by Maureen Mullen

When Dave Williams retired in 2004 from being an industrial arts/technology instructor, he imagined himself spending most of his free time working in the woods. Instead, he spends his time volunteering with the many associations he joined — such as serving on the board of the New York Forest Owners Association and his credit union, joining the board-of-trustees in his church, and becoming a New York Master Forest Owner volunteer. Williams believes in being actively involved in his community and “giving back,” but this also means he doesn’t get out to his woodland properties nearly as often as he’d like.

The Williams family has owned land in Otsego County for nearly a hundred years. Dave’s great-grandfather’s property was used mostly as hay pasture. Dave and his father rented a 40-acre parcel of the family land and farmed it part time, first raising beef cattle, then dairy cattle, but running the operation became overwhelming as a part-time endeavor. Around 1980, Dave’s great-uncle wanted to sell some of the property, so Dave and his father purchased the 40-acre parcel of the family land; they used it for firewood, lumber, and pasture. Now, about a third of the property is wooded and the remainder is pasture and regenerating forest/shrubland, with the exception of a swampy area. Also in the 1980s, Dave’s uncle deeded a 7-acre forest property in Chenango County to him; this parcel is completely wooded.

When asked why he stills owns the properties, Dave said, “When the tax bill came in, my wife really quizzed me on that! Part of it is the 40-acre parcel; I just kind of feel that it’s my responsibility to carry that on even when not knowing what could happen next. That is important to me. And I really do enjoy being in the woods, out in the field — it’s a nice quiet place and there’s always something new to see.” Dave and his family live within a few miles of these properties. They use the woods for firewood and hunting. Dave also runs a portable sawmill; so he uses some of the trees harvested from timber stand improvements for lumber.

The management activities conducted on each of the parcels differ, and as Dave said, “I do the best that I can with the time that I’ve got.” Both parcels have management plans that were done with the help of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Forester. The 7-acre parcel is being treated with glyphosate to remove beech (cut stump treatment) and Dave is doing timber stand improvement work on the trees that the forester marked. The 40-acre parcel didn’t require any immediate work according to the management plan, so Dave’s focus has been on the 7-acre parcel. He’s about a third of the way through completing the beech-stump treatment and timber stand improvement. He has purposely left an area of beech untouched to compare to the area where beech has been treated. As he says, “It’s really interesting to bring people in and see how the beech treatment is done on one side and [then] see what it looks like on the other side of the line.” He has shown this “demonstration plot” to other woodland owners on woods walks and he says it’s a real eye-opener.

Dave gets a lot of advice about the parcels from fellow NYFOA member Jerry Michael. Jerry has experience with deer exclosures on his own property and Dave would like to follow Jerry’s footsteps: to begin putting small deer exclosures on the 7-acre parcel where the beech is under control and oak seedlings are starting to sprout. He’s excited about replicating what Jerry has accomplished and hopefully getting some hardwood forest regeneration happening before later removing some of the more mature trees.

Dave’s biggest success on his properties is “turning the corner on what I used to do.” He said that when he first started working on the 7-acre parcel, he went in and cut down the diseased beech from the front of the parcel to the back. But by the time he had reached the back, the beech at the front of the parcel contained diseased beech again. “It was just a vicious cycle.” It wasn’t until he had received his Master Forest Owner (MFO) training in 2009 and Peter Smallidge of Cornell Cooperative Extension taught him about ‘beech stump treatment’ that Dave realized the mistake he had been making. He was “taking out big, diseased beech, but leaving behind a thicket of beech stems that weren’t going to let anything else grow. So, I’m trying to undo that… And I think that’s my big success at this point.”

Dave has been a NYFOA board member for about 2 years. He enjoys the programs NYFOA offers — “you learn something new every time you go to a meeting” — and he values the associations he’s developed with other members. The advice he would give to other forest landowners: “Get good,sound advice, have a management plan, and look at your problems one small area at a time… Stake out a small area,start with that, and then when you start to see some success, you won’t get discouraged.” And to anyone thinking about becoming a NYFOA member: “Join now. Don’t wait. Have an MFO volunteer walk your property. Get involved!”

Maureen Mullen is an Extension Aide at Cornell Cooperative Extension, Human Dimensions Research Unit, Cornell University. Dr. Shorna Allred is the faculty advisor for the NYFOA Member Profile Series.

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