Financial assistance available to forest owners

A red phased ruffed grouse is shown in a tree. The Ruffed Grouse Society wants the U.S. Forest Service, including the Hiawatha and Ottawa national forests in the Upper Peninsula, to do more to provide young forest habitat needed by ruffed grouse, American woodcock and white-tailed deer, as well as several non-game wildlife species. (Dave Schneider photo)

EAST LANSING –A partnership including the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the American Bird Conservancy is offering financial assistance to forest owners in designated Upper Peninsula and northern Michigan counties to improve habitat for at-risk bird species and other wildlife.

Applications for 2018 funding are now being accepted by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service from private forest owners. The Improving Forest Health for At-Risk Wildlife Resources Partnership was created through the USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

The funding is intended to create young forest habitat for the benefit of the golden-winged warbler and other at-risk species. Applications must be submitted by Jan. 19 to be considered for the first round of selections. Additional selections may be held later in the year if funds are available.

The project area includes designated counties in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Landowners in the Upper Peninsula counties of Baraga, Delta, Dickinson, Gogebic, Houghton, Iron, Mackinac, Marquette, Menominee, Ontonagon and Schoolcraft counties and the northern counties of Alcona, Antrim, Cheboygan, Emmet, Iosco, Kalkaska, Manistee, Ogemaw, Oscoda, Otsego and Wexford counties are eligible to apply.

Financial assistance is available for selected core conservation practices, including forest stand improvement and early successional habitat development and management. Additional supporting practices include; brush management, tree, shrub and grass planting, and site preparation. In addition to improving habitat for at-risk species, many of these practices also improve habitat for other wildlife, such as ruffed grouse and white-tailed deer.

Landowners should make an appointment with their local NRCS office as soon as possible to begin the conservation planning process. More information about the Improving Forest Health for At-Risk Wildlife Resources Partnership, and other USDA conservation programs, is available on the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service website at www.mi.nrcs.usda.gov.