When you buy a car or a refrigerator, you receive an owner’s manual. But when you buy a piece of land, you’re on your own. Until now, that is. A new owner’s manual is now available for New York landowners, and it’s free.
Cornell Cooperative Extension is working with the publishers of Northern Woodlands magazine to distribute this new publication that will provide New York landowners with essential information for taking care of their land and getting the most out of it. The guide, called The Place You Call Home: A Guide to Caring for Your Land in New York, is being distributed free of charge to people who own 10 or more acres in New York. » Continue Reading.
The New York Forest Owners Association, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry will present a series of free forestry programs on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday February 24, 25, and 26 at the New York Farm Show annually held at the State Fairgrounds in Syracuse. The Farm Show has many exhibits displaying information, equipment, and items of interest to landowners as well as farmers. Landowners who own woodland as part of their property can get information on enhancing the value of their woodlots for timber, wildlife, and recreation.
Seminars consisting of nine different subjects during the three day farm show will be held in the Arts and Home Center Building in the Somerset Room. Subjects will include Wild Turkey, Conservation Easements, Deer Management Plan for NYS, Improving Practices, Woodlot Firewood, Selling Timber, Wildlife Habitat Improvement, Timber Value, and Wild Canines of New York. People are free to attend whichever seminar interests them and visit the Farm Show exhibits the rest of the time. There will also be a joint New York Forest Owners Association, NYSDEC, CCE, and SUNY ESF Forestry Information Booth, I55, in the International Food Building each day of the Farm Show. Before or after the seminar presentations, attendees can go to the booth and talk with knowledgeable Forest Owners Association volunteers, DEC Service Foresters, CCE Extension Foresters and with Master Forest Owner volunteers. Free information (brochures, publications, people, organizations, and resources) will be available at the booth. Visitors can sign up for more information or for a free visit to their woodlot. The International Building has many forestry related exhibits for landowners.
For further information contact: Jamie Christensen 315-472-5323 [email protected], John Druke 315-656-2313 [email protected], and Rich Taber [email protected]
Master Forest Owner volunteer training is now over, and I can say that if there is one thing I learned, it’s that forest owners need to be familiar with the resources available to them. A free visit from one of Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Master Forest Owner (MFO) volunteers is a great place to start [a pdf list]. An MFO can sit down with landowners and help them consider the issues land owners face that might include agro-forestry, maple syrup production, logging and timber sales, pest and invasive species management, understanding wetlands, soil and water quality, developing a management plan, or just understanding a little more about the land they own. Those with a keener interest in their forested property should consider becoming a volunteer themselves. The next training will be held at the Arnot Teaching and Research Forest, September 9-13, 2009. Here is a list of the stories I wrote while taking part in the training. We covered a lot more, but these stories provide some information, and more importantly, links to resources:
An Introduction to SUNY-ESF’s Adirondack Ecological Center at the Huntington Forest.
Deciding whether to log or not and how is complicated by a number of factors according to Master Forest Owner Program Director Gary Goff and Cornell Cooperative Extension Forester Peter Smallidge. Most private forest land in New York State will eventually be logged and sold for saw timber; the question is when and how. Goff and Smallidge reviewed the details at the 2009 Master Forest Owner Training.
Stumpage is the price offered by a logger for a standing tree. DEC issues Stumpage Price Reports twice a year that can serve as a guide (if you know what you’re looking at) for landowners wondering how much their timber is worth. A basic rule of thumb: A 20-inch diameter tree at breast height (dbh) generally contains two 16-foot merchantable logs. The same tree, cut down to four inch pieces, will yield about one cord of firewood (a cord is 4-feet tall, 8-feet long, and 4-feet wide).
Timber quality is the most important factor affecting the value of standing timber, but there are a number of other factors, including things like the volume per acre, the terrain, market demand, time of year, costs of harvesting, size, species, insurance, etc.
Another rule of thumb: a 12-14 inch tree can be graded to a 2-3 grade; 16 inches, 2 grade; 18-20 inches, 2-1 grade; 24-28, 1 grade. The bottom 16 feet on a tree holds two-thirds of the value of tree.
