Pennsylvania Game News - March 2012 - 32
How Young is that Forest?
By Mike Pruss
PGC Bureau of Habitat Management Private Lands Section Chief
HIS MIGHT seem like an odd question. Most people look up at majestic trees reaching the sky and ask “How old is that tree?” Beyond the curiosity of the individual giants, I’d like to draw your focus back to the forested parcel that you own, and to the opposite question, “How young is that forest?” From the wildlife habitat perspective, the individual tree may be important, but the forested parcel is the critical scale for most survival considerations. This is especially true for the large group of wildlife that needs young forests to survive and reproduce. Among the wildlife that will use young forests are deer and turkeys, but more important are the species that require young forests to thrive. These include our state bird, the ruffed grouse, the curious looking American
woodcock, the iconic snowshoe hare, the uncommon Appalachian cottontail (not to be confused with its common cousin, the eastern cottontail), the vocally persistent whip-poor-will, and the rapidly declining golden-winged warbler. These forest citizens occupy a wide variety of sites, from wetland bottom forests to bony ridgetop forests, to vast northern hardwood forests, but their common bond is that those forests must be young forests. How young is young? Young is a relative term that varies based on the growing potential of the site and the particular species of trees on it. In essence, “young” relates more to the developmental state of the forest than its age in years. Young forests can be reverting old fields, abandoned mines or recently harvested forestland. What defines the young forest is the time between seedlings being established and the point when the canopy of new trees shades the understory so much that new seedlings can’t grow. In most of our forests, that is about 20 years.
IF YOU ARE a cooperating landowner in the Game Commission’s Hunter Access Program, funds and professional assistance are available to fully implement forest management projects on your lands. Just contact your PGC region office to find out how.