Town Forest Census: Carbon, COVID, and Capacity-Building
Town forests play a special role in forest conservation in the Northern Forest region. These publicly managed, accessible forest parcels contribute not only to forest integrity, ecosystem services, and community well-being, but also can serve as models to family forest owners of sustainable forest management and conservation for diverse goals. Acquisition of new town forests often add strategic pieces to regional conservation efforts that counteract the growing fragmentation of the Northern Forest and help sustain the forest products industry. Many communities, however, find that managing these parcels can also bring challenges when trying to accommodate diverse public demands with limited resources. Town forests are identified in the Vermont Forest Action Plan as a priority landscape, and public and private initiatives in recent years have sought to build capacity of communities to meet the challenges.
NSRC project collaborators have identified several needs hampering these efforts: lack of a complete inventory and key contacts for town forests, inadequate public maps and information on town forests, and uneven knowledge of community needs. This research project will help fill these gaps while asking novel questions about impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and potential for forest carbon markets to help finance stewardship activities.
NSRC researchers with deep knowledge of town forests will provide a complete inventory of community forests in Vermont, a census of Vermont town forests that can be repeated in the future, an updated database with public interface, and an interactive, publicly-available map. These products will enhance efforts to bolster the ability of communities to steward their forest resources to produce benefits that extend beyond their borders.