Jim and Katie Matykowski dreamed of retiring to Wisconsin’s northwoods.

They bought their own slice of heaven north of Crivitz in the early 1990s. As absentee landowners from the Milwaukee area, they began actively managing their forest when some disease and forest health issues made it necessary to update the Forest Crop Law plan for the property.

Since then, they have become members of the Wisconsin Woodland Owners Association Phoenix Falls Chapter and advocate for active forest management.

“A lot of people don’t want to do anything,” Jim said. “Uninformed landowners are often resistant to cutting trees. But if you cut according to a good plan, you are helping your woods.”

In 2016, Jeff Maroszek, a district conservationist with the Wisconsin Natural Resources Conservation Service, spoke at a local WWOA meeting to highlight financial assistance options for forestland owners through the USDA NRCS.

Maroszek discussed the Regional Conservation Partnership Program initiative sponsored by the American Bird Conservancy. The initiative focused on creating habitat for the golden-winged warbler, a species with one of the steepest population declines of all songbirds.

In 2017, the Matykowskis received support through the RCPP to create early successional habitat on unproductive land by shearing 5 acres of mature tag alder.

“The new growth is renewing the forest — lots of birds,” Katie said. “We are pleased with what the shearing has done for our property. Before, it seemed kind of like a wasteland. Now, we see more wildlife activity of all kinds. It’s a feel-good thing.”

Added Maroszek, “It is refreshing to work with forest landowners that are willing to really manage their land. Seeing the increased songbird populations is truly a sign that we are doing the right thing.”

Jim and Katie intend to continue actively managing their forestland, including harvesting commercially merchantable timber. They also would like to continue managing the remaining mature tag alder present on the property.

Through a partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Ruffed Grouse Society, NRCS hired Dan Hoff, a forest habitat specialist based out of the Lena USDA Service Center, to work on those types of projects. The additional staff will help increase the likelihood that the program’s success will continue and more acres can be treated.

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