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Trees in the forest

Here in Woodstock we are blessed with beautiful forests.  Forests serve as a home for wildlife and provide recreational opportunities.  They also help clean our air and water.  They do all this, and help keep our taxes low.  You might ask, "How can this be, when forested land is taxed at a lower rate than developed lands?"  Well, forests just don't spend much of the Town's money -- a little for road maintenance, fire protection, and maybe a bit of recordkeeping at the Town Hall - that's all.  In fact, for every tax dollar the Town takes in from forested lands, more than half is profit for the Town.  This helps offset the cost for services demanded for developed land.  That said, how can we help protect and preserve our forests?  The Conservation Commission has tried to address this issue in its Plan of Open Space and Conservation.

The first step in creating our plan was researching what makes a good productive forest and provides the habitat necessary for diverse wildlife. The greatest threat to our forest and the wildlife it supports is fragmentation.  Recent studies by the U.S. Forest Service show that in contiguous forest areas approaching 500 acres, species diversity is measurably improved. The larger the forest tract, the more economical it is to manage, and the more effectively it cleans our air and filters our water. 

The second step was inventorying forest resources in Woodstock. This was done with help from the University of ConnecticutWhite pine. Photo by Bet Zimmerman. (UCONN) Cooperative Extension Service, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the UCONN Department of Natural Resource Management and Engineering, and the State of Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Division of Forest and Wildlife. We mapped the locations and types of forest, prime forest soils, productive wildlife habitat, and wildlife corridors.

The last and most difficult part was developing a course of action that will best help protect our forest and wildlife.  Some of the major working points we plan to implement are to:

  1. "Establish and preserve wildlife habitat by reducing forest fragmentation and encroachment, habitat-sensitive planning for new development, and connecting existing forested habitat by designating habitat corridors."  This means that when ruling on new subdivision plans, we encourage the Inland Wetlands and Planning & Zoning Commissions to consider forest fragmentation, and maintain a minimum 300 ft. wide riparian/wildlife corridor between large forest tracts.

  2. "Foster economically viable forest management practices and habitat protection through education, voluntary action and better land use decision-making by commercial interests, private citizens, and government."  Translated, this means the Conservation Commission will work to educate private landowners on the fact that a well-managed forest can do more then pay the taxes.  Over time, it can produce income, improve wildlife habitat, and help maintain the character of our town.  These benefits may very well outweigh the short-term gain of selling.  Best of all, they get to keep the land in the family.

  3. Forge working relationships between the town commissions, town-based land trusts, and nationally-based conservation organizations to assess, preserve, and protect critical wildlife habitat forested lands."  This simply means we can't do it all alone.

Here in Woodstock we have many local resources ready and able to help forest landowners learn how to best manage their forest.  Starting at the local level, you can contact:

  • A Coverts Project Cooperator.  These are local Woodstock landowners who have been trained to help you get started on a management plan for your forest.  A Cooperator will be happy to walk your woods with you, listen to your goals for your forest, point out some of the strengths and weaknesses of your forest, and provide informational pamphlets and contacts to help you reach your goals. This is a free service. To get contact info for a Cooperator near you, call the Brooklyn Cooperative Extension System at (860) 774-9500. 
  • The Brooklyn Cooperative Extension System also has an Extension Forester who will have general information on services and programs for forest landowners in this area.
  • The DEP Service Forester for this area is Sherwood Raymond.  He can meet with and walk forestlands with landowners, and provide advice on best management practices. He can be reached at (860) 455-0699.
  • The Eastern Connecticut Forest Landowner's Association/Wolf Den Land Trust promotes forest stewardship by providing local forest management and marketing information. They publish quarterly newsletters, an annual directory of local resources for woodland owners, and host field programs. Contact them at ECFLA, PO Box 404, Brooklyn, CT 06234.  
  • The Woodstock Conservation Commission Chairperson (also a Coverts Cooperator), Paul Wilbur at (860) 974-0334, for help in getting started.

A few major points to remember:

If some one knocks on your door or sends you a letter saying they want to buy or harvest your timber, you would be wise to consult with a private forester before you sell. Although most sawmills, timber companies, and loggers today practice good forestry and want to sustain the forest product industry, not everyone will have your best interests at heart.  A Forester hired by you will help you get a better price for your timber (more often than not, this more then offsets the Forester's fee), help you develop goals for your forest, develop a stewardship plan, write the contract for the harvest, ensure the harvest is done according to your goals and forest stewardship plan, and ensure that the work is done on time and to your satisfaction. 

A good stewardship plan for your forest will help you maintain a healthy, productive, and profitable forest.  This will provide improved wildlife habitat, clean air and water, and a continuous supply of forest products, which is good for both the owner and the people of Woodstock.

More information about forestry in Woodstock:  Forest-based industries in Woodstock include local tree farms, sawmills, and maple sugaring. Timber from Connecticut's forests is made into products such as furniture and flooring that are sold all over the world.  Logging provides chips to pulp and paper industries, lumber products, and pole stock.  Other forest products commonly produced in the area include fuel wood, maple products, Christmas trees and greens, and witch hazel astringent. The State of Connecticut has extensive holdings of forestland in northwestern Woodstock (Nipmuck State Forest). Part of yale Myers Forest is located in the middle of the western boundary. Forestlands are also held privately in areas used for camping and recreation. Most of the rest of the forested areas in town are smaller, private holdings.


More Information and References:

Conservation Commission
How beautiful the leaves grow old.  How full of light and color are their last days.

- John Burroughs