Mark and Juliana Phillips’ home in Webster is part of 700 acres that has been in Mark’s family for generations. It’s where Mark was “surrounded by nature” as a boy. The land has seen changes since then - pastures grew in and habitats changed. “It was a classic, New England abandoned farm,” Mark says. The result was “less wildlife” than when the land was a mix of farm and forest cover. Juliana’s experience in nature early in life led to her attitudes about land today. “I grew up in a very rural part of New Jersey, where we spent most of the time outdoors. Now the area is one of the most densely developed areas in the northeast. I’ve seen so much natural land disappear.
When they decided to settle in Webster, Juliana and Mark sought learning opportunities. Juliana took a landscaping course at Harvard and in 2009, recommended by a friend, she and Mark completed training for the New Hampshire Coverts Project, a wildlife-focused volunteer program. The Phillips view managing their land, Mark says, as “Thinking in legacy terms. “When the land is in the hands of future owners, how can we influence that it will remain intact and vibrant?”
Juliana and Mark have already made progress on caring for habitats on their property “We’re planting apple trees and restoring fields”, Juliana says. The plan to hire a professional forester to prepare a management plan for the whole 700 acres of family lands.
The Phillips recently created two small patch cuts (“wildlife openings”) in their woods, paid for in part by pine timber cut from the site. They left a considerable woody material (branches, etc.) on the ground as habitat structure, to benefit species that live at or near ground level. They “hope to see more ruffed grouse” as a result of this activity, Juliana says. They also delay mowing on some fields to benefit grassland nesting birds and other animals.
When starting out, Mark and Juliana got guidance from UNH Cooperative Extension’s Merrimack County Forester Tim Fleury and Wildlife Specialist Matt Tarr, who visited the property and suggested options for action based on the Phillips’ goals and the land’s qualities.
Juliana and Mark appreciate the results of their work caring for habitats on their land. They’ve seen bears, moose, owls, hawks, snakes and countless other wildlife. “We’ve seen some amazing things”, says Juliana, “it’s like taking in a movie.”
“We haven’t done anything dramatic, but the results are dramatic”, says Mark.
Satisfied with their efforts, the Phillips plan to continue with other actions to care for their land and learning more in the process. Referring to the complexity of life, Juliana says, “We learned that what looks like chaos is where everything is lurking.” Mark and Juliana Phillips plan to do their best to support life on their land, keeping it “intact and vibrant” into the future.
Story by Frank Mitchell, UNH Cooperative Extension