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September 4, 2003

The Connecticut Forestry Centennial Kicks Off New Project: "Art from Connecticut Forests"

The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Connecticut Forest and Park Association, the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, and the Department of Economic and Community Development continue the year-long celebration of Connecticut’s Forestry Centennial with the kick-off of Art from Connecticut Forests, a special exhibit to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the initial purchase for Meshomasic State Forest, Connecticut’s first state forest.

Today, Thursday, September 4, 2003, over 30 artists, foresters and guests witnessed the felling of a 100-year-old white oak tree at Meshomasic State Forest in Portland. The artists were encouraged to select the parts of the tree they wanted to work with and bring them back to their studios. The artists will create pieces such as furniture, sculpture, paper and more using every part of the tree, including branches, bark, lumber, roots, sawdust, and ash. The first exhibit of their works, scheduled for July 2004, will celebrate the diversity of art forms that can be created from one tree. Exhibitions are planned for Hartford, New Haven, New London, Greenwich, New Milford, and Derby. Half the proceeds from the artwork will go to DEP environmental programs.

"The Connecticut DEP is the first environmental agency in the United States to participate in a project such as this where sound forest management practices are reflected through the creation of artwork by local artisans," said Arthur J. Rocque, Jr., Commissioner of the DEP. "Since all parts of the tree will be used, there will be no waste, and removal of this tree from the forest will improve growing conditions in the area for others to thrive."

This particular tree has been selected for harvest in keeping with the traditional Connecticut forest management goal of working with nature to create a healthier, more vigorous forest. The chosen tree is beginning to die back, has rot at its base and is not of the best quality. State foresters have judged that harvesting will promote growth of other trees in the immediate area.

Meshomasic State Forest began as 70 acres, acquired for $105.00 in 1903 and was formerly named "Portland State Forest." As new land was added to the forest, it grew across town boundaries and was renamed after the Native American tribe that had inhabited the area. It was the first State Forest in Connecticut and in New England. The forest was originally purchased to provide private landowners with examples of good forest management practices. At that time, the forest had a high population of the American chestnut tree, the most commercially valuable tree in Connecticut. During the Great Depression (1930’s) two Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps were located in the forest. The CCC built most of the 8 miles of gravel roads in the forest. From the first small acquisition, donations and purchases of additional lands have expanded Meshomasic State Forest to over 8,000 acres, with land in the towns of Portland, East Hampton, Marlborough, and Hebron. It is one of 30 State Forests, totaling over 149,000 acres.

In July, the Connecticut DEP was presented an "Award for Excellence in Service to Forestry" by the United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. The award recognizes the agency’s history of leadership in forest management from 1903 through 2003, including the acquisition and management of state forests.




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