We’ve owned our forest in Starksboro, Vermont,
since 2005, and have added to it over the years
by purchasing adjacent properties; the entire
parcel now totals 290 contiguous acres. We spent
the first few years of ownership investing in the
property: researching boundary lines and property
history, surveying, reclaiming old trails, creating
connector trails, and managing water on all trails.
Time was also spent inventorying, mapping natural
communities, and planning. The property is quite
diverse, with ridgetop, mid-slopes, and also some
wetlands. The historical uses of the land are also
varied. Some of it was cleared and used for agriculture and sugaring only in the 1800s. Another area
was used only as a timber lot and never settled,
and one section was a working farm until 1941.
I am an electrical engineer (at GlobalFoundries)
but also have a forest science minor from Penn
State University. Our forest management goals are
recreation, education (for ourselves and others),
and investment (future timber value). We attempt
to be good stewards of our forest, keeping in mind
wildlife, cultural history resources, water, and soils.
[ STEWARDSHIP STORY ]
A Family Forest Takes Shape
I am the primary forester for the property but have
worked with many others in the management of
the land, including county forester Chris Olson,
consulting foresters Harris Roen and John Fogarty,
forester and logger Grahm Leitner, plants and
wetlands expert Barb Otsuka, forestry and wildlife
consultant Susan Morse, and several talented
excavation contractors who have helped with the
construction improvements of forest trails and
My goal in all harvests is to leave the residual
stand with a higher percentage of high quality
trees than before the harvest. In 2013, we
completed four types of harvests: a roughly five-acre patch cut with 90 percent of overstory cut; an
adjacent seven-acre shelterwood with 50 percent
of the overstory cut; 15 acres of “traditional” small
group/single tree harvesting with, on average,
35 percent of the overstory cut; and another three
acres of crop tree release with 25 percent of the
overstory cut. Near the shelterwood was also a
previous seven-acre timber stand improvement
thinning, completed in 2011.
By having these different harvests in close
proximity, we created what foresters call horizontal diversity – that is, a bunch of different forest
types right next to each other. This is beneficial
to wildlife and makes for a more resilient forest.
The decision on how to treat each area was made
by the quality of the trees and their density. For
example, in the patch cut area the trees were
poorly formed and very crowded; there was little
understory. And so by cutting heavily, we created
some nice early-successional habitat for wildlife,
and from a crop tree perspective, started over.
In areas where there were desirable trees, we
cut less, but still created openings to stimulate
understory growth and some regeneration. By
releasing the crop trees we gave them more
room to grow, and from a wildlife perspective our
thinning helped create an irregular forest canopy
(vertical diversity) which is beneficial to wildlife in
a different way than horizontal diversity.
In all harvests, we try to promote mast species
such as oak, serviceberry, and black cherry. The
locally rare oak, in particular, gives wildlife a
second source of hard mast, helping especially in
years when beech nut availability is below normal.
In a 2014 one-acre patch cut, I spread 13,000
acorns, hoping that by spreading so many the
animals wouldn’t be able to consume them all.