Forestry was the topic at this week’s naturalist class, offered by the Rhode Island Natural History Survey. The instructor was Tom Dupree, former Chief of Forestry at the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.
I have taken the Rhode Island Tree Steward course, so I am somewhat familiar with tree biology, but Dupree focused largely on the history of New England forests and evolving forestry practices, which I didn’t know much about.
Dupree took us through pre-settlement forests, to subsistence farm clearing, to the height of deforestation in the early 1800s, when 75 percent of the forests in New England had been cut down. Later, farms were abandoned as people moved west to seek their fortunes. (We often see the remnants of those abandoned farms – cellar holes and stone walls – when we are hiking.) I was surprised to learn that today, in our tiny state, 56 percent of the land is forested.
We went outside and Dupree showed us some of the tools that are used to measure forest densities and the sizes and ages of individual trees.
And there’s the sample, with the rings. It smelled all cedar-y.
I came away from this class with a better grasp of the history of the area, and a rudimentary knowledge of forestry and how practices have evolved. I still hate clear-cutting though. I don’t think that will never change.