Assistance available for improving habitat

Golden-winged warbler by Frode Jacobsen
Cerulean Warbler by Frode Jacobsen

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, in partnership with West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, is seeking landowners interested in creating conservation plans for their property that improves habitat for wildlife and pollinators. Financial and technical assistance are available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to help declining species. Target species for these programs include golden-winged warbler, cerulean warbler, and insect pollinators, but many species benefit from active management.

Golden-winged warblers are migratory songbirds that have lost roughly 98% of their Appalachian population, in part to loss of suitable breeding habitat. Habitat can be created through removing canopy trees, managing fields through rotational mowing or brush-hogging, planting native trees and shrubs, and controlling invasive plants. Young forest habitat also benefits game species, such as ruffed grouse and American woodcock.

Cerulean warblers, also a declining songbird, prefer more mature oak and hickory dominated forests with openings in the canopy, significant understory vegetation and large diameter trees. Canopy gaps can be created through removing less desirable trees. This ultimately improves the health of the forest, encourages new plant growth and creates nesting habitat for Cerulean warblers. Additionally, controlling invasive plants is often an important component of creating or enhancing habitat. Mature, structurally diverse forest habitat benefits other wildlife as well, including many migratory songbirds and wild turkey.

Pollinator species, including bees, butterflies and moths, are critical for pollinating both agricultural crops and native plants that support ecosystems. Worldwide, pollinators are in decline due to habitat loss, disease and other human related activities. They are thought to be declining in West Virginia for similar reasons. Habitat enhancement for pollinators includes providing native wildflowers that are diverse in color, size, shape, and bloom that support pollinators throughout growing season. Native grasses and sedges are also beneficial for pollinators by providing over wintering sites. Additionally, controlling invasive plants, which often outcompete native plants, can benefit pollinators by maintaining plant diversity. Providing diverse pollinator habitat, and supporting a healthy native invertebrate community, will also help to provide food for desirable wildlife such as wild turkey and songbirds, including Cerulean and Golden-winged warblers.

To get started creating a conservation plan or learn more about the Golden-winged warbler, contact Tiffany Beachy, WVDNR/ NRCS Golden-winged Warbler Partner Biologist, at 304-799-4317 ext. 3 or tiffany.beachy@usda.gov

For more information on the Cerulean warbler, contact Matthew Aberle, WVDNR/ NRCS Cerulean Warbler Partner Biologist, at 304-618-6124 or matthew.a berle@usda.gov

To learn more about pollinators, contact Lacey Smith, WVDNR/NRCS Pollinator Specialist at 304-368-6906 or lacey.smith@usda.gov

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