Goshen Wildlife Management Area, Litchfield County

Land of Goshen, Land of Cottontails?

Out in western Connecticut there’s a 967-acre Wildlife Management Area where conservationists are doing their best to make life easier for New England cottontails, woodcock, ruffed grouse, and the myriad other wild creatures that need young forest. They’ve been using a battery of techniques to create this much-needed habitat.

Tree crowns on ground following logging.

Leaving branches on the ground during logging lets machines move about without digging ruts or compacting soil.

A big machine known as a brontosaurus chewed down trees and shrubs to goad those plants – including aspens, dogwoods, and birches – into growing back more thickly: heaven for birds like chestnut-sided warblers and indigo buntings, not to mention small mammals and various turtles and snakes. A commercial logging job harvested trees on 57 acres. This big patch cut took place during dry weather to keep from damaging the land in an area where the soil is usually damp. Biologists expect the trees and shrubs to come back doghair-thick in this great growing environment. They also built brushpiles that will offer temporary cover for small animals until the regenerating trees and shrubs fill in.

Another bonus: There were very few species of invasive, non-native shrubs present on the site, and a variety of high-quality native shrubs such as viburnums and winterberry. (Native shrubs evolved with our region’s wildlife and offer them better food and cover.)

Says biologist Paul Rothbart with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection: “The large size of the patch cut, coupled with a generous number of branches left lying on the ground, should keep deer from doing too much browsing and thus help the young trees and shrubs grow back quickly.” New England cottontails live on another area of young forest close at hand. Adds Rothbart, “We fully expect to see cottontails moving into this part of Goshen WMA within a few years – and staying for a good long time!”

Partners and Funding

Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Wildlife Management Institute

How to Visit

Goshen Wildlife Management Area is in northwestern Connecticut in the town of Goshen just south of Goshen Reservoir. For more information on this and other habitat projects, contact these biologists with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Wildlife Division: Paul Rothbart at Paul.Rothbart@ct.gov, 860-295-9523, or Lisa Wahle at Lisa.Wahle@ct.gov, 860-295-9523.