Hopkins Memorial Forest


Mission Statement

The Hopkins Memorial Forest (HMF), a 2500 acre (1000 ha) reserve in Massachusetts, New York and Vermont, is managed by the Williams College Center for Environmental Studies (CES) to provide opportunities for learning, interdisciplinary interactions, and reflection in the liberal arts tradition. The primary mission of the HMF is to sustain and enhance research and undergraduate teaching opportunities while preserving and monitoring forest resources, particularly the long-term ecological research plots, “crown jewels” of the HMF. The CES strongly encourages disciplinary and interdisciplinary teaching, scholarly activity, and experimental research in HMF. To help support these activities, monitoring and long-term data are gathered systematically and entered in the HMF database. Information that results from HMF research is available to the Williams, Williamstown, and global educational communities. Recreational activities that enhance contemplative enjoyment of the landscape by the public and foster a better understanding of the forest environment are encouraged. Our vision for the HMF in the future is a more widely known and better understood landscape that will continue to provide opportunities for reflection and connection with the natural world.

The HMF is unique, in part, because it exemplifies the setting, vegetation, and land-use history of New England, a region transformed from forests to farms and back to forest during the past several centuries. Furthermore, the HMF is a relatively large-scale landscape whose functioning makes contributions in ecosystem services essential to the maintenance of life in the biosphere. HMF lands include a tract of nearly 800 ha in northwestern Massachusetts and adjacent New York set aside permanently for research and low-impact recreation. Adjoining lands in Vermont are used for education and research focused on sustainable forestry. In Massachusetts and New York, data have been collected from a system of long-term ecological research plots since 1936. These data are the foundation of an “electronic forest”, a database recording information about human uses since the settlement of the tract and observations of vegetation, meteorology, hydrology and biogeochemistry since 1935.


Threads of earth, air, water, life, human hands and voices weave a landscape…

The HMF represents a unique research and educational resource for an undergraduate institution. Since its establishment in 1934, it has served a variety of purposes; scientific research, natural resource management research and applications, education of Williams College undergraduates and the public, recreation, and a landscape from which past human interactions with their environment have been interpreted.

The facilities comprising the HMF and their uses have evolved from an agricultural landscape to a United States Forest Service (USFS) Experimental Forest to a tract presently dedicated to environmental education and research administered by the CES. Remnants of prior phases in the development of the HMF are important to its current uses.

The carriage barn, Buxton Gardens, stone walls, cellar holes, hedgerows, and many other surficial features reflect the property’s agricultural past. The stream gauging stations, permanent plots, genetic plantations, and meteorological observations are invaluable legacies of the USFS. The Moon Barn and Hopkins Forest Farm Museum have been developed under grants from the Massachusetts Bicentennial Commission, private donors, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Many research and educational activities have been sponsored by various organizations including Williams College, National Science Foundation-Undergraduate Research Participation program and the Mellon Foundation. The renovation of the carriage barn into the Rosenburg Center field station with labs, classroom, office, and display space was made possible through funds from the National Science Foundation-Comprehensive Assistance to Undergraduate Science Education program and Williams College.

Many of the features of the HMF were first established by USFS, including the 1/4-acre plots established by them in the 1935, expanded by Williams College in the 1970s-1990s, and resurveyed periodically since. The USFS also established forest tree genetics plantations in the late 1940s and early 1950s along with a field experiment designed to study paper birch regeneration in 1954. A census of the red oak stand in the eastern portion of HMF has been taken routinely since 1948 . The Beinecke Stand is a prime example of an old-growth sugar maple-beech stand had 6 permanent strip plots in addition to the 1/4 acre plots installed by the USFS. The stream gauging stations on Birch Brook were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the late 1930s and renovated by Williams College in the 1980s.

It is not possible to have “multiple-use” occurring simultaneously at all locations in the HMF without reducing it to the lowest common use. However, it is possible to satisfy the manifold goals of the HMF by spatially and temporarily separating potentially conflicting uses while prohibiting other uses entirely. The following premises and regulations are designed to maintain the integrity of the site for education and research purposes and to encourage appropriate uses.

HMF Use Premises

Premise 1: The HMF should be used for the following purposes: (a) Non-destructive, and long-term research and education, (b) Field experiments requiring destructive sampling and alterations, (c) Manipulative management-maintenance, (d) Public education, (e) Low-impact recreation, (f) Caretaker residence.

While these categories are not necessarily mutually exclusive, potentially conflicting uses should be spatially separated. Research and education are the two highest priorities. Therefore use zones are delineated so that disruptive uses are prohibited from areas dedicated to preservation and non-destructive research and education and to minimize conflicts between incompatible uses. However, there is a need to accommodate other uses and by delineating specific zones in which other uses may occur and to facilitate experimental field approaches. While research and educational activities may occur anywhere in the HMF, these projects in zones dedicated to other uses may not be assured over the long term.

Premise 2: The data collected initially by the USFS represents a unique and globally valuable resource. These sites are deserving of permanent preservation. A buffer of 100′ surrounding each long-term study plot should be maintained except where plots abut existing trails, fields, etc. that are maintained for other purposes.

