Thursday, January 15, 2015

Aton Forest Adds 100 Acres

It has been a busy end of the year for Aton Forest (AF).  In November and December two properties were added to the now almost 1,300 acre preserve in the northern corners of Norfolk and Colebrook, Connecticut. 
Sandy Brook runs through
Aton Forest in Colebrook
The first addition involved 67 acres split into two parcels by Route 183 in Colebrook.  These lands were transferred by their previous owner, the Connecticut Conservation Association, an organization with strong ties to AF and its founder Dr. Frank Egler.  The westernmost parcel is mature forest that rises upslope to join adjacent AF lands. There is also a small man-made pond that appears to have previously been a wetland.  Just below this a small stand of Tamarack amongst a bed of moss offers insight as to what this bog-like area might have previously looked like.  On the eastern side of the road Sandy Brook splits a beaver influenced wetland.  Old junipers sprawl outward on what dry land is available, while willow and alder sprout back resiliently after being trimmed by the busy animals.  On a jaunt upslope from the beaver impoundment lies a previously logged stretch of forest transected by stonewalls.  Despite the timber harvest there were a number of impressive trees still standing guard above the river.  Notable examples of red oak, American beech, red and sugar maples, eastern hemlock, and yellow birch were all spared, likely due to the inaccessibility of the rocky cove they called home.
Not far to the south and west from this property Aton Forest has purchased 34 acres in Norfolk from the Balletti estate.  Rocky slopes and cold-water streams make up this new addition.  Like the new property in Colebrook, this land is also bisected by a road, though more remote and less travelled.  On both sides one can find old foundations and stone walls, reminders of an earlier time.  The northern parcel abuts AF’s previous southernmost boundary on the flank of Knapp Hill with its dry hickory summit, a critical habitat in the state.  The southern parcel eases down from the road to the bank of Loon Brook, a major tributary of the Sandy.  From the other side of the stream the incline increases as our property ends, though the hill continues.  Just downstream and beyond our boundary from this site is an impressive wetland with much beaver activity.A one-year interest-free bridge loan to support this acquisition was provided by the Norcross Wildlife Foundation. Funds are being raised to payoff this loan by December 2015.
Aton Forest is very excited to add these hundred and one acres to its forest preserve and research center.  Both new properties are at the heart of the Sandy Brook Conservation Corridor (SBCC), the focus area of the SBCC Partnership, a group of organizations working to protect this special region.  By conserving sections of Sandy Brook and its tributary Loon Brook, Aton Forest can further protect the water quality and wild nature of the Sandy Brook watershed.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Another New Addition to Aton Forest!

Boundary markers on Shantry Rd.
Aton Forest has purchased 34 acres in Norfolk, CT adjacent to the existing preserve.  The newly acquired land is split into two parcels by Shantry Road and lies south of Knapp Hill, a dry hickory-oak summit.  The southern parcel is divided by Loon Brook, a major tributary of Sandy Brook and just upland from a sizable wetland.  A small tributary to Loon Brook also runs through the property.  This land acquisition project has been in the works for years and we are very happy to now protect these important areas.