WHAT ARE THEY AND HOW DO WE PROTECT THEM?

  • Appalachia is home to uncommon but ecologically significant animal and plant communities that should be protected from destructive harvest and management activities

  • Check for presence of rare, threatened, and endangered plant and wildlife species, and manage accordingly to protect them and their habitat

  • Manage our rich cove forests carefully due to past degradation – these forests are home to high biodiversity and species richness

WHAT ARE SPECIAL SITES AND WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?

Your property may contain special natural communities or may support rare, threatened, or endangered animals and plants. The central and southern Appalachians contain some of the most significant biodiversity “hotspots” in the world due to varied mountain topography and weather, which create many microhabitats. Approximately 198 species in this area are federally listed as threatened or endangered, including plants, both terrestrial and many aquatic animals, and birds and bats. 

 

HOW ARE SPECIAL SITES INFLUENCED BY FOREST MANAGEMENT?

These special natural places should be stewarded with extra caution to protect, enhance, or, where possible, create beneficial conditions for these rare conservation values. For fragile habitats, it may be best to preserve and buffer them from any disturbance effects. Other areas could benefit from active stewardship to rehabilitate or restore them from past misuse (e.g., control of erosion or non-native invasive species, restore poor quality forests). In some cases, habitats can be created for rare, threatened, or endangered species (e.g., early successional habitat for the golden-winged warbler). Some special plants are fire dependent or adapted and could benefit from controlled burns to create or enhance their conservation needs. 

The following natural community types in the project area were identified as imperiled and, therefore, should only be protected, buffered, restored, enhanced, and/or expanded: spruce-fir forests; grassy or heath balds; beech gaps; Carolina hemlock forests; rock outcrops; open glades or barrens; mountain wetlands or bogs; and karst or caves. Furthermore, old growth forests and habitat for rare, threatened, and endangered species should be similarly stewarded only for restoration. Highly productive and potentially very diverse rich cove sites should also be carefully managed to help rehabilitate them from past heavy use such as agriculture, grazing, and logging. Good management can protect the water quality on these moist sites on which streams often originate, control the invasive plants that thrive in these fertile conditions, and prevent further degradation or future development of these productive forests to other uses.
 

WHAT CAN PRIVATE LANDOWNERS DO TO ADVANCE CONSERVATION OF SPECIAL SITES?

Before any harvesting or other active management is considered, forestland owners should contact their state Natural Heritage Program (or similar agency) to identify potential rare, threatened, or endangered flora, fauna, or natural communities. If a federally-listed species or state-listed natural community is present or could potentially be present, management actions should consider their presence, or a formal survey should be conducted to substantiate if any are present or likely not. State conservation agencies (Natural Heritage, Wildlife, Forestry) can also provide guidance as to how to manage your lands for these rare plants, animals, and communities.

If any special sites are identified, employ proper stewardship actions to protect them from any threats (e.g., control invasive species, manage erosion issues). For minimally disturbed high quality conservation sites, a “hands-off” approach with a buffer may be enough to protect it. At other times active management is needed to change a special site’s trajectory and ensure its future health (e.g., fire-adapted communities need fire to restore them, forest stand improvement measures to improve degraded stands).

Non-native, invasive species threaten all forests, but are of extra concern for these uncommon, special sites. Exotic pests, pathogens, animals, and plants directly threaten forest health and can rapidly degrade these special natural areas, further jeopardizing them. Any forest disturbance can create more space for invasive plants to spread into and further damage habitat. Therefore, forest management must consider forest health and control non-native invasive species in and around these specials sites.