner in bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders, who all want our forests to be sustainable into the future and helped to establish a partnership that can help us all achieve this goal.”
The partnership will work with woodland owners to implement important forest practices to create better habitat for iconic bird species such as the golden-winged warbler, black-throated blue, and cerulean warbler, among others. In addition, the project intends to build awareness in the community around the importance of active forest management for birds and wildlife.
“Vibrant bird populations rely on healthy, structurally diverse forests of all ages. Numerous species, such as the wood thrush, golden-winged warbler, and ruffed grouse, have experienced steady declines for at least the past 50 years. Reversing those declines requires active forest management to create habitat that supports the breeding needs of these species and dozens more,” said Ron Rohrbaugh, Forest Program Manager for Audubon’s Pennsylvania state program. “Family forest owners are a great, under-recognized group who can support healthy forests and the birds that rely upon them.”
The partnership will include three 2,500-acre forest demonstration areas, where landowners can learn about “Audubon-approved” forest practices for bird habitat. The partnership will also provide educational materials for woodland owners regarding tree species diversity, tree health, understory density and more, all important factors for bird habitat. Landowners will be given the opportunity to meet with trained foresters and coached through the necessary steps to implement these forest practices. In the first two years alone, the partnership intends to directly treat 750 acres of habitat on privately-owned forestland.
“Landowners across the Northeast, including in New York and Pennsylvania, are passionate about creating habitat for wildlife and birds,” said Tom Martin, president and CEO of AFF. “But most need technical assistance and resources to apply the most powerful practices to their land. That’s what projects such as the latest AFF-Domtar-Audubon partnership are doing – connecting landowners with trained professionals and guiding them through the right steps towards conservation. Domtar, with their focus on sustainability and innovation, is the perfect partner to help bring this work to life.”
In last year’s report, Hidden in Plain Sight: Family-owned Woodlands Are Key to Protecting and Improving Wildlife Habitat in the Northeastern U.S., AFF found that forests across the Northeast are ‘out of balance’ with much of the tree species being in the same age and size class, with little complex, older forests, or young forests – both of which are needed for nesting grounds and food sources for bird species. The report also found that family forest owners, who own more than half of the forests across the Northeast are key to improving these forest ecosystems. According to the report, 85 percent of landowners surveyed, say protecting and improving wildlife habitat is the top reason they own land. But most face barriers such as a lack of technical knowledge and the cost of management.
This project is one in a series of projects that AFF has launched across the Northeast in the most critical landscapes to help landowners overcome barriers and take the needed steps towards active forest management.