Plymouth State University Students and Faculty Contribute to Development and Publication of Guidelines for Managing Habitat for Regional Species of Greatest Conservation Need For Six Species in the Northeast

PLYMOUTH, N.H. (April 24, 2017) – A team of four environmental biology students from Plymouth State University (PSU) contributed important research and field work to a recently-released series of guidelines for six species of wildlife in the Northeastern United States. Guidelines for Managing Habitat for Regional Species of Greatest Conservation Need details the best ways to create and manage habitat for the American marten, Bicknell’s thrush, Canada warbler, rusty blackbird, scarlet tanager and wood thrush, all of which are under environmental stress.

The project was led by J. Daniel Lambert of High Branch Conservation Services of Hartland, VT, and Leonard Reitsma, professor of ecology at Plymouth State University, and included input from public- and private-sector foresters, wildlife biologists and conservation planners from 12 states and three Canadian provinces.

A team of four PSU environmental biology students worked alongside Lambert and Reitsma, and collaborated with conservation biologists from the Audubon Society of New Hampshire and the Vermont Center for Ecostudies. The students gathered information, and wrote and edited drafts of guidelines sections for each species.

“Providing students with relevant experiences that combine their emerging expertise with practical projects is at the heart of internships within the sciences,” said Lambert. “These guidelines documents are likely to become a significant resource for land managers and others .”

Guidelines for Managing Habitat for Regional Species of Greatest Conservation Need describe landscape and stand-level conditions needed by the American marten, Bicknell’s thrush, Canada warbler, rusty blackbird, scarlet tanager and wood thrush. The Guidelines, which range in length from 12 to 20 pages, also identify co-occurring species, such as the New England cottontail and golden-winged warbler, that may also benefit from the recommended management practices.

Six Eastern Species Inhabit Different Settings

The six species highlighted in the Guidelines each inhabit a variety of habitats across many forest types and successional stages throughout the region.

The American marten inhabits large tracts of intermediate to mature softwood, hardwood and mixed forests in New York and northern New England. Close relatives of weasels and fishers, martens prefer an interconnected tree canopy where they can climb and move from tree to tree.

Bicknell’s thrush breeds in fir-spruce forests at upper elevations in New York and northern New England. Bicknell’s thrushes typically nest in dense, low-canopy stands dominated by balsam fir, and among paper birch-balsam fir saplings that arise following timber harvests, fires or ice damage.

The Canada warbler is a colorful songbird that benefits from wetlands conservation and various methods of harvesting timber in upland settings. In the East, it ranges from North Carolina to northern Maine. Habitat managed for Canada warblers can also benefit young forest specialists such as the New England cottontail and golden-winged warbler.

The rusty blackbird, one of North America’s most imperiled avian species, requires young northern softwoods for nesting. Rusty blackbirds breed in boreal and Acadian spruce-fir forests across Canada, northern New England and New York State.

The scarlet tanager is among the most brilliantly colored birds of the eastern forest. This canopy-nesting species breeds in multi-aged hardwood and mixed hardwood-softwood forests and also uses young forest habitats before migrating to South America in autumn.

The wood thrush is a ground-foraging songbird that nests in shrubs and young trees beneath a mature, hardwood-dominated canopy. Wood thrushes breed in temperate forests of eastern North America, occurring in every state from Virginia to Maine.

Each Guidelines document includes information on species distribution and status, suggestions on where to create and sustain habitat, desired habitat conditions, recommended voluntary practices, managing for multiple benefits (including other wildlife that use the same habitats) plus a two-page digest of management considerations for quick reference in the office or the field.

The project was funded by the Northeast Regional Conservation Needs (RCN) Grant Program, with a matching commitment from Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, and other collaborating institutions. The Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies administers the RCN program to help states from Virginia to Maine implement their State Wildlife Action Plans. The Guidelines can be downloaded free at

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