Tag Archives: usda

Habitat partnership bats a thousand in Pennsylvania

Today we’re sharing the hard work of Tom and Wendy Belinda, who have dedicated themselves to conserving habitat for endangered Indiana Bats on their land in Blair County, Pennsylvania. White-nose syndrome, human disturbance, and habitat loss have caused our nation’s bat populations to plummet. Close proximity to places where bats roost and hibernate makes the Belindas’ property prime real estate for bat conservation in Pennsylvania.

Indiana Bats

Credit: Ann Froscheaur/USFWS

Working with federal agencies like the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with the Pennsylvania Game Commission and local partners, has allowed the Belindas to manage their property for the benefit of Indiana Bats and other vulnerable species. However, enhancing the health of their forests not only improves wildlife habitat, it also boosts the value and productivity of their land. A true win-win.

Check out our bat story map to learn more about the nationwide effort to conserve bats.

For more information about white-nose syndrome, visit www.whitenosesyndrome.org.

Here comes Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail... Credit: USFWS

A bunny’s tale: Protecting New England cottontail habitat on Cape Cod

This post comes from our partner, Diane Petit at the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service in Massachusetts.

Cape Cod’s beautiful seashore, inlets, salt marshes and woodlands are a natural draw for year-round and vacation home owners, and tourists. A boon for the local economy, the associated development is not so good for an elusive little creature: the New England cottontail rabbit. Habitat loss has New England’s only native rabbit as a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

Private landowners, conservation groups, a tribe and government agencies have joined forces to restore New England Cottontail habitat throughout New England. In Mashpee, Mass., on Cape Cod, habitat restoration work at three sites is yielding results.

Spring is a great time to give back to nature. We're looking for volunteers to help with plantings in New England cottontail habitat. Credit: USFWS

Spring is a great time to give back to nature. We’re looking for volunteers to help with plantings in New England cottontail habitat. Contact us if you’re interested. Credit: USFWS

A total of nearly 100 acres of habitat are being restored on land owned, respectively, by The Trustees of Reservations land trust, Orenda Wildlife Land Trust and Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. Because the three sites border each other, the conservation benefits are even greater as they provide a larger footprint for habitat.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, (NRCS), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, (USFWS), provided financial and technical help through the departments’ Working Lands for Wildlifepartnership. The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife also provided technical assistance.

New England cottontails need brush, shrubs and densely growing young trees – known as young forest or early successional habitat – where they can find food, rear young and escape predators. Much young forest has been lost to development or has grown up into older woods, where cottontails don’t live.

More than 100 kinds of wildlife in the Northeast use shrubland and young forest during part or all of their life cycles, so restoring New England cottontail habitat benefits many other species, as well.

Here comes Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail... Credit: USFWS

Here comes Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail… Credit: USFWS

The New England cottontail – which looks similar to the more abundant Eastern cottontail, an introduced species – lives in coastal southwestern Maine, southeastern New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and southeastern New York – less than a fifth of its historic range.

At the Mashpee River Reservation, owned by The Trustees of Reservations land trust, 50 acres of dense forest canopy have been cleared. Black huckleberries, low-bush blueberries, bracken fern and scrub oak were being suppressed by the dense canopy but with the tree clearing, the plants have really taken off, which will provide flowers for pollinators and fruit for wildlife.

“There’s a whole suite of bird species including grouse, turkey, eastern towhees, prairie warblers; we hope to see these things increase,” said Russ Hopping, the land trust’s ecology program director, noting that invertebrates, including rare moth species, also rely on this type of habitat.

In late May 2013, the Orenda Wildlife Land Trust began prescribed burning, a conservation practice that helps plants to regenerate by exposing soil and controlling competing vegetation. Administrator Elizabeth Lewis said that they saw results by that October.  “We’ve been really pleased with the results of this program,” said Lewis.

NRCS and the Cape Cod Conservation District helped the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe with a 32-acre New England cottontail habitat project on tribal land. The project holds historic, as well as environmental, significance for the tribe.

“Maintaining the environment is a part of my history, my culture, my life. To us all creatures are our brothers and sisters,” said George “Chuckie” Green, assistant natural resources director for the tribe.

“We started seeing plants that we hadn’t seen in our lifetime come back,” said Green who also noticed a small blue moth that he had never seen before. “This spring those little blue moths were all over the property.”

“What we did, and what our partners are doing, achieves something people said can’t be done,” said Green. “But we’re doing it. We are doing it.”

Want to help us conserve the New England cottontail? Here are some example opportunities.


Bog turtle

Working lands for wildlife!

Happy Friday, everyone! Today we’re sharing a fun infographic from our partner in the Working Lands for Wildlife program, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service.


Working Lands for Wildlife was launched in 2012 as an innovative approach to work with farmers and forest landowners to restore and protect habitat for seven specific wildlife species–three of which are found in the Northeast: the New England cottontail, the golden-winged warbler and the bog turtle. Through this partnership, landowners can get technical and financial assistance by volunteering to restore habitat on their land.

New England cottontail

New England cottontail: This rare rabbit can be found east of the Hudson River in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maine. It favors habitat with thick, tangled plants, or thickets, which also benefits other species like deer and wild turkey. Partners in the New England cottontail initiative have committed to restoring young forest on 27,000 acres across these states by cutting, shrub planting and prescribed burns, and as of March, we’ve implemented 6,700-8,700 acres. The thickets help ensure the New England cottontail isn’t forced to feed in areas with threats of predators. This photo by Amanda Cheeseman is from a study in Putnam County, New York, where researchers are helping us better understand the population there.

Bog turtle

Bog turtle: The smallest turtle in North America, the bog turtle has been protected as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1997. The bog turtle’s wetland home has critically diminished because of severe development, which causes draining and filling of its habitat. Bog turtles serve as good indicators of water quality and wetland function. Biologists restore its open canopy habitat by controlling grazing by cows, sheep and goats and by removing some trees and shrubs. Credit: Gary Peeples/USFWS

Credit: Walt Ford/USFWS

Golden-winged warbler: The Upper Midwest and Appalachian Mountains were once a fortress for this migratory bird. Like others, the golden winged warbler has experienced threats of degradation to their shrubby, thicket habitat, which has caused its drastic population decline. Through NRCS’ Working Lands for Wildlife Initiative, private landowners have enhanced about 10,000 acres of young forest habitat for this at-risk songbird species. Credit: Walt Ford/USFWS

Own land and want to help? Check out these frequently asked questions. Read the rest of the blog post at USDA-NRCS.