Roraback Wildlife Management Area, Litchfield County, Connecticut

About Roraback WMA

With 1,975 acres in western Connecticut, Roraback WMA is the state’s largest wildlife management area. Its varied habitats include streams, wetlands, mixed hardwood forest (aspen, hickories, oaks, maples, black cherry, white pine), farmed land, and brushy fields. Ruffed grouse, woodcock, songbirds, cottontail rabbits, deer, fisher, and porcupine are some of the many species of wildlife living on Roraback WMA.

In Connecticut, as in other states in the Northeast, forests are becoming increasingly mature, which means that populations of animals that need young forest – such as ruffed grouse, woodcock, Eastern towhee, brown thrasher, and New England cottontail – have trended downward for several decades.


A tracked skid-steer was used to clear a 13-acre section of the demonstration area. The cleared land will grow up in native shrubs and dense young forest.

The Connecticut Department of Environmental Resources (DER) has begun an effort to create and renew the young-forest habitats on which more than 47 wild species depend – animals from reptiles and amphibians to birds to large mammals, identified in the state's Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy.

At Roraback WMA, managers recently completed the initial phase of the first state-lands cooperative habitat enhancement project designed to promote public awareness of, and support for, management efforts that provide habitat for woodcock and other young-forest wildlife.

Improving the Land for Woodcock

In 2009 workers used logging machines and a tracked skid-steer with a cutting head to clear a 13-acre area of old fields, shrubland, and orchard that was being overtopped by trees and choked with these non-native invasive shrubs: multiflora rose, barberry, and honeysuckle.


Commercial logging is another technique being used to create wildlife-friendly young-forest habitat on Roraback WMA.

Managers left apple trees and native shrubs such as gray-stemmed and red-osier dogwood, arrowwood viburnum, and spicebush. A forested buffer was left next to wetlands and Lead Mine Brook, a high-quality trout stream that winds through the area. As the 13 acres regrow, managers will spot-use herbicides to hold back invasive shrubs in favor of natives. Every 15 to 20 years, another round of cutting will keep the tract in a young-forest stage.

From this core area, habitat work is expanding eastward, where 15 acres of mature hardwoods will be commercially logged in fall 2010. The resulting 28-acre patch may become habitat for New England cottontails, since these rabbits do best on young-forest tracts that are 25 acres and larger. The Roraback areas has historically had New England cottontails.

Existing hayfields on the WMA already offer singing grounds and roosting habitat for woodcock. A 10-year-old 2.6-acre patch cut on the far southern part of the project area is growing back densely in young hardwoods and raspberry shrubs, providing feeding and nesting cover.

Funding and Partners

Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, Connecticut Woodcock Council, Beardsley Zoo, Ruffed Grouse Society, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Wildlife Management Institute.

How to Visit

The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection is developing a self-guided trail through the managed area. Signs will explain how young-forest habitat benefits wildlife. Annual landowner workshops will be held on the demonstration area.

For more information, including directions to an access road leading to the habitat area, contact Paul Rothbart, CT DEP, Wildlife Division, Marlborough CT, 860-295-9523, email

This aerial photo shows the woodcock demonstration area. A base map of Roraback WMA displays the location of the demonstration area and planned trail.