by Emily Wafler

For Arthur Wagner, land management is a family affair. It all started back in 1958 when his grandparents bought some 300 acres of land in Broome County. During the summers of his childhood, Arthur frequently visited the land traveling from his home in the Bronx with his mother and siblings, Tony and Carol. In those days the land had few amenities, lacking electricity and a telephone, with the nearest neighbor located about a mile through the woods and only a hand pump to access water.

When Wagner’s father passed away in the early 90’s, he willed the property to his three children, and they have been co-owners ever since. Nowadays, Arthur uses the land as a means to “get away from the city” (he works in the Bronx in Hospital Administration) with his children and grandchildren.

During his first few years of ownership, Wagner mainly left his land untouched using it mostly for hiking and hunting. Then, in 1996, with the help of local forester, Rod Jones, Wagner implemented a 480-A management plan. For almost twenty years he’s been keeping up with the program, maintaining boundary lines and updating the plan every five years along with other practices. In addition, Wagner began utilizing state DEC foresters for advice and a local logger to help with land management practices.

Today, 40 of the 310 acres of land are managed as fields. Used by farmers for oats until the late 70’s, Wagner now maintains the fields with brush-hogging. Twenty acres is designated as wetlands, and provides a home for beavers that return every ten years. The rest of the property is forest, consisting of pine, hemlock, and various hardwoods.

Wagner is also concerned with the wildlife management on his land. After working with a USDA management program, Wagner now only mows his fields after late July or early August to avoid disturbing song bird nesting season. In addition, Wagner is also looking to help with the wildlife through wetland improvement. By enhancing the maintenance of such lands, Wagner hopes to protect the habitats found in wetlands without negatively impacting the woodlot.

Yet, as a landowner one of his biggest challenge is keeping invasive species at bay. “We review the whole 310 acres several times a year to ensure nothing else is encroaching on the woods,” says Wagner. “So far we’ve been fairly lucky, we’ve not had to use any herbicides or sprays.” While emerald ash borer and hemlock wooly adelgid, which Wagner says are prevalent in other forests in the region, haven’t been an issue on his land, there has been an increase in the number of beech trees within the forested areas. “We’re waiting to see if the other hardwoods take over,” said Wagner in regards to the new beech trees. In the upcoming years he hopes to better manage both the invasive species and the overall land by developing a better trail system. According to Wagner, easy access to such plants is important in the overall management process.

A trail system isn’t the only improvement Wagner is looking to make on his land. Several years from now, as outlined in his management plan, Wagner is looking to do commercial thinning of his hardwood stands. In addition, he is currently developing a succession plan with the hopes that future generations “have the opportunities to appreciate the land, the forest, and nature as it was meant to be.”

According to Wagner, the most important thing forest owners can do for their land is to get into contact with forestry professionals. “For us education is essential,” says Wagner. Over the years he has taken part in NYFOA walks and has become a Master Forest Owner volunteer. In addition, he has developed a good working relationship with landowners nearby and has taken advantage of various Cornell Cooperative Extension programs.

Despite his continual improvements as a landowner, Wagner gains the most satisfaction from the aspects of the forest that are out of his control, the “...ongoing subtle changes that Mother Nature provides in the forest, on a daily basis, a seasonal basis, or over the years…it has just been interesting and enjoyable to watch those changes go on.”

Attention forest owners: if you would like to be profiled for a future issue of the NY Forest Owner magazine, please visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ownerprofile or send an email to Emily.

Emily Wafler, Cornell University Coop Extension

ForestConnect Program Assistant

Department of Natural Resources

Ithaca, N. Y.

elw224@cornell.edu


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