Managed watershed forests are the preferred land use for water quality protection and viable local economies. The goal of the Model Forest Program is to help audiences better understand the relationship between water quality, working forested landscapes and long-term forest management while providing a practical means of studying and monitoring the effects of forest management on ecosystem functions and water quality. Since its inception, the Model Forest Program has been successful in providing venues for research, professional development, education, and public outreach.
Currently, there are four model forests established in the Catskill/Delaware Watershed and one in the Croton Watershed.
- Lennox Memorial Model Forest is an 80-acre site owned by Delaware County and affiliated with the 4-H Camp Shankitunk in Delhi, NY.
- Frost Valley Model Forest is a 240-acre site owned by Frost Valley YMCA and connected to its environmental education center in Ulster County.
- Siuslaw Model Forest is a 140-acre site in Greene County hosted by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Greene County and the Agroforestry Resource Center.
- Clearpool Model Forest is a 264-acre site in Putnam County at the Clearpool Education Center campus.
Forest management is ongoing at all model forests, providing an example of working forests for visitors. Each model forest serves as a living classroom for landowners, foresters, loggers, and the general public. Visitors have observed tree-felling, firewood processing of low-grade trees, and road building during their tours. Signs illustrating different forest management topics provide opportunities for self-guided discovery. The following are just some of the topics on display:
- Water quality best management practices (bridges, water diversions, etc)
- Timber harvesting
- Forest regeneration (shelterwood, clearcut, group selection)
- Wildlife management (deer exclosure)
- Invasive species
Success of the Model Forest Program continues to rely on model forest host organizations and coordination provided by the State University of New York College of Environmental Science & Forestry (SUNY-ESF). Research, outreach, and education at the model forests has been a collaborative effort among many other partners including the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the USDA Forest Service, the US Geological Survey, and the US Army Corps of Engineers.