Jim and Barbara Minor

by Jeff Joseph

Jim Minor is likely a familiar face to most NYFOA members, having served the organization in many capacities over the past 20 years, including most recently—and currently—as its president. Born and raised in Batavia, NY, Jim received a PhD in engineering from Brown University, and subsequently took a job as a mid-level manager at Kodak in Rochester (where he currently lives) from which he retired in the year 2000. His experience as a woodland owner began in 1994, when he and his wife Barbara purchased an undeveloped 211 acre property in Alpine, NY.

Having done some research into the settlement history of Schuyler County, Jim was able to determine that the property had originally been settled in 1840 (see photo) and was only farmed for approximately 50 years before the fields were abandoned and began to revert back to forest cover. Today the land is a patchwork of forest and fields, with approximately 60 acres being actively farmed by a neighbor. The forested portion of the acreage (approximately 50 acres) consists of a mix of hardwoods and white pine that unfortunately had been subject to high-grading prior to Jim and Barbara’s tenure.

Like many new landowners, Jim recalls that he and Barbara started out with strong intentions of becoming good stewards of their land, but had very little practical knowledge of how to carry out that intention. In the process of seeking advice, they learned of NYFOA, and soon thereafter became members and began participating in Western Finger Lakes (WFL) chapter events. Encouraged to develop a management plan for their land, in 1996 they contacted forester Bruce Robinson, and with cost assistance from the Stewardship Incentives Program (SIP) program, worked jointly with him to determine their management objectives and wrote their Forest Stewardship Plan.

A strong early emphasis of their management plan was to enhance wildlife habitat on the property. In assessing their acreage from this standpoint, Bruce had noted that the land had limited water resources, and that nearly all of the cover was around the periphery, so early on they decided upon planting a centrally located 15 acre patch of Norway Spruce for cover, and constructed three ponds, two directly adjacent to the spruce planting. Additional activities at this time included filling gaps in the hedgerows between fields to create contiguous cover and wildlife travel corridors, engaging in some timber stand improvement (TSI) to release promising red oak stems, as well as planting red oaks within the hedgerow corridors, as in addition to its value as a mast crop, this species was determined to be particularly well suited to the site. The management plan also included creating a trail system on the property.

Sadly, in 1999, Barbara was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, which necessitated an abrupt shift in priorities, as Jim became (and remains) her full-time caregiver. As a result the land received minimal attention until 2006, when some hunters inquired about the possibility of offering help with upkeep and improvement of the parcel in exchange for hunting access. As Jim had gained much experience in caring for Barbara by this time, it had also become feasible for him to again allot some time and energy toward actively managing their land.

Soon thereafter, he purchased an ATV and a 48” tow-behind mower, which allowed him an efficient means of mowing paths as well as simply traveling around and staying connected with the entirety of the property. He subsequently acquired a tractor and brush hog that have allowed for the restoration of the fields that had been overgrown with Multiflora rose, European buckthorn, and other common invasives. The fields are now managed on a 3-year rotation. Another significant improvement occurred when Rick Hart, one of the hunters utilizing land, built a barn for the Minors on the property.

Other activities Jim has undertaken more recently include accurately surveying and marking the property boundaries, installing trail cameras, and initiating another Timber Stand Improvement (TSI) harvest. An unique objective of Jim’s is to attempt to shift the pasture-woodlot edges from their current straight line borders to a more aesthetically pleasing and natural contour, utilizing the influence of landscape designer Frederick Law Olmstead.

As for Jim’s relationship with NYFOA, I asked him to recount his contributions and received a very impressive list: two terms on NYFOA’s board, from 1999-2001, and again from 2009 to the present; NYFOA vice president in 2001, and president from March 2011 to the present. Jim has also been very active in his chapter over the years (WFL), serving from 1995-98 as newsletter editor, and currently as newsletter publisher. Jim has also served as NYFOA’s de facto webmaster for many years, and most recently has undertaken to scan and post the entire 50 year back catalog of the Forest Owner magazine on the website, a painstaking endeavor that is now nearly complete.

As of March 2015, Jim will have reached the limits of his terms both as president and board member. Thankfully, he plans to remain actively involved within his chapter and in the organization as a whole. When asked for his thoughts reflecting on his experiences as a woodland owner and NYFOA member, Jim offered the following: “Never stop learning. You never know what you don’t know, or what problems, solutions, or possibilities there are until you dive in. NYFOA and especially the chapter events are a great resource for learning and sharing.”

When asked for his vision of NYFOA’s future, Jim stresses the ongoing and vital need for proactive, engaged volunteers at both the chapter and board levels, as well for continuing efforts toward reaching a much wider audience of forest owners, many of whom—much like himself and Barbara long ago—share NYFOA’s aspirations toward stewardship of their woodlands, but may require assistance that we as NYFOA members are uniquely positioned to provide.

Jeff Joseph is co-chair of NYFOA’s editorial committee.


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