Episode 3 Show Notes

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Five technical service providers discuss how they help Vermont landowners along their forest management journey.

Theme music written and performed by Joanne Garton.

Music featured in this episode:

  • Pacific Wrens by Chad Crouch
  • The Cove by Chad Crouch
  • The Fir Grove by Chad Crouch
  • Sandpiper Waltz by Chad Crouch
  • Ginger by Chad Crouch
  • Bells Picnic by Daniel Birch
  • Bells at Work by Daniel Birch
  • Earth Angel by Siddhartha Corsus

Featured guests (in order of appearance): 

Episode Transcript:

Alan Calfee: One of my favorite experiences as Consulting Forester is often that first walk in the woods with a landowner where we start to talk about things and their eyes, you know, they're just sort of slowly start to become aware of the beautiful complexity of this system that we call forests. 

Kate Forrer: Welcome to Heartwood, a podcast that connects Vermonters to our forested landscape through stories. And answers your questions about our forests, forest management and the forest economy. I’m Kate Forrer.

Lisa Sausville:And I’m Lisa Sausville.

Kate Forrer: Lisa is the Executive Director of Vermont Coverts 

Lisa Sausville: And Kate is the Community Forestry Specialist with UVM Extension 

Kate Forrer: Together, we’ll be your hosts as we explore our woods.Vermont has many technical service providers, or people who will come out to your land (either for free, or for a charge) to walk your land with you, and answer your questions about your woods to support you as a forest landowner. In this episode we are talking with some of these people and learning about what they do for landowners. Let’s meet a few. 

Jared Nunery: My name is Jared Nunnery, and I'm the Orleans County Forester, I work for the Department of Forest Parks and Recreation being the Orlean's County Forester, I work primarily in Orleans County, in the northeast kingdom of Vermont.

Markus Bradley: My name is Markus Bradley, and I am a consulting forester with Redstart Forestry based in Corinth, Vermont.

Alan Calfee: My name is Alan Calfee, I am a licensed professional forester. I am actually celebrating my 30th year as a consulting forester this year. I live in Rupert, Vermont. I'm a woodland owner myself, and I tell my clients that I think that's of great value to them because I have a lot of empathy for some of the challenges they face.

Andrea Shortsleeve:  My name is Andrea Shortsleeve and I work with the Department of Fish and Wildlife in Vermont as a habitat biologist, working with private landowners.

Steve Hagenbuch: My name is Steve Hagenbuch and I am the forest conservation program manager for Audubon Vermont.

Lisa Sausville: You may be thinking oh my gosh, there are so many!  What do they do?  Why would I need to collaborate with one? Well, you would be right- there are many. But each serves the landowner in a unique way and can help with the stewardship of your land.  Let’s hear a little bit about what each one of these resource professionals do.

Jared Nunery: The county forester is kind of oftentimes the first stop, particularly for new landowners. Our job can be anything from initial explanation of questions, what you have, oftentimes starts with a walk together in your woods.  And when I say landowner that could be any size from a person with one tree in downtown Newport City and questions about the health of that tree to someone with thousands of acres and managing with a focus on timber production or wildlife habitat. We are that kind of beginning resource starting to help understand what you have for your woods and then where do you go from there

Kate Forrer: We asked Jared, how much does it cost to work with a country forester?

Jared Nunery: I love that question because I get to say nothing, or I can caveat it by saying keep paying your taxes. But as a county forester, it's a service provided by the state of Vermont, free of charge for all landowners in Vermont.

Lisa Sausville: So that’s a county forester, what does a consulting forester do?

Markus Bradley: Our charge is to be the agent for the landowner. If you look at the definition of an agent in the Vermont statutes,it's a lot like being a legal guardian. My job is to look out for my client's interest

Alan Calfee: Owning land can be complicated and involves a number of different factors. My job is to help people navigate their way through that ownership over time.

Kate Forrer: So why are there two kinds of foresters? Actually, there is even more, but these are the ones that are most important to the landowner.  The difference is the county forester works for the state, and a consulting forester works for the landowner…..

