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! Suffield WMA Prescribed Fire, Suffield

Prescribed fire is planned for 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 will grow 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. Suffield WMA will be closed to visitors during the days of fire operations; pre-burn notification will be given to the Town of Suffield and signage will be posted on-site.

Map of Prescribed Burn Plan

 

NEW! Wyantenock State Forest, Woodville Block, Warren

Cerulean Warbler

A DEEP Forestry Division timber harvest is beginning in February 2022 in the Woodville Block of Wyantenock State Forest in Warren, off Route 341 (Sale W-429). 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.

While small compared to many DEEP logging operations, it poses topographic and access challenges, as well as an atypical configuration (see map), and will be not be completed as quickly as the acreage may imply. The logger who purchased the timber sale will be hand-cutting and using a cable skidder.

Forest Management Plan for Wyantenock State Forest - Woodville Block

During the duration of this operation, the public parking area off Route 341 will be closed to the public and be used as a log landing. The road system through the gate will also be closed to recreational use. This includes foot traffic, bikes, and horseback. Signs will be posted at the entrance and parking area.

 

NEW! 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

 

NEW! 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.

 

Tunxis State Forest, Barkhamsted and Hartland

Harvest W-428 is 32 acres of conversion to two-aged management, which will provide a lot of sunlight to the forest floor and encourage dense new regeneration throughout, benefitting the ruffed grouse that are currently known to use adjacent areas. The young forest habitat nearby is about to outgrow its usefulness, however, and this harvest should renew and provide more beneficial habitat for years to come. The final shelterwood with reserves on 50 acres elsewhere off Pine Mountain Road will provide very similar conditions in a distinctly separate area, further diversifying forest age classes and habitat across Tunxis State Forest. Both of these forest stands also included extensive hemlock salvage due to elongate hemlock scale attack and drought stress.

Map of Harvest W-428

Pine Mountain Road, off Route 179, in the Hartland Hollow Block of Tunxis State Forest, Barkhamsted is closed. Active logging is occurring near the road and there is frequent log trucking activity.

Harvest W-433 is an ash salvage in several separate areas of Tunxis State Forest in West Hartland. These irregular harvests will include improvement cutting to remove the least healthy trees of all sizes throughout the stands, rather than simply harvesting ash. The varied size openings will provide habitat diversity and greater vertical diversity as sunlight hits trees and the understory to varying degrees and with differing exposures. Most cavity trees will be left standing. Woodcock are known to occur in these areas and will benefit from these habitat enhancements.

Map of Harvest W-433

Wilderness Road, hunter parking area, and the road system through the gate, are closed in the West Hartland Block of Tunxis State Forest, Hartland. There is logging along the road and forwarding on the road; the public parking area is being used as a log landing.

 

Barn Island Wildlife Management Area, Stonington

Culvert at a Barn Island Wildlife Management Area impoundment.

The first of two phases of a wetland habitat enhancement and road improvement project was conducted at Barn Island Wildlife Management Area (WMA) during November through December 2021. The work 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). The 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. Phase 2 of this project is scheduled to begin in March 2022. The work will involve the replacement and enhancement of 3 culverts that currently restrict tidal flow into the wetland impoundments. Sections of the service road/trail will be temporarily closed to public access while the work is being conducted. For your safety and the safety of others, please obey all signage and avoid entering the work areas.

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 will benefit 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

 

Nassahegon State Forest, Burlington

A DEEP Forestry Division timber harvest was slated to begin in November 2021 on the east/southeast side of Stone Road at Nassahegon State Forest, Burlington. This 75-acre operation will thin the hardwood forest and improve the health and productivity of the woods. A smaller section of the harvest, roughly north of the Stone Jail vicinity, will be a selection cut to convert an area to uneven-aged management and favor white pine and pitch pine wherever possible. This is important for diversity in a forest that has very little conifer cover. Additionally, pitch pine is a very rare and declining species and cover type and any management to encourage new pitch pine regeneration is a priority. Roadside hazard trees will also be dropped as part of this operation on both sides of Stone Road. When that phase occurs near the end of the harvest, DEEP will coordinate with the Town of Burlington to close the road to the public.

Map of Harvest W-432


Please note that the east side of the state forest along Stone Road will be closed to the public until further notice for safety reasons. The exception will be the Blue/Red Trail. This trail will be crossed with equipment at a few locations but will not otherwise be impacted. Unblazed and unapproved trails on the east side of the road should not be used during the logging work. Signs will be posted along the road frontage. No DEEP approved trails will be closed for this forest operation, and all approved bike trails are on the other side of Stone Road. The duration of the closure is uncertain but may stretch well into the winter of 2022. Stay tuned for updates. 

State WMA Management Plans

Completed Habitat Management Projects

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 February 2022.