Wildlife and Forest Management
The wildlife of southern New England depend on a variety of habitats which today's landscape lacks. Forest management deliberately creates habitat diversity so the forest supports the full array of wildlife. This fosters productive pollination, healthy predator-prey dynamics, local food sources, greater hunting opportunities & associated conservation funding, and more rewarding recreational opportunities (birding, hiking, etc.).
Young forest is one of the most-needed habitats today. In the past, fire, beaver activity, and flooding created patches of young forest, but today, the processes are suppressed to protect human lives and property. Forest management mimics these disturbances and creates young forest habitat. The resulting young forest provides food and shelter for a wide variety of wildlife, including over 50 species that have experienced drastic population declines over the last several decades and would continue to decline in its absence. These species include the New England cottontail, willow and alder flycatchers, blue-winged and prairie warblers, hognosed snakes, wood turtles, and many species of butterflies and bees.
This unique and ephemeral habitat is also used by many others who take advantage of the abundant food and cover. Predators are drawn to the thriving prey populations, bats forage in the open spaces above young trees, and deep-forest birds such as wood thrush and ovenbirds fuel up here before migration. These birds need the nutritious food that they find in young forest to survive their long journeys.
The link to forest management and wildlife benefits is perhaps best demonstrated through regional Audubon program, Foresters for the Birds. Foresters, biologists, and land owners and managers across the Atlantic Flyway work together to promote suitable breeding and post-breeding habitat conditions for a suite of priority birds while sustaining yields of timber and other forest products and services.
Foresters and wildlife biologists carefully plan forest management. When trees are cut, sunlight penetrates to the soil promoting the growth of thousands of young trees and shrubs. The greatest threats to wildlife are habitat loss and habitat fragmentation due to land-use conversion. Forest management aimed at creating diverse forest habitats does not cause habitat loss or fragmentation. Timber harvests create younger stages of forest and promote the structural characteristics a forest needs to support diverse habitat populations. This brings back the diversity of habitats that both mature forest and young forest species need. The forest remains a forest.
This article from Audubon Vermont (but very applicable to the Yankee region) discusses the habitat features associated with forest dwelling birds in the northeast, and the importance of regenerating forest as habitat!