(From the Concord Monitor, January 16, 2016)

By David Brooks

Monitor staff

Lack of frozen ground hasn’t slowed the logging operation on land owned by St. Paul’s School and New Hampshire Audubon Society, nor has the presence of many trails throughout the property.

“By the end of next week they’re going to be mostly finished – maybe not all the logs hauled, but they’ll be done cutting,” Swift Corwin said Thursday. Corwin, of Calhoun & Corwin Forestry in Peterborough, has been a consulting forester with St. Paul’s School for decades and is overseeing the current harvest.

The roughly 60 acres being logged covers the southeast corner of the 2,000 acres owned by St. Paul’s School, between Clinton Street and Silk Farm Road adjacent to the Audubon Society’s Silk Farm Wildlife Sanctuary. It is jointly managed by the Audubon Society and the school.

The logging operation, which began Jan. 1, is designed to improve forest health by harvesting marketable logs, mostly pines with some hardwood, from throughout the property, while some parts of the cutting are aimed at improving wildlife habitat by removing all trees so that brushes, shrubs and grasses can grow.

“There’s one area with crooked, short pines. Phil (Brown, director of land management for New Hampshire Audubon Society) wanted to cut that all out, 1½ acres are clear-cut, to create early successional woods. They’ll follow up with putting in some shrubs, plants,” he said.

The property is heavily used by the public, although it is closed during the operation for safety reasons, which has complicated matters.

“I just walked the entire piece; I’m thrilled with the way it’s coming out,” Corwin said.

“It’s a complicated job because of the trails . . . and the Audubon land is even more complicated. It’s a small area and it’s just criss-crossed with trails. There’s a tree house in there, a ropes course, it’s really a gauntlet and threading the needle,” he said.

Winter logging operations are best done when the ground is frozen because that makes it easier to move heavy equipment through the woods, and many have been slowed by this year’s unseasonably warm weather. Corwin said it hasn’t been much of a problem on this job.

“It’s decent – there are a couple of muddy spots out there, but it’s not a real problem,” he said.

The land is open to the public, and people are welcome to walk, run, hike and cycle on the trails from dawn until dusk. No hunting is allowed.

Like much of New Hampshire, this land was largely open at the beginning of the 20th century and began growing back after farming left the region.

Since the early 2000s, it has been managed as part of a grassland habitat restoration program that seeks to break up mature woodlands with fields and young woodlands, to encourage more wildlife diversity. On St. Paul’s School land, that includes summertime grazing by cattle.