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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Efforts Increase To Preserve 'Family Forests'

NORFOLK — - Dan Donahue likes to say that forestry isn't rocket science.

It's a lot more complicated than that.

"There's a lot about rocket science that's been figured out, but forests are subject to the intricate web of life: the interactions of plants, animals, sun, air, you name it," said Donahue, director of land protection at the Norcross Wildlife Foundation in Monson, Mass.

That complexity is why he and other Northeast foresters are increasingly being called on by private landowners to help them manage their wooded acreage, commonly called "family forests."

Many of the owners have civic motives, wanting to protect their forests and ensure that invasive plant species and insects do not get a foothold.

Others are curious about whether they can harvest timber without hurting their forests, tap their maples for sap or improve the wildlife habitat for hunting and nature-watching.

The region's foresters are encouraging the interest with outreach programs, on-site assessments and other services — all intended to make the satisfaction of preserving the land outweigh the financial lure of selling it to developers.

That's especially important in the Northeast, where the majority of forested land is held by private landowners rather than the state and federal governments.

In much of New England, including Connecticut and Massachusetts, about 80 percent of forested land is in the hands of private owners. Nationally, it is just below 50 percent.

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