Bird-Friendly Maple Syrup Boosts Vermont Forest Diversity and Resilience

Bird-Friendly Maple Syrup is proving to be a catalyst for promoting forest diversity and resilience in Vermont, as showcased by Bourdon Maple Farm’s commitment to sustainable practices. In the heart of Woodstock, the farm’s 135-acre forest becomes a haven for birds during maple sugaring season, providing an enchanting backdrop for Meg Emmons, the head of operations, sales, and marketing. Recognizing the decline in forest bird populations due to habitat loss and monoculture practices, the Bird-Friendly Maple Project, initiated by Audubon Vermont, the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers’ Association, and the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation in 2014, seeks to change the narrative.

Maple syrup producers participating in the Bird-Friendly Maple Project commit to maintaining a sugarbush composition of no more than 75% sugar maples. This ensures that the forest remains diverse, with a variety of tree species supporting a vibrant ecosystem. The program also encourages producers to enhance the structural complexity of the sugarbush, promoting vegetation in the understory and midstory. The benefits extend beyond supporting wildlife, as a diverse forest is more resilient to threats like pests, diseases, and extreme weather events. Bird-friendly practices not only safeguard the environment but also provide producers with a unique selling point, allowing them to brand their products with a distinctive label that attracts environmentally conscious consumers.

The Bird-Friendly Maple Project has gained momentum, with 90 Vermont maple producers joining the cause and expanding its reach to New York, Massachusetts, and Maine. Approximately 18,000 acres of forest are now managed with birds in mind, demonstrating the program’s positive impact on fostering biodiversity. For producers like Don Bourdon and Meg Emmons, the bird-friendly label not only aligns with the growing interest in local, sustainable products but also serves as a platform to educate consumers about the crucial role maple syrup producers play in supporting wild bird populations. The initiative blends environmental consciousness with maple syrup production, creating a harmonious relationship between agriculture and ecology.


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