Learning from Cottontails: Successes and Challenges of the Young Forest Initiative

April 20, 2020

Presented By Lisa Wahle, Wildlife Management Institute, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection

Young forest and shrubland, and the wildlife species that depend on these areas have been in decline for many years due to anthropogenic development on natural lands and the normal maturation of forests. The designation of the New England cottontail (NEC) as a candidate species for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2006 provided an impetus for habitat management in order to avert ESA listing. A coordinated regional effort and comprehensive conservation strategy to restore NECs brought funding, staffing, on-the-ground management, research, monitoring and outreach. In 2015, the US Fish & Wildlife Service determined that listing the NEC under ESA was not warranted due to the Demonstrated1; success of ongoing conservation efforts and the expectation they would continue. Habitat work was initially targeted in NEC Focus Areas and then expanded to a statewide initiative for American woodcock and other species. After nearly a decade of research, monitoring, habitat management and other conservation work, we are taking a look at how these efforts have paid off, old and new challenges to conservation, and where and how to focus our efforts in the future.

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