A Kirtlands warbler, a species whose habitat is being restored by this project. Credit: Joel Trick

Project Name:
Timber Hitch Jack Pine Planting

Location:
Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Key Activities:

  • Planting 83,000 jack pine seedlings across 150 acres
  • Restoring wildlife habitat
  • Reforesting an ecosystem damaged by the jack pine budworm


Project Description:
American Forests and the U.S. Forest Service are reforesting 150 acres of Michigan’s Hiawatha National Forest with 83,000 jack pine seedlings to restore Kirtland’s warbler habitat damaged by the jack pine budworm.

Why This Project:
Twenty years ago, the Kirtland’s warbler population had reached an all-time low of 167 known birds. Restoration projects over the last two decades have helped raise the endangered bird’s population to more than 1,800 singing males in 2011. Kirtland’s warbler, though, has strict habitat requirements — jack pines aged six to 22 years old — which means a continued reforestation effort is needed to ensure the success of future generations of the songbird.

American Forests’ first major Global ReLeaf project was planting jack pines for the benefit of Kirtland’s warbler in 1990, and we’ve been continuing that work over the last 20 years with more than a dozen projects specifically reforesting Kirtland’s warbler habitat.

Why Jack Pine:
Native to the upper Midwest, jack pines are well suited to hotter, drier conditions and often thrive in the sandy soils common to the northern Lake States. Jack pine is considered a “fire species,” meaning it needs wildfires to help release seeds from its cones and to clear the understory so new jack pine can propagate. Fire suppression practices in the 1900s led to a decline in the species’ numbers, which led to a subsequent decline in the numbers of the rare bird that makes its nests in the pine.

Kirtland’s warbler only nests in jack pine stands at least 80 acres in size and in trees that are at least five feet tall and still have their lower branches — lower branch loss begins around age 20. This rare wood warbler’s only nesting location in the world is the upper Midwest’s jack pine stands.


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