Forest Cover Habitat Project Executive Summary

This three-year Habitat Stewardship Program Prevention Stream project goal is to increase forest habitat in the southern Ontario areas of Haldimand County and the Niagara Peninsula. Early successional stages of forest habitat creation target the support of breeding and foraging habitat needs of regional priority species Black-billed Cuckoo, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Towhee, Northern Flicker and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Establishment of forest habitat which extends forest edges >=100 m from the interior of contiguous blocks targets the future (i.e. fifteen years and decades thereafter) breeding and foraging requirements of regional priority species Eastern Wood-pewee and Wood Thrush. The Wild Species National Status of all targeted species in the project is ‘Secure’, although populations have been on the decline in recent years. The primary threats to population stability are low levels of forest cover, extensive fragmentation and few large contiguous blocks of forest habitat.

Strategic afforestation of marginal agricultural or abandoned lands adjacent to existing forest will reduce the primary threats to the target species by increasing contiguous forest area, connecting disparate forest blocks and increasing the biodiversity and native species component of the vegetation communities. Outreach to landowners in these high-priority areas will be undertaken annually by utilizing Canada Post’s targeted mailing service to promote the afforestation program and assistance available to eligible property owners. The target is to engage over seventy landowners to support afforestation projects on their properties and to sign 15-year Stewardship Agreements to protect over 150 ha of forest habitat established on their acreages.

Establishment will be promoted by a regime of site-specific activities included in afforestation prescriptions signed by a Registered Professional Forester. Evaluation of projects will include assessing planting quality, surveying survival in years 1, 2 and 5 and conducting bird presence surveys in years 1, 2, 5 and 10. Planting and survival assessments will identify any remedial or tending activities required, as well as promote an adaptive management approach to establishment and healthy development of future forest habitat. Trends in bird presence surveys will inform where alternative treatments are warranted to achieve the desired result of enhancing early successional breeding and foraging habitat and forest-interior habitat in the long term.

A shortage of a diverse species-range of locally-adapted, Carolinian-forest tree seedlings will be addressed to facilitate consistent availability to sustain afforestation beyond the life of project by developing and implementing a seed collection management plan that includes identifying seed sources, forecasting seed crops, collecting seed and collaborating with tree nurseries to grow the seedlings essential to meeting the overall project goal of increasing forest cover.

The multiple components of the proposed project achieve Habitat Stewardship Program Prevention Stream expected results through its support by a network of not-for-profit NGO's, private-sector businesses, agencies, private landowners and a multi-generational component of community volunteers whose stewardship efforts and commitments will endure into the future; important habitat for the target species will be improved through increasing forest cover, enlarging existing forest blocks and reducing forest fragmentation; and important habitat will be protected by 15-year Stewardship Agreements signed by participating landowners.