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    Saturday, April 01, 2023

    Nehantic State Forest to undergo timber harvest

    DEEP Forester Alexander Amendola stands on a rock to answer questions from residents about the timber harvest project slated for Nehantic State Forest on Sunday, March 12. (Kevin Arnold/The Day)
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    Trees marked with blue paint are scheduled to be cut down as part of DEEP’s timber harvest project slated for Nehantic State Forest next winter. (Kevin Arnold/The Day)
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    James Halleran, left, Wendy Hill, center, and Alexander Amendola introduce themselves to residents before embarking on a two-mile walk to display which areas of Nehantic State Park will be impacted by DEEP’s timber harvest operation. (Kevin Arnold/The Day)
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    Alexander Amendola pauses the walk in front of one portion of the Nehantic Forest to answer questions from residents about DEEP’s timber harvest operation. (Kevin Arnold/The Day)
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    Lyme ― If you’ve traversed the Nehantic State Forest lately, you’ve likely seen blue paint markings on select groups of trees.

    On Sunday, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Forester Alexander Amendola led a two-mile excursion through the forest to explain to residents what exactly is going on in the forest.

    Joined by DEEP Forester Frank Cervo and retired Forester Emery Gluck, Amendola explained that he is leading timber-harvest project to create an early successional forest, or a young forest, to help diversify wildlife and plant species, and thus, improve wildlife habitat and forest resilience.

    Amendola said the forest is very homogeneous in its age, type and species of trees, which is not always great for the wildlife, including a species of small birds named the cerulean warbler. These birds require large gaps in the forest canopy, or top-most layer, to produce offspring.

    “When we do this kind of operation, we create this early successional forest in between the larger trees, which is great for box turtles and other birds to fledge their young,” Amendola said.

    Amendola said the project is mimicking a large-scale forest fire or windstorm that would, in theory, take out the overstory, or the highest layer of foliage in the forest, and allow that new, young growth that many species are dependent on. He said the project is a part of the management plan for the Nehantic forest.

    Each state forest has a plan written every 10 years to identify ecological needs, with the Nehantic forest’s plan written in 2016 by Gluck, Amendola’s predecessor. The Nehantic is mostly made of of various species of oak trees, and the 110 acres that the project encompasses were identified as locations primed for diversification.

    “Now it’s eight years after that plan has been written [and] we’ve finally gotten to the point where we’re going to complete this operation,” Amendola said.

    Species with lower shade tolerance and require more sunlight, such as tulips, oaks and hickory, will be able to grow more as a result of the operation. A lot of birch will be cut as it is not very important to the ecosystem and the forest tends to get an excess amount of it that’s to its ability to seed for up to seven years.

    DEEP plans to start the project in December, though it will depend on how severe the winter weather gets. Due to the mating times for ground bird species in the forest, there is a hard cutoff for the months of May, June and July and the projected is scheduled to take more that one season to complete.

    “It’s going to be a long process, for sure,” said James Halleran of Perma Treat, a saw mill based in Durham.

    Perma Treat won the bid to purchase chopped timber from the project, though Halleran was unsure of the exact cost. He said the company, which specializes in making railroad ties, has done other work in the area. The company is looking for mostly straight and clear 9-foot-long logs, which can also be used for boards, wood chips, sawdust, and bark mulch to be sold.

    There will be approximately 344,969 board feet of saw timber and 578 cords of firewood created from the project.

    Amendola explained without local sawmill in the market for these types of logs, projects like this would not be possible as it would be a great cost at DEEP’s expense to take care of the cut timber.

    “A lot of these operations to kind of adjust the ecosystem to our objectives wouldn’t really be possible without a lower-grade market, which a lot of these trees would be viewed economically as lower-grade logs,” he said.

    Amendola said before every silvicultural operation ― the growing and cultivation of trees ― like this, DEEP does extensive public outreach. On the pre-harvest walk, which included property abutters, members of the state General Assembly and the Lyme Land Trust, Open Space Coordinator and Vice President of the Lyme Land Trust Wendy Hill asked Amendola if he and Gluck would do an informative talk on the matter at the library and then conduct Sunday’s walking tour with more than a dozen residents of southeastern Connecticut.

    “A lot of people in the town use the trails in Nehantic, and I did get some people asking me what the blue marks are,” Hill recalled.

    While the public interest was appreciated, Amendola understands that cutting trees for any reason is a divisive topic these days. Some people are all for it, while others are very much against it.

    “It’s really just important to look at our forests in a landscape scale and understand the needs of the ecosystem,” Amendola said. “Many of these ecosystems evolved with and are dependent on disturbance, which is what we are mimicking here.”

    “So I encourage anyone who’s looking into this or sees the blue paint on the trees to understand what we’re trying to achieve before they pass judgment on cutting the trees,” he added.


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