Yale-Forests, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University / The Quiet Corner Initiative

Mark Ashton (Principal Investigator of the Quiet Corner Initiative)
Morris K. Jesup Professor of Silviculture and Forest Ecology and Director of School Forests
360 Prospect St, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, New Haven, CT
mark.ashton@yale.edu   203-432-9835

Alex Barrett (Manager of measurements and data collection for the Quiet Corner Initiative)
Forest Manager, 360 Prospect St, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, New Haven, New Haven, CT 06511 alex.barrett@yale.edu

Bradford Gentry (Coordinator of land records, easements and finance initiatives for the Quiet Corner Initiative)
Professor in the Practice of Sustainable Investment, Co-Director of the Center for Business & the Environment, 195 Prospect St, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, New Haven, CT 0651
bradford.gentry@yale.edu  

Mary Tyrrell, Executive Director, Global Institute of Sustainable Forestry
360 Prospect St, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, New Haven, CT 06511
mary.tyrrell@yale.edu
203-432-5983

The Quiet Corner Initiative
Initiative Description and Primary Objectives 

Landscape scale conservation in the Quiet Corner region of CT requires the engagement of the many private landowners in the area.  Many of these and other private landowners in southern New England desire the knowledge and the resources to sustainably manage their forests, and to generate acceptable levels of income from their resource. Our experimental woodland partnership is a collaborative approach to private forestland management, bringing together landowners with Yale University, the State of Connecticut, NGOs, and local forest products industry. We develop scale-appropriate conservation and landowner stewardship plans, then implement silvicultural/recreation/conservation prescriptions within these plans, provide guidance and assistance creating conservation easements, develop new sources of income through FSC certification, payment schemes for ecosystem services, and hold workshops addressing land management and conservation issues that specifically concern small landowners.  We intend for this to be a learning experience for all involved, whereby we systematically gather information, monitor changes, and report and discuss our successes and failures, learn, adapt, and continue. 

At the same time this initiative is an effort to integrate the Yale-Myers forest, owned by Yale and managed by the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, and the School more fully into the larger landscape, and to provide research and educational opportunities that address real-world conservation and management problems for graduate professional students and faculty. We work to develop and implement stewardship plans for landowners, develop regional conservation strategies and assessments, and assess the public value of ecosystem services provided by private lands, all through a coordinated set of student courses and projects mentored and overseen by faculty.

 The “Quiet Corner” is in the “Last Green Valley,” a 35-town National Heritage Corridor in northeastern Connecticut and south-central Massachusetts in the Quinebaug-Shetucket Watershed.  As a cornerstone of the Initiative, we have formed a partnership that currently comprises 50 private landowners near the forest. We aim to work with an eventual partnership of 100 landowners covering 10,000 acres. 

Key Academic Disciplines 

Disciplines:

Law, finance and governance: 1) Land conservation strategies; 2) Environmental economics; 3) Ecosystem finance and economic development; 4)Forest and landscape-scale management and planning; 5) Forest and working lands governance; 6) Land certification, accounting and auditing.

Applied ecology and conservation science: 1) Silviculture, restoration ecology, and forest ecology; 2) Land-use history and historical ecology; 3) Wildlife ecology and habitat conservation; 4) River processes, water resource management.

Management: 1) Forest operations; 2) silvicultural prescriptions for non-timber and timber forest products; 3)Wetland and stream delineation, management and restoration; 3) Conservation habitat prescriptions.

Measurements:1) Inventory, growth and yields; 2) GIS and land use mapping; 3) Remote sensing assessments; 4) Social surveys and questionnaires

Extension and communication: 1)Social ecology; 2)  Environmental education; 3) Open space recreation.

Methodological approaches include landowner outreach and education, landscape planning, forest management planning, economic and financial analyses, social surveys, implementation of silvicultural prescriptions, implementation of certification audits, development of ecosystem services payment schemes, and use of GIS, adaptive spatial analyses for planning. 

• Use of applied studies to enrich classroom work

• Designed to demonstrate the linkages between biophysical, social and economic drivers of landscapes

• A platform for education and information exchange on conservation and management.

• A repository of long term biophysical and social information for monitoring change

Key Partner Organizations and Individuals 

Key Individual Organizations
Fifty landowners comprising 4,500 acres surrounding the Yale-Myers Forest in the towns of Ashford, Eastford, Union and Woodstock, CT.

