Swamp Woods Forum at Pawling’s Akin Library

A discussion on woodland stewardship

July 12- Landowners from Westchester, Putnam parts of Dutchess convened on Sunday, July 12 at the Akin Library in Pawling,  to meet neighbors, share stories about their land and confer with foresters and other experts about how to work with their woodlands.

These forums, called the “Woods Forums,” are taking place all over New York and New England with federal forestry grants.

Ron Frisbee, a natural resource educator from Cornell in Delaware County facilitated the discussion and Kara Hartigan Whelan of the Westchester Land Trust brought together all the other land trusts and nature groups, including Putnam County Land Trust, Oblong Land Conservancy, Friends of the Great Swamp, Bedford Audubon and the Housatonic Valley Association.

Many of the landowners who attended were from the Quaker Hill area of Pawling.  Frisbee brought out that people in the Great Swamp area tend to view their woodlands as a woodland retreat rather than as a working landscape.  He mentioned that there is a different mentality where he lives in Delaware County.  Frisbee himself does bee keeping and produces honey on his 112 acres, tapping his maple trees and producing maple syrup and as well as raising animals.  Growing American ginseng was mentioned, by another Cornell educator, as a new lucrative forest crop.

The purpose of the forum was to get landowners thinking about their options, whether it is conservation, stewardship or some other form of cultivation.  Often when landowners need to make decisions about what to do with their woods they consult their friends or neighbors.  They are more comfortable learning from peer to peer communication and this forum was designed to facilitate that. 

During the forum attendees were able to make the connection between forests and rivers, since slopes often abut rivers. Dr. Jim Utter of Friends of the Great Swamp (FROGS) explained Riversmart principles of not removing trees and vegetation from the banks of rivers, to preserve habitat and reduce flooding. 

Each landowner picked a photograph that spoke to them upon entering the forum and then were asked to talk about the picture and what it meant for them.  One landowner selected a photograph of a salamander and said that she wanted to understand more about interconnectivity of plants and animals so she could work toward supporting a resilient community for both.  Some spoke of having awe for the beauty of their land and one man spoke of snow-shoeing in the winter.

Other landowners spoke of finding lady’s slippers and trilliums and the importance of native species as well as the challenges of managing invasives.  Still others spoke of culverts going through their land and concerns about development.  People were interested in understanding drainage better.  Preventing beaver dams from causing areas to flood with a device called a “beaver deceiver,” was brought up.  

The discussion also encouraged landowners to interact with their local land trusts and conservation organizations and to consider about conservation easements.  The conversations will continue in other regions.