Premise 3: The Beinecke Stand, eastern flank of Zone I because of its antiquity and uniqueness as a remnant of the pre-colonial forest represents a resource deserving complete protection and non-destructive sampling.

Premise 4: Home and farm sites, stone walls, cellar holes and middens dating to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries represent an important historical and archaeological resource. Many of these sites have been located in Zone I of HMF and are deserving of protection. When further archaeological sites are discovered, they too should be preserved where possible.

Premise 5: The integrity of the Birch Brook watersheds should be preserved to insure quality long term research potential. Uses which significantly alter the quality or quantity of water or sediment in these watersheds should be prohibited.

Premise 6: The genetic plantations, Zone III–south are primarily installed by the USFS should be maintained and preserved to the best of our abilities. The lands immediately surrounding the plantations do not necessarily need to be free from other manipulations.

Premise 7: Public uses (other than low-impact recreation such as hiking, cross-country skiing, horseback riding restricted to designated trails) should be focused toward the eastern entrance to the HMF. Activities that interfere with higher priority research and educational uses should be avoided. Public uses that complement research/education activities should be encouraged. Public activities and programs should be in keeping with the HMF mission statement and should be both scheduled and located so as to not interfere with research and education activities.

HMF Program Philosophy

Integrated, interdisciplinary endeavors that link environmental processes with an understanding of how human activities, both past and present, shape the HMF landscape.

HMF Management Hierarchy and Responsibilities

The Vice President and Provost are the College Administrative Officers who have oversight responsibilities for the HMF. The Vice President is responsible for land and real estate aspects, while the Provost is responsible for staffing and programs in the HMF. The CES Director is responsible for promulgating policies relative to the HMF in consultation with the HMF Manager and the HMF Committee and with the concurrence of the Vice President and Provost of the College.

The HMF Manager is responsible for coordinating and promoting appropriate use of the HMF and its electronic databases. Duties include: (1) overseeing research, teaching and management activities in HMF; (2) promotion and coordination of HMF use by faculty, Williams Outing Club and other student organizations; (3) Sponsorship of HMF educational activities by local schools; (4) overseeing the Rosenburg Center at the HMF; (5) monthly reporting to the HMF Committee and preparation of the HMF annual budget and annual report on HMF activities; (6) supervision of a part-time HMF caretaker; and (7) assembling and maintaining a complete set of administrative, research and other records on the HMF at the CES. The manager has oversight responsibility, with the Director of the Environmental Sciences Laboratory (ESL), for maintaining and encouraging use of long-term HMF databases. In consultation with the HMF Committee and the Director of ESL, the manager develops policies to implement the management plan for HMF. The HMF Manager will be evaluated annually by the Director of CES with input from the HMF Committee.

HMF Manager’s job also includes the following responsibilities:

A) Support of education and research: Respond to faculty and thesis-student requests, helping the Technical Assistant to assure readiness of HMF and Rosenburg Center facilities for: (1) class use; (2) faculty and faculty supervised research; (3) Outing Club use; (4) Williams naturalists; and (5) other user groups, as available. Promote the HMF working environment as a facility for experiential learning. Advise HMF Manager on use conflicts. Help prepare research sites and equipment for special projects.

B) Maintaining HMF area for the diversity of encouraged uses: Supervise part-time student employees during academic year and summer. Assure routine grounds maintenance: trim and mow lawn areas, maintain Buxton Garden, and other display gardens; prune shrubs and hedges; maintain fences. Work with Outing Club to maintain hiking and skiing trails and nature trail. Conduct routine maintenance and minor repairs of structures and equipment. Maintain signs and property-line postings. Assure availability of maps and trail guides. Seasonally cut, split, and stack firewood for use at Rosenburg Center. Maintain equipment inventory.

C) Organize annual HMF deer hunt (in consultation with the HMF Manager): Organize security, schedule hours, notify public of HMF closure during hunt. Work with CES support staff on permit administration and public notification. Work with CES environmental technical assistant on follow-up documentation of hunt.

D) Support special projects: Sugaring (mainly February-March). Other special projects, under supervision of HMF Manager.

The HMF Committee (composed of 8 to 12 faculty, staff and students) concerned with research, education, and recreational activities in HMF. The Committee normally meets monthly to discuss issues of HMF policy and to hear reports from the Manager, who meets more frequently with the Chair. The Committee advises the Manager on matters of HMF policy, evaluates programs and activities in terms of the HMF Mission Statement, serves as the sounding board for proposals about HMF management and makes recommendations concerning the HMF to the Director of the CES. Members of the HMF Committee and other members of the College community interested in HMF communicate on a regular basis using the HMF listserver. In consultation with the Dean of Faculty, the Director of CES appoints the Chair of the Committee, normally for a period of three years. The Chair, in consultation with the CES Director, is responsible for nominating the Committee to the Dean of Faculty who will appoint the members. The HMF Manager, CES Director, and Director of the Williams Outing Club serve as ex-officio members.