National Fish and Wildlife Foundation awards grant to SFI to continue, expand work focused on three at-risk bird species; award builds on 2021 NFWF grant by expanding study's geographic footprint 60% to 24,100 acres, adding three new forest landowners

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November 22, 2023 (press release) –

Washington, D.C. and Ottawa, ON — The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) is pleased to announce a grant award from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to continue and expand work focused on three at-risk bird species: the Golden-winged Warbler, the Cerulean Warbler, and the Wood Thrush in the central Appalachian region of West Virginia. This award builds on the work of a previous NFWF grant, awarded in 2021, by expanding the geographic footprint of the study  60% (from 15,000 acres to 24,100 acres) with the inclusion of three new forest landowners and by adding two additional engagement partners. This new award, spanning from 2024 to 2028, will expand the collection of crucial occupancy and abundance data for the three imperiled bird species while ensuring the efficient transfer of knowledge and dissemination of findings amongst industrial and family forest owners, government agencies, and the general public.

SFI will build on previous success with partners Weyerhaeuser (an SFI-certified organization), American Bird Conservancy, Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture (AMJV), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), West Virginia University, and West Virginia Division of Natural Resources by adding new landowner partners Lyme Timber Company (SFI-certified), Timberland Investment Resources (SFI-certified), and the Conservation Fund. New engagement partner organizations include the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, Inc. (NCASI) and the National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO). Together, partners will expand engagement and outreach efforts about sustainable forest management practices to help forest owners better understand and enhance the habitat necessary for the survival of these at-risk birds.

“This grant continues our important work in the Central Appalachian region, reflecting our applied approach to planning and implementation of sustainable forestry practices. We will work with partners to advance research results to support additional landowners in making decisions that benefit sensitive bird habitats. For certified organizations, the findings are directly applicable to the interpretation of the landscape biodiversity requirements under SFI certification. The project’s research and engagement is central to the SFI mission to advance sustainable practices on SFI-certified forestlands throughout the U.S. and Canada,” shared Lauren Cooper, Chief Conservation Officer at SFI.

Key outcomes of this project include expanding occupancy and abundance data collection for all species to potentially six additional counties in West Virginia, with particular emphasis on encountering cerulean warblers. Additionally, for each of the three species, the aim is:

  • Cerulean Warbler: to enhance successional forest conditions across an estimated 5,500 acres of working forest conditions conducive to Cerulean Warblers. Field studies will identify areas for habitat enhancement, targeting 30 occupied sites in response to management actions.
  • Golden-winged Warbler: to enhance approximately 1,000 acres of working forestlands for Golden-winged Warblers, influencing harvest configuration, timing, and promoting landscape-level habitat guidelines.
  • Wood Thrush: to enhance late successional forest conditions for Wood Thrush, 75 management blocks totaling 3,750 acres will be maintained to provide post-breeding conditions and create a diverse habitat mosaic within a shifting forest landscape.

In addition to field research, other project goals include increasing outreach efforts and providing educational opportunities for even more family forest owners surrounding working forestlands.

The project aligns with the SFI Forest Management Standard, which provides assurances that certified forests are managed sustainably to provide habitat for multiple species, including species at risk. By adhering to the SFI 2022 Forest Management Standard, certified organizations actively contribute to conservation efforts, ensuring habitat quality improvement and the protection of imperiled species. The project supports furthering interpretation and practices in the requirements of the SFI Forest Management Standard to address landscape-level biodiversity.





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