Home Improvements in the Back 40

Life during COVID has created a surge in home improvements and do-it-yourself projects. This is the perfect time to expand your scope and bring some TLC to your woodlot, the home of the wildlife that use it.

For the first time in decades, Americans are, again, focused on our homes and our living environments. Many of us are spending more time around the house, walking around in our socks and sweats between Zoom meetings. When meeting fatigue hits, our eyes wander to the patch of worn carpet or the scuffed door, or the rattle of a ceiling fan that we promised our spouses we’d replace two years ago.

“We’ve been forced to focus on our living environments because we’re spending so much more time there,” said Ben Vicere, NWTF’s National Forestry Initiative forester in New Hampshire. “I think the same is true for people who own property. I believe that because they’re spending more time at home, they’re taking walks when they need a break from their makeshift home offices. As a resulted, I think this is the first time they’ve taken notice of the woodlots they own.”

Vicere, who works out of the Natural Resources Conservation Service office in Grafton County, has seen a significant uptick in phone calls from people who are asking all types of questions about their woods.

“Some didn’t even know they had that extra 400 feet on the back side of their property,” he said. “Now they know they have it, they want to know everything they can about it and what they can do to make it better. Or maybe they want to know if there’s a monetary value to what they own.”

That’s where the NRCS and NWTF foresters like Vicere come into play. Through our cooperative partnership with NRCS, our forestry experts can help landowners assess their woodlots and help them to develop management plans and recommend practices to reach a desired forest condition that meets their needs, while also improving habitat for wildlife. The NRCS can even help with the cost of doing that work through a multitude of assistance programs.

“With these difficult economic times caused by the pandemic, people are out of jobs, small business owners have had to close their doors, and in general, people are scared for the financial future,” Vicere said. “They may look at the timber on their properties and wonder if that would pay their mortgages for 6 months.”

This is where it is crucial for landowners to seek guidance.

“Landowners need to be careful and create a solid plan. Harvesting timber for a regular income isn’t sustainable,” he cautioned. “The most value is in the quality sawtimber, Low-grade pulp and chip markets are currently very poor in New England. Once the highest value stems are removed, there's temptation to cut trees that have not met their full potential, which causes value to diminish at each cutting.”

Having an expert forester provide guidance will prevent you from making mistakes that will have effects for decades.

“Reach out to your county foresters or the NRCS office, and start having those conversations,” he recommended. “Winter is a perfect time to look at your woods and to create an assessment.”

And since you’re probably spending more time at home than ever before, there’s no better time to hit the Back 40 and do a little home improvement for wildlife.

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