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young forest initiative
ways to reduce wildlife-human conflict and avoid wildlife damage.
Wisconsin's rare plants, animals and natural communities.
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Contact information
For information on the north central Wisconsin young forest initiative, contact:
Young Forest Initiative

North central Wisconsin young forest initiative

Wisconsin's young forests have been declining in quantity and quality for the last half a century; many wildlife species that depend on this habitat have declined as well. In response to this decline, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has partnered with other agencies and organizations to create the north central Wisconsin young forest initiative.

The goal of this initiative is simple: encourage management of forest habitat in suitable areas to benefit young forest plant and wildlife species.

A great variety of Wisconsin's wildlife species rely on young forests. Actively managing your land can make it more attractive to birds and animals that will use it and make it their home. We are offering free habitat evaluations to landowners considering managing their land to benefit wildlife. Management techniques are simple, and financial assistance is available to landowners.

If you are a landowner and would like to learn more about young forest management and your property, answer a few simple questions online. A wildlife biologist will contact you to discuss your property in more detail, answer questions and provide information. If young forest management sounds like a good fit for your interests and your property, the biologist will schedule a site visit to help plan next steps, develop management recommendations and discuss options for financial assistance.

Young forest

Wilson's snipe
Many birds like the Wilson's snipe benefit from clearings. Photo by Mark Balcer.

Any forest that has had most of its older, mature trees removed and replaced with seedlings or saplings is considered young, even if it has been covered with trees for hundreds of years. Historically, trees have been removed by natural events like beaver activity, fires, floods, tornadoes/windstorms, insect infestations or diseases. Afterwards, the nutrient-rich ground is exposed to sunlight. Grasses and flowers grow, providing quality nesting cover and a variety of seeds and insects valuable for foraging wildlife. Shrubs move in, producing berries and nuts, more valuable food for wildlife.

The first trees and plants to grow are early succession or young forest species. They are usually fast growing, intolerant of shade, and spread or reproduce rapidly. They are also some of the shorter lived species. In Northern Wisconsin, aspen (popple) and alder are two common examples of valuable young forest species.

Management of young forest

banding a woodcock
Amber Roth places a leg band on this woodcock chick to help track woodcock populations. Photo by Chad Fitzmorris

It is important for a landowner/manager to know what kind of soils, topography and conditions exist on their land, and which kind of forest management is best applied in those circumstances. In northern Wisconsin, many locations are well suited for hardwoods or pine, and should be managed for those long-lived species. Other areas could be effectively managed for young forest; some are already dominated with aspen or alder and just need some well-planned management to improve them. No matter what kind of habitat you have on your land, it is likely that there is an opportunity to do at least some kind of early succession work, even if it is just mowing old openings or fields. If you are unsure about potential land management options, contact a natural resource professional and ask-many biologists and foresters have resources that can help you enhance your land, and may even have ways to get breaks on property taxes or financial assistance for management activities.

Wildlife and young forest

Birds like this eastern towhee need the dense shrub cover that young forests provide. Photo by Mark Balcer

Many of the wildlife species in Wisconsin rely on young forest habitat. Ruffed grouse, cottontail rabbit, snowshoe hare, fox, turkey, bobcat, white-tailed deer and black bear all use young forest in part of their life cycle. Migratory songbirds like flycatchers, warblers, towhees, vireos, sparrows and juncos rely heavily on young forest. In addition, some of our most imperiled bird species, what we call Species of Greatest Conservation Need, are dependent on young forests, including whip-poor-will, American woodcock, brown thrasher, veery, cuckoos and eight different species of warblers, including the golden-winged warbler.


Biologist working with a landowner Biologist working with a landowner Biologist working with a landowner Biologist monitoring birds Leg banding Biologist monitoring birds



Find out more about the partners of the young forest initiative.

Wildlife Management Institute American Bird Conservancy Partners for Fish & Wildlife Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative Golden-winged Warbler Working Group Ruffed Grouse Society National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Last revised: Tuesday March 24 2015