Environmental Stewardship through Scientific Forest Management and Education

The Model Forest is one of four watershed research and demonstration sites created to showcase best management practices, ecosystem research and interpretive education.  The goal of the Model Forest is to help visitors understand the relationship between water quality and working forested landscapes in the Catskills region.  New York City’s water supply system is one of the largest unfiltered drinking water supply systems in the world.  It supplies high-quality; clean drinking water to nearly nine million consumers representing nearly half of New York State’s total population.  More than 75% of the New York City watershed is forested, and the majority of these lands are privately owned.

Properly managed forests contribute less non-point source pollution per acre than any other land cover.  Guided by this relationship between managed forests and water quality, the 300+ acre Frost Valley YMCA Model Forest, situated in the Neversink River watershed (part of New York City’s water supply system), was developed with a long-term mission of education, outreach, and environmental research.

Watershed landowners, foresters, loggers, students and water system users visit the model forest to see examples of forestry that balances wood supply, wildlife management, recreational use and water quality protection. The Model Forest provides a forum where students, educators, landowners and scientists can interact with each other and learn more about the scientific foundations and practical applications that protect water quality and the working forested landscape.

Two primary forest management practices are employed in the Model Forest, demonstrating how landowners, foresters, and loggers can manage and maintain water quality.  These are best management practices (BMPs), and silviculture (tending and re-growing the forest).

Best Management Practices (BMP’s) for Water Quality
Experts designed the Model Forest road to minimize erosion from stormwater runoff. Signs along the road explain the development and use of BMPs, such as culverts, temporary skidder bridges and broad-based dips.


Managing the Model Forest Using Silviculture
Silviculture is the science of tending and re-growing a forest.  In 2002, Frost Valley YMCA and a professional forester developed a forest management plan through assistance from the Watershed Forestry Program. The management plan guides Frost Valley’s multiple land-use objectives (educational and recreational usage, forest harvesting and wildlife management), while minimizing the impact of land use activities on water quality. Signs placed along the Model Forest road describe the management and goals each section of forest.

Model Forest Stands by Prescription
a1 – Shelterwood Regeneration
g – Uneven-age Management
k – Progressive Patch Regeneration Cuts
l – Seed Tree Regeneration
m – Shelterwood Regeneration
n – Unven-age Management
o– Strip Cut
p– Reserve Shelterwood Conversion to 2-Age Structure
q– Regeneration Using a 3-Stage Shelterwood Method
a2, b, c, d, e, h – Prescriptions to be determined

Ecosystem Research on the Model Forest
In an effort to gather baseline data for a variety of water quality monitoring projects, permanent forest inventory plots have been installed at the Model Forest according to the USDA Forest Health Monitoring (FHM) system. These plots enable us to compare the Model Forest with other sites throughout the Northeast. Research is currently underway on the effects of forest management practices on water quality. These long-term investigations by research entities such as the United States Geological Survey, the USDA Forest Service and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry are exploring the forest’s role in water quality protection.

Please Note:
Use of the model forest can be arranged by prior appointment for individuals and groups. In addition programs by staff and research site visits can be scheduled.