Families, hunting clubs and other private forest landowners in some West Virginia Counties have a chance to participate in one of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) cost sharing programs that will improve the overall health of their forests. A healthy forest is one that has diverse age classes and a loss of this diversity can have negative impacts on wildlife species and plant communities. Many species utilize a forest that vary in age classes as part of their life cycle and are now depending on strategic forest management to produce the age classes they need. West Virginias forest primarily consist of sawtimber-aged forest, leaving a shortage of young forest and shrubland habitats. These early succession habitats support a variety of West Virginia’s favorite game and non-game species, including the Ruffed Grouse, White-tailed Deer, Wild Turkey, Golden-winged Warbler, and the Eastern Whip-poor-will. While some of these species are not facing declining numbers others have seen concerning drops in their populations. The Golden-winged Warbler’s West Virginia population in particular has declined 99% since the 1960’s. This led it to become one of the targeted species of the Working Lands for Wildlife partnership, which allows landowners to receive financial and technical assistance to manage their property to meet the breeding needs of Golden-winged Warblers and landowners’ objectives at the same time. If you are a forest landowner you will have the opportunity to sustainably manage your forest using science-based recommendations that promotes healthier and more valuable tree growth. Golden-winged Warblers can also responded positively to abandoned farmlands that have been improved with certain conservation practices. The USDA funding is through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and is available for landowners interested in improving forest habitat on their lands. There are some restriction on who can apply and not everyone will be guaranteed funding. If you are interested in participating in this program or would like to learn more the NRCS would like to hear from you. Please contact the Golden-winged Warbler coordinator Katie Loucks (304-364-5103) to learn more.