An article in Northern Woodlands Magazine entitled, A Forest for Every Town, talks about the Vermont Town Forest Program, which aims to ensure common forestlands for municipalities in Vermont. The program's idea has grown, in part, out of movements, such as the slow food movement, that strive to use local products. It sounds like the program is quite successful so far. From the article:
It's encouraging to see support for this project at local, state, and even federal levels. This kind of institutional networking is woefully lacking in Japan, making it hard to institute programs like this. It's a shame, because there is a lot of forestland out there that could be put to good use by local communities; and there are local communities that are struggling to survive. Seems a perfect match.
Hinesburg’s forests exemplify town forest potential. They have recreation: world-class mountain biking trails, along with skiing, hiking, and horseback riding. They also serve as outdoor classrooms, both for local teachers and for the University of Vermont, whose students have conducted dozens of projects there.
And the older forest also has active forest management: one recent harvest took out white ash, which was then milled and kiln-dried locally and installed to replace the floor of the Hinesburg Town Hall, which had been sanded so many times that the tongue of each tongue-and-groove board was exposed. All this at a total cost of $2.48 per square foot, about what you’d pay commercially.
The great thing is, Hinesburg is only one of many Vermont communities with town forests. Some towns have had forests for years, while others are just now acquiring them – a task made easier by the assistance provided by the Vermont Town Forest Project and the federal Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program, which will provide 50-50 matching grants for towns to acquire town forests.
Otaki has about 2,600 hectares of common forest, which, ecologically speaking, is some of the best in the area with a diversity of both broadleaf and pine varities (there are, however, some large tracts of karamatsu, which is not uncommon in Nagano). Residents of Otaki struggle, however, with the management of these forests and so many of them are becoming overgrown to the point of being a nuisance.
There's a need in Japanese society for greater recognition of the value these forestlands have and for more support to maintain forest communities. A "forest for every town" is a wonderful ideal to shoot for.