The next Casual Conversation is on Sunday, October 23 at 3 pm Eastern, and features classmate John Leavitt and his wife Sue.   The topic is Management of the Family Forest in Northeastern United States, and is described below in detail.   I hope that you will join us for what promises to be a terrific session.

Lots of issues to consider, lots of questions to ask about the proper stewardship of family-owned forest holdings in New England.  Even if you don’t live in New England, and even if you do and don’t own forest land, your friends, neighbors, and family members may well gain from your newly-acquired wisdom.

The usual rules apply: email me at by close of business on Friday October 21 with your RSVP.  The link will go out Friday or Saturday; don’t expect it beforehand.

See you soon.  Arthur

From John:


Much of what Sue and I will address is generally relevant and applicable to forests everywhere, but the qualifiers in the title serve to narrow the topic to those situations where we have had the most training and personal experience.  Time spent  in and around New England's forests has been a major influence in who we are today.  As children and young adults we were privileged to explore and then enjoy recreation in forests belonging to others, and for the last 25 years we have been privileged to be the owners and stewards of 130+ acres in northeastern CT..

The northeastern corner of the US is among the most heavily forested areas, and ME and NH with 89% and 88% forest cover are the most forested states.  CT has nearly 70% forest cover, and the great majority of this is privately owned.  Hence the decisions affecting the health of the forest, its usage today and its future are largely in the hands of ordinary folks, not the government, and not directly forestry professionals.  A small portion of the privately owned forest is in the hands of corporations involved with wood products such as pulp and paper companies up north and timber raising and harvesting operations, but most are mom and pop entities who own land that has been passed down through the family..  Not surprisingly, in Connecticut the average age of forest landowners with 20 or 30 acres or more is well above the median for the population.

Much of the conventional wisdom on how to best care for forest land has been to leave it alone.  Although well-meaning, this approach rules out activities which will improve the diversity of species and the quality of the trees, which represent future value that can be put toward other enhancement activities.  It precludes addressing the threats of invasive species and damaging insect infestations and often affects the habitat for birds and animals, which in turn impact the aesthetics for recreation usage. Selective cutting can remove poorly formed trees and undesirable species while opening the forest canopy so that younger trees can reach maturity as quality specimens.  .Much of central and southern New England's forests were old farms or were charcoal  plantations , or both a century ago.  As they reforested in the early to mid twentieth century, they yielded even aged forests which are now all approaching maturity at the same time and which do not provide the diversity of habitat for a healthy wildlife population.

The private landowner can take assertive steps for their forest, for both today and tomorrow.  Identify your goals for your forest, for this year and next:  Is it recreation, wildlife, hunting, or just improving the view from the porch.?  Are you looking to generate income from timber in a way which will develop a stream of profitable timber harvest for decades to come?  Do you want to provide firewood for your family for this winter and many in the future?   Look at your goals for the future of the land:  After you're gone will it stay in the family?.  If  not, do you want to protect it from development or fragmentation?  There are a  number of options for making these things happen.  The key to all of these things is knowledge.  What do you want to happen to your forest?  What will it cost?   What cost sharing options are there?   And who will likely be the ultimate decision maker?  Statistically,  the decision about the future of most family forest land will be made by a woman;  Does she have the tools to make the informed decision you decide upon?


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