Here in Woodstock we are blessed with beautiful forests.  Forests serve as a home for wildlife and provide recreational opportunities.  They also help clean our air and water.  They do all this, and help keep our taxes low.  You might ask, "How can this be, when forested land is taxed at a lower rate than developed lands?"  Well, forests just don't spend much of the Town's money -- a little for road maintenance, fire protection, and maybe a bit of recordkeeping at the Town Hall - that's all.  In fact, for every tax dollar the Town takes in from forested lands, more than half is profit for the Town.  This helps offset the cost for services demanded for developed land.  That said, how can we help protect and preserve our forests?  

The Conservation Commission has tried to address this issue in its Plan of Open Space and Conservation.

  1. The first step in creating our plan was researching what makes a good productive forest and provides the habitat necessary for diverse wildlife. The greatest threat to our forest and the wildlife it supports is fragmentation.  Recent studies by the U.S. Forest Service show that in contiguous forest areas approaching 500 acres, species diversity is measurably improved. The larger the forest tract, the more economical it is to manage, and the more effectively it cleans our air and filters our water. 
  2. The second step was inventorying forest resources in Woodstock. This was done with help from the University of Connecticut (UCONN) Cooperative Extension Service, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the UCONN Department of Natural Resource Management and Engineering, and the State of Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEEP) Division of Forest and Wildlife. We mapped the locations and types of forest, prime forest soils, productive wildlife habitat, and wildlife corridors.
  3. The last and most difficult part was developing a course of action that will best help protect our forest and wildlife.  Some of the major working points we plan to implement are to:

  •      "Establish and preserve wildlife habitat by reducing forest fragmentation and encroachment, habitat-sensitive planning for new development, and connecting existing forested habitat by designating habitat corridors."  This means that when ruling on new subdivision plans, we encourage the Inland Wetlands and Planning & Zoning Commissions to consider forest fragmentation, and maintain a minimum 300 ft. wide riparian/wildlife corridor between large forest tracts. 
  •      "Foster economically viable forest management practices and habitat protection through education, voluntary action and better land use decision-making by commercial interests, private citizens, and government."  Translated, this means the Conservation Commission will work to educate private landowners on the fact that a well-managed forest can do more then pay the taxes.  Over time, it can produce income, improve wildlife habitat, and help maintain the character of our town.  These benefits may very well outweigh the short-term gain of selling.  Best of all, they get to keep the land in the family. 
  •      Forge working relationships between the town commissions, town-based land trusts, and nationally-based conservation organizations to assess, preserve, and protect critical wildlife habitat forested lands."  This simply means we can't do it all alone. 


Local Resources

Here in Woodstock we have many local resources ready and able to help forest landowners learn how to best manage their forest.  Starting at the local level, you can contact:

  • A Coverts Project Cooperator.  These are local Woodstock landowners who have been trained to help you get started on a management plan for your forest.  A Cooperator will be happy to walk your woods with you, listen to your goals for your forest, point out some of the strengths and weaknesses of your forest, and provide informational pamphlets and contacts to help you reach your goals. This is a free service.   
  • The Eastern Connecticut Forest Landowner's Association/Wolf Den Land Trust promotes forest stewardship by providing local forest management and marketing information. They publish quarterly newsletters, an annual directory of local resources for woodland owners, and host field programs. Contact them at ECFLA, PO Box 404, Brooklyn, CT 06234.   


Wildlife/ Timber Management

Wildlife and Timber management approaches that will enhance wildlife habitat.  

FOREST THINNING: Thinning certain trees from a stand maintains a healthy forest by: 

  • Allowing the remaining trees to receive more nutrients (water, sunlight), so in turn they will increase their mast (acorn, nut) production.  Mast is an important food source for many animals, including deer, wild turkey, squirrel and chipmunk. 
  • Allowing greater sunlight penetration, permitting an increase in understory development, which will, in turn, increase browse and cover for wildlife.

FOREST CLEAR CUTS: Openings scattered throughout a forest create diversity, ideal for attracting a wide variety of wildlife.  Irregularly shaped openings, arranged to receive maximum sunlight, are best. Different types of openings further increase habitat diversity. 

  • Herbaceous openings: plants and grasses in these openings do not develop a woody stem. Both food and cover are provided.  Openings may consist of native plants and/or wildlife food plots (milo, millet, buckwheat, etc.) can be planted.  Depending on the area, mowing should be done every one to two years to keep the opening grassy. Mowing should be done in the late summer to avoid disturbance during the nesting season. 
  • Brushy openings: brushy openings will further increase habitat diversity. Existing shrubs and brushy plants may be allowed to inhabit the opening and/or wildlife shrubs (winterberry, etc.) can be planted.  To maintain a brushy opening, it should be mowed every five to six years.  Cutting should not be done during the nesting season.
  • Reverting clear cuts: If an opening is not maintained in a grassy or brushy state, it will revert to a sapling-sized stand in ten to fifteen years.  However, such an opening will temporarily provide upland habitat to a variety of wildlife species.  Reverting clear cuts, if cut on a rotational scheme, will continually provide openings in various stages of development. 

CONIFER PLANTING: Scattered clumps of conifers provide cover to wildlife species.  This is especially beneficial during winter months.  Deer will browse on young conifers in the winter, as some birds will use them as nesting sites. Thinning hardwoods from an area where conifers exist will allow conifers to expand.  Conifer plantings are beneficial in certain areas, such as openings at field edges.

EDGE EFFECT: Creating an edge, where two or more habitat types meet, is valuable wildlife habitat.  Conversion from grass to brush to forest composed of existing or planted species is beneficial wildlife habitat, as it provides food, cover and nesting cover.  Food plots, shrubs, and conifers can be planted to create an attractive edge.  A natural, brushy edge can be produced by cutting all the trees twenty to thirty feet into the forest from the field edge.

SNAG/DEN TREES: A snag tree is a standing dead or nearly dead tree.  A den tree is one with its trunk and/or limbs hollowed out (this includes some snags).  Den trees are often alive and may continue to produce mast.  Snag/den trees provide food (insects attracted to decaying trees), and living quarters for a wide variety of birds and mammals.  An average of seven snag/den trees should be left per acre, evenly distributed throughout the property.

These practices give landowners an idea of how they can improve/manage their land for wildlife. If active management does take place, a State of Connecticut wildlife biologist can provide more specific assistance.  Contact the DEEP Bureau of Natural Resources, Wildlife Division, Regional Headquarters, 209 Hebron Road, Marlborough, CT 06447, (860) 295-9523.


More Information:


  • Excerpted from Town Owned Land, Woodstock, CT, Eastern Connecticut Resource Conservation and Development Area Environmental Review Team, Brooklyn, CT, July 1985.