The Hinesburg Town Forest: Inclusion, demonstration and diversity

Hinesburg Town Forest Forestry Management. Photo by Ethan Andrea.

The 864-acre Hinesburg Town Forest (HTF) is many things. It is a historically important property, one of Vermont’s early town forests, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is also a site for demonstration and education, with a history of high-quality forest management. At the same time, it is widely known for its recreational offerings; a multi-use trail network maintained by Fellowship of the Wheel (a chapter of the Vermont Mountain Bike Association).

Since becoming the Chittenden County forester in 2016, it’s been my honor to work with this iconic and historic property. My most exciting task has been continuing the tradition of demonstrating what responsible, modern forest management looks like and finding ways to engage the public in it.

Regenerative forest management
To many laypeople, “logging” conjures up images of clearcuts, mudslides and environmental devastation. The reality is that modern forest management can be very different from those horror stories of the past. It can be “regenerative,” supporting the growth of a healthy, diverse, resilient forest providing a range of benefits, from wildlife habitat to carbon sequestration and storage.

The goal for the Hinesburg Town Forest is two-fold; to help encourage a healthier, more resilient, more diverse forest, while showcasing modern, responsible forest management in an open, transparent and inclusive way.
The amazing thing about good forestry is that it creates more resilient forests while simultaneously producing a local renewable resource. We’re proud of the wood we’ve harvested and the local economic benefits we’ve created in the process; we hired a logger from Hinesburg, who processes and sells firewood locally, and spruce and pine logs from the job stay in Chittenden County, many of them ending up at Clifford Lumber in Hinesburg. The modest revenue from the harvest funds trail restoration at the HTF and invasive species control at the LaPlatte Headwaters Town Forest, Hinesburg’s other town forest, among other things. Demonstrating how wood produced from well-managed logging benefits our communities and our world is an extremely important co-benefit of this project.

We hope that by providing ample opportunities for the public to engage with forest management at the HTF, we can start to build a culture of improved understanding of what constitutes responsible modern forest management. To that end, over the last year we’ve hosted 10 free, public events attended by over 200 people. We’ve had numerous public events before, during and after the harvest, including many forest-management walks I’ve led, a walk with wildlife biologists, a presentation at the Hinesburg Library and a “Hinesburg Town Forest History Night” at the Hinesburg Town Hall. In addition, we’ve hosted numerous UVM forestry classes and foresters from the New England Society of American Foresters annual conference. We have partnered with Vermont Woodlands Association, Vermont Coverts, Audubon Vermont, Vermont Fish and Wildlife, the Vermont Land Trust and others to connect interested Vermonters to this kind of educational opportunity.

As we move into the project’s second winter, we hope to engage many more – and we want you to get involved! There will be numerous educational walks and opportunities throughout the next year, all of which will be free and open to all. If you are interested in, or skeptical about, what modern forest management looks like, please take advantage of these opportunities. Also, if you have creative ideas for educational opportunities around forest management at the HTF, please let me know. Our goal is to reach as many people as possible. We hope that our work can create a healthier Hinesburg Town Forest, while contributing to better forest management everywhere.

The next public educational opportunities at the HTF are as follows:
Saturday, 12/21/19, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m., End of Economou Road, Huntington. Wildlife walk of the harvest with me and wildlife biologist Andrea Shortsleeve.
Tuesday, 1/7/20, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m., Carpenter-Carse Library, Hinesburg. Join me, Audubon Vermont, and Woods, Wildlife and Warblers to discuss forest bird conservation, timber harvesting at the HTF and how they align.
Saturday, 1/11/20, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. End of Economou Road, Huntington. Join me for a walk of the forest management area at the HTF that I’m calling “Understanding Timber Harvesting.”

If you’d like to know more about these events, please send me an email or give me a call. If you’d like to be notified of future forestry-related events, please send me an email and I’ll put you on my email list.

Ethan Tapper is the Chittenden County forester. He can be reached via email  or by phone at (802) 585-9099.