The Bartlett Experimental Forest (BEF) is a field laboratory for research on the ecology and management of northern hardwoods and associated ecosystems. Research on the Bartlett includes:
1. extensive investigations on structure and dynamics of forests at several levels, and developing management alternatives to reflect an array of values and benefits sought by users of forest lands,
2. a better understanding of ecological relationships between wildlife habitats and forest management at various levels in order to integrate wildlife habitat maintenance and improvement with other forest management goals, and
3. preservation of undisturbed areas in the Northeast to study natural succession and anthropogenic impacts.
The BEF is within the Saco Ranger District of the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire. It is managed by RWU-4155 of the Northern Research Station. Research activities began at the Experimental Forest when it was established in 1931 and is 2,600 acres in size but will likely double in area with the forest plan revision that is being written. The BEF extends from the village of Bartlett in the Saco River valley at 680 ft to about 3,000 ft at its upper reaches. Aspects across the forest are primarily north and east. This particular site was chosen because it represented conditions (soils, elevation, climate, tree species composition) typical of many forested areas throughout New England and northern New York.
The White Mountain National Forest , including the BEF, was purchased under the Weeks Act of 1911. In the late 19th century, the area was selectively logged for high value species, first eastern white pine and red spruce and later sugar maple and yellow birch. Logging railroads were laid and hardwood stands were clearcut for locomotive fuel. The lower third of the BEF was logged and some portions cleared for pasture. Upper portions were progressively less impacted with increasing elevation. Although fires are relatively rare, the 1938 hurricane did widespread damage. High grading resulted in more American beech, so when the beech scale-Nectria complex, or beech bark disease, arrived in the 1940s it caused substantial damage and continues to influence stand dynamics. An ice storm in 1998 was the most recent widespread natural disturbance, impacting mostly higher elevation stands. Occasional wind storms are common disturbances, but of relatively small scale.