Other impacts on the decision to log include the rate of inflation, potential damage, rate of growth, market trends, changes in tax law, other goals and owner objectives (trails, wildlife improvement, etc.), social license (do I care what my neighbors think?), municipal ordinances (town, county, APA, DEC, etc.), supervision (do I need a forester?), state of stand (maintaining biodiversity and good regeneration, in other words, a stewardship plan).
Expenses to consider when logging include fixed costs like your mortgage, taxes, and insurance and variable costs like surveys, inventory, management plan, timber stand improvement, stand access improvement, and timber sale expenses. The bottom line is: management matters and can provide as much as twice the value.
Always have a contract between logger, forester, and landowner. Contracts should include who is selling what to whom and for how much, when, where, and with what restrictions. Payment options could include up-front stumpage, pay as you cut (certain dollar per thousand board feet), roadside (you haul ’em to the landing), or percentages. Contracts could also include best management practices, penalties for damaging residual stands, cutting of non-merchantable trees, a performance bond, non-transferability.
i won’t cover it here, because it’s complicated and really requires a forester, but those thinking about logging should understand what high-grading is and how to avoid it (of course the best way is to hire a professional forester).
Land owners should visit www.forestconnect.com for more about saw timer sales (and a lot more), and then begin thinking about a forest management plan.
Water quality best management practices are an important component for logging operations. Potential problems include sedimentation of streams and other water bodies, thermal pollution (damage by exposing stream beds to full sun for example), and biogeochemical changes (changes in soil chemistry). Forester Peter Smallidge notes that “cutting trees does not cause erosion, disturbing soil causes erosion.” Here are a few things to keep in mind: Logging roads and skid trails should follow contours in the land.
Disturb as little soil as possible, especially along streams and stream beds. Skid in winter.
Deal with small amounts of slow moving water such a rain events by using waterbars, sediment barriers, and culverts.
Avoid streams whenever possible. Always cross streams at right angles.
At MFO training, agro-forestry expert Bob Beyfuss talked about income opportunities for forest owners that don’t include logging. Here are a few things folks can do according to Bob:
Recreation: hunting leases, cabins, and cottages for various seasons. Take a look at www.aplacetohunt.net and www.woodlandowners.org. Silvapasture is leasing for grazing or browsing. Although now somewhat limited for elk and deer due to Chronic Wasting Disease and it’s not for sheep or cattle (they cause too much forest damage), there are opportunities for goats. Goats love burdock, beech, and especially poison ivy. They still may need to be fed if they are grazing in strictly forested lands.
Maple syrup production – I’ve already covered that here.
Ginseng, goldenseal, bloodroot, black cohosh, ramp/wild leeks, and fiddleheads are just a few of the botanicals that can be managed on forest lands for profit. Contrary to popular belief, while nothing can be taken from state land, only ginseng and goldenseal are regulated on private land. Old ginseng can sell for $1,700 a pound. Other opportunities include native ornamental plants like foam flower, maidenhead fern, and a lot more. In 1900, there were 5,000 ginseng farms in New York State and New York was the leading producer.
Mushrooms: chanterelles and morelles can be gathered, but oysters and shitakes can be grown at home (shitakes can bring $16 a pound).
Well, I’ve heard of the technique, but like most folks who’ve felled trees I’ve been doing it more dangerously than necessary. New York State Extension Forester Peter Smallidge educates on the wedge method that puts the tree right where you want it without chasing it down with a back cut. He cut his notch, then used the plunge method to leave all but the hinge. A couple of wedges are placed in the backcut – one just as a safety measure to be sure your saw doesn’t get pinched – and the other to safely and slowly drop the tree. The top should generally never move (no rattling top and falling branches) until you drive the wedge home. Then it falls right on the mark. Take the “game of logging” training Smallidge gives to learn to do it right. He also runs forestconnect.com, Cornell Cooperative Extension site for all things forestry that includes plenty of resources for forest owners, including regular webinars.
