Extension Highlights Annual Report 2015 - Page 13

Stop to think for a moment how vitally dependent we are on the forests that surround us. Our tree-covered landscape creates the scenic backdrops for one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Northeast. The wooded hills and glens also mitigate flash flooding and protect our significant freshwater resources. And then there are all of the other benefits that we enjoy from the woods: recreation, hunting, wildlife watching, maple syrup and mushrooms for the table, and firewood to heat our homes – just to name a few. But another major – and often overlooked benefit that our forests provide is that they support the state’s 6th large industry. The Forest Products industry contributes nearly nine billion dollars per year and 70,000 jobs to New York’s economy. The three largest hardwood sawmills in the state are within or in close proximity to the county, and nearly three-quarters of the sawtimber harvested here is exported overseas. In fact, the forests of Schuyler and the surrounding region are considered the most valuable in the world in terms of dollar value per acre. And our forests are diverse too: over 30 commercially-important timber species naturally grow here.

Yet our forest resources are increasingly under threat from: forest invasive plants; whitetail deer pressure; exotic pests like the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid and Emerald Ash Borer; weather-related events; and unsustainable harvesting practices. To compound the problem, many of our woods – which evolved following the region’s extensive agriculture history in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s – are now reaching maturity and will change at an accelerated pace over the next few decades as mortality takes its toll.

In response to this growing threat to our invaluable forest resources, Schuyler CCE has actively partnered with the NY Forest Owners Association to promote the “Restore New York Woodlands” (RNWY) initiative. This initiative aims to raise awareness and education amongst key stakeholder groups about the issues and solutions to ensuring healthy, productive and valuable forest for the long-term. One of CCE’s main roles in this initiative has been to deliver educational programs aimed primarily at woodland owners and forestry professionals. In 2015 alone, Schuyler CCE has helped organize and host six RNWY events attended by over 200 people. In addition, dozens of woodland owners have received support on an individual basis through CCE’s “Master Forest Owner” volunteer program: www.cornellmfo.info.

The Forests of Schuyler County: A Precious Natural Resource