Because many species of wildlife in Vermont are highly adaptable while others are extremely dependent on particular tree types or forest features, we can’t make general statements about the abundance of forest animals in relation to the availability of high-quality food, cover, and other habitat requirements.

For some species, such as the familiar chipmunk, almost any woodland border will provide food, shelter, and cover from predators. For the animal’s entire lifetime, its forest home will be less than one acre in size. White-tailed deer, however, may traverse hundreds of forested acres annually, using grassy openings, mast stands, and mature softwood sites for giving birth, fattening up, and surviving the winter, respectively. Some species, bats for example, roost under loose bark or in the hollows of trees. With birds, nest site characteristics are highly specific. Chestnut-sided warblers prefer young, brushy sites on woodland edges; black and white warblers prefer mature deciduous or mixed stands.

During this century, wildlife biologists have documented basic forest wildlife habitat needs and relationships for many species. This has enabled biologists to identify beneficial habitat practices for grouse, wild turkeys, gray squirrels, and deer, to name a few. (Click here for Grouse Management information.) Forestry operations are usually compatible with wildlife, especially for those species associated with edge habitats.

Although most woodland species appear to be thriving in Vermont, some forest dwellers are of concern because of regional population declines or scarcity within the state, including marten, black-backed woodpecker, goshawk, Bicknell’s thrush, spotted turtle, and spruce grouse. These species merit additional attention, particularly where certain types of land use could degrade or destroy their habitat. Additionally, our knowledge about the distribution and abundance of many species, especially small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, is so limited that we cannot fully assess the impacts of development or timber sales on these species. In the future, a greater emphasis on the identification and conservation of selected natural communities, especially on public land, may help to ensure the survival of a broad spectrum of wildlife species.

While sound logging practices and carefully planned development can usually coexist with our natural resources, some cutting plans and development conflict with important forest features or critical habitats, such as beech stands of historic importance to bears, mature conifer sites providing winter shelter for deer, and vernal pools that provide breeding habitat for woodland reptiles and amphibians. Certain forest types are of particular interest because they’re rare, including old growth stands and cedar swamps.

In recent years, site-specific plans and cuts, although important, have begun to be examined in the context of landscape considerations: what is happening on the next parcel, over the hill, or across the road? Because many species need scores or hundreds of acres to thrive, biologists often must think beyond the bounds of a particular parcel of land when evaluating habitat impacts. They must look to promote the integrity of large blocks of forest land and connectivity between them.

It has also become apparent that a focus on forest conditions alone is not enough. Increasing recognition and attention is being given to the impact of roads and human access to forest blocks that may support species relatively intolerant of human activity, such as black bears. These new ecological approaches present many challenges given ownership patterns in New England and increasing demands for dispersed outdoor recreation.

The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife has a long-standing commitment to sustainable forest management. It has participated in major statewide planning initiatives and supports new inventory and planning approaches to public lands management. The Department also participates in regulatory processes, such as reviewing wood chip harvests within critical habitats, and it assists in education initiatives for both landowners and land managers. The Fish and Wildlife Department expects to play a strong role in promoting a land ethic in the state — an ethic addressing the traditional, land-based rural lifestyles of Vermonters and the needs of wildlife — now and in the future.

Forests and Aquatic Life

“It is a well known fact that the best fishing is where a forest is near the shore, and best of all where the limbs overhang the water. Not only do the trees afford shelter, furnish food, and prevent evaporation, but at the same time they keep the water clear and cool in the summer. In the winter the forests afford protection by lessening the severity of the winter frosts, and in all forest regions the changes of temperature are not so severe as in treeless countries and on the open plain: and the effect upon the water is even greater... The forests not only regulate the flow of water, as above stated, but they purify the water.”

— Frank H. Carleton
From the 50th Biennial Report of the Commissioners of Fish and Game of the State of Vermont, 1899–1900

As anglers knew a century ago, surrounding land uses have a profound influence on stream habitats and the organisms living in the water. Forested riparian areas, also referred to as stream side buffers, are a critical component of healthy stream ecosystems. Stream side buffers provide a host of beneficial functions, including:

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