Habitat Management at Wildlife Management Areas and State Forests

The mission of the DEEP Wildlife Division is to advance the conservation, use, and appreciation of Connecticut’s wildlife resources. The Division’s Habitat Program supports this mission by managing for a diversity of habitats for Connecticut's wildlife species on our system of 109 state-owned wildlife management areas (WMAs), as well as state forests and other state lands. These lands also support wildlife-based recreation, including hunting, fishing, trapping, and wildlife viewing and the Habitat Program is responsible for managing and maintaining these areas to support those uses. A range of techniques are used to manage wildlife habitat, including forest harvests, mulching and mowing, prescribed burning, invasive plant control, and open marsh water management. The Program is also responsible for developing management plans that identify the natural resource values of WMAs and objectives for maintaining or enhancing those values.

Current Habitat Management Projects

State WMA Management Plans

Completed Habitat Management Projects

Forest Management on State Lands

Related Resources

What is a wildlife management area? WMAs are areas of land and water having unique or outstanding wildlife qualities that are managed primarily for the conservation and enhancement of fish and wildlife habitat. Even though these areas provide opportunities for fish and wildlife-based recreation, such as fishing, hunting, trapping and wildlife observation, they are not state parks. Habitat and the wildlife that live at WMAs are the main priority.
Over 7,500 acres of WMAs have been acquired through the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program, a federal program that collects an excise tax on sporting arms, handguns, ammunition and archery equipment and distributes the money to state wildlife agencies to support wildlife restoration (land acquisition, management and research) and hunter education programs. WMAs range in size from one acre to over 2,200 acres and include a variety of habitats, such as grasslands, old fields, forests, coastal salt marshes, freshwater marshes, and riparian zones.

Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration logo and tagline.

Current Habitat Management Projects at WMAs and State Forests

NEW! Nassahegon State Forest

Map of a forest harvest at Nassahegon State Forest in Burlington.

A timber harvest (W-432A) on Stone Road at Nassahegon State Forest in Burlington resumed on November 28, 2022, after shutting down this past April. The remaining half of this timber harvest should be wrapped up this winter. It is a combination of a thinning and selection cutting treatment to convert an area to uneven-aged management, and totals 75 acres.

As a result, the east side of Stone Road will again be closed to the public in this state forest and this includes hunting at the specific request of the logging contractor. Also, the public parking area that is used daily by mountain bikers will be closed from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on weekdays. The public can still park there on weekends. Signs have been posted stating this at the parking area. The parking area is necessary as a log truck turnaround.

No public trails are being closed as a result of this work. The only recognized and authorized trail on the east side of Stone Road is one Blue-blazed Trail that can remain open for hiking, as long as hikers stay on the trail.

NEW! DelReeves Road within Meshomasic State Forest

DelReeves Road within Meshomasic State Forest in East Hampton right after tropical storm Ida in September 2021, showing significant road damage.

A culvert replacement project will begin on September 26, 2022, on DelReeves Road within Meshomasic State Forest in East Hampton. The current culvert, which carries Mott Hill Brook under DelReeves Road, is scoured out at the outlet, blocking brook trout from moving further up the watershed beyond this culvert. As a result, DEEP's Engineering and Support Services, Fisheries, and Forestry Divisions have collaborated to replace the culvert to allow for fish passage, as well as increase water flow capacity as the brook has washed out the road on several occasions during periods of very high water flow (such as during and immediately after a tropical storm or hurricane). This road will be closed during construction, with an anticipated completion date of December 24, 2022. The contractor doing the work will be installing physical barriers near the nearest turn around areas and also installing signage at the project site.

