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In the spring of 2016, Bet and Patrick Smith purchased their 30-acre Connecticut property on a mission to provide quality wildlife habitat on land that would have otherwise been vulnerable to development.
Excited by a purchase they had hoped to make for years, Bet and Patrick saw endless potential to support wildlife on their new property. However, they quickly learned that the land had not been managed for nearly 45 years and that turning this property around was going to be a greater challenge than expected.
Countless invasive species including Winged Euonymus, Japanese Barberry, Asian Bittersweet, and Multiflora Rose had engulfed their land and trees. The Smiths were knowledgeable about proper woodland care, but the sheer size and depth of these invasive plants presented a hurdle beyond what they could have anticipated.
They couldn’t even walk the land because it was so choked with invasives—it was an impenetrable jungle. If they could not access their woods, wildlife would surely struggle as well. It had to be addressed.
Bet and Patrick attempted to tame the invasives themselves, working with chainsaws and pruners in an effort to access the overgrown path to their woods. Each day, they cleared between 10 and 50 feet of the trail, but it seemed like each foot they cleared revealed more invasive plants choking out the native plants.
“People say this is impossible, you can’t do this, but we’re both pretty persistent, we know we’re going to have to go back year after year and manage it, it’s not a one shot deal,” says Bet.
Overwhelmed by their ambitious plan, Bet and Patrick knew they needed help. They required a professional who could give them better options to control the invasive plants and create a forested habitat that was enticing to wildlife. They made a few phone calls and met with several foresters, but none of them seemed to be the right fit.
Around that time, Bet met Lisa Hayden from the New England Forestry Foundation at a local event. Lisa introduced her to the My MassConn Woods program — a partnership between the New England Forestry Foundation, the American Forest Foundation, and the MassConn Sustainable Partnership — which focuses on providing woodland owners with resources and knowledge to steward thriving and resilient woodlands in the face of a changing climate.
Through the My MassConn Woods program, Bet and Patrick were connected with Eric Hansen, a forester working for the partnership, for a visit funded by a Wildlife Conservation Society grant. During the visit, Bet, Patrick and Eric discussed their goals for their woods in detail. As they walked the land, Eric identified several new invasive plants that Bet and Patrick had not recognized such as Glossy Buckthorn.
Eric gave Bet and Patrick suggestions that would help them overcome their invasive plants, enhance wildlife habitat, and address the challenges of climate change. Though climate change had not been a management focus for the couple previously, they found that many of Eric’s climate resiliency recommendations overlapped with their existing goals.
In fact, controlling invasive plants is a key management recommendation when preparing woodlands for climate change. Not only do invasive plants provide additional pressure to woodlands already under the stress of a changing climate, but they are also projected to increase as a result of climate change. Invasive plants also do not provide the same level of support for wildlife as the native plants that they are used to.
Bet and Patrick were so impressed with Eric — he listened to their needs, focused on their goals and gave them information on forest management that they did not know — that they decided to hire him to prepare a forest management plan that incorporated all of their goals and outlined a strategy to overcome their invasive plants.
With the help of the My MassConn Woods project, Bet and Patrick were able to build a relationship with a forester who could help them achieve their existing goals and even charter new goals. Today, the Smiths continue to battle invasives, but native plants are slowly regenerating in some areas thanks to their determination and Eric’s professional advice.
As the couple looks to the future, they are excited to create quality wildlife habitat with woods that are free of invasive species and resilient to a changing climate.
The USDA Farm Bill programs are available to help woodland owners like you do the activities you need to keep your land healthy. But what do you need to do to apply? Many federal financial assistance programs require a forest management plan, although you might be able to apply for funds to help you with the development of that plan. Your local USDA service center can work with you to identify and apply for the programs that are right for you.
Ready to start the application process?
The MyLandPlan.org Task List tool can help you keep track of all your deadlines. Try it out today and get email reminders of upcoming tasks and due dates!
Did you receive a copy of the 80-page glossy guide for Connecticut or Massachusetts landowners, called “The Place You Call Home: A Guide to Caring for Your Land”? Have you read the articles? We’d love to know if the information was helpful – or not.
Please help us evaluate the resources we provide to woodland owners like you by clicking here to take a very brief survey about this publication. This owner’s manual for your land is available online or by contacting Lisa Hayden at lhayden (at) newenglandforestry.org.
