Making Habitat

Making Important Habitat

Many kinds of wildlife need young forest.

Young forest provides living space for many different wild creatures./J. Oehler

Wildlife agencies in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Wildlife Management Institute are working together to help save the New England cottontail by restoring and expanding the places where the rabbits can live: areas of thick habitat used for feeding, surviving the winter, reproducing, and the exchange of individuals and genetic material between neighboring populations.

Land managers have already begun to create tracts of healthy, productive young forest by using many different techniques. Those techniques are showcased on demonstration areas throughout the New England cottontail's range.

When carefully conducted and situated, timber harvests can mimic natural events such as wildfires.

Golden-winged warblers need young forest and shrubland

Many birds, such as the golden-winged warbler, use habitat created for the New England cottontail./L. Johnson

Logging also provides valuable timber products that are soon replaced as trees grow back. Planting native shrubs can convert idle or open space to shrubland. Controlled burning can set back older woody growth while stimulating the productive new growth of young trees and shrubs. (Controlled burns can also reduce the fuel loads on the ground, preventing out-of-control wildfires that can be dangerous to people.) Machines can cut back shrubs, stimulating their dense regrowth.

Other Wildlife Benefits, Too

Such habitat-management efforts also help other wildlife: birds such as the American woodcock, ruffed grouse, golden-winged warbler, Eastern towhee, brown thrasher, indigo bunting, and whip-poor-will; mammals like the gray fox and bobcat; and reptiles such as the box turtle, wood turtle, and black racer. Other animals need young forest, too. Biologists have identified more than 100 kinds of wildlife, both rare and common, that use young forest during part or all of their life cycles.