The Young Forest Project

Helping Our Wildlife

Most people know what old-growth forest is. Same with wetlands. Both of those habitats are needed to have diverse wildlife and a healthy landscape.

Bobcats need young forest.

Bobcats find prey in young-forest habitat./G. Kramer, USFWS

Another type of habitat is less well known, yet every bit as important.

It’s called young forest, and it's essential for many different animals from small reptiles to large mammals. Many birds need this habitat, too. It's used by rare species of wildlife and by those that are more abundant. Unfortunately, the amount of young forest on the landscape has dwindled over the last 50 years, and many kinds of wildlife that need this habitat have experienced significant drops in their populations.

What is young forest? It’s the shoots and sprouts of young trees springing up again in incredible numbers from the root systems of older trees following a timber harvest. It's an old field thick with shrubs and saplings. It's a tract of swampland choked with emergent shrubs. Young forest can be a pine barrens greening up again following a prescribed burn carried out by a trained fire crew.

To keep the land healthy, we need a balance of different habitats. As we have come to understand the value of wetlands, we’ve stopped draining them and even begun restoring them. We've protected thousands of acres of older forest, benefiting the animals that live there. Now we need to meet the challenge of providing enough young forest for our native wildlife.

Brown thrasher in young-forest habitat

Brown thrashers need young forest./E. Guthro

Partners Make It Happen

Many agencies, organizations, corporations, municipalities, and private landowners have joined the Young Forest Project and are making habitat on lands they own or manage. Partners use Best Management Practices designed for their specific locales to create high-quality habitat. They look for new conservation partners to join in the effort to keep common creatures abundant and to save wildlife whose numbers have been falling.

We believe that when people understand the value and function of young forest, they will support the science-based management techniques and actions needed to create and maintain this important habitat.

Making Young Forest

This website introduces the wild creatures that need young forest. It shows how conservation partners are carefully recreating the kinds of natural events that once provided a steady supply of young forest. It tells the story of how your neighbors – towns, land trusts, businesses, and owners of working farms and woodlands - are helping wildlife by creating this valuable, vibrant habitat.

Young forest is ephemeral: It doesn’t last long, in most cases only 10 to 20 years. After that, it becomes older forest, often less useful to wildlife. Making and renewing young forest is an ongoing task – and, fortunately, one that can be done in a way that delivers sustainable forest products while providing critically needed homes for our region’s wildlife. This cooperative effort will help preserve our natural heritage for our children and grandchildren.

Welcome to the Young Forest Project.