Award for Excellence in Land Conservation
Community Engagement for Forest Stewardship Through School System Collaboration
A conversation between a Regional District 17 (RSD17) industrial arts teacher and UConn Extension Forester Tom Worthley sparked a sustainable forest management project to enable RSD17 to continually grow, harvest and process all the lumber the school shop class would ever need. With the encouragement of the Superintendent’s office, the Board of Education, and a committee of supportive teachers, UCONN Extension staff members and students inventoried, developed, and implemented a Forest Stewardship Plan for a portion of 150 woodland acres owned by RSD17. In addition to an educational trail and some habitat enhancements, the plan implemented a low thinning for stand improvement. Value-added operations conducted on-site, such as splitting and stacking cordwood and milling logs with a portable sawmill, transformed the thinned cordwood and sawlogs into usable products, including wood for shop class.
The goals for this project included educational opportunities about forest stewardship planning and forest management techniques; a sustainable forest stewardship plan for 150+ acres; forest improvement and wildlife habitat management techniques; field-based recreational and educational opportunities, service-learning opportunities for UConn students and locally-grown, harvested, and processed wood products for use by RSD17 shop classes. Organizations and individuals involved in the project included RSD17, Thomas Worthley, The Lower CT River and Coastal Region Forest Stewardship Initiative, and UConn Natural Resources Students.
The forest management activities occurred on the service-learning project were supported by grants from the USDA Forest Service and the Natural Resources Management Service.
Completed forest management and wildlife habitat activities included the creation of a demonstration site on two acres where thinning took place. Workshops explaining forest management practices have been given and the site remains available for educational purposes. High School field trips are planned for the spring and the demonstration site will be used as part of a broad community engagement effort, with plans for future tours and workshops. UConn students cut, split and stacked the cordwood and processed small oak logs on a portable sawmill, ultimately delivering about 750 board feet to the shop at Haddam-Killingworth High School, where it is stacked and drying for future projects. Some cordwood was auctioned during a holiday fundraiser to benefit the student activities fund.
The project also addressed examples of recreational, habitat and educational objectives. A trail was located for access to a vernal pool complex, brush piles were created as habitat features, and there are other management ideas under consideration.
Success of the project has spread. Neighboring Regional School District 4 is considering similar forest management activities on their land!