The DEC's 10-year goal is to maintain 10 to 18 percent of the Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area as young forest. This will create a better habitat for ruffed grouse (shown here), wild turkey, the American woodcock and a handful of threatened bat species. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, user Mdf)
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has announced a plan to help conserve the habitats of unique and threatened animals in New York state. Wildlife Biologist Adam Perry unveiled what he called an “ambitious” 10-year plan to encourage young forest growth in the Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area in the town of Lysander.
Perry said the 10-year goal is to maintain 10 to 18 percent of the Wildlife Management Area as young forest. This will create a better habitat for ruffed grouse, wild turkey, the American woodcock and a handful of threatened bat species.
Timber work at Three Rivers could start as early as next summer or fall, but it could take until 2022 to begin, depending on federal funding, archaeological surveys and other governmental hoops to jump through.
“We want to make decisions that are good and appropriate for wildlife,” Perry said. “At the same time, we’d also like to support wildlife-dependent recreation.”
The state’s “Young Forest Initiative” involves cutting 12,000 of the 120,000 forested acres in New York’s Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs). Clearing this land allows for the growth of young forest: seedlings and saplings, flowering plants, woody vines, grasses and shrubs.
Traditionally, floods, fires and human and beaver activity would clear the way for a young forest to grow, but such events are not keeping up with New York’s mature forest growth. Cutting down mature forest simulates these events to allow certain species to thrive and to control the growth of invasive species. Perry said the sale of timber goes into a statewide conservation fund.
While it is important to preserve the biodiversity of species across New York state, Perry added that the general public will benefit from the YFI as well. A greater variety of wildlife means more hunting opportunities, improved bird watching and more interesting wildlife photography.
Perry said outdoors enthusiasts can help support the YFI by purchasing licenses and stamps or offering their expertise to the DEC. He said hunters, botanists and bird watchers can keep track of which species they see and hear on their travels.
“Some of these bird watchers are better than I am [at listening for bird calls],” he said.
Perry said the DEC will try to minimize the disruption to hunting and other recreational activities by working on 50 to 100 acres of trees at a time — a drop in the bucket of Three Rivers’ 3,597 acres. He said notices will be posted as to which areas are being cut.
Ultimately, Perry said, the inconvenience will be worth it when unique species begin to thrive.
“It’s going to look messy. … It’s amazing. Just give it a few years and people will be like, ‘Oh, I see what you were talking about,’” Perry said. “If you’re a bird watcher you’re going to be like, ‘Holy cow, look at all the things out here.’ If you’re a deer hunter, you’re going to go, ‘Man, look at all the deer I see.’”
To learn more about the DEC’s Young Forest Initiative, visit dec.ny.gov/outdoor/104218.html. The Habitat Management Plan for the Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area is available at dec.ny.gov/outdoor/57340.html.
Ashley M. Casey is a reporter for The Baldwinsville Messenger and The Eagle Star-Review. She graduated from Le Moyne College in 2012 and previously worked for the Scotsman Press.