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Forestry for Wildlife in Western Maine

Forestry for Wildlife in Western Maine













Woodland owners with more than 10 acres in Western Maine may be eligible for reimbursement to create important fish and wildlife habitat

By Christine Parrish
New England Forestry Foundation

FARMINGTON, Maine (March 12, 2020) -- Western Maine woodland owners interested in creating or improving habitat while managing their woods may be eligible for partial reimbursement for forest improvement practices that benefit wildlife through a project led by the New England Forestry Foundation (NEFF) and developed in partnership with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

The NEFF project, which is part of a bigger forestry-and-habitat effort under the NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program and includes additional fudning from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, is available to landowners who own more than 10 wooded acres in Western Maine.

Forests near Sawyer Notch in Western provide critical habitat for forest birds, including those of global conservation concern. Photo by C. ParrishWhy focus on habitat in Western Maine? Important forest habitat is scarce in New England where roads, buildings, lawns, golf courses, and other developments have fragmented the landscape, particularly for fish and wildlife that need complex forest habitats or room to roam.  That means the landscape of Western Maine, which is 98 percent forested and relatively undeveloped, is critically important to a variety of fish, wildlife, birds, and more.

For some, it is the last best place.

Western Maine provides the best habitat in the eastern U.S.  for moose, wild brook trout, and Canada lynx and provides important deer wintering areas and critical habitat for many forest birds – including some whose numbers are in steep decline globally. The cooler temperatures at higher elevations in Western Maine also offer plants and animals some flexibility to relocate up slopes or on shaded slopes and adapt to changing conditions as extreme weather becomes more common.

But more complex habitat is needed, including more snags for American marten, more areas of deep shade where Canada warblers nest on the mossy forest floor, more understory trees to provide the critical mid-layer that many birds use for nesting, and more 2-acre openings for Canada lynx to hunt snowshoe hare.

Each privately-owned woodland, whether it be 10 acres or 10,000 acres, is a piece of the landscape habitat puzzle. Each property is different. These habitat components can be developed piece by piece, property by property, and click into place across the landscape.American Marten, known as sable in the fur industry, need 640 acres of shady forest with dead snags and down logs in the understory. Their habitat requirements are shared by many others, including woodland birds. Creating habitat for one creates homes for many. Photo by USFWS

With that in mind, the NEFF Western Maine team looks at an individual woodland and up to 10 miles beyond the property boundaries by using data and analysis to see which habitat components are available and to assess if the property is suitable for the project.

NEFF staff work directly with qualifying landowners and their foresters, if they have one, from the initial conversation through habitat analysis, recommendations for action, and with loggers or other operators. Some landowners have chosen to do the work themselves. Habitat improvements are specific to each property and may include strategically thinning the woods to improve stands, crop tree release, creating denning and nesting sites, creating openings in some areas and encouraging shade in others.  Reimbursements are made through the NRCS Healthy Forest Reserve Program (HFRP) fund as each practice is completed and verified.

The NEFF forestry-for-habitat project is best suited to private landowners who want to increase the variety of habitat in their woods while also creating a healthy forest and a sustainable wood supply over the long term.  Improving and restoring habitat can be compatible with growing and harvesting timber, cutting firewood, hiking, bird-watching, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, hunting, and trapping. 

For more information, visit to determine if a property fits inside the area covered by the project,  scroll down to the bottom of the page to the interactive map bullet and click through the link. Once there, type the location of the property in the search bar on the map to see if it falls within the Western Maine Mountains RCPP 2.26 million-acre footprint, or contact NEFF’s Western Maine Mountains Project Coordinator in Farmington at (207) 203-9006 or at