The Arnot Teaching and Research Forest, “the Arnot”, is situated in the hilly, forested Southern Tier region of New York State. The Arnot (pronounced R-not) is owned by Cornell University and managed by the Department of Natural Resources in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). It is the largest actively managed forest owned by Cornell University. The Arnot provides a place for Cornell faculty and students to carry out elements of the three-part mission of CALS: Teaching, Extension, and Research, in service to the citizens of New York. The current Arnot Forest results from a long history of changing land-use patterns, and presents an opportunity to study the long-term consequences of these changes.
How did Cornell come to own the Arnot?
In 1910 the Chemung Canal Trust Company, a private bank owned by the Arnot family, foreclosed on the mortgage, taking ownership from the Rodbourns. In 1914 the land was sold to the Matthias H. Arnot Estate. Cornell ownership of the property began in 1927 when the heirs of the estate gave 1,641 acres to the University. An additional 2,090 acres were acquired from the Federal Resettlement Administration in 1956. With the purchase of in-holdings and adjoining parcels over the years, the acreage now totals 4,075.
What is the Arnot?
To some it is acres of rural land on which to ski, hike, hunt, or study nature. To others it is a unique ecosystem to be studied, analyzed, manipulated and at least partially understood. To still others it is the place they go to learn how to make maple syrup or manage timber resources. The forest is an outdoor laboratory where students can learn the principles of forestry, ecology, and wildlife management and where both students and faculty have opportunities to conduct original research.
In addition to 2,400 acres of mature forest, the Arnot includes some 100 acres of open land (grass and goldenrod), 1,345 acres of old field, saplings, brush and pole timber; 170 acres of softwood plantations, 40 acres of sugarbush, 20 acres of field campus, plus 10 ponds and Banfield Creek.
The last glaciation to affect the topography of the Arnot was the Wisconsin, some 10 thousand years ago. As the glacier retreated, eroded material was dropped to form the major depositional features of the area. The deposition was of two types: (1) boulders and rocks released directly from the ice and (2) gravel, sand, and clay carried by glacial melt water. These were deposited as moraines, outwash plains, and valley trains that form many of the lower ridges and knolls at the Arnot. Elevation ranges from 1,150 ft. at the main entrance to the forest to approximately 2,035 ft. on the forested hilltop.
More than 400 species of vascular plants and 135 species of birds, in addition to numerous amphibians, reptiles, and mammals inhabit the Arnot. Approximately 100 contiguous acres of grassland are maintained to provide habitats for birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. The forest also contains most of the Banfield Creek watershed and headwaters of several others. There are no natural ponds or lakes on the Arnot forest; farm ponds were constructed for research between 1944 and 1949.
Timber from the Arnot Forest was first harvested during a 14-year period beginning in 1873. As a consequence of this past history of logging, fire and agriculture, most of the Arnot Forest now contains predominately even-aged second-growth stands of trees.
The physical characteristics of the forest and its current uses are the result of a history of natural and human events. The Arnot’s latitude and elevation put it at the transition zone between the northern hardwoods (beech, maple, birch) and Allegheny hardwoods (oak, cherry, hickory) forest associations.
Like most of the eastern United States, the Arnot is second-growth forest, with occasional abandoned farm fields in the process of returning to forest. Virtually all of the area had been cut or burned by the late 1800’s. The topography, land features, and vegetation support a diverse wildlife community.
A more complete history of the Arnot is available in the following downloadable files*.