Foresters preach good stewardship of land

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Eastford - posted Mon., Nov. 4, 2013
Mike Bartlett (in orange vest) talks to ECFLA members at the E&F Wood yard. Photos by D. Coffey.
Mike Bartlett (in orange vest) talks to ECFLA members at the E&F Wood yard. Photos by D. Coffey.

Foresters Mike Bartlett and Steve Broderick led 30 people into the forest on the Brumbach property in Eastford on Nov. 2. At a rough clearing they stopped to talk about forest management procedures, using the outdoors as a classroom. Their students were members of the Eastern Connecticut Forest Landowners Association. The program was one of several offered by the ECFLA to foster an education about the land and how people can be good stewards of it.

Eighty percent of all forest in Connecticut is privately owned, according to Broderick. The ECFLA was founded to address the needs of those owners. “Most members are not professionals,” Broderick said. “They come from all walks of life – realtors, farmers, teachers, you name it. They needed a venue to learn about healthy production management practices.”

Some come to the land as recent owners. They’ve bought property or have inherited it from a family member. And some have very little land. “Members have anywhere from 1 acre to several hundred,” Broderick said. Some members have no land at all, but join for the chance to learn about the forest and the flora and fauna that it supports.

The area Bartlett and Broderick stopped in had been thinned recently. A stand of young white pines grew in the shelter of a few oak, black cherry, hemlock and birch trees. The trees would provide cover from wind and snow, but let in plenty of sunlight for the pines to thrive. The ground was unsightly, though. It was rough with fallen limbs and understory, a perfect environment. The leaves and debris would be time-release fertilizer. It would provide amphibian habitat in the summer. Mice and chipmunks would thrive, which in turn would help owls, hawks and other mammals that fed on them. 

Bartlett showed the result of the radical thinning. One young pine had grown more than a foot in one year. He could tell by the spacing of its branches.

ECFLA Executive Director Robert Vianni acknowledged that members had different interests and goals for their land. “Some want hunting land,” he said. “Some want to make money off it. We educate people. We give them good tools to work with so they can make the best use of their land.”

A case in point was a presentation given that morning by Michael Fahey and Hans Frankhouser. Fahey is the co-owner of New England Timberland Investments, LLC. Frankhouser is co-owner of E&F Wood, LLC. Both men talked about the changes in timber sale trends and how it has impacted loggers and land owners in the region.

The men spoke in E&F Wood’s 8-acre wood yard. Massive logs of white pine lay debarked and piled for transportation to customers in Asia. The company also processes red pine logs that will be used for telephone poles in Canada. The sawmill can produce 44-foot-long roof rafters and floor joists used by log cabin manufacturers. Mulch made from grinding the bark and fiber together is sold for landscaping material.

“It’s a success story for Connecticut,” said ECFLA member Bill Reid. The implications for landowners are significant. “This gives people something to think about when considering the long-term health of their land. The reality is that a well-managed forest with proper cuttings will be healthier in the long run.”

That’s true whether wood used is for commercial purposes or not. “It’s a long-term investment,” Reid said, “People have to think about their land as an important part of their portfolio.”

That investment can yield returns more far reaching than dollars and cents. The ramifications of preserving open space and managing forests properly can be good for whole communities. “Good stewardship of the land is good for the environment,” Vianni said. And that is a fact not lost of ECFLA members come voting time when officials are elected to conservation, wetland and planning and zoning boards and commissions.

Good stewardship of the land requires a long-term perspective. Southern yellow pine is grown as a crop in the south where they take about 25 years to grow. Red pine can take 70 years before its ready to be fashioned into telephone poles. That’s why it’s important for land owners to consider not only how they want to use the land but what they want to do with it when they can’t take care of it any longer. “Someone might want to pass the land on, to keep it forever a beautiful piece of land,” Vianni said, “but when they die the land changes hands. It might get sold off and developed, something the original owner didn’t want to have happen. We can educate landowners how to preserve their land for future use.”

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