At the MFO training we heard from Mike Farrell of Cornell’s maple program at the Uihlein Forest. It turns out that New York is not what it should be in maple production, it’s second in the nation. The US imports four times more syrup from Canada than it produces. New York City alone consumes more syrup that all of New York State produces.
Here is a little more of what we learned: All maple produces syrup, but sugar maple produces the most and the sweetest sap. However, a very large well-established and healthy red maple can produce nearly as much as a smaller less-healthy sugar maple.
You can tell sugar maple from red maple because the bark peels from the side; red maple bark peels from the top and bottom.
Trees less then 10 inches in diameter should not be tapped; the recommendation is one tap per tree, two on very large trees. Taps should be moved around the tree (about an inch and a half a year) and up and down a few inches. Spouts should be 5/16, instead of the older 7/16.
An average sugar bush has 50-60 taps per acre (about 30% of the basal area is maple), easy access, and a gentle slope with water and power at the bottom. Roads should be as few and as straight as possible with grades 3-10%; try to keep keep water off your roads.
Tapped maples don’t die sooner, but they do grow considerably slower. Regeneration of the sugar bush should be considered – that requires protection of seedlings from browsers (like deer!), freedom from species competition, and adequate sunlight. Conifers attract squirrels, which can be a problem – they love to chew on taps and tubing.
Tubing is more environmentally friendly, produces a greater yield, and is less work than taps and buckets. It should be run tight, straight, and downhill. Vacuum systems add up to two to three times the yield to gravity systems. They can be left in place, but they still have to be maintained and annually flushed (use a power washer and plain water – chlorine can build up salts in the line and encourage pests). Tubing costs about $8 per tap to install.
Options for landowners include leasing to a producer, collecting and selling sap to a producer, or producing your own (most work, and profit). Setting up your sugar bush may make you eligible for an New York property tax agricultural assessment.
What about saw timber? There is a nice market for tapped maple butt logs (previously not usually accepted by local mills for saw timber and generally only used for firewood) because the wood is stained and has a natural look (the more tap holes, the more money a board can be worth). Butt log boards can fetch $3 a board foot by marketing it as a specialized wood product.
Check out www.mapletrader.com for used equipment and the New York State Maple Producers Association for information on setting up a maple syrup operation.
There are 54 species of mammals in the Adirondacks, and the Adirondack Ecological Center’s Charlotte Demers offers a “whirlwind tour.” Here are the highlights:
Marsupials – the possum. The Adirondacks is in the upper range of the possum, so you often find them with signs of frostbite, particularly their ears. Amazingly they give birth just 12 1/2 days after mating. Shrews and Moles – There are six different species of what are called “red tooth shrews”. They have an average life span of just a year and eat almost continuously. Our shrews have a toxin in their saliva which paralyzes it’s prey. The pygmy shrew weighs less then a dime making it (arguably) the smallest mammal in the world. The water shrew dives (mostly in streams) for its prey, including frogs and fish. They are often caught in minnow traps. We have two moles – hairy tail (the most common) and the star nose (uglier and aquatic). » Continue Reading.
Just got back from the Tupper Lake Hardwood mill, the only hardwood mill left in the the Adirondack Park. Our guide, a sixth generation Canadian mill worker, told us that the company is facing tough economic times. Of their three mills only two are currently operating and the Tupper mill is only running one shift a day (16 employees).
The mill sells almost everything that comes onto the lot. Chips are sent to the International Paper mill in Ticonderoga for fine-grade paper, the sawdust is sold for bedding and other specialized uses. The worst grade of lumber (3 Common) goes into pallets and the better grades are shipped mostly to Europe and Asia (55%) and around the United States (after being trucked to Montreal to be kiln dried). The mill produces about 9 million board feet a year when running at full capacity, but is currently running at half that. The logs are all supplied by about 60 suppliers from within about 50 miles of the mill; minimum log size is 9 inches.
Quite a place – we also took the time to try out some tree scaling and grading.
We’re about to start tree identification. I’ll try to post again after dinner.
