Cool Forest Facts

  • Forest harvesting, recreation, and tourism contributed 1.5 billion dollars to Vermont’s economy and employed 10,500 people in 2005. []

  • Wood from VT forests provide 10% of Vermont’s electrical and heating. []

  • In one year, one acre of forest can consume the amount of CO2 created by driving a car 26,000 miles, about twice the annual mileage for an average driver. [MD Dept of Natural Resources.]

  • VT Forests sequester 8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gasses per year, an amount equal to the state’s total greenhouse gas emissions. []

  • Forests capture and store rain water, preventing soil erosion and floods. They filter and purify the water we drink. By absorbing heat and carbon and shading the ground, they cool the earth and our communities. Scientists at the University of Chicago have discovered that people who live near trees are physically and mentally healthier. [various sources]

  • The Great Comeback Story: When colonists arrived in New England, 90% of the land was forested. By 1900, 80% of the trees had been cut down and nearly all wildlife had disappeared. Forests began to grow back in the 20th century and within 100 years forests again covered 85% of the counties bordering the Connecticut River. Wildlife has rebounded with the forest.

    But in just the past few years, Vermont has lost 3% of its forest land to development. [;]

  • Today, 85% of Connecticut River Valley forests are privately owned. Ten percent of VT’s private forest land is under conservation and nearly half is in current use. The remaining 40% is unprotected. [;]

  • There are 168 town forests in Vermont. They cover 44,000 acres (of a total 68,000 acres of municipally owned land), or an average of 260 acres each. Fairlee Town Forest is among the seven largest, at 1,567 acres and the largest in combination with adjacent town forests.

  • Slightly more than 60% of town forests in Vermont are managed by Conservation Commissions. Half of town forests have management plans, 20% have conservation easements or other protections, but nearly 80% lack restrictions on future development. [;]

  • Some 382 species of wild birds nest in Northern New England, including the highest diversity of migrating songbirds in the country. [; and USDA Vermont Natural Resources Conservation Service]

  • Among our many amazing long-distant migrants, the tiny Blackpoll warbler, at 15 grams, flies up to 1,700 miles non-stop over open ocean in 3 days. []

  • And the coolest facts of all: Scientists are learning that the “silent” forest is actually a hub of inter- and intra-species communication. Countless insects are contacting others of their kind through sounds we cannot hear and pheromone signals that carry for miles. Birds can see colors in the ultraviolet spectrum that we cannot and keep in touch through complex song vocabularies that convey specific messages, some of which we are learning to decode. Trees send distress signals to each other through networks of mycorrhizal filaments in the soil and VOC’s in the air, to which distant trees respond by arming themselves with protective toxins or by ramping up seed production. This is thought to be the reason for the seemingly random nature of “good mast years,” when trees of different species produce bumper crops of nuts and seeds at the same time. This soil “internet” also acts as a circulatory system for exchange of nutrients among plants, and sometimes of competitive toxins. It is not very far-fetched, therefore, to think of a forest as a single organism, with a physically and chemically interconnected nervous and circulatory system, giving new meaning to the term ecology. [Kate McGowan, Science, 12/20/13;]