by Maureen Mullen

Ed Welch and Donna Trautwein-Welch, NYFOA members and forest landowners, love the Adirondacks and have had a bond with the mountains of this region for some time. Ten years ago, with retirement nearing, they decided to buy a 223-acre property — the “Danker parcel” — in the Town of Johnsburg in Warren County. Since that time, they added an additional 150 acres of adjacent property — the “Applebee parcel” — and are in the process of obtaining another 30 acres. Ed and Donna are now “mostly retired” educators who spend five days a week on the property and they love it! “We were really looking for a piece of property in the Adirondacks, never thinking that we’d buy as much as we did, or that we would become involved in being active forest owners,” says Donna. “It was just a way of getting a foothold in the Adirondacks because we loved to be there often… and we just wanted to spend more time there.” The property is home to most of the common tree species found in the Adirondacks, with the notable exception of the cedars.

Ed and Donna Welch completed their first forest thinning on their land this year. All their time spent researching the process, getting advice from fellow NYFOA members and friends, and working closely with their forester made this thinning a success. With no previous forestry experience, the Welch’s joined NYFOA about a year after purchasing the Danker parcel. “Then we started to learn about forestry and forest management and what could happen with the property and so then we became really committed to promoting sustainable forestry on our land. And so our motivations changed,” said Donna. By talking with other NYFOA members, reading NYFOA articles, and consulting with professionals from Cornell Cooperative Extension, they learned a great deal and became very committed to the land. Their goal for the land became clear: to steward the land sustainably so that the forest remained intact and (mostly) undeveloped for generations to come. To make this goal a reality, Ed and Donna needed to create forest management plans for the Danker and Applebee parcels.

The forest management plans were initially started by Steve Warne, a fellow NYFOA member and forester, and later completed by Chris Gearwar of Lake George Forestry. Chris, Donna, and Ed developed a basic principle that guided the plans — sustainability — and this led them to implement a thinning on 140 acres to improve the forest’s condition and promote long-term growth. After inventorying and marking the trees Chris sent the information to loggers. They decided to do a lump-sum bid where the owner receives a single payment for trees to be sold before the harvest begins, rather than a “yield sale” or pay as you cut approach where a landowner is paid a certain amount for each unit of product cut. Ed and Donna put much time into researching and selecting loggers and after receiving four bids they eliminated the lowest one. The Welch’s then inquired about the quality of work done by the remaining loggers by visiting their job sites and learning about their harvesting methods. They also asked the loggers about the estimated time for the thinning, the condition of the trees, and any concerns. NYFOA members, many of whom are loggers or forestry experts, gave the Welches advice on this selection process. The Welches selected the logger that they felt would give them the greatest likelihood of forest regeneration: Jim Peck of Peck Logging.

For the Welches, one of the fascinating things about the thinning process was finding out where their wood was going and how it was going to be used. The majority of the wood was sent to either Vermont or other parts of New York State. The pine logs went to lumberyards for construction elements (like doors and trim); the hardwood lumber was used for cabinets and flooring; the white birch was made into levels, gun stocks, and reels; the red pine was made into plywood; and the pulp wood went to a paper company. “We knew it was going to be sawed into lumber, but we just had no idea the different kinds of uses for all of the different logs,” said Donna.

In addition to their forest management plan, the Welches also created a legacy plan that helps with taxes and will also ensure that the management of the land is carried into the future. After speaking with Sydney and Evon Antonio, NYFOA members in Greene County who have also developed a legacy plan, Ed and Donna were advised to meet with an estate planner and accountant. Their land is now part of a Limited Liability Corporation that they formed and two of their six children have been designated as future managers to carry out the long-term forest management plan.

The Welches’ advice for other forest landowners: join NYFOA! Their experience with other NYFOA members has been priceless. NYFOA members have given them guidance on creating forest management plans, conducting a proper thinning, and creating a forest legacy plan. In addition to peers, the Welch’s also recommend that landowners seek information from professionals, such as Cornell Cooperative Extension. Another piece of advice: communicate with those helping you on your land! By communicating with Chris during the thinning process, they gained a shared understanding of the outcome and Chris kept that in mind when marking trees so that forest regeneration and aesthetics could be enhanced. Ed and Donna would like to thank the people who have not only been great resources, but who have also become great friends: John Sullivan, Bob Manning, Laurel Gailor, Chris Gearwar, Steve Warne, and the other NYFOA members.

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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