Jared Nunery: The county forest were are the ones when it comes to current use are regulating the program, and the consulting forester, they are the individual that a landowner would hire to develop that forest management plan. They'll come out and do an inventory of the property and that establishes a baseline of what's out there. And then they'll ask the landowner, what are your goals and objectives in owning this property? What do you want to see? Is property like in five, 10, 15, 30 years? And then from that, the combination of those two will develop a forest management plan and that sets that trajectory forward to achieve those management goals and objectives. The consulting forester is going to be their consultant, the one that they reach out to when they've got questions to essentially implement that plan as well. And so if there comes a time when they're going to begin a timber harvest, the consulting forester is going to be the one who helps the landowner reach out, establish a contract with a logging contractor. They're going to oversee the work. They'll mark the trees to be cut. They'll assure that the silvicultural prescription is implemented and it's following the forest management plan. And they kind of act as the middle liaison between the logging contractor and the landowner, assuring that everything's going smoothly and and they'll shepherd that process through and then continue on working with the landowner when the work is done.

Markus Bradley: The vast majority of our work is part of the Current Use Program. We have approximately a thousand non-industrial clients who have land enrolled in current use and to be in the forest and part of the program, you have to have a forestry plan that has to be updated every 10 years. We write approximately one hundred forestry plans a year in this office, and in those forestry plans, we sample the properties systematically and then we break the properties up into different stand types. We also at the same time try to get a good sense of the boundaries, try to figure out some of the other physical features, try to figure out some of the resource concerns on the property, and then develop this plan that that hopefully meets the landowners objectives for the for the property for the next 10 years. The other part of what we do is help implement this plan. We help conduct logging jobs or resource concerns like invasive plant control or wildlife activities such as patch cuts or apple tree or oak tree release. And it's very broad. You get to know these people over a long period of time, and it's amazing how how my field you need to have some idea of of of a lot of different fields from financial planning to surveying to law. I sometimes feel like I'm I'm a therapist. It's a pretty, pretty wide ranging, interesting field with a lot of human interaction.

Jared Nunery: If you were going to build a house, you know, your first step isn't to go down to the lumber yard and start buying wood, because if you did that, you wouldn't know what to buy, how much to buy. And so that's where the consulting forester really comes in. And the other analogy I use, too, is most of Vermonters can probably walk through their house and tell you generally what the value of everything is in their house, how much they cost, what it's worth when you go out to the woods, it's a lot different. You can have one 10 inch maple that is worth X amount, and that same tree with a slightly different form is worth a totally different amount. And if you were to continue to grow that 10 inch maple for a longer period of time, the value is going to change drastically. That level of understanding is one that takes years of both education and practice to develop. And that's where that consulting forester comes in. Their bringing the expertise and understanding not only what trees are out there, the same sugar maple is going to grow differently on one site than it is on a different site.  And so that understanding of soils and bedrock and water and how it all comes together, it's very complex. And so that consultants are there to guide you through that and bring that in-depth knowledge of both place and species together to ultimately help you understand what you have. And what you have then is when you can decide where you're going to go. Kind of like the architects going to give you designs for your building, which will give you a supplies list then you can begin to work with a contractor to build the home. Once you have that list of materials and a design for your forest management plans, that architectural design that enables you to figure out exactly how you're going to build this house.

Alan Calfee: There are consulting foresters out there like myself who will work for you and be an advocate for what you want. I like to use the analogy: you know, people talk about how it's hard to eat a whole watermelon and that it's easier to eat it if you slice it into smaller parts. So we take a piece of forest land and slice it into different parts, which we call forest stands. These are areas that are similar in either age class distribution or species composition. The most obvious differentiation would be like a softwood stand - a white pine stand versus a northern hardwood stand. We divvy up the property into those different parcels, do some mapping work so people can look at and see how their land breaks up on the landscape, where the roads are, where streams are, where unique natural areas are, and then combine that inventory and assessment with their objectives and put together a long term program for what to do in those areas, generally involving active management, harvesting of some sort to reach their their objectives. Fundamentally, as a part of that, obviously, we're also just trying to help improve the diversity of trees in a stand and the diversity of age classes. A lot of Vermont woods have grown back in on agricultural land. All the trees in that particular stand are kind of of the same age. So through our work doing harvest on a periodic basis, like once every 15, 20 years, we're trying to create some new age classes and bring in the greatest diversity of natural tree species that we can.

Steve Hagenbuch: Forests are very complex systems. They certainly involve a lot more than just thinking about them as a collection of standing trees out there just just there on their own, doing their own thing. It's obviously a very interrelated system of the living and non-living components of that forest. The soils that they're on, the water, everything mixes together and it becomes pretty complex pretty quickly. There are certainly folks who think, well, I can just go out and collect a few trees and I'll be OK in meeting my goals of maybe harvesting firewood or even enhancing wildlife habitat, but without a real good understanding of what the harvesting of those trees will do to that entire system, things don't always turn out the way that they were intended to. And there are unintended consequences sometimes of acting without putting a lot of good thought into how forest is managed. So working with a forester -- foresters, folks who have been trained have experience in how to manage that system, to manage the diverse interests that those kind of voters have. It's certainly an investment that's well worth it for for any land or consider.

