Luke Macaulay, UME (center), discusses the importance of early successional habitat for wildlife.

Luke Macaulay, UME (center), discusses the importance of early successional habitat for wildlife. 

Updated: November 16, 2023
By John Hooven

The Delmarva Woodland Stewards Program (DWSP) wrapped up this October, training 31 volunteers in the fundamental arts and science of ecological forest management. This was the second year for this program, funded by a grant from Maryland Forest Service. Unlike the Maryland Woodland Stewards Program of years past, the Delmarva Woodland Stewards Program focuses specifically on the types of forests found on the coastal plain of the eastern shore. The program serves those geographically located on the Delmarva Peninsula who are residents of Delaware and Virginia. Each brought their own special cause and purpose for wanting to participate to the program. The group included small and large landowners, educators, park and conservation employees, conservation NGO delegates, and forest enthusiasts of all types.

Each year the DWSP has been conducted as a hybrid program, with weekly virtual sessions in conjunction with virtual homework for the participants. Participants learned about introductory forest management, wildlife and forest ecology, prescribed fire, agroforestry, vegetation management, watershed ecology and how to volunteer their time in their personal projects. Each steward obliges themselves to contribute 40 hours each to a forest management related project of their choosing that will promote the benefits of forest management.

Luke Macaulay, UME (center), discusses the importance of early successional habitat for wildlife.
Luke Macaulay, UME (center), discusses the importance of early successional habitat for wildlife.

Instructors and panelists came from all the stakeholders of the DWSP, including University of Maryland Extension, Maryland Forest Service, Delaware Forest Service, University of Delaware Extension, Virginia Department of Forestry, Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources and Virginia Tech Extension, among other contributors. Virtual sessions ran weekly on Tuesday evenings from 6:30 – 8:00 pm for six weeks.

An in-person field day accompanied the course to demonstrate techniques that needed hands-on instruction. To preface the field day and to add to the camaraderie, we hosted a dinner the evening before for participants at Marina Bay and Suites in Chincoteague, VA overlooking Chesapeake Bay. It was a working dinner, however, as yours truly set up a display and handed out pamphlets on forestry topics, and we had a guest speaker. Our speaker was one of the DWSO participants, Steven Kline, president and CEO of the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, Maryland’s largest non-profit land trust. Mr. Kline spoke on conservation easements and preserving working forest lands and other lands of conservation interest.

The participants visited two locations during the field day: a Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources management site, and Maryland Forest Service’s Pocomoke State Forest in Snow Hill, MD. The event was held from 8:00 am-4:00 pm, leaving and returning to the Furnace Town historic site.

This program is very important to the healthy management of our forests, public and private. Be on the lookout for program announcements for next year’s stewardship programs!

Branching Out, Vol. 31, no. 4 (Fall 2023)

Branching Out is the free, quarterly newsletter of the Woodland Stewardship Education program. For more than 30 years, Branching Out has kept Maryland woodland owners and managers informed about ways to develop and enhance their natural areas, how to identify and control invasive plants and insects, and about news and regional online and in-person events.