New York has more forest land than any other state in the Northeast with 18.6 million acres, covering about 50% of the state. Some 85% of those acres is controlled by more than 500,000 private land owners. The changing demographics of family forest owners have significant implications for conservation strategies on private lands.

The sustainable management of private forest lands is critical not only to the state's economic health, but also to its environmental health. Forests stabilize the soil and provide a preferred land use for improving water quality. Forests provide habitat for a significant number of wildlife species, including many critical and rare species.

The Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy analyzes the species in each watershed, as well as each area's critical habitats. The plan is organized by the state's 10 major watersheds.

A site visit by a Master Forest Owner (MFO) can launch measures to assist wildlife species in greatest need of conservation in your watershed. MFOs are encouraged to study the habitats of landowners' forests in their visits and consider what species would most benefit from that habitat. It is hoped that information shared will serve as a springboard for potential projects for property owners to undertake on their own or in partnership with appropriate organizations or agencies.

The training the MFO volunteers receive complements their experience as forest owners. MFOs complete a four-day training program, during which they learn about wildlife and sawtimber management, forest economics and ecology. The MFOs continue to receive information updates, attend refresher classes and maintain contact with natural resource managers from private, public and academic organizations.

Experienced and highly motivated volunteer MFOs are available statewide, ready to assist neighbor forest owners with the information needed to manage their forests sustainably for wildlife conservation and other objectives. This fulfills the mission of the MFO program to provide New York's private forest owners with the information and encouragement necessary to manage forest holdings wisely.

Contact your nearest Master Forest Owner for details on the Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy Plan and how you can be part of this valuable effort to assist New York's wildlife.


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