Sterling College Gets “Bird-Friendly” Recognition

—First college to be recognized for its efforts to integrate birds with maple syrup production—


Bird friendly maple signOCTOBER 15, 2015 • CRAFTSBURY COMMON, VT • The Virginia Russell Maple Sugarbush, abutting Sterling College’s campus and managed by its students and faculty, is home to over 200 maple taps and numerous species of birds. Both trees and birds will be able to coexist and thrive, thanks to the Bird-Friendly Maple Project, which just recognized the sugarbush as supporting both bird habitats and sugaring activity.

The Bird-Friendly Maple Project is a partnership among Audubon Vermont, the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation, and the Vermont Maple Sugar Maker’s Association. It seeks to promote bird conservation and maple syrup production.

More than 30 species of birds are known to use maple sugarbushes as nesting habitats, including the Wood Thrush, the Scarlet Tanager, and the Black-throated Blue Warbler. Bird-friendly sugarbushes have features that allow birds to successfully raise the next generation, including a diversity of tree species, layers of vegetation, and a plan for invasive plant control.

Sterling College, in partnership with the Russell family, is one of only six maple producers recognized for managing its sugarbush in bird-friendly ways. It is the first college to be so recognized.

“At Sterling College, we are constantly assessing how we steward the land, as well as how the land fits into the broader landscape,” said Farley Brown, Faculty in Ecology. “That includes working with the Russell family to ensure the sugarbush is managed in a way that integrates both our syrup production and bird conservation. ”

She continued, “This is a great example of the connectivity between land management and an ecosystem management approach; a healthy sugarbush is also breeding habitat for Neotropical birds. The forests of Vermont are a globally important nesting habitat for many songbirds. As Vermont’s environmental stewardship college, we are so excited to demonstrate that syrup production and songbird habitats aren’t mutually exclusive.”

“At a time when the maple sugaring industry is rapidly expanding, Audubon Vermont is excited that Sterling College and the Russell family are participating in the Bird-Friendly Maple Project,” said Steve Hagenbuch, conservation biologist with Audubon Vermont. “Not only is Sterling the first educational institution to get involved with the project, it is also critical to the long-term health and sustainability of the forest and all its wild inhabitants to think about managing the sugarbush as a natural ecosystem rather than a row crop.”

“By engaging Sterling students in this process, we are educating tomorrow’s maple producers about the importance of diverse structure and composition in the sugarbush,” he continued. “It’s a win-win-win solution for the students, the forest—including birds and other wildlife—and Vermont’s maple industry.”

For a full overview of the Bird-Friendly Maple Project, visit this link.

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