Franklin Swamp Wildlife Management Area, North Franklin

Eastern Towhee

The Wildlife Division will implement forest habitat management at Franklin Swamp WMA starting in January 2022. The project will involve the removal of trees over a 24-acre area within the 772-acre WMA. The project site is being managed to create and enhance young forest habitat and conditions for associated young forest-dependent wildlife species. Historically, natural disturbances and agricultural abandonment helped sustain young forest habitat and its associated species. As our forests have matured, habitat for young forest-dependent wildlife has declined. In the absence of natural disturbances, like fires or flooding, natural resource managers use forest management techniques to initiate disturbance and facilitate vegetation changes which will be suitable for wildlife species that rely on young seedling and sapling-stage forest. The Connecticut Wildlife Action Plan identifies over 50-species of Greatest Conservation Need which require this successional stage of habitat. These species include the American woodcock, Eastern towhee (pictured), New England cottontail, prairie warbler, brown thrasher, and field sparrow. The Wildlife Division, in cooperation with other partners, has joined the Young Forest Habitat Initiative to help restore these important habitats.

More Information

 

Nathan Hale State Forest, Coventry

The Wildlife Division will implement a habitat management project at Nathan Hale State Forest in Coventry in January 2022. This project will involve mowing and mulching vegetation to enhance and maintain early successional habitat (fields and young forest) in a portion of the state forest. Management activities will provide suitable conditions for wildlife, such as American woodcock, Eastern towhee, and other Species of Greatest Conservation Need associated with early successional habitat. Certain native trees and shrubs, such as pitch pine, eastern red cedar, and highbush blueberry, will be retained when feasible. Historically, natural disturbances and agricultural abandonment helped sustain young forest habitat and shrublands. As our forests have matured, habitat for young forest-dependent wildlife has declined. In the absence of natural disturbances, like fires or flooding, natural resource managers use forest management and techniques to initiate disturbance and facilitate vegetation changes which will be suitable for wildlife species that rely on young seedling and sapling-stage forest.

 

State WMA Management Plans

Completed Habitat Management Projects

Barn Island Wildlife Management Area, Stonington

Culvert at a Barn Island Wildlife Management Area impoundment.

Wetland habitat enhancement and road improvement projects have been competed at Barn Island Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The first phase of the project involved repairing the top of the dam and service road that runs across the marsh, and the replacement of one crushed culvert that restricted tidal flow into one of the wetland impoundments (Impoundment 2). A lack of tidal exchange results in degradation of the salt marsh and a transition in vegetation cover and wildlife use. This enhancement of tidal flow aids in coastal resiliency. The second phase of the project involved the replacement and enhancement of 3 culverts that restricted tidal flow into the wetland impoundments.

Coastal New England and Long Island Sound contain critical habitat for migratory birds. Barn Island WMA is designated as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society and contains the largest tract of saltmarsh adjacent to undeveloped coastal forest in New England. Restoration through re-establishment of tidal flow throughout 142 acres of saltmarsh at Barn Island WMA benefits over 20 Greatest Conservation Need bird species, including green-winged teal, American black duck, gadwall, mallard, clapper rail, saltmarsh sparrow, least bittern, glossy ibis, roseate tern, and least tern. Questions about this project may be directed to the DEEP Wildlife Division at 860-424-3011 or DEEP.Wildlife@ct.gov.

More Information on Barn Island WMA

 

Suffield WMA Prescribed Fire, Suffield

Prescribed fire was used on portions of the Suffield Wildlife Management Area, in Suffield, over a 1- to 2-day period in spring 2022. The aim of this project is to manage vegetation using prescribed fire within a 117-acre portion of Suffield WMA, a state-owned natural area managed for wildlife conservation and wildlife-based recreation. The overall goal of prescribed fire is to sustain and enhance sandplain grassland habitat, an under-represented natural community that many wildlife Species of Greatest Conservation Need rely on to survive and reproduce, including grassland nesting birds. Prescribed fire is an effective management tool to maintain and enhance grassland habitat. Following the prescribed burn and the resulting consumption of aboveground grasses and thatch, new vegetation grew soon afterwards and the entire site will be revegetated. Expected long-term changes to vegetation within burned areas is an increase in native warm season grasses and a decrease in woody invasive plants. The project site is divided into 6 burn units (Units A – F), and only a portion of the total area will be treated in a given year to maintain refugia habitat for wildlife. Depending on the post-fire response, portions of the WMA will be burned on a 2- to 10-year frequency to continue sustaining and enhancing grassland habitat conditions. The Wildlife Division accomplishes prescribed fire operations in cooperation with fire professionals and foresters from the DEEP Division of Forestry.

