A Colby-Sawyer student-led initiative has led to recognition of the college’s responsible land management. The N.H. Tree Farm Program formally recognized Colby-Sawyer’s 86-acre Kelsey Forest as the state’s newest member of the American Tree Farm System (AFTS) during a Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) Field Day held on campus Friday, Sept. 23.
The ATFS is a national program that promotes the sustainable management of forests through outreach to private forest landowners, and it requires applicants to develop a management plan based on strict environmental standards.
Environmental science major Owen Krol ’17 of North Reading, Mass., and environmental studies major Jacob Conroy ’17 of Conway, Mass., presented the forest management plan they wrote with environmental science major Sarah Appleton ’17 of Andover, Mass., to a group of local SFI foresters.
Following their presentation, Tim Fleury, a representative of the N.H. Tree Farm Program and field specialist for University of New Hampshire: Cooperative Extension, formally updated the college’s application status.
“The certification process in New Hampshire is fairly rigorous, and Colby-Sawyer College met all the standards for becoming forest managers and long-term stewards in the tree farm program,” said Fleury.
Krol, Conroy and Appleton conducted research for developing the forest management plan as part of the 2015-2016 Community-Based Research Project, an experiential, two-semester class that all environmental science and environmental studies majors are required to take during their third year.
The trio worked with local foresters Leo Maslan and Ed Johnson, as well as Professor of Environmental Studies Leon-C. Malan. They collected data from the forest and calculated the species dominance, timber volume and total carbon storage of Kelsey Forest. The forest surrounds the Kelsey Athletic Campus and includes a 1.6-mile hiking trail open to the public.
Based on the students’ research, their forest management plan offers suggestions on how the college can sustainably promote the educational and public benefits of Kelsey Forest. They outlined plans for a disc golf course, an outdoor classroom and a mushroom farm. The latter is already a reality: Professor Malan and his students started the mushroom farm last semester.
“Submitting the application to the tree farm program was an exciting prospect as it was in line with the college's goals and interests as we had identified them as part of our research,” said Krol. “It provided us a unique opportunity to leave a lasting and meaningful impact on our school and campus.”
In addition to recognizing the college’s commitment to sustainability, AFTS certification provides Colby-Sawyer with resources to keep Kelsey Forest healthy. The college’s responsible stewardship of the forest will be reviewed every five years.
The forest management plan considers tree farm certification a pivotal step in promoting the underutilized benefits of Kelsey Forest, and the students hope certification will encourage the college and the public to use the forest for learning and recreation.