Tree Farmers Vermont Why am I a Tree Farmer?

Ethan Tapper

Ethan Tapper is the Chittenden County Forester and the owner of Bear Island Tree Farm in Bolton, VT. As the Chittenden County Forester, Ethan also helps manage the Hinesburg Town Forest, a 1,000-acre public forest.

Ethan purchased the land that would become Bear Island Tree Farm in 2017 and the land was in bad shape. The 175 acre property had been high-graded meaning the all the good timber was cut, while the poor timber was left standing. This high-grading lead to the formation of an understory monoculture. There were also acres of invasive plants and areas of road erosion. In short, Bear Island was a very unhealthy forest.

However, Ethan decided to take on the challenge of restoring the property. As a forester Ethan felt that he had the skills and knowledge to handle the issues that the property had. “The land is a real challenge, and my life as a steward will be to correct the problems of the forest,” Ethan said. The property became Tree Farm certified in 2018. Since then he has been conducting all kinds of work to restore the property including rehabilitation logging to restore certain tree species, patch cuts to improve wildlife habitat, invasive species control, and trail maintenance.

Being a forester has proven to be an asset for Ethan when it comes to managing his property, and he has learned a great deal more about management through working on his property. For example, he has learned how to do excavation and learned more about herbicide use. Managing his own land gives him a more personal approach in his work as a forester. He is able to share his experiences on his property and give his clients better advice because he has done certain activities himself on his own land. For this reason, he feels he is “fortunate” in a way that he has big challenges on his land. Ethan said, “As a young landowner I’ve learned what is possible to achieve in a forest using the tools available to me.”

According to Ethan being involved in Tree Farm means being committed to thoughtful and responsible management of forests and ecosystems. He referred to it as an “iconic organization” and is proud to hang the Tree Farm sign on his land. Ethan values the network of people who are dedicated to responsible management within Tree Farm. “Being a Tree Farmer involves balancing lots of goals and finding ways to accomplish these goals. Being a part of the Tree Farm community allows you to share and connect with others over the goals.”

Ethan encourages other landowners to join the Tree Farm program because it provides accountability. “Accountability is key,” said Ethan. “Networking with similar people who have similar experiences serves as a way to hold your forest and management of it to a high standard.” For those who are new to the program Ethan suggests taking part in the benefits the program offers saying, “There are many knowledgeable people who want to share their experiences with others.”

Looking ahead, Ethan believes getting the next generation involved in Tree Farm can be done by appealing to the general public. Amongst the general public there are people who will be Tree Farmers, but do not own land yet. There are also advocates who may not own land or live in forested areas but support the program and its goals. Having a presence in the general public will help more people be aware of the program and either participate in it or support it later in life. He also believes education is a way to get the next generation involved. This is something he is able to do in his work at the Hinesburg Town Forest. As Ethan said, “It is good to manage a forest well, but also sharing that knowledge with world will enable it to have a further impact.”

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