Front Porch Blog

Seeing the Forest and the Trees

Thursday, September 27
Shelly Stiles
Shelly Stiles is the district manager for the Bennington County Conservation District.

You’ll be seeing a new bumper sticker around these parts shortly. It won’t have the punch of “Gut Deer” or “I’m Already Against the Next War,” but it will be a good sign.

It will indicate that the vehicle’s owner cares about water quality, forest biodiversity and working landscapes. It will read “Bennington County Sustainable Forest Consortium,” and in larger letters, “SFC.”

And just what might “SF” mean” (“C” of course, stands for “good question!” And one with a number of correct answers. All of them, however, share several concepts (though they may emphasize different ones).

Sustainable forestry protects the ongoing productivity of a forest’s marketable tree species (and perhaps other forest denizens such as medicinal herbs or wild mushrooms). It preserves native plant and animal biodiversity, clean water and clean air. In some areas, sustainable forestry might preserve cultural as well as ecological benefits — things like recreational opportunities, pristine vistas, or a sense of wildness.

It offers employment and investment opportunities to local residents. Sustainable forestry fairly values the efforts of those who labor in the woods, and the products they send to market. And most importantly, sustainable forestry is a long-term process, where success is gauged over several decades, even several generations.

This highfalutin’ abstraction can be brought down to earth, where forests grow. In practice, sustainable forestry means things like creating a management plan that ties everything together, from describing the forest’s ecological resources to outlining a family’s financial objectives. In practice, equipment operators practicing SF will protect forest soils from compaction and erosion by working on frozen ground, say, or avoiding steep slopes.

In practice, consulting foresters practicing SF will locate patch cuts deep in the woods to prevent colonization by invasive plants, or will remove or herbicide potential nearby invaders like honeysuckle before the harvest is begun. SF loggers will protect a forest’s mix of tree ages and species — and the animals adapted to that mix. SF landowners might have their products certified as sustainably grown by an independent organization, and reap financial benefits as a result. And that’s just the short list!

Also on the list of what sustainable forestry means is protecting water quality. The SF Consortium will explore this high-priority topic at an upcoming workshop on forest access roads, stream crossings, and water quality protection, scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 6.

If you’re a forest landowner, logger, consulting forester or anyone interested in learning more about SF, you’re invited.

The hands-on workshop will show people how to construct and maintain access roads for all sorts of purposes. You’ll be able to examine five different temporary and permanent stream crossing structures on site. You’ll learn about state permit requirements and riparian buffers, and generally explore how to do the right thing by your woods most economically.

Presenters will include Gary Sabourin, watershed forester with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation; Alan Calfee, consulting forester (and owner, with his family, of the forest we’ll be visiting), and Nate Fice, Bennington County forester.

The $20 registration fee will cover morning refreshments and a bag lunch.

The consortium, new in 2007, is a collaborative between forest landowners, consulting foresters, loggers, the Bennington County Conservation District and the Bennington County Forester’s office.

Through the consortium, Nate Fice says, “we hope to get people connected to their forests and to think of their forests in a sustainable manner.”

Additional consortium workshops have already been scheduled, including a winter evening devoted to tree identification, a day-long workshop in April 2008 on non-traditional forest products, and an after-work walk focusing on woodland edible plants in late May 2008.

Contact Shelly Stiles at 442-2275 or bccd@sover.net for more information or to pre-register for the Oct. 6 workshop. Pre-registration by Oct. 3 is required.

Shelly Stiles is the district manager for the Bennington County Conservation District.

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