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Vermont Family Forests
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Conserving The Health Of Our Local Forest Community
Bicentennial Hall LaForce Hall
Rowing Gigs Schooner

Community, not monoculture

You can't ecologically harvest 125,000 board feet of clear-grained red oak from Vermont's forests because Vermont's forests aren't red oak plantations, they're diverse communities. Biologists have identified more that 80 distinct natural communities in Vermont, and trees are a significant part of nearly all of them.

Take a moment and imagine yourself in one of Vermont's most widespread natural communities, the Northern Hardwood Forest. Some 40% of the forestlands participating with Vermont Family Forests belong to this natural community.

As you walk through this forest on a late spring day, the songs of hermit thrush, ovenbird, and veery cascade through the trees. You step among painted trilliums and Canada mayflowers, hobblebush and serviceberry, wintergreen and hay-scented fern. A red eft ambles slowly over the damp mat of last year's leaves. Above you, the trees' twigs bear small fists of new leaves, just unfurling. You pass rough-barked sugar maples and smooth, gray-trunked beeches tattooed with black bear claw marks. The peeling, golden shafts of yellow birch glow in afternoon light. Some of the trees are slender as your wrist; others are too large to encircle with your arms. Most are somewhere in between.

You step over fallen logs cloaked in green moss, spotted scarlet with soldier's cap lichen. A red squirrel bounds up a fungus-studded snag, sounding a scolding chrrrrrrrr from the safety of a high branch. Though sugar maple, beech, and yellow birch trees dominate the landscape, you note stout-twigged white ashes, as well as red maples, basswoods, red oaks, hemlocks, and white pines along the way. And though you have observed carefully, you have noticed only a fraction of the plants and animals that inhabit this place.

It is into this complex community that the forester comes to select wood to harvest for human uses.