Mike and Marilyn Arman

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Mike and Marilyn Arman

by Dorian Hyland

In 1990, Mike and Marilyn Arman and two friends bought 48 acres in Prattsburgh because they were attracted to the immense views from the top of the hill, the beauty of the land, the lure of the forests offering great hunting opportunities with their abundant wildlife, and the perfect spot for a seasonal cabin. They built the seasonal cabin and enjoyed their piece of paradise, but after 19 years only Mike and Marilyn were still interested in part-time living there and they bought out the other owners.

These days they spend more than half the year, from March to November, in the house they both built on the highest point on the property. It sits on about a one acre site, and opens to a 180 degree view looking east towards Penn Yan and Hammondsport. By day they ride around on their UTV and at night they sit on their deck enjoying the unbelievably beautiful night sky. Surrounding their property are 40 forested acres of former farmland, and some orchards. The land consists of 30 acres of red oak, red maple, sugar maple, white ash, beech, and scattered white pines. Beech brush is becoming established as the understory and ten acres consist of mostly white pine, red maple, aspen, and white ash. Invasive species, such as multiflora rose, honeysuckle, and autumn olive grow along the periphery. Wild apple, grey dogwood, white ash, and aspen make up the remaining seven acres. Throughout the land they maintain trails for recreational use and for forestry pursuits, with a generally flat to gentle topography allowing good drainage.

The Arman’s met at Alfred State where they both attended college. Later, Mike went to the Rochester Institute of Technology then began working for Xerox in sales, while Marilyn worked for Kodak. They both were born in upstate NY; she in Elmira, spending most of her childhood on the family farm in Potter, and he was born in Horseheads. Mike retired from Xerox three years ago after a 38 year career in sales. He and Marilyn restored an old farmhouse 50 miles north of their woods on ten acres in Mendon, NY, with Marilyn taking responsibility for much of the care and repair as Mike was often on the road for work. At home in Mendon, Mike volunteers for the Fire District and for the non-profit Equi Center, a 200 acre horse ranch nearby that provides therapeutic horseback riding for people with disabilities, veterans, and at risk youth. Add to that the care and enrichment of 48 acres in Prattsburgh in Steuben County and he is one busy retiree.

His favorite place is of course the woods. Mike is an avid outdoorsman who spends as much time as possible in the woods. He enjoys bird hunting with his fifth Brittany spaniel, and fishing for smallmouth bass. Knowing how prolific white-tailed deer are, he not only hunts himself but allows neighbors to post stands and hunt deer. Mike and Marilyn also generously allowed a few friends to harvest deer.

Their multi-level goal in management is to provide multiple benefits including improving wildlife, timber, recreation, and aesthetics. Last year they decided to add a pond which they hope will serve as a magnet for wildlife by offering a consistent source of water, as well as providing a quiet place to swim and fish.

Since the original purchase in 1990, the land was logged once, about fifteen years ago. Although they were happy with the job, after their recent training, they contracted with a forester to manage future logging. In 2018, during a timber stand improvement project managed by Corey Figuireido of Furture Forest Consulting, they worked on the reduction of white ash. The proceeds from that project were spent to create the one-half acre spring fed pond with the primary purpose of attracting wildlife. Their latest on-going project is cutting up the slash for firewood, and creating brush piles for wildlife. This includes installing nest boxes, particularly around the pond, cutting down aspen to improve conditions for grouse, and reducing the beech infected with beech bark disease and treating the stumps with herbicide.

Another large project underway is releasing the apple trees that are part of the old farm land that had been an orchard. Although labor intensive, pruning dead and diseased wood can restore some life and productivity to the trees, and potentially provide early succession habitat for wildlife.

The biggest change in the woods, since they bought the land, is the result of the emerald ash borer (EAB). “The EAB didn’t show up in my forest until the summer of 2016 and in just a few years it has devastated the ash. I would estimate that around 10% of the hardwoods on the property are ash,” Mike said.

The biggest change in managing the property came after Mike retired. The challenge “used to be time, but fortunately that changed to some extent when I retired. Probably the other challenge was simply lack of knowledge, but that also changed with my introduction to NYFOA, and the access to resources that I now have. I have always appreciated my property, but now I believe I am a better steward for the property and feel confident that I will leave it better than it was when I purchased it.”

What changed their focus in the care of their land, and deepened their understanding of their woods was meeting Charlie and Sarah Stackhouse who introduced them to NYFOA. This introduction prompted their transition from forest owners to forest managers. Before that, as Mike says, like so many others before him, “I didn’t know what I didn’t know.” He feels NYFOA has been an eye opener because it connected him with other landowners, and introduced access to fantastic resources. The Stackhouses recommended he talk to Greg Muller, the NYSDEC forester for Steuben County. After walking the property and listening to Mike’s objectives for the land, Mr. Muller provided the Armans with a forest stewardship plan in September 2016. All of Mike’s actions over the past three years are the result of that plan.An extra blessing for these plans is great neighbors, especially an Amish community who have helped clean up the slash and remove additional ash trees. To get around and complete all these plans he uses a Polaris Ranger UTV. He is also a grateful owner of a Makita chainsaw which he won at the 2017 annual NYFOA meeting in Syracuse.

He suggests that woodland owners determine what they would like to do with their property and then engage with experts. Whether they are NYSDEC foresters, Master Forest Owner volunteers, and/or other landowners. “There is a wealth of people and resources available through membership in NYFOA. The organization has connected me with the resources to become a better steward of my property, and has definitely connected me with the right people who have helped accelerate my plans. It is great to be around people who care as much about their property as I do,” stated Mike.

In closing, Mike sounds as contented as anyone could hope to be when he describes what he enjoys most about being a forest owner: “The satisfaction of being a short-term owner and steward of such a fantastic resource, and knowing that I will be leaving it in better shape for the future. Your forest is the gift that keeps on giving.”


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