• Start-up
  • Planning
  • Action
  • Evaluation
Audubon Vermont’s 255-acre Green Mountain Audubon Center, which was recognized in 2004 as an Important Bird Area, is managed for a diversity of wildlife habitats. The property is a demonstration site for land management practices that are bird-friendly, and highlights the co-benefits of these actions for carbon mitigation in forests.

Project Area

trail map
The Green Mountain Audubon Center (GMAC) is a designated Important Bird Area located in Huntington VT, along the banks of the Huntington River adjacent to the Birds of Vermont Museum. The 255-acre property operated by Audubon Vermont consists of wetlands, streams, meadows, and forests comprised of conifer and various northern hardwood species. Like many of the region’s forests, much of the property’s forests have established since agricultural abandonment took place around 100 years ago, with no evidence of management since that time. The forest is composed of mostly even-aged, multi-strata stands with an upper canopy of hemlock and a mid-story of various northern hardwood species. There is a 10-acre sugarbush with a sugar/red maple overstory and a red oak-hemlock midstory on the property that has been used for syrup production since the 1940’s, and is an important component of the environmental education programs at the Center. The GMAC serves as a demonstration area for the Foresters for the Birds program, which provides tools and training for forest and natural resource professionals to help landowners integrate management of timber and migratory bird habitat.

Management Goals

field tour

The GMAC supports significant environmental education, scientific research, and outdoor recreation efforts on the property, in addition to maintaining and enhancing a mosaic of habitat types far all wildlife species. Wildlife management goals including managing for “responsibility species” as identified by Audubon Vermont’s Forest Birds Initiative, which manages for species that Vermont’s forests play a globally significant role in maintaining viable populations. Research goals include understanding the response of bird communities to forest management on the property so practices can be adapted accordingly. Other goals include low-impact recreation on the Center’s many hiking trails, and maintaining maple syrup production for educational programs.

In 2007, Audubon Vermont created a Management Plan for the entire GMAC property. The Plan identified several stands covering roughly 40 acres where active management would took place. Harvesting occurred recently on several of these stands, subsequently Audubon Vermont started to work on updating the Management Plan to identify future work across the property, including these stands as well as in the 10-acre sugarbush. Updates to the Management Plan will focus on the continued education and research goals of the GMAC, particularly managing for neo-tropical bird breeding habitat. Efforts to update the Center’s Management Plan recognizes that management activities to enhance the habitat value of forests for priority bird species also provides significant co-benefits for both climate adaptation to and carbon benefits to maintain and enhance forest health on the property.

Specific management objectives for the GMAC include:

  • Protect interior forest conditions for neo-tropical songbird breeding habitat
  • Increase sawtimber quantity, quality, and volume increment
  • Increase understory development
  • Reduce beech competition increase regeneration
  • Controlling invasive species and prevent establishment of new invasives, particularly along hiking trails and in disturbed areas

Climate Change Impacts

Important climate impacts for the GMAC include the projected decline of some northern tree species that are common across the property as a result of a warming climate. Other impacts of concern include increased winter minimum temperatures and decreased probability of lower lethal temperatures that may lead to range expansion and abundance of non-native insect pests such as hemlock wooly adelgid. Warming winters will also reduce snowpack increasing the challenges for winter harvesting and the risk of damage to soils and tree roots, as well as increasing deer browsing and the challenges to establishing regeneration. The increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather, particularly high wind events that will result in larger and more frequent natural disturbance and may promote the spread of non-native invasive plant species. Additionally, extreme precipitation events may cause soil erosion, particularly in areas adjacent to trails and roadways, leading to sedimentation of streams and wetlands.

Challenges and Opportunities

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing the management objectives of this project, including:

Challenges

Loss of some species from insect pests, such as hemlock and white ash, disproportionately impact habitat for priority bird species and sawtimber production
Soil erosion and windthrow impacts to recreation, necessitating re-routing of trails
Increasing deer browse, invasive worms, competition from beech, and invasive plant species limiting natural regeneration, particularly in sugarbush
Extreme storms also present operational challenges for maintaining recreational trails due to erosion and windthrow, requiring expensive or time-consuming trail repair and rerouting

Opportunities

The opportunity to redesign trails to be more resistant to the impacts of extreme events
Non-native insect pests (emerald ash borer, hemlock wooly adelgid) may increase the abundance of large-diameter snags, cavity trees, and downed woody material
Increased natural disturbance from high wind events may create opportunities for increasing structural heterogeneity
Disturbance may increase the abundance of other species such as red oak

Adaptation Actions

Project participants used the Adaptation Workbook to develop several adaptation actions for this project that provide an array of benefits—including bird habitat, timber, and carbon—while increasing the ability of the forest to adapt to changing conditions for this project.

See anticipated co-benefits of each tactic for carbon mitigation, forest bird habitat, and climate adaptation

Adaptation tactics include:

Area/Topic
Approach
Tactics
Property-wide
Maintain current extent of forested area, including early successional and mature forest
Using forwarder during harvest operations and position landing sites adjacent to the road (rather than within forest)
Control of non-native invasive plant populations using mechanical removal (preferred), herbicides, or targeted goat grazing
If EAB impacts occur, use insecticide on a small number of ash trees to preserve ash component on landscape
Maintain no-harvest reserve area where forest is allowed to succeed to larger size classes
Implement forest harvest (such as group selection and expanding gap harvests) in northern hardwood stands and in sugarbush to maintain or increase tree species diversity and improve tree growth
In actively-managed stands, use silvicultural practices (single-tree selection, crop-tree release, and thinnings) that promote the quality of red maple, white pine, black cherry, and other native species for sawtimber
In actively managed stands, increase stocking levels by allowing trees to get to larger size classes
Promote northern red oak component in areas where the species is present

Monitoring

Project participants identified several monitoring items that could help inform future management, including:
Continued efforts for detecting and removing invasive plant species, erosion on trails, and detection of non-native insect pests
Regeneration of tree species, particularly in harvested gaps
Abundance and nesting of forest birds

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact
Todd
.

Keywords

Carbon mitigation
Management plan
Recreation
Wildlife habitat

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