Vermont Land Trust: Hill-Robert Timber Sale

Vermont Land Trust is planning a timber harvest on a 72-acre parcel in Starksboro, VT, and updating the forest management plan for the property that is currently enrolled in Vermont's Use Value Appraisal Program.

Project Area

The Hill-Robert property is 72.5 acres in central Vermont in the town of Starksboro. Situated just west of Mt Ellen and the spine of the Green Mountains, the site is moderately steep with a few flat to gently sloping areas. The composition of the forest is largely northern hardwoods with a smaller mixedwood stand that is transitioning to northern hardwoods.

Management Goals

The primary goals for the management of the Hill-Roberts property are to:
• conserve forest health, including maintaining tree species diversity and excluding non-native plant species
• produce high quality sawtimber and non-timber forest products
• protect water quality, wildlife habitat, and forest soils
• enhance and protect rare plant and animal communities
• maintain scenic qualities and non-motorized and non-mechanized recreational opportunities

Climate Change Impacts

Climate change is expected to impact forest ecosystems in central Vermont into the future. These include warming of 3.5 to 8.5 ⁰F by the end of the century, with fewer days below freezing and an increase in the growing season by three weeks. On average, the climate is projected to get wetter with more frequent and damaging extreme storms, including intense rainfall that may cause soil erosion. Timing of precipitation is expected to change, with longer periods between rain events increasing the risk of moisture deficits and drought during the growing season. These changes may affect invasive plant and pest and disease pressure on forests in addition to limiting opportunities for winter harvesting. Northern species such as sugar maple, yellow birch, and white birch that comprise much of the canopy on the site are predicted to decline in the region. Northward migration of future-adapted species may be slower than the expected changes in climate that would create suitable habitat for these species, resulting in declining forest health and productivity over time.

Challenges and Opportunities

Some of the challenges climate change presents to meeting management goals include: • Loss of dominant species may result in difficulty maintaining species diversity • Sugar maple may be replaced with red maple • White ash may be eliminated by emerald ash borer • Increase in extreme storm frequency may reduce number of snags which are necessary quality wildlife habitat Characteristics of the site can present opportunities with a changing climate. These include: • Microclimates can be utilized to maintain current species • Root sprouting species (aspen, beech) may be maintained in the short-term through regeneration by harvesting • Longer growing seasons may help in maintaining beech and faster growth of desired species • More frequent stressors (ice damage, insect pests) may increase snags for wildlife habitat

Adaptation Actions

Project participants used the Adaptation Workbook to develop several adaptation actions for this project, including:


Conserve forest health
2.2. Prevent the introduction and establishment of invasive plant species and remove existing invasive species.
Monitor for non-native species annually
Conserve forest health; Produce high quality sawlogs
4.2. Prioritize and maintain sensitive or at-risk species or communities.
Maintain spruce and fir in seepage areas by releasing advanced regeneration and retaining legacy trees for seed
Conserve forest health; Produce high quality sawlogs
5.2. Maintain and restore diversity of native species.
Small group selection to encourage yellow and paper birch; cut mature aspen to encourage coppice growth
Produce high quality non-timber forest products
5.1. Promote diverse age classes.
Crop tree release of sugar maple
Protect water quality, wildlife habitat, and forest soils
1.1 Reduce impacts to soils and nutrient cycling.
Move skid trail outside of 50’ buffer around seepage area or use in frozen winter conditions only if relocation is not feasible
Conserve forest health; Produce high quality sawlogs
4.1. Prioritize and maintain unique sites.
Retain basswood and legacy sugar maples; single tree or small group selection to regenerate sugar maple & ash
Maintain scenic qualities
3.3. Alter forest structure to reduce severity or extent of wind and ice damage.
Position gaps to limit edge exposure & retain trees on field edges to protect from prevailing winds
Enhance and protect wildlife habitat; Protect water quality, wildlife habitat, & forest soils
5.3. Retain biological legacies.
Mark legacy trees, protect course woody material and snags, leave tops following harvest


Project participants identified several monitoring items that could help inform future management, including:
Percentage of basal area of tree species
Age-class diversity within stands
Presence/ absence of non-native invasive plant species
Standing and downed dead wood
Public use for non-motorized and non-mechanized recreation

Project Photos

Click to enlarge photos

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact Todd or learn more at:


Upland hardwoods, Management plan, Recreation, Wildlife habitat

Last Updated

Wednesday, August 23, 2017