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GWWA Habitat Management on Public and Private Lands Surpasses Annual Goal

Female Golden-winged Warbler with nest material; photo by Ed Burress, Audubon NC
A multi-agency team created or prepared more than 14,000 acres of young forest habitat within the Pennsylvania’s Golden-winged Warbler (GWWA) Focal Conservation Area this past year. The partnership not only surpassed their habitat goals for Pennsylvania, but also surpassed the annual breeding habitat goal for the entire Appalachian GWWA Conservation Region. While many of these acres are located on public lands managed by Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC), more than 3,600 acres represent private lands partnerships. The partnership consists of PGC; Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS); USFWS-Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program; American Bird Conservancy (ABC); National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF); and Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP).  

Two USDA private land incentive programs, Working Lands For Wildlife (WLFW) and Voluntary Public Access-Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP), were instrumental in these gains. IUP conservation planners and foresters worked closely with PGC and NRCS staff to complete 43 GWWA contracts under WLFW, totaling 1,652 acres of habitat. An additional 1,970 acres were contracted on six properties through the VPA-HIP.

In addition, NFWF funded staff worked closely with this PGC and NRCS interagency partnership to contact 2,289 landowners through a mailing outreach effort in December. Mailings were sent to landowners in the GWWA Focal Conservation Area who met certain criteria, such as elevation, forest cover, and minimum acreage requirements. To date, 179 landowners responded to the letter and were directed to Emily Bellush, the project’s conservation planner. Ms. Bellush screened all potential projects before landowners were referred to NRCS field offices. This process ensured only projects with great potential to create ecologically significant GWWA habitat were funded.

There is no doubt that without funding from NFWF, ABC, and State Wildlife Grant programs to fund conservation planners and project foresters, this partnership would have been much less successful in 2012. Funding used to support an IUP project conservation planner and three project foresters greatly enhanced PGC’s and NRCS’s ability to create young forest habitat on private lands that will benefit GWWA and associated species. Ultimately, this partnership allowed Pennsylvania to account for 52% of all contracts and 76% of all acres enrolled in WLFW for GWWA across seven states during the 2012 effort.