[ STEWARDSHIP STORY ]
A Forestland Timeshare
Editors’ Note: We tend to think of forestland as being either publicly owned or privately owned.
But tens of thousands of acres in the Northeast fall into the category of “other.” Here, Charley
Stevenson, a member of the Timber Owners of New England (TONE), tells us about one such
In 1951, the New England Box Company was reorganized and a portion of its assets were
distributed to a minority shareholders group. Nathan Tufts, a businessman conservationist who
was general manager of the box company and vice president of the New England Forestry
Foundation, persuaded a dozen investors to acquire a sliver of these assets: 2,200 acres, for
$19,000. The goal was to create a parcel that was managed in a progressive way – this in
contrast to the exploitive high-grading that was still the norm in many places. To help pay for
this, he and his partners would offer recreational shares to urban and suburban folks who
wanted a place in the country they could call their own.
The initial group formed a corporation called Timber Owners of New England (TONE) to
purchase the land. Several years later, the Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) was formed as
a separate nonprofit membership organization to realize the recreational opportunities on the
property. Conservationists, sportsmen, and TONE shareholders were allowed to buy into the
trust and get exclusive recreational use of the property.
Now, more than 65 years later, the parcel is still intact and managed in a sustainable way,
while scores of families have had a place in the north woods they could consider their own.
Operations are essentially break-even on an annual basis. The combination of timber cuts
and usage fees covers the cost of owning the land. Property taxes and insurance costs are
part of the WCT budget, paid to TONE as part of the annual license fee. From time to time,
profits that TONE collects from the operation allow it to acquire abutting properties.
The TONE land is typical of central New Hampshire: hemlock stands run along the principal
brooks, pine plantations dominate certain areas, and large stands of mixed hardwoods at various stages of maturity occupy most of the forest. This is a working forest. In accordance with
successive 20-year timber management plans, harvests are conducted when the market is
favorable. For more than 40 years, TONE has relied upon foresters from New England Forestry
Consultants to generate and oversee these harvest plans. With each timber cut, the board
selects an independent contractor to perform the work. Recent harvests have been done with
a forwarder and a mechanical harvester to minimize soil impacts. The goals include generating
the highest possible return on each stem that is cut, while reestablishing high-value species and
creating varied, productive habitat for wildlife.
Currently there are about 55 member families ( 60 is ideal) in the WCT; each pays about
$2,000 per year for membership. Through an online reservation system, members plan stays
of up to two weeks at a time in one of five modern houses and one pond cabin on the property.
Members can participate in annual work weekends where they split and stack cordwood for
the winter and help to maintain the property. They enjoy community events such as shooting
weekends at the rifle range or the target clay course. Hiking, swimming, kayaking, cross-country
skiing, fly fishing, hunting in season, and just relaxing with family and friends are typical recreational activities. Membership dues and modest usage fees allow for maintenance of the road
system, annual stocking of cold-water ponds with trout, and other improvements to the property.
A full-time caretaker lives year-round in a sixth home on the property. He looks after the entire
property, performing routine and periodic maintenance on the houses and the road system.
Looking into the future, TONE hopes that not much will change. Nathan Tuft’s core values
continue to resonate and, if anything, are treasured now even more than they were in the
1950s. TONE continues to actively manage the land, cutting logs from FSC-certified woodlots
with minimal impact and modest return, while WCT members enjoy access to a way of life
that is harder and harder to find.
[ ECOLOGICAL ETYMOLOGIST ]
It seems that the word angling has fallen out
of favor and become fishing in popular
parlance. Being something of a word snob,
I lament this transition – the word fishing
just seems so dull. (Lord help us if hunting
comes to be known as mammaling.)
Language is supposedly getting richer and
more complex as time goes on, but in this
case it seems to be going backward.
I appreciate minutiae as much as the next girl,
but I’m afraid you’re not looking at the two words
closely enough. Fishing, a word that dates back to
the mid-fifteenth century, refers to the act of trying
to catch fish, while angling refers to the process
of fishing with a hook, as opposed to trapping or
netting or spearing. And I’d quibble with the idea
that the word angling is rich and complex: it’s a
simple word that comes from the Latin anguere (to
bend). Translated literally, it means hooking.
Interestingly, a lot of fish names are also simple
words based on descriptions. The pike is named
for its long, pointed jaw (after the long, pointed
weapon of the same name) and pickerel are,
of course, little pike. The rel part is a French
pejorative meaning little or unimportant.
Perch comes from a Proto-Indo European word
meaning speckled (although 2,000 years ago it
already meant the fish). And bass comes from an
equally old word meaning bristled. Wall-eyed can
mean either having speckled eyes or having eyes
turned out, which is the trait that gave the fish its
name (though how that makes it different from
other fish, I couldn’t tell you).
Salmon comes from the Latin salire – to jump
– and the ancient Greek for trout, troktes, meant
nibbler. Smelt seems to be the odd fish out. Some
would suggest that it’s so called for its odor, some
for the way it melts in your mouth. Others compare
it to the Old English smeolt (serene) or smylt
(smooth), but the OED says this is “very doubtful.”
In any case, I won’t sign your petition. But I will
agree that the word angler is better than the gender-
specific fisherman, the clunky if
politically correct fisherman or
woman, or the compromise term
fisher, which is best reserved for
describing large weasels.