Wisconsin has extensive Northern Hardwood forests. In upland areas, maples, basswood, birches, scrub oak, and aspen (popple) mix with other deciduous and coniferous trees. Low areas along streams and in swamps often support red maple, silver maple, black and green ash, and balsam poplar, with trees transitioning into shrub wetlands in areas where the soil is poorly drained. In the past, wildfires renewed forests in the drier uplands; in lower areas, beaver activities often set the vegetation back to a stage having thick and vigorous stem growth. Today, much young forest arises following timber harvests and other management activities.
burning, and shearing or mowing trees that aren’t large enough to return a profit. (The trees are left to rot and return nutrients to the forest soil.) Savvy landowners make sure to leave some mature “legacy” trees standing, for songbirds to use as singing perches and for foraging.
Skid roads, log landings, and haul roads increase a landowner’s ability to use his or her property for hunting, hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, birding, and watching wildlife. Timber management and wildlife management complement each other well, and the Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership can help landowners develop a plan to generate income while favoring different kinds of wildlife depending on what’s found in a given area. WYFP can also direct landowners to funding for noncommercial management projects.
saw logs from valuable hardwood species to cut trees down too early. It pays to discuss all options with a professional forester or a wildlife biologist to figure out the management strategy that best fits your goals and preferred activities and outcomes.
Landowners and other interested people can visit habitat projects to learn about young forest management, view habitat sites, and see wildlife. Scroll down this list to find young forest demonstration areas on public lands in Wisconsin.
Learn more about managing hardwood forests to help wildlife in Best Management Practices for Woodcock and Associated Bird Species. Also see Best Management Practices for Golden-winged Warbler Habitats in the Great Lakes Region, including the supplement Deciduous Forests. A good general reference is A Landowner’s Guide to Woodland Wildlife Management.
Young forest regrowing after timber harvest. Trees left on site provide singing perches and foraging opportunities for songbirds. Woodcock, turkeys, deer, and many other kinds of wildlife also like this type of habitat with its diverse mix of saplings, shrubs, and ground plants.
Birds that breed in older forest, such as scarlet tanagers, bring their offspring to young forest to feed on the abundant fruits and insects found there./T. Berriman
Around 25 kinds of wildlife designated as Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Wisconsin require young forest for feeding, breeding, and rearing their young. They include mammals, such as the snowshoe hare; reptiles like the wood turtle; and many birds: golden-winged warbler, woodcock, brown thrasher, black-billed cuckoo, veery, and olive-sided flycatcher. Other wild creatures that are more abundant also take advantage of the food and hiding cover that young forest affords, including gamebirds like ruffed grouse and wild turkey, white-tailed deer and black bear, and numerous songbirds that breed in Wisconsin and migrate through the state.
Various forest management practices can boost the amount of young forest on a property. One such technique is clearcutting, a type of even-age timber harvesting. Landowners can also use seed tree and shelterwood harvests to make young forest. Noncommercial treatments include prescribed (controlled)
After trees are felled in either a commercial or noncommercial harvest, their stumps and root systems send up copious new growth. Herbaceous plants, including wildflowers and grasses, carpet the ground and offer new food sources and cover. Other trees seed themselves onto harvested areas. Shrubs such as dogwoods, winterberry holly, highbush cranberry, blueberry, blackberry, and raspberry thrive in the sunlight. Most such habitats remain productive places for young forest wildlife from the first growing season following a timber harvest until 15 to 20 years later.
It's great to be able to create large, interconnected tracts of young forest and shrubland: 50 or 100 acres, or even bigger. But it's not always possible to work on such a large scale. Another way is to “Think 5-5-5”: Divide a woodland into blocks 5 acres and larger and make young forest on some of those blocks every 5 years, so that this important habitat constantly cycles across the land. For a healthy, wildlife-friendly mix of different-aged forest, keep at least 5 percent of the woods in a young growth stage. Not all hardwood forests should be managed in this way. For instance, it may not make sense for a landowner trying to produce high-quality