Clermont Tract, McKean and Elk Counties, Pennsylvania

About the Clermont Tract

Forest Investment Associates, a timber investment management company, manages the Clermont Tract, more than 25,000 productive wooded acres in southern McKean and northern Elk counties, northcentral Pennsylvania.

The rolling upland and mountainous terrain is forested with cherry, maple, ash, beech, birch, aspen, pine, and hemlock. Deer, black bear, bobcats, fishers, snowshoe hares, and a range of birds inhabit the area.

The region was logged heavily in the late 1800s when old-growth pine and hemlock were stripped off by earlier landowners. In the 1930s and ‘40s, the regenerating hardwood forest was again cut, this time to supply the wood chemical industry. Today a third round of more-responsible logging is underway, largely of high-value black cherry trees. Several thousand acres on the Clermont Tract have been harvested during this third cycle; depending on the strength of the timber markets, more than 10,000 additional acres could be cut by 2019.

Improving the Land for Woodcock

Photo of machine preparing site for woodcock habitat

A small tracked machine, on loan from the Ruffed Grouse Society, removes heavy sod in preparation for planting trees and shrubs that will transform grassy areas into productive woodcock habitat.

Commercial cutting will create a lot of new young-forest habitat on the Clermont Tract. Areas where soils are deep and moist should regenerate as woodcock cover. Other species, including the golden-winged warbler and snowshoe hare, will thrive on the moist sites and also in areas where the soil is drier.

Scattered throughout the Clermont Tract are a number of damp meadows, or savannas, large areas along streamcourses where few or no trees are currently growing. Initially forested, these areas were swept with logging-slash fires in the early twentieth century, which destroyed topsoil. Then, over the years, overbrowsing by a burgeoning deer population also worked to keep these savannas free of tree growth.

The Wildlife Management Institute and the Pennsylvania Game Commission are working with FIA and other organizations to re-establish a forest in these openings, creating hundreds of acres of new woodcock habitat to supplement the young forest that will continually be renewed by commercial logging in the surrounding hardwood stands.

On four wet-meadow sites, managers will develop and demonstrate techniques for growing trees and shrubs to benefit woodcock and other wildlife while simultaneously producing valuable wood products. The four demonstration sites are Hagaman Farm (15 acres), Stump Patch (154 acres), Gum Boot Run (312 acres), and Wellendorf Branch (212 acres).

The openings have relatively flat topography and wet, clayey soils. A thick layer of matted sod, moss, and dewberry currently cloaks the ground, preventing tree seedlings from naturally filling in. Deer numbers have fallen in northcentral Pennsylvania in recent years, and commercial logging has accelerated to the point where browse is abundant in other areas, drawing the deer away; thus, biologists believe a window of time now exists to create a new forest in these nonproductive savannas.

Photo of worker planting seedlings in early stage woodcock habitat

Workers hand-planted seedlings in exposed mineral soil.

In spring 2009, work began on Gum Boot Run. Managers experimented with different techniques for opening up the sod and planting trees and shrubs. Workers used a small tracked machine with a six-way blade, on loan from the Ruffed Grouse Society, to scalp off strips of sod, exposing mineral soil.

In both the newly exposed soil and in the existing sod, technicians hand-planted bare-root seedlings (including aspen, apple, silky dogwood, nannyberry viburnum, crabapple, hawthorn, mountain ash, and arrowwood supplied by the Pennsylvania Game Commission); dormant cuttings of aspen found growing elsewhere on the Clermont Tract; and willow, red osier dogwood, silky dogwood, and alder cuttings.

On some bare-soil areas, workers spread aspen seeds. (The tiny seeds were dispensed using salt shakers.) Other newly bared areas were left unplanted and unseeded, to see whether and what sort of vegetation may naturally establish itself. Managers will evaluate both the planted and control areas to see what works and what doesn’t, and will then use the most promising techniques to restore the remainder of the four demonstration areas.

Land managers hope to produce enough aspen in drier parts of the savannas to support future commercial harvests. Wood-energy power plants have been proposed for northcentral Pennsylvania; other potential markets for aspen wood chips include a local paper-processing mill and several new, small-scale wood-burning installations that are being used to heat schools and hospitals.

Biologists suspect that beavers will move into the meadows after the planted shrubs and trees begin to grow. (Alternatively, beavers could be trapped in other areas where their activities are causing problems for people, and relocated to the Clermont Tract.) In years to come, beavers and loggers may combine to do the cutting that will perpetually renew the young-forest habitat.

Managers also used aerial photographs to identify mature aspen stands near the four demonstration sites. In 2009, FIA will make a patch cut of 15 acres to regenerate an aspen stand on the Hagaman Farm site. Other aspen stands will be cut in the future to create dense feeding and brood-rearing habitat for woodcock.

Singing grounds and roosting cover should be amply supplied by ongoing logging operations on the Clermont Tract. Male woodcock sing from old log landings and roadsides, and woodcock roost in bare-earth or lightly vegetated spots in log landings, clearcuts, and tote roads.


In spring 2009, WMI and Game Commission biologists and volunteers drove along predetermined routes, stopping periodically to listen for singing male woodcock. Observers heard 33 woodcock calling on one weekend, and on another weekend they heard 39 woodcock. The main objective was to get an idea of woodcock presence throughout the Clermont Tract and to identify the types of habitats they are currently using.

The preliminary surveys will provide a template for laying out future survey routes that will be followed as young-forest habitat is created, helping biologists measure the hoped-for increase in the timberdoodle population.

Funding and Partners

Forest Investment Associates, Pennsylvania Game Commission, Ruffed Grouse Society, Woodcock Limited of Pennsylvania, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California University of Pennsylvania, U.S. Geological Survey, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Wildlife Management Institute.

The Clermont Tract is enrolled in the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Forest Game Program; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Wildlife Program; and Woodcock Limited of Pennsylvania’s PLOW (Private Land Opportunities for Woodcock) Program, which helps advance the Game Commission’s Management Plan for American Woodcock in Pennsylvania by identifying and creating woodcock habitat on private land.

How to Visit

Gum Boot Run lies south of Clermont, a village on Pennsylvania Route 146 in southern McKean County. Roads on the tract are open to the public only during Pennsylvania’s firearms deer season. For information on woodcock habitat improvement measures on the Clermont Tract, or to arrange a tour, contact WMI field biologist David Putnam at 814-234-4090 x 236 or

Monitor progress on this demonstration area by taking a tour via Google Earth.