Overall forest health is marked by one thing: DIVERSITY! Both, older mature forests and young, vibrant, growing forests are essential for balancing the ecosystem and providing the essential habitat needs of many birds, animals, and reptiles. Over time, many of Wisconsin’s wetlands, old pastures, and fields have become overgrown with shrubby vegetation. And no different than trees in our forest, these shrubs grow old and structurally change as they mature. These shrubby areas may be populated by many types of shrubs and trees such as: alder, dogwood, willow, and aspen.

One example is alder. Old outcroppings of alder become less dense, broad in structure, and less palatable as a food source, making it an obsolete or less desirable habitat for many critters. Young and vibrant alder is more dense, has tight vertical structure, and the young shoots are very tender and tasty, making it desirable food and cover for many ground animals, birds, and deer. To foster the essential habitat needs for healthy populations of these wildlife species, it is necessary to cut or shear patches of old growth to create conditions for vigorous young growth. Strategic cutting encourages bursts of fresh young regrowth – tender shoots, sprouts, and leaf cover- that increases nourishment, cover, and protection for these many woodland creatures. Ruffed grouse, American woodcock, white-tail deer and the Golden-winged warbler, are just some of the specific species that benefit from alder shearing.

Sound Forest Management utilizes high-powered, wide-tracked forestry machines for quick, precise, and strategic vegetation shearing based on specific land use goals. These goals may range from increasing birding and wildlife-viewing opportunities or improving hunting grounds for ruffed grouse, ground animals, and white-tail deer. It is also useful in clearing paths for land access and hunter shooting lanes.

Alder shearing is best performed under frozen winter conditions during the months of December through March, when marginal wetlands are less susceptible to rutting and water resource disturbance. Also, the vegetation responds with greater growth rates and recovery when harvested during plant dormancy.

The Young Forest Initiative and Alder Shearing Grants
Is your alder shearing project eligible for government grants?
Forest management projects that increase young forest habitat may be eligible for financial and technical assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) as part of the Young Forest Initiative, a program fostering young forest habitat in Northern Wisconsin. Shearing of alder and aspen, especially as part of a larger land management plan, may qualify your project if you live in the following counties: Ashland, Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, Iron, Florence, Forest, Langlade, Lincoln, Marathon, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto, Oneida, Price, Rusk, Sawyer, Shawano, Taylor, Vilas and Washburn.

To find out if you are eligible for alder shearing grants, contact Callie Bertsch, Habitat Coordinator, with the Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership, at (715) 362-5941, Ext. 107, or email CBertsch@abcbirds.org. Find more information on the web at www.wi.nrcs.usda.gov.