How the Northeast’s public and private landownership patterns influence RGS & AWS conservation approach.
By Todd Waldron, Northeast Forest Conservation Director
In the most recent RGS & AWS conservation update from the Northeast Region, we looked at the Northeast Upland Gamebird Technical Committee 2017 findings in terms of how diminishing forest habitat diversity is impacting grouse, woodcock and many other forest wildlife populations. One consideration for how RGS & AWS and our partners will need to approach this challenge is to consider land ownership patterns across the Northeast.
Who owns the forests of the Northeast, and how much of the land is held by private forest owners and public agencies? How will all of this influence our Northeast Region conservation strategy in terms of focal areas and needs assessments?
According to the website Who Owns America’s Forest, there are 51 million acres of forests across the seven-state RGS & AWS Northeast Region. To put it in perspective, you could fit 23 Yellowstone National Parks within the northern forest acreage of the Northeast. The ownership patterns of woodlots and forests across New England and New York are as diverse as the communities throughout the region and are distributed as follows:
The data indicates that non-industrial private forest owners (NIPF) own and enjoy 25 million acres across the Northeast, representing half of the forested acreage in the region. Corporate ownerships manage another 15 million acres, while a mix of federal, state and county agencies hold nearly 10 and a half million acres in trust for the public and future generations to enjoy.
On a federal level, we have the 421,889 acre Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont & New York and the 750,852 acre White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire and Maine.
The following graph depicts all ownership classifications by percentage:
So, what does this mean? How can RGS & AWS and our partners approach landscape-level, shifting mosaic, full rotation conservation planning that benefit a diverse suite of at-risk forest wildlife, including grouse and woodcock?
Well, one take-home message is that the forest ownership across the Northeast is incredibly diverse. And each ownership-type will require a unique, thoughtful approach to increasing forest habitat diversity.
There over 10 million acres of public lands across the region held in trust on a federal, state, county and community level and this represents a huge opportunity in terms of improving habitat on landscapes that are accessible for bird hunting, wildlife viewing, and other outdoor recreation.
There is also an enormous opportunity and need to engage partners on the private landownership level, both on a corporate and non-industrial level. Our regional conservation approach will consider both public land stewardship and private-ownership habitat needs.
The author Jeffrey Sachs is noted for saying that “historical and geographic burdens are not fate or destiny. They are calls to action.”
The NUGTC report concludes that in order to restore forest habitat diversity, this action needs to include aggressive and scaled habitat creation initiatives through wide-ranging collaborative partnerships across multiple states.
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What’s happening with RGS & AWS conservation work outside the Northeast Region?
Check out RGS & AWS work in Southern Appalachia to learn more.
Post written by Todd Waldron, RGS & AWS Northeast Forest Conservation Director