Protecting Kirtland’s warbler with jack pine forest management

A Michigan State University professor and a team of researchers look at ways to manage Michigan forests to sustain the Kirtland's warbler population.

The Kirtland’s warbler is a small, endangered bird that lives half of the year in a handful of counties in Michigan’s northern Lower Peninsula and winters in the Bahamas.

A recovery effort began in the mid-1970s and continues today, led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Forest Service. The program has been a resounding success in recovering the Kirtland’s warbler population — so much so that the USFWS is moving toward delisting the species as endangered. However, there are concerns over the long-term financial sustainability of habitat management.

Michigan State University professor David Rothstein and a team of researchers are looking at new ways to manage these forests in order to improve their production of marketable forest products while still ensuring the sustainability of the Kirtland’s warbler population.

Rothstein said the current plan is to let jack pine plantations grow for 50 years, but the data show that they achieve peak biomass nearly 20 years prior. Harvesting at 30 years would regenerate warbler habitat and allow the group to extend rotation ages in other areas with the goal of producing higher value timber for the logging industry.

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