The Role of Working Forests in Protecting Wildlife

You might think of a “working forest” as a forest where timber is being actively managed and harvested, and that’s usually true. But these days, a lot more goes into forest management than just growing and cutting down trees. Forestry companies are increasingly integrating conservation work into their operations, hiring wildlife biologists and other specialists, and working with government and non-profit organizations to protect and increase biodiversity.

In the United States, maintaining certification from entities like the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) requires companies in the forest products industry to meet stringent standards for protecting fish, wildlife, clean air and clean water. Active forest management backed by this kind of third-party certification is a proven conservation tool, and maintaining working relationships between business interests and conservationists is critical for the health of our forests.

The Wildlife Society, an international organization working to create a better future for wildlife and their habitats, has written about the importance of these collaborations, and their success in protecting habitat for birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals and other creatures that live in these environments.

“For the past century, forest cover has remained stable in the United States —thanks largely to private landowners. About 180 million hectares — 58% of the nation’s forests — are in private hands (Oswalt, et al. 2014). Income from forest management helps forestall conversion to other uses, allowing landowners to keep the land forested (National Commission on Science for Sustainable Forestry 2005) while providing conservation benefits. These working forests are vital for the conservation of biological diversity, including at-risk and listed species, including 60% of species listed under the Endangered Species Act.”

Private landowners ranging from huge multi-national companies to individuals are collaborating under an approach called “Conservation Without Conflict,” building trust between the public and private sectors and making a commitment to conservation in working forests. A new partnership established by the National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO) called the Wildlife Conservation Initiative (WCI) is dedicated to finding innovative science-based solutions that benefit everyone involved.

“There are examples of success from such collaborations. The first example — a 1,505-hectare conservation easement on property managed by Resource Management Service, LLC (RMS) — is a step toward the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service goal of conserving 3.2 million hectares of longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) by 2025. This easement will benefit multiple species adapted to open pine forest conditions such as the gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) and reticulated flatwoods salamander (Ambystoma bishopi ). As another example, the Kirtland’s warbler (Setophaga kirtlandii) has recently been delisted due in large part to a public-private collaboration.”

“Conservation Without Conflict and WCI are interrelated, collaborative efforts, much like past efforts that have successfully conserved at-risk and recovered species, including the Louisiana black bear, which was delisted thanks to partner-ships to create forest corridors on private lands connecting critical areas… This success means that we all win — the private forest community, natural resource professionals, the public that uses and enjoys our wildlife resources and, of course, the diverse wildlife communities that call forests home.”

Read the whole Wildlife Society report here (PDF).

Image of the endangered New England Cottontail Rabbit via Wikimedia Commons

Eastern White Pine Hailed as an Ideal Tree to Give Birds a Winter Haven

bald eagle eastern white pine

46 species of birds use the Eastern White Pine tree for either food, cover or nesting, making it one of the most beneficial trees for birds. That’s according to a book by Richard M. DeGraaf called ‘Trees, Shrubs and Vines for Attracting Birds,’published by the University Press of New England. Gardening columnist Henry Homeyer has been testing this out himself since the ‘70s, and confirms that the trees are beloved by a beautiful variety of birds, including blue jays, in a recently published piece at the Providence Journal.

“I dug up half a dozen small evergreens, including a 5-foot-tall white pine seedling in the summer of 1972,” says Homeyer. “All were ‘volunteers’ growing in a meadow near my house. They have done well, growing to mature size and blocking the view of my backyard from the road. According to the list of birds using white pine, the seeds are the favorite food of the northern bobwhite, red-bellied woodpecker and spruce grouse – none of which I have seen in it.”

“But it is also a favorite for some of my good bird buddies – black-capped chickadee, nuthatches, northern cardinal and juncos. They go from the bird feeder on my deck to the pine and back, and enjoy resting out of the wind and away from Winnie and Sammy, my two resident cats.”

Homeyer has some tips for growing your own white pines to see them grow as tall as his own bird-sheltering tree, including planting them away from roads to avoid damage from road salt. Check it out over at the Providence Journal website.

Photo of a bald eagle in an Eastern White Pine tree via Wikimedia Commons

Forest Facts: Sustainable Forestry Initiative Helps Protect Migratory Birds

Sustainable Forestry Protects Birds

Sustainable forestry practices help preserve the habitats of countless species of plants and wildlife, and a new program supported by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) aims to boost that effect even more with detailed maps of breeding bird species. Bird enthusiasts and biologists are joining together to gather information that will help manage and conserve bird habitats in forests that are used for recreational, industrial and research purposes.

Bird Studies Canada and its partners have teamed up with SFI to develop a series of Breeding Bird Atlases showing where hundreds of bird species breed within particular regions of Canada. Bird lovers have taken part in the process by volunteering their time to collect data across each region over a five-year period. About 1.3 million breeding bird records have been collected.

“As wild birds are excellent indicators of environmental health, this research plays a pivotal role in how Canada’s bird populations may be affected by a variety of factors in our forests,” said Kathy Abusow, President and CEO of SFI, Inc. “For one, the results of this research will provide updated information for forest managers related to bird habitat, which can better inform forest management decisions and practices.”

Sustainable forestry protects birds and other wildlife with a multi-step process of evaluation, management and regeneration that ensures that tree removal won’t harm the ecosystem and will allow for a continued harvest in the future. Learn more about the differences between sustainable and traditional forestry.