On Wednesday, January 27th, we held a public informational virtual meeting that focused on proposed land management activities at the Museum, in particular on forestry and trails. These two projects are set to begin in 2021 through 2022.

The recording of that meeting may be viewed on the right, and you can learn more about our forest stewardship on the page below. 

The PowerPoint slides from the meeting can be viewed HERE

 

Throughout the past years, we have been working on developing a carefully planned Forest Stewardship Plan, working with a consulting forester, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, and other professionals. However, woodland management is in no way new to the land now occupied by the Bidwell House Museum: for thousands of years, the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans managed the land, enhancing the productivity of the forest and agricultural land through methods such as controlled burns and selective clearing. This area was comprised of a dynamic variety of habitats in pre-Colonial times. Later, much of the land was clear-cut for agricultural purposes: as you hike our trails through the woods, you’ll notice the web of stonewalls covering the property. These all bordered pastures. The land was actively farmed through the early 20th century, and much of the growth on the property dates from after that time. In order to provide the best possible habitat for our local flora and fauna, as well as enhance land use for the Museum and our neighbors, there does need to be some ongoing maintenance as part of our stewardship of the land.

An ash on the BHM property, showing damage from Emerald Ash Borer larval feeding. Damaged trees will generally die within a few years.

 

This plan is multifaceted. Some of the goals are long-term, including:

-Sustainable forestry

-Creating more early successional habitat for birds and mammals

-Reclaiming historic agricultural land, including resurrecting the apple orchard

-Opening up vistas.

 

More pressing, however, is the selective harvesting of ash on the property. We have recently found evidence of invasive Emerald Ash Borers in the Museum’s woodlands. Unfortunately, these invasive bugs are expected to kill most of the ash trees in the area over a period of years. The Museum is consulting with a forester about harvesting the ash trees before they become a hazard to hikers or lose their value for lumber.

 

We understand that logging can be a disruptive and unsightly process, and we want you to know that this is being done with careful consideration and in keeping with best practices. Click HERE to read a PDF of our most recent Forest Stewardship Plan.

In the past, we have completed other forestry projects with similar goals of maintaining the land through conscientious stewardship. Below, you can see an example of “before and after” shots of the Royal Hemlock Trail. Though the appearance of a number of downed trees can be jarring at first, healthy regrowth returns very quickly.

 

Slash from heavy cutting of diseased beech woods along Royal Hemlock Road in 2012.

Regrowth of the understory of woodlands along Royal Hemlock Road in 2020.

 

Separately, the Museum is also in the process of laying out several new trails on the Museum property, adding about two more miles to the existing four miles of walking and interpretive trails. As you can see on the map below, the focus is the new Loom Brook Loop, which runs along the brook on the western property boundary, with several extensions from existing trails. The creation of these proposed trails will work with the existing landscape and cause little change to the forest: though a few small footbridges will be constructed, no trees over 4″ will be cut. You can learn more about our existing trails HERE.

 

LAND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
from the Stockbridge-Munsee Community of the Mohican Tribe

It is with gratitude and humility that we acknowledge that we are learning, speaking, and gathering on the ancestral homelands of the Mohican people, who are the indigenous peoples of this land. 

Despite tremendous hardship in being forced from here, today their community resides in Wisconsin and is known as the Stockbridge-Munsee Community. 

We pay honor and respect to their ancestors past and present as we commit to building a more inclusive and equitable space for all.