Creating Wildlife Habitats

Private landowners are vital stewards of our nation’s landscapes and wildlife. Roughly 60 percent of land in the United States is privately owned. In many cases private lands are working lands that provide critical resources – such as food and wood – as well as a source of income and livelihood to landowners through farming, forest management, and other agricultural and recreational uses. They also provide important habitat for a variety of wildlife and are an integral part of a healthy ecosystem. Working lands can operate sustainably in ways that provide critical wildlife habitat while maintaining, and even enhancing, the land’s productivity and value.

The Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture (AMJV) is working with partners to provide a variety of opportunities for private landowners in improving habitat on their property to benefit a variety of birds and other wildlife, including game species and even pollinators. Examples of some of the great work landowners are applying to their properties include:

Enhancing wildlife habitat can involve many different techniques and strategies depending on the type of habitat you’re working in (old field versus mature forest), the initial conditions of that habitat, and your goals for enhancing the habitat.

Virtual Field Tours

Watch our 360° videos below to see how sustainable forestry practices can be used to improve or create wildlife habitat. Move your mobile device or use your mouse to pan around the video to view the entire forest, from the ground to the tree canopy.

The virtual field tours highlight practices that can be used to change forest structure and promote the growth of desired tree and plant species in your woods.

Virtual Field Tour 1: Shelterwood

Oaks are one of the most valuable tree species in Appalachian forests, both in terms of wildlife habitat and timber value. While many of the large, canopy trees in Appalachian forests are oaks, the number of young oak saplings in the understory and midstory is declining. A shelterwood harvest is a cut or series of cuts used to promote the growth of less shade-tolerate species, like oaks and hickories. Take our tour of a recent shelterwood harvest to see how this type of harvest impacts light levels and improves growing conditions for oak seedlings.


Virtual Field Tour 2: Overstory Removal

An overstory removal is a harvest that removes all but a few scattered large trees, so the plants on the forest floor can experience full-sun growing conditions. Oak seedlings need this higher level of sunlight to continue to grow and eventually become the next canopy trees. In this virtual field tour, we’ll visit a recent overstory removal and see how, when done sustainably, this type of harvest can create great wildlife habitat.


Virtual Field Tour 3: Timber Harvest

Timber harvesting is a tool foresters can use to help counteract the effects of past poor management and promote good growing conditions for desirable, young trees. In this tour we’ll learn about planning a timber harvest, and visit the site of an active timber harvest to see some of the equipment used to harvest timber in action.


Virtual Field Tour 4: Herbicide

One of the most significant issues facing Appalachian forests today is invasive species. Herbicide is our most effective tool in combating invasive and competing vegetation. In this video we’ll tour a site impacted by invasive species, as well as areas that have been treated with herbicide to help promote the growth of desirable plants.


Virtual Field Tour 5: Midstory Removal

Many forests in the Appalachians don’t have any established oak seedlings. A midstory removal is a forest management practice that kills all the shade-tolerant, undesirable midstory species in a stand, and can help promote the growth of oak seedlings and prepare for a shelterwood harvest in the future. In this video we’ll tour two separate areas of a property to demonstrate a before and after view of a midstory removal.


Learn more about resources available to assist you in planning any of these practices on your property by visiting our Financial and Technical Assistance Programs page.