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State more than 50 percent forested, but for how long? (Released: 2/28/96)

by Renu Sehgal, Office of University Communications.

STORRS, Conn. -- Connecticut is still more than 50 percent forested, despite 350 years of clearing, building and settlement, according to University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System educators.

''These forests do more than keep our state beautiful -- they clean our air and water as well as provide food and homes for our wildlife,'' said Stephen H. Borderick, an extension forester. ''They give us firewood and furniture and maple syrup for breakfast. And every local hiking trail offers us a chance to unwind and recover from the hectic pressures of everyday life. But will we always be blessed with such forest bounty? We tend to take our forests for granted.''

As spring approaches, Broderick said our forests are facing unprecedented pressures and dangers. Eastern hemlock trees are being killed by an insect that was brought here accidentally from Japan, he said. And dozens of other exotic insects, plants and diseases are profoundly changing our forests.

Almost 90 percent of Connecticut's forests belong to private individuals and families, many of whom lack the knowledge to make good forest stewardship decisions, he said.

''Most importantly, as private forest lands are divided, sold and developed, the forest shrinks and fragments into fewer, smaller and more isolated pieces,'' Broderick said. ''When the forest disappears, the beauty and benefits we all cherish disappear with it.''

Local planning and conservation commissions need to take inventory and plan for the future of their forests, just as they plan for the future of their schools and public buildings, he said. Forest landowners who need help with their land can access many programs and professionals to help them.

''We should be thankful to have inherited a bountiful forest from our ancestors,'' Broderick said. ''The kind of forest our children will inherit is still in doubt and depends on what we do to protect and enhance it today.''

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