This year, Audubon Biologist Aimee Tomcho hit the road, driving from mountains to coast to celebrate the landowners who are part of our Forest Landbird Legacy Program. Audubon launched the program in 2015 to help private landowners manage and restore habitat on their property for birds.
This year marks the end of new enrollment in the program, and is a celebration of what we’ve built together—a network of like-minded folks across North Carolina who care about birds and are ready to take action on their own land.
Today, that network includes land trusts across the state and more than 100 landowners responsible for nearly 30,000 acres of forested land in North Carolina. Together they represent the promise of a less fragmented forest, and a brighter future for birds and people.
“To every landowner who went out of their way to improve habitat for birds, thank you for doing your part,” says Aimee. “You’re all part of the Audubon family, and we’ve made a real difference for birds together.” (Aimee recently moved on to a new position at the American Forest Foundation.)
Check out our Forest Landbird Legacy Program celebration video, and get a few highlights here:
Janet Warner Montgomery decided to make a forest stewardship plan for her Ashe County property after watching the mountain next to her undergo heavy logging. She wanted to find ways to sustainably harvest timber while also improving habitat for wildlife and birds.
With help from a local forester and the Forest Landbird Legacy Project, Janet removed a stand of white pines—remnants of an old tree plantation—using a low-impact logging technique that involved a horse and a crane-and-cable system called a yarder. The end result was better bird diversity in Janet’s forest and an interesting new case study of how landowners can combine old and new forestry techniques.
Located just north of Durham, the 708-acre Horton Grove Nature Preserve is a Triangle Land Conservancy property that is popular with birdwatchers and hikers. Audubon partnered with the land trust to support bird-friendly forestry work at the preserve, which included the creation of “gaps” in the forest that help spur the growth of new vegetation on the forest floor and ultimately help create a healthier, more diverse forest.
“Creating some of these gaps can help regenerate oak and hickory trees so it’s ready to become the next forest, and that also benefits bird species,” says Matt Rutledge, Associate Director of Stewardship at the Triangle Land Conservancy.
Russ Oates, a retired biologist, is a long-time Audubon volunteer: He was one of our first Land Bird Stewards and helped document new Golden-winged Warbler locations in and around Yancy County.
Russ has also turned his attention to his own property. He was the first landowner recognized in the Forest Landbird Legacy Program for his efforts to conserve a contiguous stand of hardwood trees with birds in mind, and has since done additional to restore Golden-winged Warbler habitat on his land.
Audubon partnered with the Coastal Land Trust to support the eradication of nonnative plants at the land trust’s Island Creek property in Jones County, next to Croatan National Foret. The 247-acre property is home to a number of rare plants, including species typically found only in the mountains and Piedmont. “This program has helped us tremendously, giving us technical and financial assistance on invasive plant eradication work,” says Janice Allen, Director of Land Protection at the Coastal Land Trust.
Montgomery and Moore Counties
An Audubon partnership with Three Rivers Land Trust is breathing new life into woodlands in the Uwharrie Mountains, thanks to prescribed fires and bird-friendly forestry practices. Support from the program supported the land trust’s work to remove invasive plants and add more diversity and health to the forest.
“Our partnership with Audubon is incredibly important in the Uwharrie Mountains. This area is one of the last places in the Piedmont with large swaths of undeveloped land, where habitat work can make a huge difference,” says Crystal Cockman, director of conservation at Three Rivers Land Trust.
Learn more about our Forest Landbird Legacy Project here.