by Maureen Mullen

Jimmy Bulich and his wife Micaela live in Catskill in Greene County. Jimmy grew up in the area, but had moved away for a time. They now own two parcels up there, just a few miles apart: one was originally bought with Jimmy’s parents in 1997 to be used as hunting land; the other was bought in 1998 when Jimmy and Micaela moved back to the area to raise a family. While Micaela works in Schenectady as the VP Global Supply Chain for GE Renewables, Jimmy made the switch from control systems engineer to stay-at-home-dad/beef farmer. Now that Jimmy’s sons are both in college, he can focus his time and energy on managing the farm and forests.

Before Jimmy and Micaela moved back to Catskill, they lived in Stuart’s Draft, Virginia, located in the Shenandoah Valley. While there, they met a tree farmer who inspired the Bulichs. “He wasn’t just about trees; he was about so much more, native wildflowers and habitat for birds,” Jimmy said. “I’m a systems guy… I’m very much interested in the big picture, the processes, how everything works together. So I began reading about ecosystems and learned about symbiotic relations, how some species are interdependent upon other species.” When the Bulichs bought the parcel they live on, they knew they wanted to manage the land in a holistic, ecosystem-wide manner.

The parcel of land that the Bulichs live on is 120 acres total, made up of woodland (55 acres) and pasture (65 acres), and is where Jimmy raises grass-fed beef. The farm was a dairy farm for about 50 years before the Bulichs bought it and “anything that could be plowed was.” The 55 acres of woodland is secondary forest made up of sugar maple, hickory, oak, and basswood with pockets of pine and hemlock. The hunting land parcel, which is now fully owned by Jimmy and Micaela, is an 88-acre parcel made up of hillside forest (81 acres) and swamp and meadow (7 acres). The dominant tree species are oak, hickory, and pine with sugar maple, black birch, and hemlock in the older stands. The Bulichs use their land for farming, deer and turkey hunting, firewood, birding, hiking, cross-country skiing, and learning to identify all manner of species found on the properties.

Jimmy has management plans for his forested areas. He first worked with his friend and mentor Mike Greason, the former DEC Chief Forester who retired and became a consultant. After Mike’s untimely passing, Jimmy hired consultant forester Mary Spring, a protégé of Mike. The 88-acre hillside forest is enrolled in 480a. They’ve done some timberstand improvements and continue with ongoing timber management. The biggest challenge Jimmy has had to manage in the forests is the encroachment of invasive species and the overpopulation of white tailed deer. When he and Mike first drafted the management plan in 1999, Asian Longhorn Beetle, Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, Emerald Ash Borer, Oriental Bittersweet, and Japanese Stiltgrass were not problems they were even aware of. Now, Jimmy and Mary, his forester, are taking these invasives into account and thinking about, “How does that affect woodland? How does that affect your opportunity to grow the next generation of forest? What will that forest look like? It’s an ongoing challenge.” And while Jimmy manages the farmland for beef, he does his best to manage the meadows and forests for wildlife habitat. For example, Jimmy tries to maintain areas for bird-nesting and deer fawning and he plants native wildflowers. He’s been working with Dr. Suzanne Beyeler of Cornell University for the last few years; her research team monitors the salamanders and bird nests on the Bulichs’ property. Jimmy is trying to use that information, especially the bird nests, to help better manage his forests. “It’s very interesting to find out where birds are making their nests. When you’re managing forest land, a lot of times you’re just looking at the trees, thinking of the value of the trees, the species of the tree. There’s been many times when we found a nest and it’s just a junky old tree and I think, ‘Man, I would have just cut that tree down,’ and then we find a nest in it! It gives me a wider perspective on ‘what is a bird looking for?’ It improves the way we manage our forest for more than just trees; we’re managing for a healthy habitat.”

Jimmy became a NYFOA member and joined the Master Forest Owner Volunteer Program in 1999, thanks to advice from Mike Greason, who was responsible for recruiting so many NYFOA members.

Jimmy has been involved in woods walks and seminars and notes there is just so much to learn. There are great people to meet, facing similar issues and some new ones. There are people who have good experiences and bad experiences and you learn from both. When you go on woods walks, you find out how folks are dealing with their woodlot, what they’re trying to accomplish, and how they’re doing. These woods walks create a shared knowledge and a network of people that are involved and concerned. By being involved in this network of people who have dealt with foresters and loggers you are able to receive professional references. And when you’re working with professionals who are doing a good job — and they’re all necessary: you need a forester, you need a logger, you need a trucker, you need a log-buyer, you need everybody to manage woodlands — it makes the whole system work! Through NYFOA, you really tap into that network and knowledge of people committed to sustainable forestry.

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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