DOING GOOD: Meet the Catskill Forest Association
by Ryan Trapani
In the 1800s New York was approximately 75 percent agricultural land. Looking at old 19th-century photos of the Catskills and Hudson Valley reveals an environment that was mostly cleared for pasture. According to Dr. Michael Kudish, a Catskill Forest historian, average pastureland climbed to 2,220 feet above sea level. Farmers soon found out that soils were too stony and steep to compete with lands to the west, so they were abandoned around the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Today, New York is approximately 62 percent forested. Our forests are growing three times more than they are being harvested. Pasture includes four percent of the land area while agriculture is 14 percent, and other non-forest use at 20 percent. The benefits or ecological services that this forest cover provides are expansive and diverse.
The benefits include:
• Water filtration
• Watershed protection
• Flood abatement
• Cooler, more oxygenated waters
• Specialty forest products
• Fruit, nuts, maple sugar, teas,wreaths, medicinals, chemicals
• Wildlife habitat
• Recreation and aesthetics
• Carbon sequestration and air quality
• Economic (jobs, landowner income, tax revenues with little need for services)
While the quantity of forests has increased, quality has decreased in some aspects. Our region’s forests face many diverse challenges. Invasive insects, diseases, and plants carried overseas have entered our forests and wreaked havoc on many of our tree species. The Non-Industrial Private Forest Owners, the largest forest owner group, struggles to find land where the above benefits have historically grown renewably for themselves and the community.
The benefits and ecological services of a forest begin, take place, and are influenced by our awareness and management practices of our forests. Future generations will look back on us for these benefits as we did to our farming ancestors. Some of those practices were good, and some were not so good, but still we are stuck with what we have. Conservation or wise use of our area’s forests is now more important than ever as population continues to grow while demand for these forest benefits also rises.
The Catskill Forest Association (CFA) seeks to raise awareness and interest in conserving and managing this valuable resource. CFA is a nonprofit, membership organization dedicated to enhancing all aspects of the forest in New York’s Catskill region. CFA’s mission is to promote forest stewardship in the Catskill region by forest landowners, timber harvesters, foresters, and the general public. The association advocates quality forest management practices for the purpose of improving the health of the forest, preventing threats to the forest ecosystem, and supporting conservation efforts.
The people at CFA believe that knowledge is the key to protecting the forest health and prosperity of our region. The organization offers educational programs at all levels, from one-on-one On-site Visits at landowner properties to group woods-walks, workshops, and seminars. These programs furnish landowners, foresters, and timber harvesters with state-of-the-art management strategies which are practical and help conserve our working forests in hope that forest benefits and ecological services can continue to serve present and future generations. For more information visit catskillforest.org or call 845-586-3054.