Our forests are a precious resource

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Our forests are a precious resource

The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor is made up of 77% forested land. Connecticut and Massachusetts are some of the most forested states in the county, and in our region we are blessed with large blocks of state forests such as the Pachaug, Nipmuck and Natchaug, each with thousands of acres. Despite these huge tracts of state land, it is private landowners that own 73% of our forests. Our wooded lands are precious and valuable.

When we contemplate the value of something our thoughts automatically go to the financial merit – what is it worth in dollars? Certainly, all land types have an assessed value determined in-part by current market prices for developable land. With forest there is also the financial value of trees for lumber and associated wood products. To truly appreciate our forest we must look beyond money to the priceless resource we share.

Our forests and trees add to the quality of life we enjoy living here in The Last Green Valley. They are fundamental to the character of not just our local communities but also the entire New England region. It is the woods and deeper forest blocks that provide the conditions supporting healthy ecosystems for animals and humans alike.

Our forests are nature’s filtration system, keeping our air and waterways clean and helping safeguard our drinking water. Forests protect our vital watersheds by reducing the amount of erosion and runoff into waterways. Our forest tracts provide habitat to countless wildlife species of mammals, birds, insects, amphibians and reptiles. Forests create oxygen for the clean air we breathe and store carbon in above and below ground biomass, thereby reducing the effects of greenhouse gases.

Forests also provide financial benefit to our region in the form of tourism dollars associated with outdoor recreation. The Last Green Valley is threaded with hundreds of miles of forest trails providing accessible, healthy recreation for visitors from other states as well as those who call this place home.

I guess I am a bit biased. When it comes to my own recreation, my tendency is to head to the woods as often as I can. I do enjoy a trip to the beach on a sunny summer day, and each winter season I spend as much free time as possible in the mountains of Vermont with skis strapped to my feet. During my lifetime I have traveled to the midwestern prairies, western mountains, the Gulf Coast and the deserts of the southwest. Each area is magnificent and beautiful, but it is in woods where I feel the most comfortable.

Our earliest ancestors were forest dwellers, so perhaps we all have a bit of woods in our DNA. For me it is the closeness and touch of the trees, the soft ground underfoot, and the smell of wood, leaves and earth that contribute to a sense of calm and peace. More than once have I whispered under my breath “welcome to my church” when visiting the Nipmuck or Natchaug Forest. I can’t place a monetary value for time spent in the woods. I know many people with these same feelings.

Every 10 years, the state of Connecticut produces a working document called the Connecticut Forest Action Plan. It is updated every five years and the new 2020 plan has been a work in progress for the past several months. Along with many other stakeholders I have attended public forums to help provide input on the plan. You can find information about the 2020 Connecticut Forest Action Plan at the forestry section of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection website. A direct link can be found at:

https://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2697&q=454164&deepNav_GID=1631

The fact sheet for the Forest Action Plans helps provide context for the next 10 years.

“Connecticut’s trees and forests face many significant challenges that threaten the health, character, and values that we rely on every day. Invasive insects (e.g. emerald ash borer & gypsy moth) and invasive plants (e.g. Japanese barberry & Asiatic bittersweet) are killing trees and changing the nature of the forests where they are found. They are also negatively affecting public health and state, municipal and private budgets.

“Fragmentation and parcelization threatens large blocks of forest which can reduce their usefulness to humans and animals and make them less resilient to other threats. Limited resources and public awareness hinder conservation and management goals across the urban to rural spectrum. As old threats continue and new threats emerge, resources need to be prioritized for the greatest good.”

Over the next few months I will be sharing more about our forestlands in addition to information on programs available to forest landowners interested in learning more about their woods and how to care for them.

We live in a beautiful region called The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor. The “green” of our region comes from the forests and woodlands that we share. I hope you’ll join me and others as we care for, enjoy and pass on this precious resource.

Bill Reid is the Chief Ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor and has lived in the region for more than 35 years. He can be reached at bill@tlgv.org

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