Small Forests are a Big Deal!

Vermont’s forest landownership is changing. Trends in housing density suggest that the amount of land in parcels larger than 50 is declining, while the number of parcels between 2 and 10 acres is increasing. With financial support from the USDA Forest Service, the Vermont Urban & Community Forestry Program (VT UCF) worked with partners to address this shift with the development of a Backyard Woods Online Course for homeowners of less than 25 acres who want to learn more about the woods in their backyard -- what’s in it, who (wildlife) uses it, and how they can become better caretakers of it.  

The course includes online lessons, a hands-on session, and a learning journal with activities for participants to complete each week. At the end of the course, participants walk away with a Backyard Woods Action Plan tailored to their specific property.  

In 2016, VT UCF ran the course for residents of several counties to pilot the program and in 2017, went statewide with nearly 100 participants. According to one participant, "I look at my woods with newfound understanding of how to be a steward. The program provided so much information, direction, and resources which has already and will continue to help me in our woods!"

Program participants have identified a range of activities as part of their Backyard Woods Action Plan, including cultivating edible mushrooms, removing invasive species, planting a pollinator garden, and making maple syrup. The course has been successful in helping landowners learn that they do not need to “clean up” their forest. One participant discovered that the forested wetland on their property holds great value. “Our future plan was to try to drain the area of fallen trees and create a pasture or orchard, but after participating in the course, we are now rethinking what we should do. We’d also like to build trails for biking and snowshoeing while at the same time increase areas for wildlife habitats.” Small forests and the landowners that care for them are big deal.
Contact information:
Danielle Fitzko
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The Urban and Community Forestry Committee is comprised of urban forestry coordinators from each of the 20 member states and the District of Columbia. Urban forestry coordinators are responsible for leading state-level urban forestry programs in their respective states. Urban forestry is about the trees where people live, work and play - and so, includes trees and forests in our towns, along our streets, in our parks and in our backyards. State coordinators work with a wide range of constituents and partners including: local and tribal governments, school districts, nonprofits and community-based organizations all focused on improving the stewardship of trees and the ecosystem services they provide.

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