Forest landowners learn best practices

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Regional - posted Mon., Jun. 17, 2013
Debbie O'Donnell listens to wildlife biologist Judy Wilson. Photos by D. Coffey.
Debbie O'Donnell listens to wildlife biologist Judy Wilson. Photos by D. Coffey.

Members of the Eastern Connecticut Forest Landowners Association gathered inside the rustic Goodwin Conservation Center on June 15. They watched as wildlife biologist Judy Wilson showed slides of forest landscapes. One showed a swath of land that had been clear-cut. “You might feel some revulsion at first,” Wilson said. Not one tree was left standing. Woody debris was scattered over the field. But this was the type of landscape that could help the New England cottontail survive, she said.

Of course, Wilson wasn't advocating clear-cutting the entire northeast corner of Connecticut, where 78 percent of the land is forest and farmland. But she was addressing a very species-specific program aimed at restoring the population of New England cottontails. And she was addressing the very people who might be able help a massive regional effort in that regard.

Wilson's talk is the sort of educational program that members of the ECFLA count on. “These are forest landowners,” said member Bill Reid. “We do programs specifically on good management practices for forests.” The ECFLA represents forest owners and their families who manage about 20,000 acres of land in eastern Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

The association provides information on wildlife, invasive species, land legacy and forest management practices. They publish articles on a wide range of topics from the effects of acid rain on forestland to weaving a landscape with stone walls. Its mission is to provide guidance to landowners so they can be responsible stewards of their properties.

Killingly resident Richard Fedor is a member of the ECFLA as well as the Killingly Conservation Commission. His 25 acres lie adjacent to 80 acres of town property for which he is a steward. The Wyndham Land Trust owns 365 acres nearby. Fedor said the association helps maintain the quality of life in northeastern Connecticut. “Even though some people think that growing the tax base enhances a town's quality of life, it doesn't,” he said. “There have been studies done that show residential housing is a detriment to a town's infrastructure. It costs money for schools, roads, police and town services.”

Thompson resident Bob Smith said he counted on the association for information on how to effectively manage his 54 acres of land. “It helps the landowners,” Smith said. “If they want to cut timber, there are plenty of foresters here. They can look over your land and tell you how to section it off, or how much wood you should take out to give the other stuff a chance to grow. It's about stewardship of the land.”

Debbie O'Donnell was at her first ECFLA meeting. She was taking over stewardship of her parents' land in Plainfield. “I'm here to get more information,” she said.

After Wilson's presentation, the group followed forester Dick Raymond with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection on a walking tour of the property. He gave members an update on the emerald ash borer, an exotic beetle whose presence has spread from Michigan to 17 states and two Canadian provinces since it was discovered in 2002. Its presence was confirmed in Connecticut in July 2012.

“The emerald ash borer has the potential to devastate all the ash trees in the region,” Reid said. “It's already having a huge effect across the country. And now they are in Connecticut, and they are in more towns than what people think.” ECFLA members were doing their part to learn more about them, and how they might help contain and stop the spread of the insects on their properties.

For more information on ECFLA, go to

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