Reforestation protects wildlife.
In addition to acting as the lungs of the planet and as carbon sponges, forests also provide a habitat for a wide variety of the planet’s creatures.
Some animals, like the alligators, snapping turtles, and bald eagles of Bayou Bartholomew in Arkansas – at 300 miles, the world’s longest bayou – live in only one place. American Forests has long been involved in planting more than 370,000 various native trees to reduce sediment runoff from nearby farming, and improve the bayou’s aquatic and terrestrial habitat.
Other animals migrate, which means they need the right sort of habitat not only in their summer and winter homes, but along their travel routes as well. In 2006, American Forests introduced its monarch program with partner Forests for Monarchs to plant trees in the monarch butterfly’s winter home in Michoacán, Mexico, where agriculture and illegal logging have diminished the oyamel fir forests. Each winter, millions of monarch butterflies, third generation descendants of those that left the forest the previous year, huddle together in mountaintop fir forests to wait out the cold. Masses of them hang in bunches so large and dense that the branches bend under their weight, protecting each other from the cold at elevations as high as 10,000 feet. To reach Michoacán, the butterflies travel as far as 2,500 miles from the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada. The migrating population, which had declined 75 percent in 2005, is rebounding but remains much smaller than it was just 30 years ago.
Another winged creature benefiting from habitat restoration is the Kirtland’s warbler, an endangered songbird that winters in the Bahamas and summers in Michigan, where it has exacting requirements for successful nesting. It needs jack pines 5 to 18 feet tall – that’s 4 to 15 years old – with a groundcover of blueberries, bearberries or sweetfern. The birds feed their nestlings on insects that mass on new jack pine growth. Degradation of the jack pine forests had greatly reduced the population; in 1980, only 167 males were counted. Planting over a million jack pines has helped restore the population – with about 1,800 males counted in recent years, meaning an estimated total population of 3,600. This is a significant but incomplete recovery for the Kirtland’s warbler, which will need continued efforts to protect and restore its degraded habitat.
American Forests’ work continues, as we select and pursue tree planting projects to protect more species of wildlife from the effects of habitat loss. To view our other projects that focus on wildlife habitat, click here