Friday, June 24, 2016

Forestry is Big Business in New York State


New York Land Area: 30.2 million acres. State Population: 19 million
New York Forest Area: 18.95 million acres, 63 percent of land area, about one acre per resident
Publicly-owned Forest Land: at least 3.7 million acres
Privately-owned Forest Land Area: 14.4 million acres; 76 percent of forest land; owned by 687,000 land owners
Northern hardwood forests, dominated by beech, birch and maple, make up over 53 percent of the forest cover.
Forest ownership – New York’s forests continue to be largely privately owned by individuals/families and business who together own over 76 percent of the forest
Number of tree species: more than 100 commercial and non-commercial
Most common forest type: maple/beech/birch (53 percent of forest land area)
Economic Importance of New York’s Forests and Harvest Information
$300 million in annual payments to private landowners
488 million board feet of logs
2.1 million green tons pulpwood and wood chips
25 percent of New York timber harvest is exported for processing
Economic contribution of forest products-related manufacturing and services: $14 billion (US Census)
Forest-related tourism: $1.9 billion products made from wood: bowling pins, snowshoe and baseball bat
With proper planning and management, forests provide renewable natural resources



About 63 percent of New York state is covered with forests.

That’s a lot of trees. And students who graduate with forestry degrees from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Morrisville State College and Paul Smith’s College help keep these forests vital, sustainable and thriving for everyone in the state to enjoy.

That goes for the intrepid outdoorsman who likes to hike through the forests. The same for the farmer or private landowner who wants to sell some timber for a little extra income. Ditto the paper companies like Finch in Glens Falls, Warren County, or International Paper in Ticonderoga, Essex County. 

“Foresters work on management issues, purchasing timber to feed a mill or working with regulatory issues,” said SUNY ESF Professor David Newman, who also chairs the forest and natural resources management program. “They have to help plan the timber harvest in such a way that you get value now, but also get good value in the future.”

A SUNY ESF student learns to measure trees
HackCollege’s school directory states that each year in New York, about 85 students graduate with credentials in forestry. SUNY ESF is the state’s largest forestry school. Newman said about 15 to 20 students graduate with forestry degrees each year.

In addition to forestry, there are many other forest, tree and environmental programs offered at SUNY ESF. 

Some of these are:

** Forest technician program
** Natural resources management
** Environmental natural resources technicians, who work primarily with wildlife
** Aquatics and fisheries, which deals with invasive species, ecosystems management and marine studies
** Conservation biology, which focuses on conserving the earth’s imperiled species and ecosystems
** Environmental health, which deals with analysis, prevention and mitigation of potential environmental hazards, and
** Landscape architecture, dealing with urban and regional planning and community and environmental design

Morrisville State College offers an associate degree in natural resources conservation. Within this degree, students who want to specialize in forestry and silviculture may complete the forest technology concentration minor, said spokeswoman Franci Valenzano.

The Society of American Foresters Accredited Forest Technology concentration minor is how it is listed in the college catalog. Along with this minor, students must complete an internship in natural resources at an approved forest industry internship site.

Paul Smith’s College in Franklin County offers bachelor’s degrees in forestry, ecological restoration, environmental science, fisheries and wildlife sciences, natural resource conservation and management and sustainable communities and working landscapes. Associate degrees are offered in forestry and arboriculture and landscape management. There also is a minor in forestry.

What do foresters do?

New York State Forester Mike Giocondo
Newman said foresters are important for people like farmers who may have large acreage in forests on their land. He said some people think they can simply go into a woodlot and chop down some trees to manage the forest. Others want to do the management themselves to save money.

But it doesn’t work that way.

He said if there is no planning in how a forest is harvested, then “what you get back is not very healthy. With species like maple and other desirable species, you have to plan to get out what you want.”

He said some SUNY ESF students with forestry degrees go to work for consulting companies who “work with landowners to help manage their forest land.”

“Helping landowners is a big part of what a forester does,” Newman said. “And farmers often have forest land to help with erosion, wind damage and for alternative income.”

