by Maureen Mullen

Gary Goff is likely a very familiar name to the NYFOA membership. Gary has been with Cornell University’s Department of Natural Resources and Cooperative Extension since 1979. He is most well-known for having developed and directed the NY State Master Forest Owner (MFO) Volunteer Program, an endeavor that has trained approximately 550 volunteers throughout NY State since 1991. He has been a member of NYFOA since early in his career. Until about ten years ago, Gary served on the Planning Board of the Southern Finger Lakes Chapter (SFL) of NYFOA; he recently was honored with a plaque of appreciation for his active roles within the SFL and the Allegany Foothill Chapters of NYFOA. Also, he was honored with the 2014 Outstanding Service Award at the annual spring meeting of NYFOA in Syracuse. He has also been a regular contributor to this magazine, writing about Forestry Best Management Practices and, more recently, about forest regeneration.

Gary has had a professional interest in forest regeneration “as an ecological phenomenon and scientific endeavor… and have long been intrigued by it.” However, the longer he’s observed it, been involved in the issues, and listened to people involved in forestry, the more he realized regeneration is in dire shape in New York State and something ought to be done. Gary says he was very pleased to see the importance the issue was achieving among forest owners as first highlighted in an article written Jerry Michael in a 1997 issue of the Forest Owner magazine entitled, “Will private forest owners have any cherry, ash or oak to cut in 100 years? Does anybody care?” (Gary has included a copy of this article in every MFO volunteer training binder since it was first published.) For the last couple decades, the regeneration issue has very slowly gained a following. And now, “Finally, it seems many organizations and agencies are recognizing what is at stake and momentum is growing within academic, research, extension, management and non-governmental organizations to get the word out and work toward management and policy changes…which is good because now we are getting the collaboration, teamwork, and focus that is necessary to make a difference on the land. It’s all great!”

Since 2012, when NYFOA launched its forest regeneration campaign, Restore New York Woodlands (RNYW), Gary has taken an active role in spreading the word. He has contributed to NYFOA’s magazine and website by writing RNYW-specific articles and technical reports. He has co-developed RNYW educational materials and “walk guides” for NYFOA members and MFO volunteers. And the MFO volunteer trainings always conclude with a presentation on regeneration. “It’s meant to be a synopsis of the overall MFO training. This is why the new volunteers are here: all they’ve just learned about tree identification, pests, and deer, all boils down to what it takes to regenerate the next forest. It is so rewarding to have the volunteers report on the training workshop evaluations, ‘Now I get it. I see what’s going on, or I see what isn’t going on’, in so many words.” The MFO volunteers are encouraged to guide or participate in woods walks with a focus on RNYW and regeneration. Gary is also heartened to see other organizations in New York — The Nature Conservancy, Audubon, regional land trusts — initiate their own campaigns on forest regeneration.

Gary has also been involved with several regeneration research projects over the years: monitoring regeneration response to fencing and understory removal; deer management studies in rural and suburban counties; mail surveys of foresters to gauge their perception of the status of regeneration in harvested stands; a study of the impact of slash on regeneration; and the Earn-a-Buck deer hunting program at Cornell’s Arnot Forest.

After working for Cornell University for the last 35 years, Gary will be retiring in May. His plans include moving to Lake Placid, fixing up the house he has there, and doing lots of hiking, fishing and hunting. He will continue to stay active in the many programs he’s committed to. According to Gary’s “Year One Plan,” he’ll continue volunteering as a Master Forest Owner, join the Northern Adirondack Chapter of NYFOA, continue his 4-H Forestry volunteer work, and perhaps do some volunteering for Mike Farrell at Cornell’s Uihlein Sugar Maple Research and Extension Field Station. His “Year Two Plan” is still up in the air…

Maureen Mullen is an Extension Aide at Cornell Cooperative Extension, Human Dimensions Research Unit, Cornell University. Dr. Shorna Allred is the faculty advisor for the NYFOA Member Profile Series.

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