Key Partner Organizations
• Hull Forest Products
• Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
• Connecticut Forest & Park Association
• Eastern Connecticut Landowners Association
• Local land trusts

Other Partner Organizations

• University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension
• Audubon Society
• The Nature Conservancy
• Green Valley Institute
• Town planners
• Tax assessors
• Conservation commissions
• Connecticut Farm Bureau
• Yale Urban Resources Initiative
• Smart Growth Planners
• Land use attorneys

 

Initiative History and Champions 

Owned by Yale University and managed by the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, the Yale School Forests represent 10,880 acres of forestland in Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont.  One of the nation’s oldest sustainably managed forest systems, Yale’s lands provide educational, research, and professional opportunities for faculty and students as well as serving as an asset to the School’s investment portfolio.  Faculty and students use the School Forests as a laboratory for teaching, management, and research.  A member of the faculty serves as Director and students working as interns or apprentices carry out all management.

The School Forests’ management team began landowner outreach at the Yale-Myers Forest, a ,7840 acre forest in northeastern CT, 15 years ago, with educational seminars, forest management demonstration areas, and field-based workshops on forest ecology, history and management for landowners, working resource management professionals, town conservation planners and schools. This was instrumental in our ability to organize landowners to participate in the first programs on land conservation and management strategies.

School Forest faculty, staff and students championed the project with a vision of a broad and influential initiative that would enhance the conservation of land in the region, along with spurring economic development and healthy communities. The Forest Manager and select students act as coordinators and serve to organize and implement the programs and to organize the student and landowner activities.

Distinctiveness and Strategic Significance of the Initiative 

Distinctiveness:
The Yale-Myers Forest has developed a one hundred year history of renowned research and scholarship on forest dynamics, ecosystem processes and sustainable forest management.  Using this technological and science based knowledge as a foundation, we believe that the Yale Myers forest can be a hub of future socio-economic research on adaptive private land management that can try out new ideas and foster expansion of the ones that work well. As both a rural and urban landowner, Yale is in a unique position to offer a comprehensive research facility and platform focused on biophysical, social and economic aspects of land conservation and adaptive management. This program will provide new education and research opportunities for Yale students and faculty. It will also mobilize stakeholders in the Quiet Corner region of Connecticut for the benefit of the surrounding communities.

The systematic collection of biophysical, economic and social data, analyses and planning documentation we believe will become the first comprehensive repository of long term, region- wide research data sets on sustainability  indicators associated with adaptive management, conservation and the “science of place” resulting in the ability to track performance of specific initiatives across spatial and temporal scales and provide students an avenue to “learn by doing” while creating a long term research data warehouse

Significance:
It is strategically significant in that the Quiet Corner of northeastern Connecticut is one of the last remaining intact forested landscapes in the Boston to Washington corridor. It is under tremendous pressure from surrounding developed area. These forests provide high value ecosystem services (e.g., clean water to downstream communities such as the University of Connecticut at Storrs).
The project establishes Yale as responsible and forward thinking land steward, with a strong commitment to the local community.

The objective is to develop the first comprehensive repository of long term, region- wide research data sets on the biophysical, social and economic indicators associated with adaptive management, conservation and the “science of place” resulting in the ability to track performance of specific initiatives across spatial and temporal scales and provide students an avenue to “learn by doing” while creating a long term research data warehouse.

Measurable Effectiveness of the Initiative 

We expect that this initiative will:

• Increase collaboration among diverse stakeholders in the Quiet Corner who are currently only organized in small pockets or around single issues

• Create more sustainable communities and better stewardship of landscapes—with implications beyond Connecticut

• Increase the amount of land in the region that is permanently protected from development

• Help to improve livelihoods in the region through new avenues for economic development

• Link rural and urban interests (New Haven to Quiet Corner)

• Protect Yale’s own forest asset, and its future research and educational opportunities.

Transferability of the Initiative 

Many of the programs could be models for other universities with large land holdings that are managed by faculty and students with broad environmental programs, expertise in land management and conservation, and an applied curriculum.

The Initiative’s Ability to Endure 

Although much of the work is done by students, it is all done in the context of academic classes and under the vision and direction of faculty and staff.  Integrating the programs into the 2-year professional masters curriculum increases the likelihood that it will endure. The dependency on financial aid is minimal given that the students are doing this as part of their professional and educational development.  It does, however, hinge on the commitment of a few faculty and staff members, particularly the Director of the School Forests and the School Forests Manager. In addition much of the resources, expertise and infrastructure that landowners depend upon can be supported by the facilities and staff of the School Forests.

Engagement Strategies 

Faculty, staff, and students are engaged through formal classes, research projects and internships. Faculty members of the School Forests advisory group are particularly committed.

Students actively engage with landowners under mentorship of faculty and staff by  preparing working management plans for landowners, conducting conservation and ecological evaluations, implementing prescriptions, constructing trails, and developing conservation easements, certification and ecosystem payment schemes.

Faculty, staff and students organize demonstration days, open houses, seminars, workshops and field days for landowners, working professionals and conservation planners during the field season (April-October). There are approximately 25-30 functions per year.