The Woodland Partnership began in 2010 when the Yale School Forests reached out to private forestland owners surrounding the Yale-Myers Forest to find neighbors who might be interested in joining with us to enhance the pace, scale, and quality of forest conservation and management in the region. Together, we have worked to develop a network of landowners who are collaborating with one another and with the School Forests to provide environmental education opportunities to our students while improving the quality of land management in the area.
Ninety percent of all New England woodlands belong to private owners and the average size of a property is about 15 acres. The ownership structure around the Yale-Myers forest looks like a puzzle made of a huge number of small parts. Many landowners lack access to the resources needed to effectively manage their land over the long term. The Woodland Partnership seeks to help remedy this problem. With more management resources available, landowners can work to stem the loss of woodlands in the Quiet Corner.
The Yale-Myers Forest (pale green) and neighboring properties
The Woodland Partnership is a new economic framework for small landowners. It is meant as a network of owners that seeks to improve the capacity to manage their land and the ability to get value out of it by sharing costs and information.
Each year, we focus on key watersheds radiating from the Yale-Myers Forest and connecting with protected lands. The partnership continuously builds upon itself as we return to each sub-watershed every ten years, allowing us to monitor long-term ecological and social changes.
Landowners share costs, infrastructure, information. They receive an increased access to markets and professional Management Plans to help them manage their land according to their expectations - whether they are interested in timber, easements, nature trails, sugar bush, or non-timber forest products. This way, they can enjoy their property and protect its future for themselves and their family.
The local community can avoid real estate development and preserve an area of great natural beauty while increasing its wood supply and non-market opportunities, and strenghtening its social ties.
The working forest becomes more healthy and resilient. It provides many public goods, including wildlife habitat and clean water: our rivers and brooks contribute to the safe and clean water supply of over 65,000 people downstream by feeding into the the Natchaug Basin watershed, which supports the largest public drinking water supply in Northeast Connecticut.
Landowners surveys and partnership: from the start, 40 owners comprising 3,000 acres indicated interest in the project. Two years later, 110 partners form a core group of land stewards.
Management Plans and Stream Studies: a Management Plan is like a blueprint for your property. Starting from our partner's objectives, a team of students works to provide a series of recommendations on how to effectively manage your forestland based on a detailed assessment of the biological, social and historical attributes of the property. This serves as a benefit to the landowner who receives a professionally researched plan, but also to students who learn both the technical skills and the invaluable experience of working directly with local stakeholders. The same is true of a stream study, where students sample part of a river to assess fish habitat, erosion, and water quality - plans can lead to funding to repair culverts and restore dams.
So far, our students have completed clinical work and research covering 1300 acres of forestland, with a total of 8 stream studies and 14 management plans.
Master of Forestry student Tori Lockhart sampling a partner's property for a QCI Management Plan (picture by Spenser Shadle)
Harvest Plans and Timber Sales: Landowners who wish to go further can implement a lot of recommendations themselves, but when needed students will provided assistance to design ecologically-sound timber harvests. 5 harvests have been or are beeing written right now, and 2 timber sales will be marked this Spring with the help of a consulting forester.
Workshops: to share information and strenghten community ties and collective expertise about land stewardship, the QCI regularly organizes seminars.
The Partnership is continually developping its network of partners watershed after watershed. In the near future, we are looking to branch out to two new areas: small-scale renewable energy, and small-scale farming. We will also continue to focus on forest management by implementing more management plans, looking at group certification for forest owners, and exploring funding opportunities like easements and grants.
In the fall of 2014, our students wrote Management Plans for 2 landowners and studied the health of 6 streams and ponds. They organized a workshop on silvopasture and installed solar panels thanks to an independent student study on renewables this summer. This Spring, our students will accompany 3 more landowners from the Management Plan phase to the actual implementation of their silvicultural recommendations. They will mark 2 harvests, look at the impact of logging on bird diversity, design a protocol to assess the health of our streams, put together a workshop on draft logging, another workshop on forest farming, and yet another on conservation easements.
A study by Drew Veysey (bottom left) was the first step towards our work with renewable energy in the Quiet Corner. It resulted in the installation of solar panels at Camp this fall.