By Doyle Irvin, American Forests

Now more than ever it is important to protect and safeguard the natural world that we hold dear. It has become increasingly important to us just how vital a contribution we at American Forests can make, and are making, towards the animals and wildernesses that make this planet a beautiful place to live. We are thus proud to announce our new initiative, Wildlands for Wildlife.

Over the course of Earth Month we will be detailing this program with regular updates about each of the seven ecosystems that the Wildlands for Wildlife projects address, including reports from our forest conservation staff. These projects are mission driven to approach ecosystems in a holistic manner, taking into account all of the various factors that come into play in each respective region. Ecosystems are not homogenous, and what works in one place will not work in another. The solutions to the problems that they face are not simple, and require multiple approaches to solve.

A red-cockaded woodpecker. Credit: Francesco Veronesi

For example, in the longleaf pine forests, keeping the red-cockaded woodpecker from teetering over the brink towards extinction requires not just tree planting but also nest cavity building, bird translocation, prescribed burns and regular monitoring by qualified biologists. Similarly, over in West Virginia, our restoration projects at former mining sites require invasive species removal and the tilling of unyielding compacted soils, before we can plant the native tree species that will restore the habitat to its natural state. It is only then that the native wildlife, like the populations of salamander species unique to this region, can become fully healthy.

It is this kind of “bigger picture” approach that really defines Wildlands for Wildlife. How can we work with partners to restore an ecosystem to its most robust? How can we ensure that the native wildlife not just survives, but thrives? What steps do we have to take to ensure these habitats are protected and conserved for decades to come?

These are the questions we kept in mind while designing this program. We have identified seven major regions across the United States, and the important work that needs to be done in each. The projects all focus on wildlife species that are endangered and require serious help. The seven critical forest ecosystems that Wildlands for Wildlife will restore are as follows:

Southeastern U.S.
Tactics: tree planting, prescribed fire, endangered species translocation, conversion of tree plantations
Themes: endangered species, biodiversity, water
Trees: longleaf pine forest ecosystems
Focal Wildlife Species: gopher tortoise

Central Appalachians
Tactics: tree planting, mine land reclamation
Themes: biodiversity, carbon storage, rural communities
Trees: red spruce forest ecosystems, oak systems in lowlands
Focal Wildlife Species: West Virginia northern flying squirrel

Northern Great Lakes
Tactics: tree planting, creation of early successional habitat, invasive species control
Themes: endangered species, recreation, wildfire
Trees: Jack and red pine forest ecosystems
Focal Wildlife Species: Kirtland’s warbler

Hawaiian Islands
Tactics: tree planting, habitat enhancement, invasive plant removal, non-native predator control, endangered species translocation
Themes: biodiversity, endangered species, water
Trees: ʻōhiʻa lehua forest ecosystems, including koa, mamane and iliahi
Focal Wildlife Species: Hawaiian honeycreepers and other endangered forest birds

Northern Rockies and Cascades
Tactics: tree planting, expand programs to cultivate whitebark pines that are resistant to blister rust, protect rust-resistant trees
Themes: endangered species, recreation, water
Trees: whitebark pine
Focal Wildlife Species: grizzly bear

Sierra Nevada Mountains
Tactics: tree planting, sustainable forest management (i.e. thinning dense forests to lessen wildfire risk and promote tree growth) and prescribed fire
Themes: wildfire, water, rural economies
Trees: sugar pine forest ecosystems, including a mix of conifers like Jeffrey pine, ponderosa pine, western white pine, Douglas-fir and incense cedar
Focal Wildlife Species: Pacific fisher

Lower Rio Grande Valley
Tactics: tree planting, habitat enhancement
Themes: endangered species, biodiversity, recreation
Trees: Texas thornscrub forest ecosystems with a diverse mix of tree species, including huisache, granejo, brasil and Texas ebony
Focal Wildlife Species: ocelot

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