2019 - Revising the Plan
While the need for young forest, also known as ESH, remains high in southern Vermont and throughout New England, as we have learned more about what makes a good ESH patch, we have realized that the Sugar Slope and Ripperoo ski slopes, originally scheduled for cutting in 2019 and 2021, are not good candidates for clear cutting and regrowth.
Unlike the first three slopes that were cleared in order to stimulate dense regrowth, primarily from stump sprouts, neither Sugar Slope nor Ripperoo are solidly covered with rapidly maturing trees that are about 30+ years old. Instead, these slopes are covered in vast swaths of hay scented fern, dotted with copses of youngish trees. The fern is preventing the growth of woody plants. Cutting down the few sections of young trees amidst the fern would likely only encourage the fern to spread further, and would not result in the dense, woody regrowth that is the aim of the ESH project.
Sugar Slope and Ripperoo are significantly narrower than the other three slopes in the project. An ideal ESH patch is round - in order to minimize the amount of forest edge relative to the amount of interior ESH. Studies have shown that nest predation decreases with distance from the forest edge. In other words, the further from the forest edge that a bird builds its nest, the more likely that nest is to produce a successful new generation of young birds. Sugar Slope and Ripperoo are so narrow that, if cut, the entire ESH patch would be near the forest edge.
Therefore, we've decided to not do any cutting on Sugar Slope and Ripperoo. We'll be monitoring the three slopes that have been cut, looking out for invasives and documenting the regrowth. In 2023, at the end of the 10-year project window, we'll assess the relative success of the project and decide what additional steps, if any, we should take to continue to maintain a wide variety of habitat types in the conservation area.