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AMJV and USFS Complete Landowner Workshops on Improving Forest Health

Landowners participate in a series of site visits that illustrated a variety of forest management techniques in both oak-hickory and northern hardwoods forest types. Photo by Amanda Duren.

The Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) have finished a series of workshops across Pennsylvania and Ohio for land owners detailing practices that can improve forest habitats for birds and other wildlife. Along with describing how different forest management techniques can result in healthy, diverse habitat, the workshops introduced landowners to various resources such as cost-share programs and private lands foresters available to facilitate this type of management.

In Pennsylvania, AMJV staff and partners working with Allegheny National Forest staff held a workshop in Bradford on June 9-10 that was attended by 41 landowners. The first day included a series of presentations about Pennsylvania forest history and the need for forest management, the importance of long-term planning, prescribed fire, and strategies for different forest types. The second day started with a bird-banding demonstration followed by a series of site visits that illustrated a variety of forest management techniques in both oak-hickory and northern hardwoods forest types. Staff from the Allegheny National Forest, PA Game Commission, PA DCNR Bureau of Forestry, Ruffed Grouse Society, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Audubon PA, and Natural Resources Conservation Service assisted with the event. 

In Ohio, AMJV staff worked with the Wayne National Forest and other partners to host an evening workshop on April 26th and a follow-up woodland owner field day on June 24th. Both events took place in Athens and were attended by over 20 landowners. The evening workshop served as an introduction on forest management for birds, with presentations detailing the history of Ohio forests and the extensive accomplishments in Ohio as it related to forest management and birds. During the field day, participants visited sites at Wayne National Forest as well as a private forest landowner to see and discuss examples of forest management and resources available to landowners for accomplishing this management. Staff from the Wayne National Forest, OH DNR Divisions of Wildlife and Forestry, Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative, Ohio State University, National Wild Turkey Federation, and Natural Resources Conservation Service assisted with the event. 

Funding for all these workshops was provided by the U.S. Forest Service.
Posted by Matt Cimitile: July 18, 2017

Focal Landscapes Initiative: Areas Identified and Collaborations Beginning

At our recent Management Board meeting, state representatives presented on and identified focal landscapes where the AMJV partnership can provide the bird context for conservation and enhance capacity to achieve success. These focal landscapes within the Appalachians contain a large mix of public and private lands, have a tremendous amount of partner synergy taking place, and are vital to AMJV priority bird species. The goal of the initiative is to enhance the diversity of forest structure and species in the long term while integrating forest restoration efforts with bird conservation objectives.

Areas currently identified by local partners include:
  • Southwestern New York and northwestern Pennsylvania within the Allegheny Plateau;
  • East-central West Virginia and the Highlands of western Virginia; and
  • Ohio in and around Wayne National Forest
Dialogue is underway among partners within North Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee, with the goal of identifying their own focal landscapes in the coming months.

In West Virginia, partners working with AMJV staff are developing a conservation strategy for that Focal Landscape that targets priority bird species and incorporates best management practices. The Management Board said it would be helpful to share with partners the process for developing the West Virginia focal landscape and activities taking place so far to the wider community. Staff will schedule a webinar that highlights key steps around identifying the West Virginia focal landscape that may be used as a model for other landscapes. 

In addition, Board members determined that JV staff and the partnership at large should work together to coordinate partner proposals to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Central Appalachian Habitat Stewardship Program. The Program will invest in on-the-ground restoration and planning to restore the quality of forest and freshwater habitats in the Central Appalachian-Allegheny Plateau landscape, including the Appalachian regions of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia. The program will award up to $1.3 million in the first year, with a specific focus on forest conservation and management to improve age and structural diversity and demonstrate improved forest conditions for birds and other wildlife, especially Golden-winged and Prairie Warbler, American Woodcock, Black-throated Blue Warbler and Cerulean Warbler. The Program provides a tremendous opportunity to support conservation activities within AMJV focal landscapes.

