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Advances in First Year of $8 Million RCPP Award to Enhance Cerulean Habitat

Kicking off the RCPP award by hosting a Field Day for staff of partner organizations learning about reforestation process and target sites. Photo: Green Forests Work.
In January 2015, the Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture (AMJV) received a Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) award from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to enhance Cerulean Warbler habitat in the region. The five-year project allows partners to work with private landowners to implement active forest management using habitat management guidelines to improve 12,500 acres of forest habitat and 1,000 acres of reclaimed mine lands for Cerulean Warblers and other wildlife in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio, and Maryland.

New staff positions in two states were filled to help implement contracts with private landowners and conduct critical management. Kyle Aldinger was hired as the West Virginia Coordinator, in partnership with the National Wild Turkey Federation, and Amanda Duren as the Pennsylvania Coordinator, in partnership with the American Bird Conservancy. Kyle and Amanda serve as the primary points of contact for landowners interested in enrolling in the project and work with NRCS staff and other partners in their states to promote this program via technical assistance and outreach. In Pennsylvania, Field Foresters Slater Hafer and Kevin Yoder were also hired, in partnership with American Bird Conservancy, to work directly with private landowners to develop management plans that follow the Cerulean Warbler guidelines and assist landowners in implementing plans on their property.

Since coming on board, staff have conducted meetings with state and non-profit partners to lay the groundwork for landowner sign-ups in early 2016. In partnership with NRCS, criteria were developed for screening and ranking applications from landowners interested in participating in the program. Staff and partners also designed flyers and other outreach materials for foresters, local NRCS staff, and landowners about getting involved in this new and exciting opportunity. Planning is underway to mail these materials to landowners in West Virginia and Pennsylvania to raise awareness and promote enrollment in the project. Through articles, newsletters, presentations, social media, and workshops, an audience of private landowners and natural resources professionals in excess of 20,000 has already learned about the program.

For the reclaimed mine lands component, Green Forests Work (GFW) – in conjunction with the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative and the American Chestnut Foundation - hired Project Coordinator Kylie Schmidt in August to help administer the grant. To kick the project off, a handout describing the project was disseminated to program cooperators such as the NRCS and other natural resources and regulatory agencies. Kylie and the rest of the mined land project team held numerous conference calls and meetings with NRCS in the participating states to begin developing screening and ranking criteria for program applicants. The mined land team also conducted landowner outreach via a landowner advertisement and a page on GFW’s website to inform landowners about the RCPP project, the application process, and project implementation. As a result, five landowners contacted GFW and expressed an interest in participating in the program. With much of the logistical work now complete, the team looks forward to beginning applicant enrollment and field work in 2016.
For more information: http://amjv.org/index.php/private_landowners/ cerulean-warbler-appalachian-forestland-enhancement-project