Mobilizing Private Landowners to Create American Woodcock Habitat

Lessons Learned in Rhode Island, USA

  • Bill Buffum University of Rhode Island, Department of Natural Resources Science
  • Brian C. Tefft Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Division of Fish and Wildlife
  • Roger J. Masse University of Rhode Island, Department of Natural Resources Science
  • Scott R. McWilliams University of Rhode Island, Department of Natural Resources Science

Abstract

Engaging private landowners in the conservation of American woodcock (Scolopax minor; hereafter, woodcock) in the northeastern United States is important because most forests in the region are privately owned. For this reason, a consortium of conservation agencies in the region has been encouraging private landowners to create young forest vegetation types. This study summarizes the achievements and lessons learned through 3 components of a collaborative outreach program as practiced in Rhode Island, USA since 2008: 1) providing technical and financial assistance to private landowners to support woodcock habitat creation, 2) developing a woodcock management demonstration area in the Great Swamp Wildlife Management Area to support research and landowner trainings, and 3) conducting research on landowner involvement in the creation of young forest. We found that the financial and technical assistance was an important factor motivating private landowners to create young forest. Furthermore, response to a follow-up questionnaire after our trainings was encouraging; 83% of the participants followed up with forest management on their own properties, and creation of young forest was the most common activity. The woodcock demonstration area strongly supported the training programs by allowing landowners to see regenerating clearcuts of 4 different ages in close proximity, and it was used as a research site to determine how woodcock selected certain-aged young forest patches. Our spatial analysis confirmed that the extent of young forest created in Rhode Island during the 7 years after 2004 was almost double the extent created during the previous 7 years, and that private landowners created more habitat than either government agencies or nongovernment organizations. We conclude that private landowners can play an important role in the conservation of woodcock, and recommend an expanded outreach program to mobilize them.

Published
2019-12-02
Section
Communication Strategies