Amherst Conservation Commission, NH
by Charles Koch
On March 8, 1966 the voters of Amherst, New Hampshire voted to establish the Amherst Conservation Commission. From its beginning, the commission has worked to obtain for the townspeople, lands having important environmental values. The commission now manages or oversees 2,138 “fee owned” acres and 198 “conservation easement” acres that provide wetlands, forest protection, wildlife habitats, and opportunities for hiking, skiing, and personal enrichment. The commission also helps to maintain and run educational programs at the Peabody Mill Environmental Center which is located on the Joe English Reservation, the largest parcel owned by the town.
Since 1996, the Amherst Conservation Commission has commissioned Forest Stewards Guild founding member Charles Koch to develop and implement forest management plans for 7 parcels covering over 1,200 acres. No significant logging had taken place on most of these parcels prior to the initiation of the planning process. Since 1996, five timber harvests have been conducted, yielding about 700,000 board feet of logs and 300 cords of firewood. Another three harvests are planned for the current cutting cycle (1996-2011).
The commission’s forest management goals place a high priority on wildlife, recreation, aesthetics, and aquifer protection and a medium to low priority on income. These objectives generally guide actions that enhance non-financial values, create emotional connections to the land, and grow large diameter trees. Revenue is seen as a minor consideration. This presents an ideal situation to showcase sustainable forestry practices: there are no pressing financial burdens and good access to a variety of wood markets exist.
Their forest management plan is not directed toward a certain output of timber or wildlife. Rather, the objective has been to produce forest conditions most suitable for as many of the desired benefits as possible. Controlling the forest structure dictates the forest conditions. Forest structure is measured by the proportion of size and age classes of forested habitats (timber stands) found in each woodlot. Growth projection is based on the estimated number of years it takes a stand to develop into the next larger and older habitat class. Each parcel’s rotation age is chosen based on the oldest habitat class desired. Rotation ages vary from 80 to 120 years. The acreage of regeneration harvests per year, or cutting cycle (generally 15 years) is determined by dividing the total acreage of the management unit by the rotation age.
The preferred silvicultural system is uneven-aged management by even-aged groups (area regulation). Because of the relative shade intolerance of the more valuable eastern white pine and northern red oak, group selection openings of one quarter to one half acre is the preferred reproduction method with intermediate cutting in the areas between the group openings. Intermediate cutting consists of a combination of low and crown thinning and improvement cutting. Private landowners in the surrounding area, who are not carrying the costs of land acquisition, should be able to attain similar forest management results.
Forest Statistics and Documentation
- Acreage: 1,200
- Forest Types: oak/pine/hemlock transitional type
- Model Forest Manager: Charles Koch
- Primary Uses: recreation, forestland conservation, wetland and wildlife protection, and timber and fuelwood products
- Affiliations/Links: Amherst Conservation Commission www.amherstnh.gov/acc/index.html
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