Finally, presentations were given on the need to revise the AMJV Implementation Plan as well as an update of the partnership’s communication and engagement strategy. Staff will work on an Implementation Plan outline that highlights overarching inspirational vision and then key areas of AMJV focus (science, conservation delivery, partnerships, engagement) to present at the Fall Management Board meeting. Staff will also finalize the communication and engagement strategy based on Board Members input and present back to Board for final approval.

The Fall Management Board meeting will take place October 24-25 in Blacksburg, VA.
Posted by Matt Cimitile: July 18, 2017

Staff/Partners Speakers for Symposium on Conservation and Working Lands

AMJV Science Coordinator Dr. Becky Keller is an invited speaker at a half-day symposium on bird conservation on managed forest landscapes at The Wildlife Society (TWS) meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico September 23-27, 2017. Becky will discuss how Migratory Bird Joint Ventures are bridging the gap between high level conservation planning by international bird partnerships like Partners in Flight and local and regional habitat delivery specialists who work with landowners and foresters to improve habitat conditions for birds on public and private forested lands. She will be joined by other presenters from the AMJV partnership, including E.J. Williams of the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and Dr. Jeff Larkin of ABC and Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

The symposium is presented by the Forestry and Wildlife Working Group of The Wildlife Society, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), and the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI). The annual meeting of the Wildlife Society brings together leaders in wildlife science, management, and conservation to address national and international issues that affect current and future status of wildlife. For more information, visit: http://wildlife.org/tws-24th-annual-conference/.
Posted by Matt Cimitile: July 18, 2017

Achieving a Diverse Forest System on Private, Commercial, and Public Lands

25 participants representing 10 agencies and organizations attended the AMJV Northeast Region partners meeting. Photo by Ron Rohrbaugh.

At the AMJV Northeast Region Partner meeting, 25 participants representing 10 agencies and organizations from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania held talks on implementing conservation and management practices to achieve a diverse forest system on private, commercial, and public lands in the region. The American Bird Conservancy’s Birdscapes concept was highlighted as a means for piloting such implementation. The Birdscapes approach identifies landscape-scale areas large enough to increase the numbers of targeted bird species throughout their life-cycles, but small enough to facilitate measurement of results.

As part of the meeting, Ian Davidson and Amanda Bassow gave a presentation via webinar about the National Fish and Wildlife Foundations Central Appalachian Habitat Stewardship Program. Participants agreed to work together on developing a series of proposals to implement work across the northeast region of the AMJV. The AMJV Northeast Region Partner meeting took place at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in March.
Posted by Matt Cimitile: July 18, 2017

New Jersey’s Landscape Project

Wildlife Habitat Mapping for Community Land-use Planning and Species Conservation

What is the Landscape Project?

Designed to guide strategic wildlife habitat conservation, the Landscape Project is a pro-active, ecosystem-level approach for the long-term protection of imperiled species and their important habitats in New Jersey. The N.J. Division of Fish and Wildlife's Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP) began the project in 1994. Its goal: to protect New Jersey's biological diversity by maintaining and enhancing imperiled wildlife populations within healthy, functioning ecosystems. 

Why does NJ need the Landscape Project?

New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the nation. One of the consequences of this distinction is the extreme pressure that is placed on our natural resources. As the population grows, we continue to lose or impact the remaining natural areas of the state. As more and more habitat is lost, people are beginning to appreciate the benefits -- and necessity -- of maintaining land in its natural state. 

Who benefits from the Landscape Project?

In addition to providing habitat for the conservation of imperiled species, protecting important wildlife habitats will result in more open space for outdoor recreation. Recent surveys by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service show that more than 60% of Americans participate in some form of wildlife-related recreation. Open spaces provide places where people can escape the confines of urban and suburban living. Retaining habitats in their natural state provides other benefits, such as reducing the threat of flooding, allowing for the biodegradation of environmental contaminants and recharging ground water reserves. 

Landscape Project Training and Information Session Schedule

Learn how to use the New Jersey Landscape Project to guide and influence land-use decisions in your community, town, county and state. 

