Photo by Ed Zlonis

Forestry with birds in mind

In response to declines in songbird populations in New England, Audubon Vermont and Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation launched Foresters for the Birds, a program that promotes forest stewardship to enhance bird habitat. The success of the program is the integration of silviculture with songbird habitat enhancement. The Foresters for the Birds program provides forest stewards with tools for effectively communicating with landowners about the benefits of managing forests with bird habitat in mind. Essentially, Foresters for the Birds “lets the birds tell the story about how forests can benefit from thoughtful management,” engaging woodland owners in a positive manner to take stewardship steps on their property.

The Forestry for Birds programs are built on partnerships among landowners, academics, foresters, non-profit agencies, and government agencies on local, regional, and national levels. The program is voluntary, and landowners draw on the parts of the program that work for them.

The Forest Stewards Guild helped to develop the Forestry for Maine Birds program and is expanding and adapting the framework to the Southeast, Lake States, and Pacific West. Each region has distinct interests and opportunities reflected in the partnerships, forest types, and bird species. Features shared by all programs include educational workshops that bring landowners and professionals together to share knowledge about the program and how it can be applied, pocket field guides, online resources, and demonstration sites that help to illustrate program content.

The goals of the program are to:

  • Encourage forest health through enhancing bird habitat to keep common birds common
  • Promote the connection between bird habitat and working woodlands
  • Collaborate and support others to bring Foresters for the Birds across the landscape
  • Work with biologists and conservationists to identify habitat and silvicultural recommendations for at-risk bird species and bird species with populations in decline
  • Host educational workshops that engage the network of foresters, woodland owners, tree farmers, land trusts, and conservation organizations

Southeast Project Highlight

Forest management in the Central Appalachian Mountains has a history of exploitative harvest, which has led to degraded forest systems with habitat and connectivity often unsuitable to support the wealth of native species in the region. Much of West Virginia’s forests are in small, family ownership, and surveys have indicated that family forestland owners in the state value forest management for the benefit wildlife and biological diversity. Nevertheless, there is a lack of professional capacity in West Virginia, generally, and for intensive ecological forestry, specifically. The Guild and partners are implementing a program that addresses these needs and shortcomings directly by: 

  1. Installing demonstration sites for three focal bird species across private land
  2. Developing resources such as mapping tools and a silviculture guidebook and Management Plan Template to be used for training and outreach. 
  3. Providing technical training for students, landowners, loggers, and foresters to perpetuate principles of bird-friendly forestry across West Virginia. 

Our vision is that this program will lay the foundation needed to sustain bird-friendly forestry throughout the Central Appalachian region. 

“I appreciate the additional information and the great workshop you put on. I now have a different view of my forest and how I will manage it. I have been having a lot of fun with the Merlin app.”

- Landowner attendee of a Forestry for the Birds Western Oregon Guide workshop

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