• Start-up
  • Planning
  • Action
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The Monadnock Conservancy will implement a variety of silvicultural practices to promote climate-adapted native tree species and strengthen the climate resilience of wildlife habitat and recreational areas in the forest.

The Skofield Forest is predominantly a hemlock-beech-oak-pine forest that offers diverse wildlife habitat across a variable topographic landscape. However, its health and sustainability are impacted by invasive plants, insects, and diseases, and increased browsing pressure on hardwood regeneration. The goals of the Monadnock Conservancy are to manage the forest for wildlife habitat and recreation, including hiking and hunting. To improve wildlife habitat, the Conservancy will implement silvicultural practices that encourage the establishment of native tree species, such as oaks and hickories, that are well-suited to warmer climates. Thinning activities will add complexity to forest structure, age classes, and species composition, improving the forest’s capacity to adapt to disturbances and changes in climate.

Project Area

The 95-acre Skofield Forest is owned by the Monadnock Conservancy and is part of a larger block of protected land in the town of Walpole in southwest New Hampshire. The forest is located 2 miles east of the Connecticut River, New England’s longest and largest river and boundary between NH and VT. Approximately 85% of the property consists of the hemlock-beech-oak-pine forest type with small pockets of mature hemlock that provide wildlife food and shelter. The southeast corner of the property is a dry red oak-white pine forest that offers mast for wildlife, including deer. The forest provides valuable wildlife habitat and opportunities for non-motorized recreation, including walking, hunting, and mountain biking.

Management Goals

Specific management goals and objectives for the project area include:

1. Provide diverse habitat for wildlife

  • Retain cavity trees and downed coarse woody debris, including large white pine, hemlock, and diseased beech trees.
  • Favor red oak for mast, hophornbeam for fodder, and hemlock for shelter.
  • Create early successional habitat through 5-10-acre patch cuts.
  •  Increase diversity of age classes and forest structure through group selection, patch cuts, and shelterwood systems designed to regenerate desirable species such as oaks and other hardwoods.

2. Limit spread of invasive species

  • Control barberry, bittersweet, honeysuckle, and buckthorn to limit spread before timber harvests.
  • Monitor and remove invasive seedlings after harvests.

3. Provide access to a diverse user group including hunters, hikers, and mountain bikers

  • Design and build a hiking trail loop to the summit using existing roads where possible, including signage. Place trails where they lessen erosion potential from severe precipitation, reduce intrusions upon wildlife, offer a safe passage for visitors, and provide views of the landscape.
  • Build a parking area that will accommodate pickups in the old log landing on Hayes Road with a kiosk for a trail map and list of permitted uses.
  • Design and create a view on the summit protected from west-prevailing winds.
  • Assess the impacts of the current bike trail on forest soils and resources and reroute as necessary.

Climate Change Impacts

For this project, the most important anticipated climate change impacts include:
Intense precipitation events will continue to become more frequent in the Northeast impacting disturbance regimes, hydrology, and tree species sensitive to flooding (beech) and uprooting due to saturated soil (hemlock).
Earlier springs and longer growing seasons are expected to cause shifts in phenology for plant species, including trees, pollinators, and invasive species.
Invasive insect pests and pathogens will increase in occurrence and impact in the region due to milder winters (e.g., hemlock woolly adelgid), and increased precipitation (e.g., white pine needle disease, white pine blister rust, beech leaf disease.
Many invasive plants will increase in extent or abundance. Vines, including Oriental bittersweet and poison ivy, will further impact forest health and composition.
Changes in herbivore populations and tree species range shifts may have substantial effects on forest growth and composition, impacting native wildlife.

Challenges and Opportunities

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

Challenges

Wildlife browse pressure may make it difficult for successful regeneration and recruitment of desired hardwood species.
Increasing invasive species and competition pressure on native communities may require more resources for control.
Forest trails may experience more use by people who have been displaced by climate change (northward migration). Heavy and longer seasonal uses of the trails may increase erosion, particularly after severe weather events.

Opportunities

Since oaks and pines are more drought tolerant, maintaining a mid-successional oak-pine component will offer wildlife food and shelter, and diversity in forest structure.
Allowing hunting in the forest may reduce deer herbivory and allow some oak seedlings to grow to maturity.
Timber stand improvement activities, hand-pulling invasives control, and trail improvement activities may offer opportunities for community outreach, participation, and education.

Adaptation Actions

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

Area/Topic
Approach
Tactics
Wildlife habitat diversity
Use patch cuts, group selection, and shelterwood systems to promote new age classes. (5.1)
Retain diversity of species in forest; encourage growth of additional native species through removal of dominant species in poorly-suited areas (i.e., beech understory in low-lying area). (5.2)
Retain legacy trees over 80 years old to add structural complexity, cavities for wildlife, and to increase the diversity of age classes and genetic material. (5.3)
Identify sensitive plant communities and patches of forest with exceptional form, vigor, and seed production to manage as no-cut trail-free reserves to replenish the forest after disturbances. (5.4)
Duplicate early successional and regeneration efforts at varying elevations and aspects in the forest. (6.1)
Work with abutting landowners and conservation commissions to identify and protect land parcels that increase connectivity and ecosystem services beyond the Skofield Forest for enhanced and more resilient wildlife habitat. (7.1)
Retain individual trees demonstrating some degree of resistance to insects and diseases, including trees with demonstrated resistance to white pine blister rust, beech bark disease, and EAB. (8.2)
Invasive species
Assess current population densities (fruiting vs. immature) to focus ongoing efforts and removal strategies pre and post silvicultural and trail development work. (2.2)
Monitor trails for invasive species establishment along edges; remove seedlings as they emerge. (2.2)
Recreation
Retain leaves on trails to add to duff layer and protect soil surfaces. (Forests Menu 1.1)
Create a parking area in the former log landing where soil is already compacted. Ensure proper drainage using culverts or water bars as necessary. (Recreation Menu 2.3)
Create trails for hiking and/or biking where soils are less likely to erode from use or precipitation events. (Recreation Menu 3.1)
Monitor trails for overuse and erosion; consider rerouting trails as needed. (Recreation Menu 3.3)
Place kiosk at parking area to display map of trails, list acceptable uses and rules, and to post notices for harvests and other projects. (Recreation Menu 4.4)

Monitoring

Project participants identified several monitoring items that could help inform future management, including:
Invasive plant species establishment and spread (metrics: counts, total removed, mapped locations)
Forest pest/pathogen presence, abundance, and impacts (metrics: identification, mapped locations, percentage of trees affected, impacts—reduced growth, infection, girdling, death, etc.)
Trail health assessment (metrics: erosion and ruts, degradation and exposed roots or rocks, invasive species establishment and spread, reports from trail users)
Regeneration and deer browsing pressure using game cameras (metrics: deer counts in regeneration areas and treatment areas pre- and post- harvest, percent of browsed regeneration, mapped locations of deer browsing areas, reports from hunters)
Natural resource inventory updates every 5-15 years to document species richness and forest composition, wildlife use of habitat as nesting sites, travel corridors, etc., and compare data with previous inventories
Forest management plan updates every 10-15 years (scheduled for 2028) to document regeneration, increase in diversity of forest structure and age classes, species dominance, success of previous harvests, and reevaluate future harvest plans

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