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Five Years in the Forest

Research Cooperative Presents Numerous Studies on Northern Forest

By Joshua Brown Article published January 23, 2008

Flowing across the roof of New England — from coastal Maine, into New Hampshire’s White Mountains, Vermont’s northern Green Mountains and through the Adirondacks of New York — the 26-million-acre Northern Forest has been a source of pride for decades. Its re-growth from two centuries of over-cutting tells a hopeful story of natural recovery and good management.

But not all is well in the woods. Since at least the 1980s, concerns and unanswered questions about job loss, invasive species, sprawl, climate change, ecological decline, population growth and real estate speculation have cast a dark shadow.

In an ambitious response, the Northeastern States Research Cooperative was created in 2001. A competitive grant program, jointly directed through the University of Vermont, the US Forest Service, the University of Maine and the State University of New York, the NSRC helps fund projects that draw together academic researchers with business owners, foresters, landowners, environmentalists, hunters, policy experts and many others. The goal: identify the most urgent problems in the vast but threatened Northern Forest — and look for solutions.

With one section housed at UVM, the NSRC has granted more than $8 million to fund more than 70 research projects across New England since it was founded, asking questions like: Where is hemlock woolly adelgid, a north-moving pest, most likely to invade in Vermont? Is the explosion of conservation easements on forestland actually producing better forestry? What is causing sugar maples to decline? What does a “working forest” mean? And how well do kingfisher hatchlings indicate stream health?

Now the results are pouring in.

“Which is why we have made a real push to develop a new website that makes these results available and easy to read,” said Kate Baldwin, a UVM advancement officer who manages UVM’s portion of the research cooperative. She and Shari Halik, a UVM research specialist who has worked on creating the website, hope that forest managers and landowners, as well as reporters and students, will use the site to read about new findings, download detailed reports, and connect with the researchers.

“In the Northern Forest, people are eking out a living, working hand-in-glove with the forest, in their families and communities,” said Don DeHayes, dean of UVM’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources that hosts the project. “The Northeastern States Research Cooperative is successfully translating science into something that benefits the people who live in the forest, making new research accessible.”

A few examples of recent findings from UVM researchers posted to the new website include:

• A new map was produced that forecasts which forest stands most susceptible to infestation by hemlock woolly adelgid.

• To examine the effects of conservation easements on forest management, researchers surveyed 136 easement landowners in the four states, visited properties, and interviewed foresters. New research show that conservation easements are creating sustainable management of the forest.

• Among the numerous culprits that may contribute to sugar maple decline — like insects, drought and freezing — new results show that calcium deficiency in the soil is a major factor.

• Researchers conducted a survey in two towns in northern New York, uncovering multiple meanings to the term “working forest,” showing four distinct orientations to forest management — environmental, recreational, large-scale timber, and small-scale timber. This research can support improved community dialogue and policy making.

• To understand the impact of development on streams, researchers studied several animals including the kingfisher, a water dependent bird. The results show that streams in good condition supported kingfisher young with greater weights, suggesting that the bird may be a good indicator of overall stream well-being.