Forestry on the Ground: Photo Journals

Forest management is happening all the time in southern New England. Decisions to take on active management can increase habitat or landscape diversity, intentionally regenerate forests, help buffer forests against disturbance, and provide periodic income to landowners, while passive management maintains current conditions in the short term, which can benefit certain wildlife species, meet objectives related to aesthetics and recreation, and maintain levels of forest carbon. We hope these photo-journal tours will help you to better understand what you see out there, on public forest land, on your own or your neighbor's land, or just off in the distance. If you have any questions please feel free to reach out (see our contact information at the bottom of the page). 

Forest Management Decisions

Forest management decisions are based in the science of silviculture, which can be defined as the application of forest ecology to manage forests for the diverse needs and values of a society. Visit our What is a Forester section to learn more about how foresters work with landowners to define and carry out management goals. Once management goals have been determined, a silvicultural prescription is written and management is carried out. See below for descriptions and photographs of different forest management approaches.

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Intermediate Treatments​

Some forest management activities are designed not to regenerate the forest, but to reduce the forest density, making more resources available to the remaining trees. These activities can reduce the impacts of drought in the forest, with fewer trees competing for precious water resources, help trees remain resistant to invasive pests by allowing them to access more resources to build chemical defenses and recover from injury, increase seed production with benefits to wildlife, and allow individual remaining trees to sequester and store more carbon.

Crown Thinning

Thinning treatments are designed to allocate more growing space to healthy, vigorous trees. Slower-growing or less healthy trees are removed from a forest so that the remaining trees have more resources to grow larger in diameter, produce seeds, or maintain resilience against disturbance. Generally thinning treatments do not bring enough sunlight to the forest floor to regenerate tree species or greatly expand shrub layers. 

Click gallery photos for more information

Oak Thinning_Milne
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Regeneration Harvests

While thinning treatments are designed to specifically benefit the current forest canopy, regeneration harvests look to the future and plan for germination and growth of tree seedlings that will become the future forest. In southern New England, planting of seedlings is very uncommon, and regeneration harvests rely on natural regeneration, with seeds provided by the current forest canopy. Each of the harvest types highlighted below will promote the natural regeneration of a different suite of tree species. 

 

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Shelterwood 1 year old (Wikle)
Shelterwood 3 years old (Wikle)
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Shelterwood

The shelterwood method includes removing a certain proportion of the forest canopy to allow sunlight to the forest floor, but includes either temporary or permanent retention of some forest canopy trees to shelter the regenerating forest and temper the growth of sun-loving species in favor of some, like oak, that tolerate more shade when they are young. Shelterwoods are often multi-step harvest treatments, with a second timber harvest entry to remove some of the sheltering canopy trees to allow more light for trees to grow after they have had time to establish. A variation on the shelterwood is an irregular shelterwood, which can involve long-term retention of large trees and downed wood, and varied spacing of forest canopy openings. Click here to see some photos of shelterwood harvests.

 

Seed Tree Cut

A seed tree harvest is used to regenerate tree species that need a lot of sunlight to survive. Mature canopy trees are left standing to provide a seed source for the future forest, but at wide spacing in order to provide the most sunlight possible. As with a shelterwood cut, the seed trees can be removed at a later date so they do not shade the young forest, or they can be retained in the long-term for a two-aged forest. 

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White pine seed tree (Cervo)
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Silvicultural Clearcuts

A clearcut is a silvicultural technique that is designed to regenerate trees that are sun-loving, light-seeded, and often fast growing. When the forest canopy has been removed, seeds sprout from a buried seed bank in the soil and are blown in by the wind. The large amount of available sunlight means that clearcuts often lead to very high species diversity in the regenerating forest, as well as several years of dense, shrubby vegetation that provides wildlife habitat for a different suite of species than a closed canopy, mature forest. 

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Clearcut Pre-harvest (Ward)
Clearcut post-harvest (Ward)
Clearcut 2 years old (Ward)
Clearcut 5 years old (Ward)
Clearcut 17 years old (Ward)
Clearcut 31 years old (Ward)
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Passive Management (Wikle)
Passive Management (Wikle)
Passive Management (Wikle)
Understory invasive species (Wikle)
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Passive Management

As with the choice to harvest timber on forest land, passive management is an intentional activity taken on by forest land owners or managers, with specific goals in mind. Passive management perpetuates current forest structure and composition for an indefinite amount of time, until natural disturbances like forests pests or windstorms, or tree mortality caused by old age, introduce changes to the forest. This technique can serve to benefit wildlife species dependent on closed-canopy forests, carbon storage, and in many cases is a good fit for passive recreation.

 

Forest Management for Wildlife Habitat

The above silvicultural techniques can be applied and modified to create and maintain habitat for specific wildlife species, often those that are threatened or endangered. Some common applications in southern New England are for species that require young and/or diverse forest conditions, such as songbirds, game species, and the New England Cottontail.

 

Foresters for the Birds

Foresters for the Birds is a training program for foresters to increase their skills at working with landowners on forest management with birds in mind. There is an abundance of bird species across the southern New Region, each with slightly different habitat requirements. This means that there are many different ways silviculture can be incorporated into creating better bird habitat. Audubon programs in each state have simplified this process by identifying 12-17 focal bird species that are in the greatest need of habitat creation. Each southern New England state has slightly different resources available. Follow these links for more resources on programs in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.

Young forest structure (D'Amato)
Shrub habitat (Fecske)
Ovenbird Nest Goshen CT (Orefice)
Red-breasted grosbeak (Wikle)
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Cottontail Habitat (Whale)
Brush pile for New England Cottontail (Wikle)
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New England Cottontail Habitat

The New England cottontail is the only rabbit native to this region, but over the past 50 or so years, its population has dwindled and its range has become smaller. The most critical threat is loss of habitat, specifically young, brushy forest. In locations adjacent to spaces the New England cottontail still occupies, state wildlife agencies are encouraging creation of their habitat by using clearcut harvests to create young forests. Click here to read more about New England cottontail. Here are some photos of cottontail habitat harvests, which include the manual creation of brush piles for shelter for the rabbits.

 

Pitch Pine: a unique habitat

At Wharton Brook Pitch Pine Natural Area Preserve in Wallingford, CT, the pitch pines were being overtopped by oaks. No sunlight reached the forest floor and there were no pitch pines in the understory. A timber harvest focused on the oaks provided the pitch pine with more growing space and sunlight. The pines responded by producing more seed, which germinated in the sunny conditions. Now a new generation of pitch pines provides habitat for many species of wildlife, especially insects that are only found on these sites.

In 2018, a tornado hit Wharton Brook and damaged many larger pitch pines, but proactive management ensured there was this population of young pitch pine at the ready when its predecessor took the hit. This is a way that structural complexity enhances the resilience of a forest. 

In Feb., 2021, pitch pine seedlings are growing up, graduating into saplings!

 
Forest Management on CT State Lands
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The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) is committed to protecting the state's forests, and improving their vigor and resilience to meet the many objectives of the citizens of the state.

Their website highlights the many ecosystem benefits that are managed for, and make available the plans developed for state forests. Recently they've put together a collection of photos illustrating different forestry operations: "Silvicultural Treatments Before and After". Check it out on the DEEP Forest Management webpage

Visit a site of forestry activity at

James L. Goodwin State Forest

This 2000 acre forest in Hampton, CT, has over 10 miles of trails surrounding a lake and a pond, with a conservation education center. The property was first owned by a forester as a Christmas tree farm and has since expanded and been managed for a variety of both hardwood and coniferous forest types. The interpretive museum next to the center explains the natural science and art of forestry.