Forests are a vitally important part of the Highlands landscape. They provide myriad ecosystem services from wildlife habitat to water resource protection to recreation. Forested habitat creates corridors for wildlife, and many species thrive where large intact forests remain. In the heavily populated northeastern US, forests provide critical air and water quality services for the community by filter and absorbing pollutants. And forests have an essential role in the sequestration of carbon as we aim to reduce our global climate change impact. In the Highlands, much of the forest has been fragmented by hundreds of years of human habitation. Still, large portions of forest cover remain including 66% of the CT highlands. In Pennsylvania, much of the state’s forest land is owned by private individuals, and actively managed forests are harvested by small operators. The US Forest Service’s assessment of the Highlands used three key elements: Forest soil productivity based on soil type and tree species, forest cover (presence /absence), and a scaled ranking of interior (large) forest areas according to size: (>5,000 acres; 1,000 to 5,000 acres; 100 to 500 acres; 25 to 100 acres).
Facts and Figures
How much is there in the Highlands?
- 84% of forests in NY-NJ are privately owned with ½ less than 10 acres
- 16,500 acres of NY-NJ forests are in certified USFS forest stewardship management;
53% is oak-hickory composition
- 30% or 20,000 acres of NY-NJ’s forests are impacted by Wolly Adelgid infections,
and 12% or 100,000 acres impacted by gypsy moth
- 56% of CT forests are privately owned, and 20% of them are expected to be sold in
the next five years
- 67% of CT landowners cite aesthetics as the driving force behind their
- Land conversion and land fragmentation are two critical threats to Highlands forests.
Conversion greatly reduces or eliminates available habitat for the over 250 species of
concern in the Highlands, as well as destroys the forests essential role in water
protection and filtering. Lawns are X times more impervious than forests. More lawns
means increased flooding problems and decreased drinking water quality.
- Fragmentation of intact forests is another important threat. With much of the historic
forest ecosystem already fragmented, too much of the Highlands forests are isolated
and threatened by even minor problems. For example, small forested areas, even if
they are protected are at risk from disease, flooding, fire, or climate change.
- Invasive species and pests like the wolly adelgid, beetle, etc.
- Deer population problems severely impact the regeneration rates in much of the
Strategies for protection
- Land acquisition in fee or easement through HCA, Forest Legacy, state, and private
- Increased best management practices and stewardship of private and protected lands to
reduce invasive species, increase regeneration and improve forest health.
- Smart growth approaches where land cannot be protected
- Protection of riparian buffers and wetlands where forests are particularly
sensitive to development and encroachment.