Forestry in the Constitution State
Connecitcut's forests play a major role in both the state's history and culture. Connecticut is one of the most densely populated in the nation, yet its forests cover 60% of the state and remain as much a part of the landscape as its cities and towns. Connecticut’s forests and trees add immensely to the quality of life for the people of the state. They filter the air that is breathed, safeguard private and public drinking water sources, produce locally grown forest products, provide essential habitat for wildlife, and moderate summer and winter temperatures near homes. Whether people in Connecticut live in an urban, suburban, or rural setting, they are connected to the forest.
Early settlers found nearly all of Connecticut covered by forests – in open, park-like conditions. For more than a thousand years before European settlement, the Native Americans of the region burned the forest in spring and fall to eliminate tangled underbrush. The forests that resulted provided a more suitable habitat for the game species on which they subsisted. Native populations were small, and had little impact on the forest ecosystems in which they lived. Once Europeans arrived, however, the landscape changed dramatically.
Yet, despite dramatic changes Connecticut's landscape has undergone since European settlement, including repeated harvesting, large-scale land clearing, wildfire, hurricane, and introduced pests, the forest has shown its resiliency. Human attitudes toward the forest have also not been static. The history of Connecticut forests and the forests present today are a product of constant change and disturbance, both large and small, and ever-changing uses and interests in the forest. The forest of the twenty-first century will continue to change, as oak forests gradually diminish in favor of a conversion to maple, birch, and beech. With the majority of Connecticut’s woodlands owned by an aging demographic, individual choices made collectively across the landscape will greatly influence the future of the state's forests.