STATE SENATOR AND DOZENS OF ORGANIZATIONS LAUNCH MULTI-TOWN EFFORT TO PROTECT & CONSERVE LOCAL WOODLANDS AND WILDLIFE HABITAT
“My MassConn Woods” provides resources and guidance to private landowners, encouraging conservation and sustainable management of resilient woodlands
WALES, Mass., April 4, 2016 — Recognizing the growing challenges of protecting woodlands from threats such as suburban development and climate change, a broad coalition of stakeholders including municipal, state and federal agencies, land trusts, conservation organizations, and foresters gathered Friday, April 1 to announce the launch of “My MassConn Woods.” Focused on southern Massachusetts and Northern Connecticut, the My MassConn Woods initiative aims to help family woodland owners protect wildlife habitat, clean water and other important forest values by providing resources, guidance and incentives to help them make decisions that positively impact our region.
Also in attendance and supporting the project efforts, Senator Anne Gobi (Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire & Middlesex) stated, “It was wonderful to see so many people at one event working on conservation in such a collaborative fashion. One of my mentors, who I shared a love of the environment with, was he late Senator Bob Wetmore, who helped to educate me on the importance of our forests. Senator Wetmore established the states first commission on forest management practices and it is great to see that important work being carried on.”
Linking this 38-town geography and more than 30 partners, the MassConn Sustainable Forest Partnership, or “MassConn” is a Regional Conservation Partnership working across the state line to identify, protect and enhance the forested landscape of south central Massachusetts and northeastern Connecticut.
“This landscape contains three quarters of a million acres of land, 76% of which is forested – a remarkably high amount given the population density of Massachusetts and Connecticut” said Ed Hood, Executive Director of Opacum Land Trust, based in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, and Coordinator of the MassConn Sustainable Forest Partnership. “Most of New England’s woodlands are owned by over 200,000 private individuals, not by governments or corporations. Over the coming years, their decisions will have a huge impact on the landscape, our communities, the economy and environment – on New England’s two greatest natural resources, our forests and our fresh water.
“Our landowner base in New England is older than many other areas of the country, and a wave of land ownership transfers is expected to break over the region in the coming decade, potentially accelerating the fragmentation, or carving into smaller parcels, of our remaining large forests,” said Robert Perschel, Executive Director of the New England Forestry Foundation. “Through our landowner outreach initiative, we are building a deep understanding of our landowner audience, the resource gaps that exist and how we can work with partners to provide landowners with the information they need.”
“Woodlands are incredibly valuable to our communities, our local economies, and to the environment,” said Christine Cadigan, Sr. Manager, American Forest Foundation. “Forests provide opportunities for quiet recreation, preserving the integrity of our communities while creating habitat for wildlife and maintaining the quality of our air and water. They are also a significant buffer against the effects of a changing climate.”
The offerings to landowners range from peer networking and education opportunities to direct consultations with foresters and land protection specialists and even guidance on current use programs, finance and estate planning.
The effort is made possible by a series of grants and initiatives bringing together a broad coalition of partners, specifically:
Wildlife Conservation Society Grant to Fund Outreach to Improve Wildlife Habitat
A $250,000 grant from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Climate Adaptation Fund, made possible by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, has been awarded to American Forest Foundation to fund work with partners – the New England Forestry Foundation (NEFF), the Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary, the MassConn Sustainable Forest Partnership (MassConn), and the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science (NIACS). The partners are committed to a total $502,000 project for landowner outreach concerning climate-adapted forestry. See the news release: https://www.forestfoundation.org/conservation-grant-press-release
“Creating a Peer Landowner Network”
The MassConn Regional Conservation Partnership, in collaboration with the North Quabbin Regional Landscape Partnership, has been awarded $217,700 in funding from the United States Forest Service, through its State and Private Forestry Landscape Scale Restoration Program, for a $444,700 public outreach and education program, in a region stretching from the Connecticut to the New Hampshire state lines. Working with multiple partners, including the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the University of Massachusetts Cooperative Extension, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions, Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust and Opacum Land Trust, this project will create a cohesive and sustainable network of trained peer leaders who will enhance forest stewardship, engage with private forest landowners, and design a multi-landowner, climate change resilient forest conservation project in the MassConn and North Quabbin regions. The project is slated to commence early this spring.