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Newsletter Stories

Wednesday, 01 September 2004
St. John’s University Arboretum

The Epitome of Sustainability

The woodlands of Saint John’s Arboretum demonstrate how a community can benefit from a well-managed forest. Since 1857, Benedictine monks have cultivated a long-standing tradition of forest sustainability in Collegeville, Minn., where they founded Saint John’s Abbey and Saint John’s University. For almost 150 years, they have carefully managed their 2,500 acres of forest, prairie, wetland and oak savanna-designated in 1997 as a natural arboretum-to provide for the needs of the college.

In addition to providing a stunning setting for the abbey and university, and a “living classroom” for university students, Saint John’s Arboretum reaches out to over 4,000 K-12 students who visit each year for environmental programs. The arboretum provides habitat for a rich variety of plants and wildlife, and opportunities for spiritual renewal and recreation. Each winter, the monks harvest wood to manufacture into furniture for campus offices, classrooms and dorms.

Because of the monks’ longstanding practice of forest management, FSC certification was a natural progression. In 2002, Saint John’s Abbey sought FSC certification for their lands, originally as their own certificate holder, but now under the umbrella of Resource Manager Peter Bundy of Masconomo Forestry (SW-FM/COC-108). Even though Saint John’s did not have to change much about their forest management practices to receive FSC-certification, they sought the certification to demonstrate that their management practices meet a high international standard.

As part of their forest management plan, land manager Tom Kroll directs an effort to use shelterwood harvests and well-placed burns to assure adequate oak regeneration. Kroll said, “Our environmental studies students are extremely surprised and excited to learn that sometimes burning a few acres of land is the best and healthiest thing you can do for a forest. We have a lot to teach these students, and they understand that having FSC forest management certification is a great way to ensure that we are doing things right.”

Bundy, whose Resource Manager portfolio currently contains more than 5,000 acres, said that he was “extremely proud to be asked to oversee the Saint John’s University forestlands. These lands have a rich history, and, with the entire community dependent on the forest resources for education, recreation, and wood products consumption, it’s very important that we manage the land as best as possible.”

Consistent with its educational mission, Saint John’s Arboretum hopes to instill the importance of stewardship and sustainable land use in all its visitors.