Lisa Sausville: There are other technical service providers that can offer guidance, advice and direction to landowners. One area that receives a lot of focus is wildlife habitat improvement. Here’s Andrea and Steve to share about what they can do.

Andrea Shortsleeve: I'm available with some of my other colleagues to come to people's property, do site visits and property walks, answer questions about how to manage their forests and their fields for wildlife and provide habitat for our native species. I also do a series of informational presentations and webinars, and we do a lot of trainings just on the ground.  One of the big things that takes up a lot of my time with working with landowners is helping guide them through EQIP process, which is a cost reimbursement program for landowners to help improve their their forests and their properties for wildlife and forest health in general. So we we guide them through that and help certify some of the projects that are administered through that program.

Steve Hagenbuch:  What we try to bring to landowners is what we might call...a bird's eye view of the forest and there's a little bit of a pun intended there, and it's figuratively, not literally, we don't have the ability to take people and fly over their forest. But what we do have the ability to do is to help them to look at their forest through the lens of birds and the habitat that those birds need.

Andrea Shortsleeve: We work in tandem with foresters. It's just our areas of expertise that kind of help us look at the woods a little differently. A lot of times, foresters and wildlife biologists are talking about the same thing. We're just using different words.

Steve Hagenbuch: Private landowners are really that they make up the fabric of Vermont's landscape. Close to seventy five to 80 percent of Vermont land is is in private ownership, and so the actions that private landowners make truly have significant implications for how our forests are able to do the things that they do, provide habitat for birds and other wildlife, provide forest products, provide clean air and clean water and recreational opportunities and all of that. Each one of these people have their own stories,they each have their own history of what they've done on that property. Sometimes it's nothing yet and they're just getting into it, and sometimes they've done quite a bit with certain objectives in mind.

Alan Calfee:  You can just see them, you know, sort of expand their mind and expand their love and enjoyment of their property as they start to learn more about it.

Jared Nunery: Every opportunity to work with landowners is different. Every landowner has a different interest, something that drives them.  The common theme is oftentimes a genuine connection to their woods - they're passionate about it. That passion might be driven by different, different causes, but the commonality of it is the passion. People are excited about their woods. They're proud about their woods. There's different emotions that evoked for different people related to the woods. And I think that sort of uniqueness is what really entices me.

Markus Bradley: I do really enjoy people, actually. And you might find that odd because my objective is just to stay in the woods, but we work with a lot of interesting people with lots of different perspectives. And it is just fascinating to meet people from different backgrounds and different nationalities and different objectives.

Andrea Shortsleeve: I really enjoy being exposed to all sorts of different people that make up our Vermont community and just learn what they appreciate about where they live. I mean, I think we live in such an amazing place and it's just really great to be able to spend time with people and talk to them about what's important to them, about their property.

Kate Forrer: Typically, these interactions with professionals begins with a conversation trying to understand where the landowner is at in their journey. Listen and you’ll see what we mean. 

Jared Nunery: The first question that I always ask is, what questions do you have? Because that can vary a lot by the landowner. And so some folks are really interested in understanding what they have, tree species, the different forest types they have... others are more interested in particular kinds of wildlife habitat. The conversation is going to vary a lot based on the interests of the landowner. But once we get a feeling for what people are interested in, we'll then start to walk and explain the landscape as we're walking through it, understanding the past land use history, understanding the different species and what's growing there, how it's growing. A question that's regularly asked is how do I keep my forest healthy? And so discussing these sorts of different topics and we'll walk through the woods, and sometimes that walk may be four or five hours on 10 acres, even depending on how many questions we go through. So there's not one common visit, but really, it's helping people ultimately better understand what they have, what's out there in the woods, because once you understand it, then more questions come up and you can actually then start to really develop more of a relationship with that land. And from that relationship, then comes the stewardship of the land.

Markus Bradley: Most folks that I work with, you know, logging income is is important, but it's not usually the overriding objective. My general philosophy is let's farm for trees where it's the most accessible, it's the most operable and it's the most productive. Part of my job, I think, is to introduce scenarios.  Vermont Audubon would like three to five percent of somebody's property to be an early successional habitat. That's kind of an eye opener for people. Really? So we want to make little patch cuts or group cuts somewhere in the vicinity of three to five percent of the total property? Really? My job is to actually introduce that stuff as well. Some of the other other scenarios going on -- help that education and then from there hopefully arrive to a plan that makes sense for their objectives, but also sort of the logistics of the land and what's and what's possible.