But if the farmers or landowners want to manage the forested land and ensure the forest continues to be sustainable in the future, they need the help of a forester, he said. 

Employment for foresters in New York state does not look to be strong, according to statistics from the Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. But Newman said every one of the SUNY ESF grads finds a job in forestry upon graduation.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the mean salary for a forester in New York state is $62,800 to $79,400.

Using marginal farmland

Willow growing in Canastota, Madison County
Timothy Volk, a senior research associate at SUNY ESF, works with farmers who have land they can’t use for crops. It might have poor soil quality or it might not drain well.

So instead of just letting that land sit barren, he teaches them how to use it to make some money.

Volk said land that won’t sustain vegetables or fruits often will grow crops such as shrub willow or other woody biomass plants that can be harvested, burned and used to create energy.

“The wood ships products are sold for heating and to power markets,” he said. “The woody biomass also can be used for making other biofuels or other products.”

The first thing farmers should think about, though, if they are considering growing shrub willow is whether they have a market. Right now, 1,200 acres of willow is grown on private land in Northern New York and is used at ReEnergy Holdings power plants at Fort Drum, Jefferson County and in Lyonsdale, Lewis County.

“Any time we get calls from farmers we ask if they have an outlet for sales,” Volk said. “You plant it once and harvest it every three years or so and it can be harvested seven times. It’s a long-term perennial crop. 

And there is a costly upfront investment — $800 to $1,000 an acre to get started. So they should be sure to have a place to sell the willow.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture in June kicked off a sign-up period for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program. Through this program, the USDA will provide half of the estimated cost of annual land rental payment in the years where there is no harvest for farmers and landowners who plant woody biomass.

The sign-up period is from June 15 through the end of August.

State foresters help farmers

There are many ways in which state foresters help farmers and other private landowners.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Stewardship Program provides free planning and technical assistance to all private forestland owners in the state, including farm owners, according to DEC forestry staffers.

They said it is estimated that about 10 percent of all privately owned forests in New York are associated with farm ownership, and 20 percent of total farm land area is forest, therefore many farmers take advantage of our assistance programs. 

Farmers, like all forestland owners, face many of the same forest related issues, such as invasive species and overabundant deer. However, the state forestry staff say proper planning can go a long way to improving the health and resiliency of private forest land to meet both the goals of a landowner and the needs of the forest habitat. 

DEC foresters help landowners plan for the future of their forest land by creating a customized forest management plan that provides information on the current status of the forest and what forestry practices will be useful in meeting a landowners short and long-term goals and objectives. 

A key part of the plan’s development is to walk the forest with the landowner to describe the current forest conditions and develop specific recommendations of improvements. 

Foresters also help farmers with wildlife problems they encounter. In fact, the forestry staffers say wildlife issues are one of the most common reasons forestland owners contact a DEC forester. They can help with issues such as the overabundance of deer or even invasive species that can harm crops. 

DEC foresters work with forest owners to identify the presence or absence of a pest and recommend forest management strategies to offset the impacts and to prepare the forest to be healthier and more resilient to combat future pest attacks.  

An overabundance of white-tailed deer browsing activity can affect both a farmer’s forest and food crops. In this case a farmer can apply for either a Deer Management Assistance Program Permit or Deer Damage Permit issued by the DEC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Many forestland owners, including farmers, are interested in improving forest habitat for certain game and non-game wildlife species. DEC foresters work directly with landowners to develop recommended methods of forest cutting to modify the structure and composition of the forest while at the same time allowing the forest to continue to grow for timber production and other benefits. 

Forest owners wishing to undertake timber harvesting activities without necessarily considering planning for specific long-term goals and objectives can contact a DEC forester who can provide objective information and other assistance to assure that the best interest of the forest and the owner are met during and after harvest.

Go to  for more information.

There are 25 DEC forestry staff available to provide services to private forest owners, including eligible farmers. Nearly all DEC offices around the state have a professional forester on staff that can provide private forestry assistance. 

If a farmer needs help from a forester, he or she can call the area DEC office. Numbers can be found at

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