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Partnering to Achieve Red Spruce and Spruce/ Northern Hardwood Restoration

Volunteer planting spruce saplings; photo by Cathy Johnson
Red spruce communities are considered one of the most endangered forest systems in the United States. Originally thought to cover approximately 500,000 acres in West Virginia, only about 10% of the state’s original red spruce and spruce-hardwood forests now remains. Most of the remaining high elevation spruce forest in the state is located on the Monongahela National Forest (MNF), where it currently supports many sensitive bird species, including the Northern Goshawk, Red Crossbill, Blackburnian Warbler, Northern Saw-whet Owl, and a variety of other species of concern.

To help conserve and restore these important habitats, MNF entered into a partnership with a consortium of other federal, state, non-governmental and private organizations with a common goal of restoring historic red spruce ecosystems across the high elevation landscapes of the Central Appalachians. This partnership, the Central Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative (CASRI) has helped plant more than 100,000 spruce trees on public and private lands across the Central Appalachians. In addition to these planting efforts, MNF has implemented a variety of other techniques (e.g., spruce release) within specific management areas focused on restoration and management of disjunct red spruce and spruce-hardwood communities across the Forest. MNF’s ongoing annual surveys and monitoring efforts for birds (e.g., point count and breeding bird surveys) and species-specific surveys (e.g., for the Northern Goshawk and Northern Saw-whet Owl) are expected to continue and should allow us to assess potential long-term effects of these restoration efforts in the future.