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Woodland wildlife stewardship needs reenergized in Indiana


MARTINSVILLE, Ind. — Protecting and enhancing forests for wildlife is beneficial, and with forested areas in Indiana dwindling through the years, management practices that private landowners put into place are key to maintaining a healthy woodland-wildlife balance.

And, there’s a workshop coming up in June to teach woodland owners more about doing just that; the deadline to apply is May 15.

“I can’t stress enough the importance private woodland owners play,” said Jarred Brooke, a Purdue University extension wildlife specialist. “Ninety-six to 97 percent of woodlands in the state are owned by private landowners, so what they do has a big impact.”

But why does it matter? Some people make woodland improvements for hunting wildlife such as deer, turkeys, and squirrels, Brooke said. Others want to attract non-game wildlife, such as songbirds, amphibians, reptiles, and bats.

“Avid birdwatchers really like to see and listen to bird species, like warblers. Some like to see wildlife on their property. Some folks like to know they’re providing habitat regardless if they see wildlife or hunt.”

Jack Seifert, Indiana state forester with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), said each species has its own niche, so what happens to woodlands from an ecological standpoint affects that. For example, songbirds prefer forest openings and won’t be found in an old-growth forest.

“A tremendous amount of wildlife depends on young forest,” Seifert said. “Some people call it ‘baby forest.’”

Other wildlife species prefer brushy habitat or snags in which to nest. “There’s a whole host of things a landowner can do (to manage woodlands), based on what the other property objectives are,” Brooke said. As an example, harvesting timber for income might be a goal, but the way it’s harvested can also create habitat for wildlife that needs new forest.

Seifert said a “limited harvest” of trees can create “regeneration openings” to allow young, new trees to grow for those species that prefer it. But 95 percent of woodland owners do single-tree harvests.

“A lot depends on the species they’re interested in,” Brooke explained.

He said some simple enhancements might include placing wood duck boxes or bat houses, creating snags or brush piles, and controlling non-native species to improve the health of the forest.

Seifert pointed out much of Indiana’s woodlands were cleared for subsistence farming, and now the remaining forestland is maturing at the same rate. That doesn’t provide the diverse habitat required by the state’s wildlife. He said forest management renews woodlands, creating new habitats and diversity.

“Collectively, (the state’s woodlands) are in the same age classes,” he said. “We need to create diversity. We don’t have diversity in the landscape anymore. It’s easy to do on state lands, but not for the private landowner.”

According to Seifert, only about 4.9 million of Indiana’s total 25 million acres remain forested; of the forested land, 85 percent is privately owned.

“We can’t make a shift like this without private landowners helping out,” he noted. “It’s a challenge, because they own that land for different reasons. Typically, they own it for recreation and aesthetics – peace and solitude. Some buy it for game hunting.”

June workshop

Brooke said woodland owners can contact DNR, their county extension educator, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, or private lands biologists and foresters for help determining what’s best for their property and management goals. However, an upcoming workshop will bring many of those experts together in one spot.

To help bring awareness to ways woodland owners can be good stewards – and guidance in doing so – there will be a Woodland Wildlife Steward workshop June 7-9 in Martinsville. It will provide information and skills needed to implement management practices to benefit the wide range of wildlife species that call Indiana forests home.

Purdue extension will host the program in collaboration with DNR’s divisions of Forestry and Fish & Wildlife, as well as the National Wild Turkey Federation and Indiana Forestry Educational Foundation. It will cover aspects of wildlife ecology and the relationship between wildlife and forest stewardship.

“Individuals will be able to talk to foresters and wildlife biologists about their goals,” Seifert said, adding even if they decide not to incorporate management practices on their own properties, it’ll give them an understanding of what neighbors may be doing with theirs.

Presenters will talk about species found in the forest and ways to inventory and improve habitat for those species, Brooke said. Attendees will see forest management sites and be able to get help deciding on a management plan for the species they want to attract to their woodlands, and they will learn about resources available for guidance and cost-sharing.

The Woodland Wildlife Steward workshop begins at noon Eastern on June 7 and runs through 3 p.m. on June 9. It will take place at the Morgan-Monroe State Forest Training Center, 6220 Forest Road in Martinsville. Enrollment is limited to 30 landowners, and limited lodging for participants is available on-site.

All workshop fees include electronic copies of course materials and transportation to and from field sites, as well as six meals. Workshop fees are as follows:

•Traveler – $150. This includes lodging at Morgan-Monroe State Forest that consists of a room with one set of bunk beds, a communal kitchen area, and shower and restroom facilities.

Local – $100

Family member – $50. One additional family member may attend at this rate with another registered participant. The fee includes all workshop materials and meals, as well as lodging if attending the workshop with someone registered as a “traveler.”

The deadline to apply is May 15, and those accepted will be notified on or shortly after the deadline. Workshop information and a link to apply are available at

Anyone with additional questions can contact Brooke at 765-494-8459 or