In our 12 years of publishing, we’ve put together nearly 250 stories; in my admittedly biased opinion, all of those have been read by too few people. Within that lament we recognized an opportunity. Why not select the best on-the-ground stories, the ones that will help people take care of their land, and gather them into a landowner’s guide? (After all, many of these 250 stories were from the early days, when our circulation was measured in the hundreds rather than thousands.) A collection of these stories could help a whole new audience of people get excited about their land and its potential.
That’s what we proposed to the Wellborn Ecology Fund, a foundation whose geographic reach includes our office in Corinth, Vermont. Their goal is to spread a message of conservation and stewardship to people in the Upper Valley, a loosely defined region along both sides of the Connecticut River that comprises about 2 million acres of New Hampshire and Vermont.
They liked the idea and provided seed funding so we could develop the publication, which we call The Place You Call Home: A Guide to Caring for Your Land in the Upper Valley. We designed it to be an owner’s manual for the people whose collective decisions about what happens on their land will determine the future of this region. We combed through 12 years of feature stories and columns, selected the ones that we thought worked best for this purpose, and augmented them with lots of new material, including a resource guide that lists consulting foresters, government agencies, and conservation organizations working in the area.
We are pleased to announce that, with the help of a number of other grantmaking organizations and businesses, this primer for landowners is now in print and is being distributed free of charge to landowners across the Upper Valley. It contains an intriguing blend of 18 feature stories, supplemented by selections from our regular columns, including Species in the Spotlight, Under the Microscope, A Place in Mind, Notes from the Puckerbrush, Tricks of the Trade, Tracking Tips, and Woods Whys. In addition, there’s a year’s worth of Virginia Barlow’s listings of the season’s main events.
Our goal with this publication is to inspire as many people as possible to take an active interest in their land and its future. This forest sustains all of us, but it can only do so if it manages to stay relatively intact. A chopped-up forest is one whose systems no longer work as they should: the ecosystem falters because the predator-prey relationships are disrupted; the flow of wood products becomes merely a trickle because the forestry infrastructure is clogged with rust; and the communities that depend on all the benefits that a forest provides lose their roots and become transient societies.
It’s terribly important that the forest stay whole. And the incontrovertible fact is we can’t rely on the government to make that happen; instead, we have to rely on the good will, good intentions, and good decisions of the thousands of people who own it. We have to, as Northern Woodlands’ mission statement says, encourage a culture of forest stewardship.
The Upper Valley version of The Place You Call Home is clearly a pilot project. It contains a survey with which we’ll evaluate its effectiveness at changing attitudes and actions. If it works well, we will be interested in crafting other versions of it, tailored either to a state or to a clearly defined region. For instance, a version for the Adirondacks would certainly make sense.
If you are interested in working with us to bring The Place You Call Home to your state or region, contact us. We’ll send you a sample copy. See if you think it will help to keep forests a vital part of the landscape and the rural economy.