Improving Pitch Pine and Scrub Oak Habitat on Bald Eagle State Forest

In recent years, foresters on Bald Eagle State Forest in Snyder, Union, Centre, Mifflin, and Clinton counties have been working to restore and improve approximately 800 acres of high-priority ruffed grouse habitat by planting pitch pine and scrub oak. Ruffed grouse is at risk of extinction from portions of its Pennsylvania range; populations have been in decline since the early 1980s. Grouse are most abundant in young forest (early successional) habitats (5-15 years old), which have also been in a steady decline since the early 1980s. Early successional habitat has gone from approximately 19.6% of total forest acres in Pennsylvania to now only 11.6%.


(Photo (c) Ronald Lutz)

The new habitat is located at an elevation above which West Nile Virus does not survive. Grouse Eastern populations of Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) have been in a decades-long decline across the mid-Atlantic and southern Appalachian Mountains of the US. West Nile virus (WNV), which first arrived in the US in 1999, is suspected to have contributed to these declines based on decreased population indices since the arrival of WNV in Pennsylvania as well as on high, experimentally induced WNV-associated morbidity rates.


Working in coordination with the PA Game Commission, which is restoring habitat on nearby state game lands, forestry staff are monitoring the grouse population and making adjustments to how they manage and maintain the forests to ensure the best possible habitat for grouse (and other wildlife species) in the short- and long-terms.


This forest restoration project has a total budget of $100,000, of which $10,000 has been raised so far. While PPFF continues to seek additional grants and corporate support for this project, you can help by donating to this worthy habitat stewardship and restoration project.


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