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New England-New York Forestry Initiative project helps Goshen forest landowners

Conservation Showcase

Michael and Emma Banas at the site of their forestry project
Emma and Michael Banas at the site of their forestry project.
NRCS District Conservationist Vince Snyder and Michael Banas discuss the forestry project
NRCS District Conservationist Vince Snyder (left) and Michael Banas discuss the forest management plan.
The Banas forestry project site before work began.
The Banas' forest land was in need of thinning before the project began.
The Banas forestry project site after thinning.
The project site after thinning.

Michael and Emma Banas | forest land owners | Goshen, Massachusetts

Until recently, Michael and Emma Banas did not think of themselves as forest land managers. As the owner of an insurance company and an assistant vice president for a financial services company, neither had ever been involved in forestry.

That changed shortly after the Banas’ were married in 2009. They bought a 138 acre parcel of mostly forested land in the western Massachusetts town of Goshen, a small rural town with a population under 1,000. They chose the location because of the peace and quiet.

“When we bought the land, we liked the nature and the woods,” says Emma, who emigrated from China to the United States in 2007. Michael added the location is remote yet close to the small towns in the area.

The land had been farmed as far back as the 1700s, with former owners producing milk, orchard fruit and maple syrup. The property was farmed by one family for about 150 years.

In recent years, the land, which also includes wetlands, was neglected. “The land was untouched and unmanaged,” says Michael. “It was a jungle with a lot of poor species. There were lots of broken tree tops from ice storms, and it was a mess.”

Michael and Emma hired a forester to develop a forest management plan. After talking to a neighbor, the Banas’ sought help from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). “He said to me if you really want to clean it up you should contact USDA, they have great programs,” remembers Michael. “That's how I got connected with Vince.”

Vince Snyder is the District Conservationist for the NRCS field office in Hadley, Massachusetts. He told the Banas about help available through NRCS’ New England-New York Forestry Initiative.

“The forestry initiative works for a lot of people in western Massachusetts. These towns have large tracts of forest land,” says Vince who covers two western Massachusetts counties. “Plus, it’s too expensive for many forest land owners to do this good work on their own. It's a real benefit for them and us to work together on these kinds of projects.”

“This project fell into that category very easily because they already had a forest management plan that already had a lot of good recommendations in it. There was forest stand improvement and oak regeneration cutting. We were also able to incorporate a lot of their wildlife goals from their conservation plan into this contract.”

The project has created five acres of early successional habitat which will grow up and allow shelter and food for woodcock. “It was ideal because there was a nice grassy area in the middle where the woodcock can come out and do their displaying,” says Vince.

“There's an oak regeneration cut on the south side and a heavy thinning cut on the east,” explains Michael. “Down by the beaver pond they did another heavy thinning cut because there were a lot of old trees that needed to be taken out so we could get regrowth.”

Michael explains that it was very important to clear out the invasive plants that were growing nearby. “The invasives were mostly on the edges but once you start clearing, they can easily grow into that area.”

“We're almost done, but we plan to continue managing it as forest land,” says Michael. “Already we can see there are more rabbit tracks and an increase in woodcock. The bird population has increased substantially in just half a season, which is amazing.”

“This has been very good, very positive. There's no reason not to do it,” says Michael. “Some people think you shouldn't touch the trees at all, but they don't understand forestry. Quite frankly, we didn't either until we got involved in this.”

“This is really about education and awareness,” adds Emma. “If people question why we’re doing this, they're only thinking about right now, not 20 to 30 years in the future. We cannot be selfish; this is for the next generation.”