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working lands for wildlife

Bringing Back Diversity in Eastern Forests for Landowners, Wildlife

What do biologists look for in a healthy forest? A diversity in the ages and composition of trees and occasional breaks in canopy to allow sunlight to reach understory plants. Healthy forests, just like healthy human populations, are sustained by a diversity of ages. Each group has a role to play in maintaining the whole community over the long term.

But healthy, diverse forests are on the decline across the eastern United States. A lack of natural and human-induced disturbances because of fire suppression and certain timber harvest methods have led the forested landscape to become largely homogenous.

Ranchers Using NRCS Conservation Practices Boost Prairie Chicken Occupancy

Habitat conservation practices make a difference for lesser prairie-chickens. That's the finding of a recent scientific study – the first part of a multi-year study – described in a new report from the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI).

LPCI, led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), works with partner organizations and ranchers to improve habitat and address threats to the bird. Since 2010, more than 1 million acres of habitat have been restored on working lands.

5 Ways Landowners Give Shell-ter to the Gopher Tortoise

The gopher tortoise earned its name for good reason – because it likes to dig and spends much of its time underground. The gopher tortoise, the Southeast’s only land-dwelling tortoise, burrows in the sandy soils below longleaf pine forests where it can escape heat and danger.

Its burrows are popular. About 360 other species, from rattlesnakes to rabbits, toads, and northern bobwhite take advantage of the underground real estate provided by the tortoise, what biologists call a keystone species because other species depend on it.

With the Right Management, Pennsylvania Landowners Bringing Birds to Forest

Natalie Love wakes up each morning to the sounds of songbirds. “What a good way to start your day,” said Love, who lives in the Appalachian Mountains in central Pennsylvania.

Natalie and her husband Donald are working to improve the healthy, structurally diverse forests that provide many benefits for wildlife. By doing so, they’ve also improved their access to their forests, fought off undesired invasive plants and improved the aesthetics of their forest land.

“Sustainable forestry is benefitting our personal lives as well as wildlife,” she said. “We want to build an inviting place for the golden-winged warbler.”

Tracking Songbird Progress in Pennsylvania's Forests

“Hear that?” Dr. Jeff Larkin bent his ears to a nearby cluster of trees amid a sea of briars.

“There’s one in there,” Larkin said excitedly. We were on the trail of a golden-winged warbler, a black-bibbed songbird, which winters in South and Central America and spends its springs and summers here in Appalachia where it breeds, nests and raises its young.

Rangeland Restoration Benefits Cattle and Prairie Chicken

Cattle and lesser prairie-chickens both need healthy rangeland to thrive. Through voluntary conservation efforts, farmers and ranchers in the southern Great Plains can restore habitat for this iconic bird while strengthening working lands.

The Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI), a partnership led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), works to enhance lesser prairie-chicken habitat one ranch at a time. A number of the initiative’s successes are highlighted in a new report called the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative: Conservation across the Range.

Habitat Restoration Benefits Both Wildlife and Working Lands

Seventy percent of the land in the lower 48 states is privately owned, home to productive working farms, ranches and forests that account for much of our nation’s open space and wildlife habitat. For 80 years USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has worked side-by-side with America’s agricultural producers to help them manage their land so that they’re conserving natural resources while maintaining the productivity and profitability of their operations.

Launched in 2012, the Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) partnership uses this win-win approach to systematically target conservation efforts to improve agricultural productivity while enhancing wildlife habitat in landscapes that are home to seven focal species.

Restoring Longleaf Forests Helps Bobwhite, Other Species Rebound at Florida Research Station

Once a plantation and popular hunting spot, the Tall Timbers Plantation Research Station and Land Conservancy in Tallahassee, Florida, is home to healthy longleaf forests that are filled with a variety of wildlife, including the Northern bobwhite, a type of quail.

When the plantation’s owner, Henry Beadel, died, he willed the land and resources to create a special nature preserve to study the effects of fire on bobwhites, turkeys and other wildlife. As set out in Beadel’s will, strides have been made in re-establishing the longleaf pine ecosystem – one of the most endangered ecosystems in North America.

Guide Enhances Understanding of Farm Bill Conservation Programs

 

The following guest blog by Hannah Ryan of Intermountain West Joint Venture and Matt Cimitile of Appalachian Mountain Joint Venture highlights key partnerships that work with farmers and ranchers to conserve habitat for the benefit of birds, other wildlife and people. 

The 2014 Farm Bill Field Guide to Fish and Wildlife Conservation is a collaborative effort by conservation partners that provides a new tool for those who work with private landowners and agricultural producers in adopting conservation practices included in the 2014 Farm Bill. It provides biologists, range conservationists, foresters, and others with a road map to help navigate Farm Bill programs and encourages landowners to engage in habitat conservation.

Gopher Tortoise Habitats Thrive along Alabama's Gulf Coast

Longleaf pine forests once dominated the Southeast. But over the past two centuries, many of these forests have disappeared along with the wildlife that called them home. Recent efforts to enhance longleaf forests on private lands are helping the ecosystem rebound as well as wildlife like the gopher tortoise.

The gopher tortoise is a keystone species of the longleaf forest, known for their deep burrows that provide vital habitat and shelter for not only itself but many other species. The gopher tortoise is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in the western part of the longleaf range, including parts of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.