Download Landscape Project GIS Data

Critical wildlife habitat maps can be downloaded from NJDEP Bureau of GIS website. (more)

Posted by Matt Cimitile: July 06, 2017

New Record Established for New York’s Breeding Bald Eagle

A bald eagle's nest. Photo by New York Department of Environmental Conservation.

Bald eagles are thriving in historic numbers across New York and the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) reports the highest number of nesting pairs, a record-breaking estimated 323 breeding pairs, since the agency undertook a restoration effort in 1976, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today.

"Early indications from 2017 aerial surveys have revealed that approximately 73 percent of bald eagle territories are occupied this year," Commissioner Seggos said. "New York State has been a leader in the restoration and recovery of the bald eagle in the northeastern United States, and this news confirms that our rivers, lakes, and forests are capable of supporting our nation's symbol for generations to come."

While exact estimates will be determined over the course of the breeding season as biologists compile ground reports and surveys, the current breeding bald eagle population is estimated to be 323 breeding pairs, which would set a new record.

A record number of 53 new nesting territories were verified in 2016, increasing the total number of breeding territories in New York State to 442. Nesting territories are areas known to be occupied by bald eagles and are the locations included in DEC survey and monitoring efforts. Of these 442 territories, 309 (70 percent) were confirmed to host breeding pairs of eagles last year.

This is an increase from the previous record high in 2015, when across 389 territories, 264 (68 percent) nesting pairs of eagles were documented. The number of territories has been steadily increasing each year. Since 2010, DEC has documented at least 20 new territories a year.

Bald eagles, once found throughout the state, were nearly eliminated by the late 1960s, primarily due to the effects of DDT on nesting success and habitat loss along the shorelines of New York's lakes and rivers. In 1970, the state hosted a single unproductive bald eagle nest on Hemlock Lake in Livingston County. To reestablish a small breeding population in New York State, DEC started a "hacking" program in 1976, which involves hand rearing and releasing older nestlings in the absence of parent birds. New York was able to obtain nestlings from healthy populations of bald eagles in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and Alaska.

Over a 13-year period, 198 bald eagle nestlings were collected from areas with healthy populations, raised to independence with minimal human contact, and released in New York. The hacked eagles flourished and many of them returned to New York to nest and breed. The hacking program concluded in 1988 after surpassing its original goal of 10 nesting pairs of bald eagles in New York. The program was so successful that 16 other states and the Province of Ontario followed New York's lead and instituted their own hacking programs to restore the species.

Although New York's bald eagle restoration program ended in 1989, the State's 's eagle population has continued to grow, with birds nesting and wintering in traditional areas and taking advantage of open lands and habitats acquired with funding from the State's Environmental Protection Fund. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo sustained the EPF at a record high $300 million for the second year in a row.

\New York State's 2016 Bald Eagle Conservation Plan identifies and outlines strategies to address current threats facing New York's bald eagle population. The plan includes actions to conserve bald eagles, summarizes current monitoring and management efforts, and proposes future techniques. This plan serves as a guide for landowners, resource managers, local government agencies and other stakeholders to manage and perpetuate this species and its habitat in New York State.

Public reports also play a crucial role in assisting DEC to assess the status of this iconic species. Current aerial survey routes cover approximately 50 percent of known territories and allow DEC to rapidly determine the nesting activity from more than 200 nesting locations. These surveys follow the same route from year to year, allowing DEC to track the presence of nesting eagles at territories across the state and detect changes in the breeding eagle population over time. Additional data comes to DEC from a network of volunteers who provide reports on the status of observed nests. This input allows DEC to develop an overall count of nesting pairs.

DEC encourages the public to continue to chronicle the conservation success story of bald eagles in New York. Members of the public that have found a new nesting pair of eagles or can provide updates on the status of a nesting pair, should contact DEC at (518) 402-8957 or by email at fw.information@dec.ny.gov. Reports from the public will help DEC keep track of where eagles are and how those eagles are doing.

For more information on bald eagles and how DEC manages the species, please visit the DEC website to view the Conservation Plan for Bald Eagles in New York State.
Posted by Matt Cimitile: July 06, 2017

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