Groton State Forest, Central Vermont

A Working Forest Pays Its Way

Since it was established in 1919, Groton State Forest in central Vermont has been a working forest. Today, managers continue to plan and carry out timber harvests that use the renewable, ever-growing stock of hardwood and softwood trees on this 26,000-acre holding. Logging operations provide jobs and yield wood products that boost local and regional economies. But this practical approach doesn’t mean that people and wildlife are ignored.

Groton timber harvest

A fresh clearcut at Groton State Forest. Soon this patch will be thick with regrowing trees and shrubs, and wildlife from warblers to moose will use it heavily./C. Fergus

“Groton is a multi-use forest,” say stewardship forester Lou Bushey with the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation in Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources, “and variety is the foundation of a healthy forest. At Groton, one of our main goals is to protect and enhance native biodiversity. We work hard to promote a variety of types and ages of trees that offer food and cover to a broad range of wildlife. We meet this goal through forestry practices that pay their own way.”

75,000 Annual Visitors

More than 75,000 visitors come to Groton each year to camp, hike, watch wildlife, hunt, fish, snowshoe, and ride trail bikes, snowmobiles, and horses on the Cross-Vermont Rail Trail and a well-maintained internal trail and forest road network. Folks can look forward to spotting more and a greater variety of wild creatures in and near areas where Bushey and his colleagues have used tree harvests to create densely regrowing young forest – smaller trees that sprout abundantly from the root systems and stumps of harvested trees, or that seed themselves onto the sunny, newly opened logged tracts.

Signage at Groton State Forest, Vermont

Forester Lou Bushey inspects a sign overlooking some of the young forest habitat work ongoing at Groton State Forest./C. Fergus

State conservationists have designated different parts of Groton as woodcock management areas, snowshoe hare management areas, and ruffed grouse management areas. In fact, all of those areas – where timber operations give rise to woodland stands of differing ages and species types – benefit all three of the named species, plus a host of other wildlife, including white-tailed deer, black bear, wild turkeys, and a range of songbirds. (The majority of the forest is kept in a more-mature state for animals that need older woods during all or part of their life cycle.)

In the 382-acre Woodcock Management Area, foresters began making a series of strip-cuts and patch-cuts in 1984, and harvests have continued to this day. Many of the cuts have grown back as dense stands of paper and yellow birch, sugar and red maple, aspen, and black cherry – cover in which woodcock can nest and raise their young, and valuable hardwood stands of the future. The Agency of Natural Resources, with financial help from the Wildlife Management Institute, turned a 4-acre gravel pit into a largely open and grassy setting where woodcock can roost on the ground at night in late summer. At present, around 267 acres of the Woodcock Management Area are classed as young forest, with four more rounds of cutting scheduled to create additional young forest over the next 60 years.

Woodcock an "Umbrella Species"

Wildlife biologists consider the American woodcock an “umbrella” species, which means that making cover for this popular upland game bird also helps many other kinds of wildlife that use the same thick habitat. By maintaining a mix of open, weedy, shrubby, and young-tree areas for woodcock, conservationists also boost populations of birds such as alder and willow flycatchers, whip-poor-wills, ruffed grouse, and catbirds; mammals like snowshoe hares and moose; and reptiles such as black rat snakes and black racers. Predators including bobcats, red-tailed hawks, and broad-winged hawks also home in on the higher densities of rodent prey found in the regrowing woodland on Groton State Forest.

Timber harvest sign

Signs show visitors how old various cuts are. After going through a young forest stage, many stands are allowed to become older and more mature./C.Fergus

Timber harvests yield wood chips that go to a nearby biomass facility to produce electricity, hardwood logs for high-value products like flooring and furniture, and wood pulp for paper. Because the harvests are carefully sited and carried out, the land remains unharmed while wildlife benefits.

People benefit, too. Most of those 75,000 annual visitors seek out Groton State Forest to “get away from it all” by enjoying day recreation and visiting the five state parks within the forest’s boundaries. They get to watch abundant wildlife, and they also learn about forest management through signage, brochures, and programs. Says Bushey, “We consider it a great opportunity to educate people on how to improve our valuable forests through the use of careful, science-based management.”

Funding and Partners

Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, Wildlife Management Institute

How to Visit

Groton State Forest is east of Montpelier, Vermont's capital, and can be reached from state route 232. For more information on forest management activities on Groton and enhancing habitat for wildlife, contact stewardship forester Lou Bushey at Louis.Bushey@state.vt.us, 802-751-0136.