Cooperative Extension, Department of Resources and Economic Development Recommit to

Cooperative Extension, Department of Resources and Economic Development Recommit to

Monday, February 10, 2014

A 90-year-old relationship protecting and nurturing privately owned New Hampshire forests was celebrated and extended recently in a renewal of a commitment between UNH Cooperative Extension and the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Developments’ Division of Forests & Lands. 

The new memorandum of understanding allows Cooperative Extension to continue supporting the stewardship roles of private owners of forested lands. John Pike, Extension dean and director, Jeffrey J. Rose, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development, and Division of Forests & Lands state forester Brad Simpkins signed the memorandum at the New Hampshire Farm & Forest Exposition in Manchester Feb. 7. The first agreement was signed on August 12, 1925, and the commitment has been renewed six times since then. 

Eighty percent of New Hampshire’s forests are owned by private citizens, compared to the 10 percent of forests under state or federal management. To an astonishing degree, the health, beauty and skillful management of New Hampshire’s forests falls on the shoulders of these private forest owners, from the homeowner with an acre or two of trees to the farmer who cares for 40 or 50 acres of forested land.  

According to Karen Bennett, Extension professor and specialist in forest resources, the agreement signed today allows Extension experts to work on behalf of the state forester to help landowners assess the health and value of their forests, attract desired wildlife, identify and eradicate environmental pests, envision the various ways trees might be used from an economic perspective, position the forests for recreational use and work to replenish and renew forests over time.

 The decisions made by landowners can make a big difference for those of us who enjoy the beauty of their trees from a distance and who benefit from the clean air and water that healthy forests engender. Working with Extension and the Division of Forests & Lands, forest owners—individuals and families, foresters and loggers—join a partnership that supports urban and community forestry, the economic viability of towns and the state and natural resource conservation and education. 

“Our outreach is about the landowner as much as the forests themselves,” said Bennett. “We help them understand their land and resources to make informed decisions about what they might do with it.” Sometimes Extension might answer a forest owner’s questions about the economic value of their trees, from firewood to lumber. Other landowners want to explore ways to permanently protect their forests for the benefit of all. “We do woodlot visits with them to discuss options for what can be done,” Bennett continued. “We say, let’s step back and look at the bigger picture. Let’s talk about what we see.”

In fact, Bennett says, “the land tells you what to talk about.”  

A site visit and more thorough investigation might reveal issues with soil type and health, suggest ways that trails could be built to expand the public’s enjoyment or identify emerging insects or diseases. A landowner might have heard about land trusts or conservation easements but not understand the benefits and complexities of pursuing that path; Extension specialists can explain the options. About 50 land trust programs are currently thriving in New Hampshire, Bennett said.  

While the agreement between Extension and the state brings some financial benefits, by far the best outcomes, Bennett believes, are the relationships engendered among University specialists and experts, the team of nine county foresters, town and city policy-makers and the landowners themselves. “I believe that we don’t work on projects but on a program…something bigger and sustained. What we bring may be modest for the owner but it’s substantial for the public good.”