How Does Forest Growth Affect Wildlife?

05 Jun

Just as some people prefer to live in cities and others prefer small towns instead, many  wildlife species need varying habitats in order to thrive. Many once-common wildlife species in Massachusetts have been declining in numbers because the specific mix of habitat that they require for nesting or food has become rare here.  The key to increasing the populations of those species is to provide more habitat that is suited to their needs.

One habitat type that has now become rare in Massachusetts is the young forest growth that regrows after trees are harvested.  This temporary habitat with its mix of low growing herbaceous plants, tree seedlings, and berry producing shrubs provides a wide mixture of foods and cover for wildlife until new trees grow tall enough to shade out the low plants.  The more types of food means the more species of wildlife who can live and thrive there. In the 1950s after the 1938 hurricane, such young forest habitats covered nearly half of the state.  Today, young forest habitats amount to just 5 percent of our woodlands.

A coalition of conservation, forestry and wildlife groups will hold a Creating a Balanced Forest Landscape workshop at the Tunxis Club in Tolland on Saturday June 23rd from 9 am to noon to demonstrate how such young forest habitats can be created and how they evolve over time as the forest regrows to provide changing habitats for rare wildlife species.  Landowners, community officials, educators and others who are interested in attracting species such as golden winged warblers, woodcock, white throated sparrows, towhees, and New England cottontails should try to take part.

The program will show how different stages of forest growth affect which wildlife live on and visit different areas. The morning tour will visit three different stages of forest growth to observe the wildlife using them.  Sites include a proposed harvest site, a recently completed harvest site, and a site that has regrown following a harvest 10 years earlier.

The wildlife habitat program will be held at the Tunxis Club at 977 Clubhouse Road in Tolland rain or shine, so participants should dress appropriately for the weather with long pants and sturdy boots, and bring binoculars and bug spray.  Coffee and light refreshments will be provided.

This program is being sponsored by the Tunxis Club, the USDA’s Natural Resource & Conservation Service (NRCS), the Ruffed Grouse Society, the Mass. Department of Conservation & Recreation, the Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, the Massachusetts Forest Alliance, the Wildlife Management Institute and the Massachusetts Audubon Society.

For more information, contact Tom Brule at (413) 346-7667 or email tom.brule@gmail.com