This morning we heard from DEC forestry and wildlife representatives from Region 5 (which covers most of the Adirondacks). Tom Martin, DEC Forester, kicked it off with a discussion of the explanation of the role the agency plays in local forests, public and private. Martin was followed by a DEC Wildlife Biologist who pointed out a number of important resources for landowners, including a few cool internet tools.
Region 5 contains more potential commercial forest land (about 3 million acres) than forest preserve land. The region has three part-time people who handle private land services who are basically foresters who help people develop land management plans. Martin reviewed recent large land transfers in Region 5. “Every single large forest products company has sold their land,” he said. Those include Champion, International Paper, Domtar, and Finch Pruyn. Lands not bought outright by the state (or a third party like the Nature Conservancy) have been purchased by timber management investment companies which Martin said have much shorter term financial goals (and shorter tenure) than the original owners.
By the way, DEC has paid full taxes on land the state owns in the park since the 1880s. The companies that have sold their land all enjoyed 480a tax breaks that reduced their assessments by 80% (that includes state, county and school taxes).
Following Martin, Region 5 Wildlife Biologist Paul Jensen reviewed DEC resources for forest owners including the agency’s beaver damage management program. The program includes nuisance beaver permits that allow trapping and killing of nuisance beaver and the removal of beaver dams; the DEC no longer traps beaver for relocation. Jensen also briefly touched on whitetail deer management, a significant factor in understory regeneration.
Here are a few resources Jensen pointed us to for getting a closer look at public and private forest lands:
Environmental Resource Mapper – enter your property location and find about wetlands, significant natural communities, and rare plants and animals. Landowner Incentive Program – provides information and access to funds and/or tax breaks for forest land owners whose land contains at risk species.
Well, I’m here at the Huntington Research Forest / SUNY-ESF Adirondack Ecological Center (AEC), checked in, bag unpacked, and we’ve already made some general introductions and had dinner together at the dining hall. Laurel Gailor, Natural Resources Educator for Warren County Cornell Cooperative Extension and Cornell Department of Natural Resources Program Director Gary Goff (who is primarily leading the training) welcomed me with internet access and a map and schedule. There are twenty folks here for the training including large landowners and small representing 3,400 combined acres in Warren, Essex, Hamilton, Tioga, and even Broome County. Most are retirement-age men, but we have a handful of women. The group looks pretty diverse as far as experience. Several have been foresters or in the forestry industry for many years, one dairy and maple producer, three engineers, two corrections officers, one college administrator, one principal, two teachers, an anthropologist and a superintendent of highways. One trainee working on his town’s comprehensive plan.
The highlight of tonight’s session (yes, I said tonight, the schedule runs to 8 or 9 pm each night) was an introduction to the Huntington Forest and the Adirondack Ecological Center by the center’s program director Paul Hai. Hai reviewed the history of the Huntington Forest, so I thought I’d relate some of what he said here.
SUNY-ESF is the oldest college in the US solely dedicated to the study of the environment. It was founded in 1911 as the College of Forestry at Syracuse, although Cornell University actually established the first New York State College of Forestry in 1898 under Bernhard Fernow. It was the first professional college of forestry in North America but didn’t last long. Fernow established a research forest near Saranac Lake (I’ve written about that in the past), but opposition from local wealthy landowners and pressure applied to the state legislature forced the closure of both the research forest and Cornell’s Forestry School in about 1909.
Syracuse took up the mantle in 1911 and in 1932 the Huntington family (famed for their connection to the trans-continental railroad and first owners of the Pine Knot Great Camp) donated some 15,000 acres to the College of Forestry. The Huntington Forest allows “research on a landscape scale,” according to Hai, largely because it is private land and therefore outside the constitutional “forever wild” clause. The goal at Huntington is to study the wildlife and biology of the Adirondack / Northern Forest Ecosystem, but also the dynamics of a healthy forest products economy. The AEC has been conducting one of the longest whitetail deer studies in America, and more recently they have been studying how road salt affects amphibians.
In the 1950s cutting-method blocks were established in the Huntington Forest, and later this week we’ll be able to walk through a half century of forestry methods in just a few miles.