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N.Y. forest owners' vital role recognized with Cooperative Extension's woodlands management initiative

Whether anyone can hear it or not, when a tree falls in a New York forest, it generally happens on private property. New York is almost two-thirds forested, and 85 percent of those woods are owned by private citizens.

To ensure that these forests remain healthy, productive and sustainable, Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) is launching the Regional Forestry Initiative in 13 New York counties to help more forest owners better manage their arboreal holdings.

The project expands CCE's offerings of instructive field tours and workshops ranging from wildlife habitat enhancement and edible mushrooms to timber management. Now, through the CCE Master Forest Owner Volunteer Program, volunteers will actively reach out to more forest owners with direct, nontechnical assistance.

Forests help New Yorkers by providing clean water, open space, wildlife habitat and a host of renewable resources. And forest owners play a critical role in determining the environmental and economic health of local communities, regions and the state, said Peter Smallidge, New York's extension forester and director of the Regional Forest Resources Extension Initiative Program.

"This program optimizes the investment of scarce resources to provide meaningful and high-impact educational opportunities for family forest owners," said Smallidge, a co-author of the 2006 book "Forest Resource Management: A Landowner's Guide to Getting Started."

"This initiative is an exciting expansion of educational programs. It increases the potential for more forest owners to achieve their goals," said Mary Jeanne Packer, executive director for the New York Forest Owners Association.

The initiative is funded by an anonymous donor and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Renewable Resources Extension Act Program of the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service.

Family forest owners throughout the state interested in educational assistance or materials or a free visit from a master forest owner volunteer should contact their county CCE office. For more information, see http://www.ForestConnect.info.

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