WVDNR seeks landowners interested in improving wildlife habitat

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.VA. — The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, is seeking private landowners who want to improve wildlife habitat on their land.

The partnership seeks to address shrinking populations of priority wildlife species by implementing conservation practices that improve natural resources on private land.

“More than 80 percent of land in West Virginia is privately owned and many wildlife species occur primarily on private land. So, public-private partnerships are critical for the long-term persistence of these populations,” said Paul Johansen, chief of the WVDNR Wildlife Resources Section. “Private landowners benefit from the technical and financial assistance to improve their land, which ultimately benefits many of the state’s priority species. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Target species include cerulean warbler, golden-winged warbler and multiple insect pollinators that have been identified as priority species in West Virginia’s State Wildlife Action Plan. These species inhabit a variety of habitats, from meadows to shrubby thickets and groves of young saplings to mature forests, which are also preferred by species like ruffed grouse, whip-poor-will, white-tailed deer and wild turkey.

Professional biologists, foresters and conservation planners are available to develop individualized conservation plans based on each landowner’s objectives and the identified needs of the land. Every conservation plan is unique but may include removing problematic plants, establishing desirable plants, thinning trees from overstocked forests, adjusting the type and timing of current management practices and creating natural structures such as brush piles, where wildlife can nest, forage and take shelter.

Mature Forest
Improving mature forest habitat will benefit cerulean warblers, which prefer mature deciduous forests with an abundance of large, tall trees and small openings in the canopy that are filled with vigorous new plant growth. Most forests in West Virginia have large, tall trees, but they often form a uniform and closed canopy. Thinning some undesirable trees will increase growing space for trees that wildlife prefer and encourage development of multiple canopy layers able to support a greater abundance and diversity of wildlife. Landowners interested in managing mature forest habitat may also notice more hooded warblers and wild turkey.

For more information about mature forests or for help getting started, contact Emily Reasor, WVDNR/NRCS partner avian biologist, at 304-872-1731 ext. 6124 or emily.reasor@usda.gov, or Jane Capozzelli, WVDNR/NRCS partner avian biologist at 304-363-8861 ext. 6912 or jane.capozzelli@usda.gov.

Young Forest
Improving young forest habitat will benefit golden-winged warblers, which prefer shrubby thickets and young forests near large patches of mature deciduous forest at higher elevations. The right combination of these characteristics is rare in West Virginia, though it can be found near mature forest and old fields. Creating young forest habitat requires rotational mowing or brush-hogging, overstory removal, planting native trees and shrubs or controlling invasive plants. Landowners interested in managing young forest habitat may also notice more American woodcock, ruffed grouse, eastern cottontail and whip-poor-will.

For more information about young forests or for help getting started, contact Katie Fernald, WVDNR/NRCS partner avian biologist, at 304-799-3006 or katrina.fernald@usda.gov.

Pollinators
Improving habitat for Monarch butterflies and other pollinators is vital for the environment and agricultural systems across the state. Pollinators and their habitats are diverse, so a variety of existing management practices can be tailored for their benefit. For landowners interested specifically in pollinators, a conservation plan may include removing problematic plants, enhancing nectar resources for bees and butterflies by planting species such as common milkweed and providing nesting structures for bees.

For more information about pollinators and for help getting started, contact Gabby Lawinger, WVDNR/NRCS partner pollinator specialist, at 304-566-3728 or gabrielle.r.lawinger@wv.gov.