There’s a place in Connecticut that feels as wild as the Adirondacks -- where you might run into a moose or bobcat, where deep mosses grow in hemlock groves, and where wild blueberries line the banks of pristine ponds. This unexpected haven is Great Mountain Forest, in Litchfield County.
In 1909, as the Conservation movement was just getting its legs, two New York businessmen established a reserve to protect dwindling forests that were ecologically impoverished by the unsustainable production of charcoal for the local iron industry. Beginning with 400 acres, Great Mountain Forest now covers over 6,000, and thanks to a hundred years of conservation, wildlife have rebounded and the forest is once again healthy. Great Mountain Forest is recognized across the Northeast for its sustainable forest management, education programs, and commitment to forest research.
Last winter, Sustain’s Co-Founders had the pleasure of visiting Great Mountain Forest. Even in December’s grip, the forest was a sight to be seen. GMF’s director, Hans Carlson, gave us a tour, and pointed out a swamp that had pitcher plants sprouting out of the muck! Even as Connecticut natives, neither of Sustain’s co-founders had seen these Jurassic-looking plants before.
Great Mountain Forest is also a working forest- meaning they actively harvest forest products, such as lumber (some of which is used in Ukelele necks by a local luthier), pine boughs for holiday wreaths, and maple syrup.
Keen to host a Songscape, Great Mountain Forest took a listen to our Green Roster Bands and particularly liked the music of singer-songwriter, Jake Klar.
Klar, based out of Northampton, MA, creates honest songs with a gritty, bluesy feel. As Lynne Bertrand writes, “His music seeks to turn a simple tune into something that connects us to both the stories and emotions that make our experiences worth remembering.” It’ll be exciting to see how Klar turns his experiences at Great Mountain Forest into his signature style of music.
As a Green Roster member, Klar cares deeply about the environment and has taken steps to reduce his environmental impact by hand-printing CD packaging on reused materials, keeping waste to a minimum and supporting local food production. This year, he is also recycling all of his used guitar strings and keeping them out of landfills. Klar also deeply appreciates natural places and public lands. He spent three weeks hiking and camping around Big Bend National Park in far west Texas where the night skies are dark as coal and the rivers carve temple-like canyons in ancient limestone. The 801,163 acres of protected desert and the solitude that allowed resonated so much that he’s returned three times since during travels through Texas. Last visit there he helped a friend build an adobe home in Terlingua, TX and soaking in the Big Bend hot springs that drain into the Rio Grande after long work days. Klar and Great Mountain Forest make a great pair for our Songscape program.
On July 11th, Great Mountain Forest will welcome Jake Klar for a 4-day Songscape retreat. Klar will have ample time to explore the area, learn about the land’s history, participate in forestry first hand, and live off-the-grid in a lakeside cabin. By the end of the retreat, Klar will compose a song inspired by his Songscape: Great Mountain Forest experience, and shoot a music video. Shortly thereafter, the song will be professionally recorded and donated to GMF to use in their marketing materials. Once Klar’s song is released, song sales will help support Sustain, GMF, and Klar’s music.
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