FSC Stories 2021

Conserving Habitat for Threatened Bats on Timberlands in the Heart of Appalachia

The Appalachian region is the most extensive biodiversity ‘hotspot’ in the United States. Microhabitats here form unique ecological niches that can help protect rare, threatened and endangered species. 

In Eastern Appalachia, Kentucky, there is a 47,000-acre swath of forest land that The Forestland Group acquired in 2012. With all their properties FSC-certified since 2005, the company has been able to ramp up its conservation efforts to manage this forest responsibly and provide a habitat for species to thrive over time.

The challenge faced by The Forestland Group was, however, not just how to responsibly manage a working forest, but how to balance a sustainable timber harvest operation with ongoing research. They also want to provide suitable habitats to help various species thrive, specifically the northern long-eared bat and the Indiana bat. 

They formed a unique public-private partnership with the University of Kentucky, state and federal agencies to achieve it, designating three treatment areas, roughly 100 acres each, for different silvicultural projects. Their goal was to enhance the forest by selective harvesting and thinning, and by leaving an intact control area, and creating group shelterwood – cutting small one-acre openings or ‘holes’ in the canopy to regenerate new tree growth.

The Forestland Group integrated the results of the bat study into their Forest Information Portal, an internal database of all their properties. Now, forest managers have powerful tools they can use to identify known occurrences of rare, threatened, and endangered species like bats. They can prioritize protecting them through designated conservation zones, following vital biodiversity indicators that are part of FSC’s US forest management standards.



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