Organization helping to promote healthy forests

Submitted photo Pictured are members of the New York Forest Owners Association who participated in a recent woods walk.

An organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of forests is continuing to promote healthy forests in Western New York and throughout the state.

The New York Forest Owners Association is partnering with the Audubon Society to bring a woods walk workshop to demonstrate songbird habitat management in practice.

The woods walk will take place Saturday, May 11, at Bush Hill State Forest, Clark Wilson Road, towns of Lydon and Farmersville, Cattaraugus County, near the Allegany County border.

There is no cost to attend, but registration is required. The registration deadline is Wednesday. To register or to get more information, contact Mike Jabot at 716-673-3639 or email michael.jabot@fredonia.edu.

Dick Brennan is the chairperson of the Allegheny Foothills Chapter, which includes Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegheny counties. He notes that today more than 60% of New York State land is covered by forests, which is just under 19 million acres.

“This represents a major change from the early 1900s when about 20% of the state was forested.

As small farms were decreasing, trees returned to fill in abandoned farmland. Just look at pictures of rural land from the early 1900s to be amazed at how bare the same hillsides appear compared to today or, when driving rural roads, view caved-in barns and isolated silos that attest to this transformation,” he said.

Brennan notes that healthy forests are a valuable resource that provide benefits that some may not realize. “The more forests we have, the greater the benefit. Tree roots combat erosion by holding soil in place preventing the loss of valuable topsoil into streams and lakes. Forests also provide valuable habitat to support wildlife; produce logs for the wood products industry that supports the economy of many rural communities; provide recreational opportunities for hunting, hiking, and cross- country skiing; and provide an opportunity for a simple, relaxing walk in the woods,” he said.

Brennan also noted that forests play a significant role in combating climate change.

“They remove carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from the air and store it in their wood and roots while breathing out oxygen during the day, giving us cleaner air,” he said.

However, forests are currently undergoing threats to their sustainability from invasive shrubs and insects such as the emerald ash borer, extensive deer browsing that severely limits regeneration, and overly aggressive timber harvests that limits significant regeneration.

“Unfortunately, forests cannot manage themselves against these threats without human intervention,” he said.

According to Breenan, around 60% of the state’s forests are owned by private individuals with between 5-10 to several hundred acres of wooded land. “The care and stewardship of a significant portion of New York’s forests remain in the hands of individuals/families that have a close relationship to the woods and are in a position to combat the threats to sustainability. This group has the potential to be a significant influence,” he said.

Brennan notes the NYFOA can provide assistance to those private landowners. A not-for-profit organization, NYFOA was founded to encourage well informed management of privately owned woodlands in New York state that benefits current and future generations.

NYFOA provides support to members who may have a range of objectives such as improving wildlife habitat, developing recreational opportunities, producing quality timber, and staying informed about general issues of forest ownership. Membership provides the opportunity to receive the bi-monthly New York Forest Owner magazine and be enrolled in one of the 10 local state chapters. Each chapter has a newsletter publicizing opportunities to participate in local informational meetings and field events.

“Woods-walks” are unique field events that tour local woodland properties and allow owners to share their forest management experiences. They also provide an opportunity to meet other forest owners and share experiences which build a peer group of like-minded individuals. A day in the woods is also enjoyable just to be there. Local chapters also provide the opportunity for volunteer experience. Each chapter has a steering committee responsible for developing informational programs and a newsletter. Chapters are operated exclusively by volunteers and help is always welcomed. Visit www.nyfoa.org for membership information.


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