Featured Alum: Shane Hetzler and the Quiet Corner Initiative

Featured Alum: Shane Hetzler and the Quiet Corner Initiative

Hey FES Blog-Land! Emily again with the latest from the Admissions Office. I’ve posted about lots of the cool things you can do while you’re a student at FES, so I thought it would be good for me to highlight some of the cool things you can do once you’ve walked away from FES with a shiny new master’s degree.

Let me introduce Shane Hetzler, who graduated from FES with a Master of Forestry last May. Shane, like many in my class (including me!) did not yet feel like his work at FES was finished after two years, so he got a job with the school to continue the awesome work he started while at FES. He now works for the Yale School Forests managing the Quiet Corner Initiative. What’s the Quiet Corner, you say?

Well, you know those maps of the world at night, where you can see the areas that are most lit up by electric lights, and which parts are not? Quiet Corner is so named because it is the only place between Washington DC and Boston that looks dark on one of those maps. This area is one of the last vestiges of New England’s dense forest land, and the aim of the Quiet Corner Initiative is to engage the people who own all that land in understanding the importance of protecting these lands and actively working together to make sure the area stays clean and beautiful.

Officially, and briefly, here’s the blurb on the Quiet Corner:

The Quiet Corner Initiative was created in 2010 as a unique form of cooperative where the faculty, students, landowners, local forest products industry, and conservation organizations work together as peers to improve the stewardship of our natural resources. It centers around the 8,000 acres of the Yale-Myers Forest—a self-sufficient and FSC-certified woodland among the oldest sustainably managed forests in the nation—and its four neighboring towns of Ashford, Eastford, Union, and Woodstock. It focuses on three main areas: sound forestland management, renewable energy, and small-scale agriculture.

The first program to go into full effect was the Woodlands Partnership, which solidifies the relationship between landowners in the Quiet Corner and the Yale School Forests. Remember that class I described in my last blog post—Management Plans for Protected Areas? Well, the Quiet Corner Woodlands Partnership is the program that hooks students from that class up with landowners to work with. In total, the students from that and other classes at FES have done over $160,000 worth of consulting work free of charge—management plans, river assessments, and landscape-scale evaluations. They have also engaged over 70 local partners to protect this area, and have helped to make sure that the drinking water for over 65,000 folks in CT is clean and safe. Awesome!

Okay, so, that’s the project. Back to Shane. Where does he fit in to all of this? I sat down and talked to him about the project and his role in it.

Emily: How did you get involved with the Quiet Corner Initiative in the first place?

Shane: I became involved as a student at F&ES through Dr. Ashton’s Management Plans for Protected Areas course and through Dr. Gentry’s Strategies for Land Conservation class. I co-authored a management plan for a private landowner near Yale-Myers forest as well as a landscape-scale management plan for seven properties on Bigelow Brook [a brook that runs through the Quiet Corner]. The QCI was a natural way for me to exercise my research and professional interests in community-based forestry. A year’s worth of interactions with private landowners naturally led me into the position of coordinator.

Emily: What do you mean when you say you’re the “coordinator” of the program? What do you do?

Shane: As the coordinator for the QCI, I work with students, faculty, and private landowners to increase conservation in rural northeastern Connecticut. The most exciting part of working as coordinator for the QCI is seeing how much we’ve grown in the past few months- besides our standard landowner workshops we have seen the creation of a new landowner database that will more effectively help us to pair woodland owners with funding and services specifically related to their interests and values. We are also clarifying our messaging and branding through newsletters, social media, and increased on-the-ground outreach. This last point is particularly good for me because it means that I get to spend more time walking the woods with landowners—one of my favorite types of interactions. Finally, we are growing the Renewable Energy and Small-Scale Farming components of the QCI, areas that have been relatively undeveloped until now.

Emily: That sounds awesome! Are you glad to be part of the program?

Shane: I feel lucky and humbled to be a part of such a unique project, to be able to build off of the hard work of those that came before me. I also feel fortunate to have such solid faculty and staff support from people like Dr. Mark Ashton, Dr. Brad Gentry, and Alex Barrett (a fellow classmate of mine and the new School Forests Manager). Finally, the work that students from the Berkley Fellows program this year- namely Claire Nowak, Julius Pasay, as well as Andrew Gaidus (School Forests GIS support) have done has been vital to the growth of the program.

Emily: So what’s the one thing you want people out there to know about the Quiet Corner Initiative?

Shane: It’s all about keeping working lands working… Within FES, we actively work our land at Yale-Myers, but we do so in a responsible way for multiple benefits (research, education, income, as well as wildlife, biodiversity, etc). We want to make sure that landowners around this forest are able to do the same—keep their lands producing the benefits they want while maintaining a healthy ecosystem.

So there you have it, folks. Shane Hetzler, doing awesome things after his tenure at FES. Similarly engaging and unique project can await you, too!

Stay tuned for another cool alumni profile in the coming week.

Until then, you can certainly feel free to send me any questions, comments, or theories on life, the universe, and everything any time. Also let me know if you’re super psyched about QCI and want to get in touch with Shane himself.