National award honors research leading to hab

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image: Research ecologists Nancy Sonti and Rich Hallett walk through the forest at Stillmeadow PeacePark.
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Credit: Photo by: Bill Shewbridge, UMBC New Media Studio.

In Missouri, USDA Forest Service science has been instrumental in restoring habitat, culminating in the reintroduction of a songbird that disappeared from the state a century ago. In Baltimore, research is helping parishioners and community volunteers restore a forest important to public and ecological health, community connections, and climate resilience in an underserved neighborhood. Both projects were among a handful of recipients of the Forest Service’s 2021 National “Chef’s Awards.”

“These awards reflect the difference that the Northern Research Station is making in our forests and communities through our unique scientific role in the most forested and populated region of the country,” said Cynthia West, Director of the Northern Research Station. Northern Research and the Forest Products Laboratory. “These two projects illustrate what we are trying to achieve: improving the sustainability of forests and the species that depend on them, and improving the lives of people who live in urban areas through nature.

The Forest Service’s 2021 Chief’s Awards were announced Jan. 13 and included 19 projects that advance the agency’s four goals: sustaining our nation’s forests and grasslands, providing public benefit, applying knowledge to the scale and excel as a high performing agency. Scientists from the Northern Research Station are part of two of the projects honored this year.

Located in the heart of the Beechfield and Irvington neighborhoods in southwest Baltimore City, Maryland, Stillmeadow Community Fellowship Church has a parcel of forested land with a stream, known as Stillmeadow Community PeacePark & ​​Forest. The forest has lost ash trees to the invasive emerald ash borer and has been further degraded by invasive vegetation. Several branches of the Forest Service, including scientists from the Northern Research Station’s urban field stations, collaborated to help the community restore the forest as green space.

“People and nature are inextricably linked,” said Morgan Grove, who leads the team of scientists working with Stillmeadow Community Church. “What we are learning in the restoration of Stillmeadow PeacePark and Forest will help us design strategies that can be used nationwide to develop partnerships like this, leading to healthier communities and natural areas.”

In Missouri, a collaboration between the Northern Research Station and the USDA Forest Service Eastern and Southern Regions, along with other partners, was recognized for decades of work that culminated in the restoration of critical habitat and the reintroduction of a native bird that had been extirpated in the state for a century. Scientists based at the Research Unit at North Columbia Research Station, Missouri, worked with Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas and Mark Twain National Forest and other partners to restore pine and short-leaved oak forests, the main habitat of the brown-headed nuthatch. Forest restoration was a major goal of Mark Twain’s National Forest Plan, and restoration progress has been advanced by the Missouri Pine-Oak Forest Restoration Project, part of the National Collaborative Forest Restoration Program. forest landscapes developed by the forest service.

The reintroduction of the brown-headed nuthatch began in 2020 when a team including the Missouri Department of Conservation and the University of Missouri translocated birds from Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas to Arkansas National Forest. Mark Twain. The team moved 46 nuthatches to the Mark Twain National Forest in the summer of 2020 and documented their survival and nesting the following spring. In August 2021, they successfully translocated an additional 56 birds and will monitor them as part of a proposed expansion of the Missouri Pine-Oak Forest Restoration Project.

“This project demonstrates the value of collaboration and the value of working incrementally to achieve restoration goals,” said Frank Thompson, a wildlife research biologist based at the Northern Research Station lab in Columbia, Missouri. “I’m very proud of the result, and I’m even prouder of the collaboration between science and management behind the habitat restoration and reintroduction of the brown-headed nuthatch.

A full list of Chef’s Award projects and the recording of the presentation will be released in the coming days.


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