by Maureen Mullen

John Hammer may be retired, but his days are very full. John and his wife Linda own two parcels of land in Yates County: one is a 15-acre wooded lot they live on, the other is a 100-acre wooded lot they use solely for recreation. Managing these parcels has become a full-time job for John… and he loves it!

The Hammers bought the 15-acre parcel in 1978. It was originally part of a 100-acre farmstead. At 1000-feet elevation, the parcel is mostly hardwoods: red and white oak, sugar maple, hickory, white ash, basswood, and white pine. The main invasive species John is trying to control here is the European buckthorn. The larger, 100-acre parcel was bought in 1992 and was once a potato farm. This forested parcel is at 2000-feet elevation and is made up of red and white oak, sugar and red maple, hickory, white ash, black birch, American beech, black cherry, white pine, and eastern hemlock. When originally purchased, the parcel was only about 75% wooded with 25% open or brushy areas. Now, it is about 85% wooded since John planted some Norway spruce over the past few years. John has been trying to rid the 100-acre woods of invasive species, such as autumn olive, ironwood, and striped maple.

As mentioned at the outset, John has made managing these woods his full-time job (except during January and February when the 100-acre woods are inaccessible due to snow). Shortly after a timber harvest on the 100-acre parcel in 2005, John contacted Corey Figueiredo at Future Forest Consulting, Inc. to develop a forest stewardship plan. At Corey’s suggestion, they enrolled the land into the 480a Forest Tax Law program. As John explains, “This resulted in significant property tax savings and the written [forest management] plan contained a tremendous amount of valuable information about our woodlot as well as clear direction regarding required timber stand improvement activities. I conducted all of the [timber stand improvement] activities myself which resulted in a seemingly endless amount of firewood for use in our woodstove.” Through the 480a program, John met Jim Bagley, a NY Department of Environmental Conservation Forester. Jim not only helped John learn about his woodlot, he also introduced him to the Master Forest Owner (MFO) Volunteer Program. John then participated in the Cornell Cooperative Extension training and became an MFO in 2009. Through these relationships and programs, John found out about several conservation programs for which his land has since been approved for enrollment : EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program), a federal grant that “helped to cover the cost of several significant improvement activities in my woodlot, including 20 acres of diseased beech tree eradication, the planting of 11,000 Norway spruce, the installation of several water bars and culverts to prevent water erosion on skid trails, and the installation of water holes for the benefit of wildlife;” and the Conservation Stewardship Program through NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) “which subsidizes improvement activities to enhance wildlife habitat through the building of brush piles, creation of snags, preserving tree dens, and much more.”

John’s motivation for many of his forest management plans is maintaining a healthy population of wildlife. John has been involved with the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) and puts the QDMA’s practices to use on his own property, as well as through educating other forest landowners on the topic during his MFO visits and meetings. Several years ago, he and a friend started a QDM Cooperative in their county. John also enjoys fishing, especially when his children and grandchildren visit. He built a half-acre pond and stocked it with channel catfish, bass, perch, and crappies. Then in 2008, after a couple years of timber stand improvements and habitat creation, John was befriended by a wild ruffed grouse that moved into some prime grouse habitat in John’s woods. Sammy the grouse (named by John’s grandson Jacob) would meet John at his truck when he drove up into Sammy’s territory. From there, Sammy would follow John “like a pet dog,” perch on his knee when he sat down, fly alongside him when he rode his ATV, sit in the tree stand during a hunt, and just like a pet dog, “when I did chainsaw or other work, he would be underfoot most of the time, jumping out of the way at the last second.” As John explained, “The bond that I was blessed to have with this wild creature was special beyond words and no one has been able to explain to me why or how it happened. It just did, and again… it was the single best outdoor experience of my life.” Sadly this last summer, Sammy failed to join John on his outings, probably lost to a predator.

John has been an active NYFOA member for several years and has been involved in NYFOA woods walks and workshops. He advises other forest landowners to join NYFOA, to learn “from the many experts that are associated with NYFOA either as professionals or as highly experienced and knowledgeable members.” His two additional pieces of advice: have a management plan developed for your woodlot and learn more about the need for deer population control.

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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