Alan Calfee: It is a long term relationship and it's important that our philosophies align and our our general sort of look at the forest as a whole. The next step used to be a visit and just a casual walk around the woods for me to talk about some things that I think are important about the forest and maybe look at their lands and try to find some of those unique areas and talk about those and help in that that sort of introductory meeting sort of probe that question, what is most important to you about your land? And start to try to put together a statement of objectives for them that about their forest land.

Andrea Shortsleeve: I've worked with people who have on their property for generations, and I've also worked with people who have owned their property for a month and haven't even explored all of 50 acres. Right? And so it really depends on where that person is. But in general, we'll start with the conversation of being like, what do you enjoy about your property? What are your overall long term goals and objectives? Are you interested in just creating a beautiful place that you can walk around? Are you interested in seeing more birds? Are you interested in pollinators.

Steve Hagenbuch: Once we're in the woods, it is really a conversation. It's a chance for landowners to share with me what they value in their forest. What is it that interests them? Also to share with me and show me take me to places, forests, where you've done some active management lately so that we can talk a bit about how that management is going to... perhaps it has already done this or perhaps it will in a couple of years -- how will it alter habitat for the birds that they're interested in? And it often leads to a really rich conversation, bringing up things that sometimes landowners have heard anecdotally one time or another, but really want to dive a little bit deeper into it. At the end of the visit, once we wrap things up and go back home, and in most cases, for most landowners, we will provide them with some sort of a written report that explains the current habitat conditions that their property provides and talks about ways that in the future they could think about managing that forest, either under the same regime, or sometimes a little different so they can manage their land into the future.

Jared Nunery: Oftentimes those management objectives and goals are achieved through a timber harvest, and that's when you would be engaging with a logging contractor and the logger's job they're the ones who are implementing that harvest. They're cutting the trees and then also assuring that those trees that are cut today are maximized the value of the trees that are harvested. And hopefully also they're really focused on doing so in a way that if the trees that are left behind are also not damaged, so those are growing well into the future.

Alan Calfee: Tom McEvoy, who started Vermont Coverts, had a triangle and the three corners of the triangle where the landowner, the logger, and the forester. He would say that at the end of a good logging job, all three of those people should be happy. The landowner will be happy with how their woods look, the money they got for their trees. The forester will be happy that the silviculture was done right, that it was done in a way that actually improves the forest over the long term. And the logger will be happy. He will have made, you know, made money on the job. Any one of those people in that triangle is not happy then it's not a successful logging job.

Lisa Sausville: All these  people are important pieces of what makes forestry happen in Vermont.  As we close out we have lined up stories from each of them about how they connect to our VT woods ‘

Jared Nunery: There's a certain just calmness in the woods that that I find and being there stopping for a moment -- yesterday, a mixed flock of chickadees and sparrows and a kinglet as well, just kind of surrounding around me while I was in mixed wood forests on the edge of a wetland and took a moment and realized, you know what? This is a nice place to be, especially in a time when the world's pretty tumultuous. There's always just quietness in the woods that's really nice too, so endless classroom and also just peace and tranquility.

Andrea Shortsleeve: My family has been here for a long time. And after college, I moved out West and started my career, and it just never really felt right until I came back to Vermont and started working again in the woods here. I think as I've been back, I've just realized it's because I think my connection to the northern hardwoods and this, you know, the trees that are here and the different components of our forests just seem normal and home to me -- that that provides such a connection to me, and it's not really a describable feeling or describable experience, but I think it's just kind of an overall feeling.

Steve Hagenbuch: It's a place where I can go to to kind of recharge, whether that's by myself, whether that's with my family or whether that's even with with other landowners on on a visit an Audubon visit. It's still a place where I can go and feel a sense of calm and a sense of where things are are are good in the world.

Kate Forrer: This has been Kate 

Lisa Sausville: and Lisa 

Kate Forrer: and you’ve been listening to Heartwood- hosted by Vermont Coverts, UVM Extension’s Urban and Community Forestry Program and UVM's Center for Research on Vermont. This podcast was produced by Leah Kelleher and made possible by funding from Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets and the Working Lands Enterprise Board. The music you heard was on this episode was Vermont musician Joanne Garton.  To hear more of her work checkout her new album Bee’s Knees.