Peg Coleman and Ed Neuhauser

Ed Neuhauser is a native New Yorker. While he was born and raised on Long Island, and briefly worked on Wall Street as a runner as a youth, Ed says that he knew from a very young age that city life was not for him. This draw toward the natural world was reflected in his educational path, as he attended the College of Forestry (now SUNY-ESF) in Syracuse, graduating with a BS in 1973 (majoring in forest biology) and with a Ph.D in 1978, with a focus on the biochemistry of lignin degradation by soil macroinvertebrates.

Following his graduation, he worked at the Department of Agricultural Engineering at Cornell University until 1986, at which time he took a position at Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation (now National Grid) in Syracuse, where he remained until retiring in 2012. While at Niagara Mohawk Ed worked in research and development, and later in environmental affairs.

While his career choice required him to work in the city, it did not require that he live there, and accordingly Ed bought a 39 acre rural property in West Groton (Tompkins County) in 1981, figuring that the daily commute of 100 miles round-trip would be well worth it to be able to come home to his eventual retirement home at the end of each day. In the succeeding years, Ed has purchased additional land surrounding the original parcel, and today he owns and manages a total of 132 contiguous acres, which are a mix of open fields, swamp, and about 75 acres of woodland.

Having gained a solid foundation in forest management during his college years, Ed has enjoyed being very hands-on in his woodlot over the years, and cites the assistance of the DEC and private consulting foresters, as well as participation in NYFOA meetings and events as being instrumental in his learning process. A unique—and quite impressive—aspect to Ed’s ‘style’ of working in his woodlot is the involvement of others, making it a collective enterprise to share both the workload, and the benefits, of active woodlot management. For 30 years running, Ed has worked with 5 or 6 local families to cut firewood from his stands as a means of releasing the residual timber from the competition of lesser quality cull trees. Ed marks the trees to be cut in advance, which allows the work to continue in his absence. He requires that all chainsaw-wielding helpers complete the Game of Logging training for safety, as well as to ensure a degree of skill in felling in order to protect the surrounding crop trees. Other volunteers run the wood splitter, or take part in delivering the processed firewood to participants. Ed says that working 1-2 acres per year supplies 35-40 pickup truck loads of firewood.

In addition to the firewood, occasional cull logs that are of sufficient size and quality are milled with a portable bandsaw mill, and are air-dried on site before being turned into tongue and grooved strip flooring; Ed has used ash, beech, cherry, elm, and locust for this purpose. Ed also graciously allows trusted neighbors and friends to hunt his land—ideally taking does before bucks—again as a means of sharing the labor (controlling the deer herd) with the benefits (the venison, and the enjoyment of hunting).

As for Ed’s relationship with NYFOA, he has been a member for 15 years, and a very active one at that, having served on the Southern Finger Lakes (SFL) steering committee for over 10 years, including a stint as chapter president. He is currently serving his third term on the state board of directors, and is the sitting vice-president of NYFOA. Another significant contribution Ed has made to NYFOA over the years has been his hosting of numerous woodswalks on his property. Ed has utilized the advice and assistance of fellow NYFOA members (and professional extension foresters) Pete Smallidge and Brett Chedzoy in developing the topics and demonstrations for the events, which have allowed many NYFOA members to see his various woodlot endeavors being put into practice. Ed also expresses his enjoyment in attending the woodswalks and events hosted by other members and NYFOA chapters.

A current—and major—project that Ed is involved with is designing and building a 3 acre pond on his property that incorporates a seasonal stream. Because of the scope and scale of the project, Ed hired a local engineering firm to design the pond and associated dam, as well as to help him with the required submittals to the DEC and the Army Corps of Engineers (this is a serious pond). The engineering drawings are currently being reviewed, and Ed hopes to break ground on the project in the near future. In the meantime, he has been clearing trees from the proposed site and processing them into either firewood or lumber.

Asked for his thoughts and observations after nearly 35 years of woodlot ownership and management, Ed offered the following:

  • “The biggest and most satisfying change that I have seen over the years is the increased growth response of the high quality trees after thinning;”
  • “Never select trees to cut during TSI thinning with a chainsaw in your hand; make a seperate trip into the woods for marking in advance.”
  • “Forest management allows me to make the best use of the resource that I have been lucky enough to be able to manage during my tenure on the land. As good stewards of the land, we need to prepare the land for 2 to 3 generations from now. One of the very nice things about forest management is that it allows you to think about the future generations that will come many years after you.”

As for any last pieces of advice or observations from Ed, if I had to boil it down to one parting thought or phrase it would undoubtedly be “Get out in your woods!” In this regard, there is no question that Ed leads by example, and that he has a great time doing it.

Jeff Joseph co-chairs NYFOA’s editorial committee.

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