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Young Forest Initiative on State Wildlife Management Areas

Seed tree cut in Southwestern New York; New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
By Sandy Van Vranken, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

The NYSDEC (DEC) launched a Young Forest Initiative (YFI) in 2015. Goals of the YFI include establishing a minimum of 10 percent of the total forested acreage as young forests on select Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) over the next 10 years and managing for young forest in perpetuity.
This Initiative was the catalyst for starting in-depth planning process for wildlife habitat management projects. Habitat management plans (HMPs) are being developed for all WMAs and other DEC properties, including select Multiple Use and Unique Areas. These plans guide land use management for a 10-year time period, after which time DEC will assess progress made and modify plans as needed. Public meetings are also being held for every completed HMP. Of the 90 WMAs in this program, 25 fall within the AMJV boundary. In 2016:
  • 9 HMPs were completed within the AMJV boundary (16 total statewide)
  • 5 meetings were held to share the plans with the public (10 total)
  • 1 on-the-ground project was completed (2 total)

To support the success of this Initiative, DEC has begun outreach to increase awareness of the importance of young forest. Efforts include informational YFI signs for kiosks at each WMA in the program and a Conservationist for Kids issue, which was dedicated to young forests and distributed to all 4th graders in New York State. Drafts were started for large banners to use at public meetings and for signs that will be placed on WMAs near management projects so visitors understand the changes are to benefit wildlife.

Over the next 10 years, biologists will evaluate wildlife response to management practices. Methods are outlined in a 10-year monitoring plan. Visit http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/104218.html for more information and to view program documents.