Apple Orchard Stewardship Project, Bennington County, Vermont

About the Apple Orchard Stewardship Project

This 47-acre project on the Green Mountain National Forest creates grassy and brushy openings and patches of young forest in a region of largely mature woodland. The Green Mountain National Forest takes in more than 400,000 acres in western Vermont. The U.S. Forest Service oversees timber harvests on the Forest, as well as camping, hiking, fishing, hunting, nature study, and other recreational activities.

The area is forested with northern hardwoods, including beech, birch, maple, and ash, plus softwood trees such as pine, spruce, cedar, and hemlock. Many kinds of wildlife live here, from reptiles, amphibians, and small mammals up to large mammals such as black bear and moose. The abundant birdlife includes woodcock, wild turkey, ruffed grouse, waterfowl, wading birds, and resident and migratory songbirds. Wetlands, including beaver flowages, dot the landscape.

Improving the Land for Woodcock


The Apple Orchard Stewardship Project is one part of the 12,135-acre Nordic Project, which includes silvicultural treatments, wildlife habitat enhancements, stabilizing soil and water resources, protecting heritage resources, and improving recreational opportunities in the towns of Peru and Winhall.

The 47-acre Apple Orchard project directly benefits American woodcock, wild turkeys, ruffed grouse, and many other kinds of wildlife such as snowshoe hare, bobcat, black bear, and songbirds: species that breed and feed in young forest, and birds of mature woodland that take their newly fledged young into patches of dense regrowing forest, where they find abundant food combined with cover that protects them from predators.

The four habitat units were treated in 2010. Timber harvesting was the main management tool.

Unit 1 (5 acres). Work expanded outward from an old log landing, with clearcut logging used to harvest mature trees. Managers conducted a controlled burn in spring 2011; in the future, periodic controlled burns will keep this opening in a mix of wildlife-friendly shrubs and weeds.

Unit 2 (8 acres). This unit is broken up into two sections by a beaver flowage. ImageClearcut logging harvested aspen, red pine, and mixed hardwoods. The area should regrow mainly in aspen, providing nesting, brood-rearing, and feeding cover for timberdoodles. Workers left drumming logs on the ground for male ruffed grouse to use during their springtime drumming displays, which attract hens for breeding. Managers plan to cut the aspen regularly in the future to keep the trees’ underground root systems vigorous and healthy and sending up new shoots. Other tree species coming back thickly include black and pin cherry, red maple, and ash. Dense tangles of blackberry and other shrubs offer nesting habitat for ground-nesting birds such as chestnut-sided warblers, woodcock, ruffed grouse, and wild turkeys.

Unit 3 (17 acres). Clearcut logging removed mature red pines planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s to reforest an abandoned farmstead. After logging, the slash was burned or piled; stumps were grubbed out by heavy machinery and placed in piles. Managers planted grass to stabilize the soil; the grass will gradually give way to native grasses and weeds, with part of the unit (15 out of 17 acres) mowed periodically in the future to keep it open. Male woodcock will display here in springtime and ground-roost in late summer.

Before the timber harvest, managers flagged many apple trees in an old orchard. The apple trees were saved and pruned, and they now get full sunlight, where before they were shaded by taller hardwoods. In response to the light, the apple trees will produce abundant fruit relished by many kinds of wildlife, from turkeys and grouse to deer and bears. (Scattered apple trees were also daylighted and pruned in units 1 and 2.)

Early successional trees, including aspen, have begun pushing up on the margins of the stump and rock piles. These bands and patches of young forest will not be mowed, and will grow to become nesting cover for woodcock and other birds. In the future, they can be set back to an earlier growth stage through logging.

Unit 4 (17 acres). On this unit, a red pine stand was thinned. Shrubs springing up in the newly opened understory will produce fruit and other soft mast for wildlife.

Other Factors

A major goal of the Apple Orchard Stewardship Project is to provide wild turkeys with good nesting and brood-rearing habitat.

Wild turkey hens nest as early as the first several weeks in April, before low-growing shrubs and other understory plants “green up” by putting out new leaves. To keep their nests and eggs hidden from predators such as raccoons, foxes, coyotes, bears, and ravens, turkeys need the shielding cover of dense brush. Hens will readily nest in piles of logging slash, in shrub thickets, and in regrowing young forest.

Nesting cover needs to be close to open areas of grass, weeds, and patchy shrubs, to which the hens lead their newly hatched poults for feeding on the insects that young turkeys need to grow and thrive. The closer such brood-rearing habitats lie to nesting areas, the less likely that the young turkeys will be killed by predators en route.


Funding and Partners

U.S. Forest Service (Green Mountain National Forest, Manchester Ranger District), National Wild Turkey Federation (Vermont State Chapter), U.S. Geological Survey, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Wildlife Management Institute.

How to Visit

The demonstration area is south of and adjacent to Old Manchester Road in the town of Winhall, in French Hollow in the Upper West River watershed. The Catamount Trail, a 300-mile-long cross-country skiing trail, passes through Unit 3 and skirts the northern edge of Unit 2.

For directions to the demonstration area, contact Manchester Ranger District headquarters, 2538 Depot St., Manchester Center VT 05255, phone 802-362-2307. Forester Jeff Tilley ( worked closely on the project, as did biological technician Scott Wixsom ( Both can be contacted at the Manchester district office. More information on the project can be obtained from Doug Little, regional biologist for the National Wild Turkey Federation, at 518-817-1161,