Mt Riga Forestry Summary
The Environmental Stewardship Committee (ESC) is dedicated to the sustainable management of the Mt Riga forest. The ESC is in the process of developing a comprehensive forestry stewardship and management plan. The forestry plan will propose goals and objectives, along with timelines, estimated costs and/or potential revenue (timber) involved with proposed implementation efforts.
Currently most of Mt Riga Inc.’s (MRI) property is classified as “Forest Land” (PA490) for property tax assessment valuation. The ESC will work to retain this status.
For many decades Mt. Riga has benefited from the guidance of our long-term forester Curtis Rand, whose notes to the ECS in July of 2018 regarding some of the history of MRI’s forestry efforts, and the initiation of our current forestry planning efforts are below:
The philosophy of forestry has moved and grown significantly in recent years and it is noteworthy that much of this has been the cornerstone of the work that was guided by Steve Gilman: a big dose of field ecology and conservation biology, and less of traditional timber management. Nevertheless, here are some considerations to consider re: timber.
- A plan should start with soil types and productivity so that the areas for future timber growth and revenue can be identified and assets are not expended unnecessarily in measuring areas that are not productive for wood products, although those non-productive areas will undoubtedly hold high conservation value for other things like habitat, water quality, aesthetics.
- A timber inventory of the best sites should include species, age and condition, regeneration, insect and disease issues, invasive species and probably some cursory wildlife/fishery values. These data would form the basis for the timber part of the plan.
- A special area description of old-growth should be included
- A discussion of regeneration should be included because this has been a major focus of the program since we began in the 1980’s. At this time the deer herd was so excessive that regeneration was impossible and this really hindered any forest cutting. We have refined our techniques in the recent cuts and also encouraged a lower deer herd and this has helped to solve the problem.
Wildlife & Fisheries
In any plan that I imagine the committee contemplates, there should probably be an expanded section on these issues, beyond anything within the forestry-specific narrative. There is specific information on these and they are very important considerations:
- The cold-water work on the streams that has been done by DEEP and Trout Unlimited, and certainly the forest condition along these drainages is a major topic to include. There is ample information on this as well as specific data on Riga and Ball Brook, probably Bingham as well.
- Wildlife is an important topic (for many landowners it is more important than anything else). It includes all species – prey and predator, game and non-game. Once again, there is considerable interface between forestry and habitat, as well as much new thinking about the role of predators and the significance of endangered species and recovery. The high elevation, dry sites warrant special attention due to several endangered species that are found there. These exciting issues, as well as the bird project below.
- I discussed with Eileen Fielding (new Director at Audubon Sharon) the recent query about the Audubon program for forestry and birds. The Sharon center has a program that demonstrates forestry with bird habitat as a goal. Mt. Riga was actually the first in with this program and the work you did was the catalyst for the prior manager in Sharon to seek a Forest Service grant to expand the program to other landowners. The project is complex and will be addressed in a separate email. The short version is that the assessment program would probably not be available to Riga under the grant because it will only apply to land trust properties, unless the US Forest Service (USFS, which is funding the assessments) agrees that the TNC easement on Bingham would allow a bird assessment on the whole property. Also, the land trust phase of this project has not yet been approved by the USFS. However, some sort of hybrid is likely desirable from both the Riga and Audubon perspectives.
Many thanks to Curtis Rand for his contributions.