“Let the Sun Shine In” initiative funded by USDA grants public-private partnership to focus on forest diversity

BEDFORD – The USDA Forest Service’s Eastern Region recently awarded a Landscape Scale Restoration (LSR) grant to American Bird Conservancy. 

The LSR competitive grant program encourages collaborative, science-based restoration of rural forest landscapes and addresses State Forest Action Plan priorities while leveraging public and private resources.

Through the Landscape Scale Restoration competitive grant program, the Forest Service provides funding to states and partners working on non-federal lands to improve watershed health for people and wildlife and reduce wildfire risk, and the spread of invasive plants, insects, and diseases. Healthy forests store and filter the water that we need every day and provide critical buffers to storm runoff; helping to reduce the risk of flooding downstream.

American Bird Conservancy plans to use the grant to fund the Let the Sun Shine In – Indiana initiative.  This collaboration is focused on recovering and maintaining southern Indiana’s oak-hickory ecosystems, which have been declining due to the lack of fire and other disturbances over the past century.  These disturbances historically created more open, sunny conditions in which this ecosystem could thrive, hence the message “Let the Sun Shine In”.  

Timber harvest and prescribed fire simulate historical disturbance and create forests that are diverse in ages, species, and structure. In particular, young forest habitat (less than 9 years of age) has been declining for decades along with the birds that depend on it. Areas regenerating after clearcut and oak shelterwood treatments provide this critical habitat which provides dense cover and a variety of berries and insects for food.  Many birds also depend on the oak-hickory ecosystem for protein-rich caterpillars to feed their young, or acorns to provide a winter food source.

Diversifying southern Indiana forests to provide oak-hickory ecosystems in appropriate locations and a shifting mosaic of age classes will provide healthier trees to face the stresses of climate change and provide for a diversity of wildlife species.

The Let the Sun Shine In – Indiana public-private partnership consists of partners with a mutual interest in healthy, sustainable forests and watersheds, as well as improved wildlife habitat. The partnership will focus on communication, outreach, education, and science-based implementation aimed at recovering and maintaining healthy oak-hickory ecosystems and forest diversity.

For updates on this project follow @LSSIIndiana on Facebook. For more on American Bird Conservancy visit www.abcbirds.org.