Northern Research Station News Releases

National Award Honors Research Leading to Habitat Restoration for People, Birds

Collaborations in Baltimore and Missouri Exemplify Forest Service Research Mission

Research Ecologists Nancy Sonti and Rich Hallett walk through the forest at Stillmeadow PeacePark. Photo by: Bill Shewbridge, UMBC New Media Studio Madison, WI, January 14, 2022 - In Missouri, USDA Forest Service science was instrumental in habitat restoration, culminating in the reintroduction of a songbird that had disappeared from the state a century ago. In Baltimore, research is helping parishioners and community volunteers restore a forest that is important to public and ecological health, community bonds, and climate resilience in an under-served neighborhood. Both projects were among a handful of recipients of the Forest Service’s 2021 National “Chief’s Awards.” 

“These awards reflect the difference the Northern Research Station is making in our forests and communities through our unique science role in the most forested and the most populated region of the nation,” said Cynthia West, Director of the Northern Research Station and the Forest Products Laboratory. “These two projects exemplify what we try to achieve -- improve the sustainability of forests and the species that depend on them, and improve the lives of people who live in urban areas through nature.”

The Forest Service’s 2021 Chief’s Awards were announced on January 13 and included 19 projects that advance the agency’s four goals: Sustain our Nation’s Forests and Grasslands, Deliver Benefits to the Public, Apply Knowledge Globally, and Excel as a High Performing Agency. Northern Research Station scientists are part of two of the projects honored this year.

Situated in the heart of the Beechfield and Irvington neighborhoods in southwest Baltimore City, Maryland, Stillmeadow Community Fellowship Church owns a parcel of forest land with a stream, known as the Stillmeadow Community PeacePark & Forest. The forest has lost ash trees to the invasive emerald ash borer and has been further degraded by invasive vegetation. Multiple branches of the Forest Service, including scientists at the Northern Research Station’s Urban Field Stations, collaborated to assist the community in restoring the forest as a green space.

“People and nature are inextricably linked,” said Morgan Grove, who leads the team of scientists working with Stillmeadow Community Church. “What we learn in the restoration of Stillmeadow PeacePark and Forest will help us devise strategies that can be used nationwide to develop partnerships like this one, leading to healthier communities and natural areas.”

Two brown-headed nuthatches perch in a shortleaf pine tree.In Missouri, a collaboration among the Northern Research Station and the Eastern and  Southern Regions of the USDA Forest Service, along with other partners, was  recognized for decades of work that culminated in the restoration of critical habitat and the reintroduction of a native bird that had been extinct in the state for a century. Scientists based in the Northern Research Station’s Columbia, Mo., research unit collaborated with the Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas and the Mark Twain National Forest and other partners to restore shortleaf pine-oak woodlands, the primary habitat of the Brown-headed Nuthatch. Restoration of woodlands was a major goal of the Mark Twain National Forest Plan, and progress in the restoration was advanced by the Missouri Pine-Oak Woodlands Restoration Project, part of the national Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program developed by the Forest Service.

The reintroduction of Brown-headed Nuthatch began in 2020 when a team that included the Missouri Department of Conservation and the University of Missouri translocated birds from the Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas to the Mark Twain National Forest. The team moved 46 nuthatches to the Mark Twain National Forest in the summer of 2020 and documented their survival and nesting the following spring. In August 2021, they successfully translocated an additional 56 birds and will monitor them under a proposed extension of the Missouri Pine-Oak Woodlands Restoration Project.

“This project demonstrates the value of collaboration and the value of working incrementally to achieve restoration goals,” said Frank Thompson, a research wildlife biologist based in the Northern Research Station’s lab in Columbia, Mo. “I am very proud of the outcome, and I am even more proud of the science and management collaboration behind habitat restoration and the Brown-headed Nuthatch reintroduction.”

See the Chief’s Award video and list of award winning projects at


The mission of the Northern Research Station is to improve people's lives and help sustain the natural resources in the Northeast and Midwest through leading-edge science and effective information delivery.


The mission of the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains world-renowned forestry research and wildland fire management organizations. National forests and grasslands contribute more than $30 billion to the American economy annually and support nearly 360,000 jobs. These lands also provide 30 percent of the nation's surface drinking water to cities and rural communities; approximately 60 million Americans rely on drinking water that originated from the National Forest System.


USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Stop 9410, Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call toll-free at (866) 632-9992 (English) or (800) 877-8339 (TDD) or (866) 377-8642 (English Federal-relay) or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish Federal-relay).

Last modified: January 14, 2022