Peter and Tim Levatich

by Shavonne Sargent, Forest Resources Extension Program Assistant, Cornell University, Department of Natural Resources, Ithaca, NY 14853.

A walk with Peter and Tim Levatich through their jointly owned woodland assures the visitor that successful family forest management is not a thing of the past – at least, not here. Over each hill on their 130 acres is evidence of another carefully planned management practice, diverse in activity, but pointed toward the common end of sustainable forest management. This is no “cut and run” property – it has been owned and actively managed by the Peter Levatich since 1976. Since they first set out 30 years ago, Peter and eventually his son Tim have focused on improving the future forest while obtaining yields for today. This strategy has been a learning process which they have shared with the wider community of forest owners.

Peter and Tim Levatich began timber stand improvement (TSI) in their woodland in 1976 via firewood production and marketing. Tim was in high school at that time and he and a friend handled cutting and splitting while Peter made and maintained equipment. When Tim went on to become a forestry student at the University of Maine, Orono, they felled select big trees for furniture work. Between 1988 and 1992, Peter owned and operated a portable Woodmizer sawmill and sold high-quality boards to woodworkers in the Ithaca area and beyond. When Tim returned to Ithaca, they began to manage the forest together. This task was made easier when Tim moved in next door to Peter in 1997.

Peter and Tim grow and harvest forest products from firewood to high quality timber, along with some not so common products such as the ground cover myrtle. Recent work includes a seed tree harvest, adjusting their management schedule to control a sugar maple fungus (Fusarium), and successfully establishing several acres of maple regeneration. Over the years, they have been able to experiment with a variety of approaches to establish desired tree species regeneration. Peter shared the knowledge he gained through these experiments in a set of illustrated instructions about collecting, germinating, and outplanting red oaks.

Management of the Levatich property has been more than just a family venture. Assistance from Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) foresters has been important in planning and management along the way. Peter and Tim have also been generous to share their knowledge and experience with other landowners. Through the years, they hosted numerous woods walks for Southern Finger Lakes (SFL) chapter events, statewide NYFOA events, Cornell classes, and many others. They both take a personal role in greeting participants and offer detailed and understandable explanations of their woodlot management procedures. These woods walks have inspired many forest owners to take an active role in stewardship. Among the most important lessons Peter and Tim teach is to "think long term" – a family legacy with many benefits for the rest of us.

As forest owners, the Levatiches have a distinguished list of accomplishments and awards. The parcel they now jointly manage was selected as the New York Tree Farm of the Year in 1997. Peter received the Heiberg award for providing exemplary service to the values and interests of NYFOA in 1998. This year, Peter and Timothy Levatich received the NYFOA Chapter Service Award for the Southern Finger Lakes Chapter.

As a family, the Levatiches have invested considerable time and energy into sustainable management of their forestland. Their commitment continues to create a positive legacy in the forest and in the landowner community. Peter and Tim Levatich plan on continuing their active hosting of NYFOA - SFL activities with a day-long mix of natural history, forestry, and equipment use demonstrations at our Woodland Owner's Field Day in November 2006.

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