• Start-up
  • Planning
  • Action
  • Evaluation

Cold Hollow to Canada, a nonprofit that works to promote land stewardship and wildlife habitat conservation across a seven-town region, is coordinating peer-to-peer landowner groups with a goal of advancing conservation and stewardship practices that focus on climate and forest resilience.

More than two-thirds of Vermont’s forest land is privately owned, making it important to reach out to individual and family forest owners about the potential effects of climate change on their forest lands and ways to help forests adapt to changing conditions. This project is working with a group of 12 landowners with contiguous or nearly contiguous forested properties to help integrate climate change considerations into their management. By analyzing climate resilience strategies in teams and brainstorming methods for implementing them at a landscape scale, the cumulative impact is much greater than each property owner could have on their own. Additionally, four sites are being monitored to understand the effects of climate change on forest bird habitats.

Project Area

The Cold Hollow Woodlots are located in the Northern Green Mountains near Enosburgh, Vermont. This area is one of five priority habitat linkages identified by 'Two Countries, One Forest' as critical in maintaining the integrity of the Northern Forest region. In the rural towns of Enosburgh, Montgomery, and Richford, Cold Hollow to Canada has coordinated peer-to-peer landowner groups with a goal of advancing conservation and stewardship practices that focus on climate and forest resilience. Landowners in each group meet quarterly for potlucks and forest visits to learn about ecology and stewardship potential for their woods. The groups include the following:

Enosburgh Group: 15 parcels encompassing 1,725 acres of forest
Montgomery Group: 19 parcels with 4,544 forest acres
Richford Group: 11 parcels with 1,899 forest acres
Fletcher/Bakersfield: A new group including 14 parcels and 5,118 forest acres was initiated early in 2021. Cold Hollow to Canada has not yet conducted climate change analyses on these parcels, but we plan to soon!

Other key partners in our efforts include North Woods Forestry Consulting, Vermont Audubon, the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, and some generous funders, including the US Forest Service and the High Meadows Fund.

Management Goals

Landowners enrolled in the Cold Hollow Woodlots Program all receive climate change analyses of their land and management plans.  The group then visits one parcel at a time, discussing (among other topics) climate resilience strategies and adaptation actions.  Cold Hollow to Canada also connects landowners in the group to resources and opportunities to implement new strategies—which can then be seen and discussed by the full group!

While each landowner has their own forest management plan and specific management goals, the landowners generally share similar management goals focusing on:

  • Privacy and Beauty
  • Recreation
  • Wildlife/Biodiversity (not focused on specific species)
  • Stewardship (an interest in “making it better”)

Climate Change Impacts

While climate change is expected to have a number of wide-ranging impacts on the forests of Vermont, some impacts were identified that are of particular concern to these properties.
Extreme and variable precipitation
Shorter winters
Changes in tree species ranges
Increased risk of disturbance

Challenges and Opportunities

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing the management objectives of this project, including:

Challenges

Increased precipitation—particularly in large events—has the potential to increase erosion and sedimentation issues, affecting streams.
Damage to forest infrastructure—such as roads, trails, and culverts—from extreme events could increase erosion and sedimentation issues. It is also very expensive and difficult to remediate these impacts when they occur.
Extreme wind events could damage trees or blowdown sections of forest.
Shorter winters will reduce the opportunity to perform winter harvests, which are often preferred because the snow helps to protect soils and less infrastructure is needed to operate large machinery.
Potential declines in some common tree species—such as spruce and sugar maple—could reduce species diversity.
Regeneration could become increasingly challenging, especially for species that are projected to decline in the long term. This could be exacerbated by increases in deer (impacts currently variable across area) or invasive species (currently rare).
Undesirable species—such as beech—may have a competitive advantage in the future. Beech is already competitive in some parts of the forest, partly related to past management history or deer browse.
Invasive species in the area may become more competitive.
Hemlock wooly adelgid poses a threat to hemlock trees if it is introduced and able to persist in the area. This is not an immediate concern, but may be in the future.
In some areas the native hay-scented fern is an issue, but it is unclear what causes it to be problematic (perhaps past management, as appears to be more common on old pasture and in areas with soil issues) or how that may change in future.

Opportunities

The presence of beavers in the area may provide an opportunity for reducing or slowing peak stream flows.
Designated riparian areas have lower levels of harvest, which help increase structural diversity and coarse woody debris, in the forest, thereby also helping to retain water and reduce erosion.
Some species—particularly northern red oak, which is scattered across the forest—may increase.
The forest has relatively high diversity now, which provides options for the future.
Species like spruce are currently regenerating, providing an opportunity to release existing regen and establish a young cohort of these trees.
Moose browse may decrease if moose are adversely affected by warmer temperatures and increased parasites.

Adaptation Actions

As a first step to understanding how the Cold Hollow Woodlots could be affected by climate change, a landscape analysis was conducted to identify actions that are already identified in the landowners’ management plans that are beneficial in light of climate change. Each of the landowner management plans was reviewed and to identify current management practives that were related to the Adaptation Strategies and Approaches from Forest Adaptation Resources: Climate Change Tools and Approaches for Land Managers. This is important because it acknowledges the benefits of sustainable forest management in creating healthy forests, which are expected to be more resilient to climate change. Climate change was not explicitly considered in the development in the existing management plans, but many good forest stewardship activities help to increase the ability of the forest to cope with and adapt to changing conditions.

The table below contains some examples of strategies, approaches, and adaptation tactics from the 45 analyses that have been performed for Cold Hollow to Canada Woodlots Program Participants (see the document below entitled 'Cold Hollow to Canada: Strategies & Approaches' for a full list of tactics and the town areas they are being implemented in):

Area/Topic
Approach
Tactics
Forests
Plan requires that Acceptable Management Practices on forest roads and trails are followed
Leave basswood in maple stands to assist in nutrient cycling
Increase species diversity by releasing maple, birch, cherry, pine basswood, oak and spruce over time
A species diversity of at least 25% non-sugar maple is recommended in Stands which are managed for sap production to minimize impact from defoliators
Plant red oak as part of localized assisted migration effort
Retain down woody material to provide nutrient cycling and build soil
Retain snags, wildlife trees, and large diameter stems as biological legacies
Riparian areas
Seeps are identified and protected
Identify vernal pools and set minimal harvest buffers
Designate a no-cut buffer (Ecologically Significant Treatment Area) on both sides of all tributary streams
Designate a 75-100 foot minimal cut riparian buffer for permanent streams, maintaining at least 70% crown cover
Maintain the integrity of the Beaver Impoundment and wetland complex

Monitoring

Some monitoring already takes place on these properties in association with developing and implementing the forest management plans, such as forest inventory and invasive species monitoring. At the same time, additional monitoring could take place if resources were available. Currently, stands are not re-inventoried following harvest and are just generally evaluated at the time of close-out. In the future, there is a desire to inventory all properties in the same year and revise all management plans. This would allow additional information on tree species regeneration or other attributes to be collected.

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact
Maria
.

Keywords

Agriculture/ Agroforestry
Lowland/ bottomland hardwoods
Upland hardwoods
Water resources

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