Map of Prescribed Burn Plan

 

Wyantenock State Forest, Woodville Block, Warren

Cerulean Warbler

A DEEP Forestry Division timber harvest was initiated in February 2022 in the Woodville Block of Wyantenock State Forest in Warren, off Route 341. A 27-acre area is being converted to uneven-aged management through single-tree and small group selection cutting, retaining the best quality trees of all species and sizes. The varied size openings will encourage new regeneration on the forest floor, as well as brushy habitat that includes berry-producing plants. Retained trees and new openings in the forest are intended to benefit the cerulean warbler, a Connecticut Species of Special Concern that is believed to occur in the vicinity.

Forest Management Plan for Wyantenock State Forest - Woodville Block

 

Kollar Wildlife Management Area, Tolland

The Wildlife Division implemented a habitat management project at Kollar Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Tolland in November 2021 and completed it in early December 2021. This project involved mowing and mulching vegetation to enhance and maintain early successional habitat (fields and young forest) over a 21-acre portion of the 929-acre WMA. Management activities provided suitable conditions for wildlife, such as American woodcock, Eastern towhee, and other Species of Greatest Conservation Need associated with early successional habitat. Certain native trees and shrubs, such as pitch pine, eastern red cedar, and highbush blueberry, were retained when feasible. Historically, natural disturbances and agricultural abandonment helped sustain young forest habitat and shrublands. As our forests have matured, habitat for young forest-dependent wildlife has declined. In the absence of natural disturbances, like fires or flooding, natural resource managers use forest management and techniques to initiate disturbance and facilitate vegetation changes which will be suitable for wildlife species that rely on young seedling and sapling-stage forest.

 

Zemko Pond Wildlife Management Area, Salem

Image of the sign at Zemko Pond Wildlife Management AreaThe Wildlife Division implemented forest habitat management activities at Zemko Pond Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Salem, CT starting in August 2020. The habitat management project involved the removal of selected trees over a 28-acre area in the interior of the 464-acre WMA. Roughly 22-acres of the project site is being managed to create and enhance young forest habitat and conditions for associated young forest-dependent wildlife species. Historically, natural disturbances and agricultural abandonment helped sustain young forest habitat and its associated species. As our forests have matured, habitat for young forest-dependent wildlife has declined. In the absence of natural disturbances, like fires or flooding, natural resource managers use forest management techniques to initiate disturbance and facilitate vegetation changes which will be suitable for wildlife species that rely on young seedling and sapling-stage forest. The Connecticut Wildlife Action Plan identifies over 50-species of Greatest Conservation Need which require this successional stage of habitat. These species include the American woodcock, eastern towhee, New England cottontail, prairie warbler, brown thrasher, and field sparrow. The Wildlife Division, in cooperation with other partners, has joined the Young Forest Habitat Initiative to help restore these important habitats.

The remaining 6-acres of project site are being managed to facilitate safety from hazard trees, long-term maintenance, and efficient growth adjacent to the DEEP Access Road, which also serves as a popular walking path. 

Map of the Project

Related Resources

Connecticut's Young Forest Habitat Initiative
The Wildlife Division, in cooperation with other partners, has initiated the Young Forest Habitat Initiative to help restore important habitats. Projects associated with this initiative include: 1) New England Cottontail Restoration; 2) Shrubland Bird Monitoring; and 3) American Woodcock Habitat Use and Survival.

Managing Grasslands, Shrublands, and Young Forest Habitats for Wildlife: A Guide for the Northeast

Why We Manage Connecticut State Forests

Forest Management in Connecticut

Managing Forests for Trees and Birds in Connecticut ( A publication by Audubon Connecticut)

Benefits of Clearcuts Brochure

Content last updated in November 2022.