FIELD NOTES: FOREST MANAGEMENT – November 2016

Jack ThumbnailBy Jack McShane

I can no longer race my son to the top of the mountain beyond the homestead, but a slow steady pace, with the help of my trekking poles, with many stops to rest, allows me to continue to absorb the essence of the forest. I do consider this as great luck. Minor decrepitude will not deter me from interceding in and enjoying the beauty and intrigue of the landscape with its fauna and flora. The wooded structure I have become very familiar with and kind of endeared to over the past thirty years will soon be drastically altered. Yes, after all these years of active stewardship there is soon to be a major timber harvest. The woodland that I know so intimately will have a major alteration. Many of the larger trees that I have so often passed and admired are soon to be gone. My consolation is the fact that many of these trees, the white ash, would soon be dead due to the looming onslaught of the emerald ash borer or EAB. This devastating invasive insect, which is a lovely gift imported inadvertently from Asia, is in the process of killing all our ash trees. According to the forestry experts at Cornell and the DEC it is now found in the Margaretville/Andes area.

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Inoculation of an Ash tree to prevent death by the Emerald Ash Borer

To make this harvest a marketable sale we have also included many hard and soft maple, black cherry, black birch and hickory, all of “sawlog size,” meaning they are at least of the minimum diameter for sawmills to cut into boards. Our many red oaks will not be cut, but remain in place to produce their acorns or what is known as hard mast, an important food stuff for many species of wildlife. Their existence and viability is a priority for us. It will take some time to get over what I term “post-harvest blues,” seeing what will look like a devastated forest. In fact, it will not be. The tops of the fallen trees will be cut to not more than four feet high which is within browse height for the deer and will also make excellent cover for partridge, cottontail rabbits and many other critters.

In fact the DEC is presently undertaking a management program on state lands here in the Catskills called “Young Forest Initiative” which entails heavy cutting of mature forests in specific locations. These are not within the Park where management is disallowed by the state constitution. The primary goal is to enhance new and young forests, an important type of habitat required by certain bird species which have been in decline.

Our trees that will be harvested have been marked with blue paint, board foot volume measured, and listed according to the specific species by our forester, who was recommended by the Catskill Forest Association (CFA). He is also a fellow alumnus of mine having graduated the Ranger School in the Adirondacks where we both learned forestry and surveying. CFA, located in Arkville, is a nonprofit whose mission is to help and educate private forestland owners on how to properly manage their forest property to match their specific goals. I can say proudly I was CFA president for eight years and on the board of directors for twelve.

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The basswood tree above, center, is marked for harvest while two smaller trees are left to grow

The volume tally sheets—along with written rules which will be in the eventual contract—pertaining to proper skid trail layout, with water bars to prevent erosion, along with wording such as “all tops to be lopped to no more than four feet in height” has been written up and sent to a number of sawmills and loggers for their bids. Their own foresters toured and checked the terrain, the accuracy of the volume tallies and various requirements to be met. The bids are now in, and wow! The winning bid from a very reputable mill is almost twice what I expected. The contract, which has yet to be signed, also lays out the location for the landing where the logging trucks will pick up the harvested logs, alongside and off the town road, something mandated, and properly so, by our own Andes Highway Department. Upon signing, the company issues a check to me for the full amount, which gives it ownership of the trees marked and another check for a large bond issued to my forester who will be routinely checking to see that all rules are adhered to and will return same upon satisfactory completion of the harvest.

The company will have two years to complete their operations. My forester can stop the process at any time if he or I feel there is an action counter to or a lack of required action that is outlined in the contract. I am also planning to send out a letter to all my adjoining neighbors. It is not mandated by law, but I feel is a proper courtesy informing them of the upcoming harvest so that they might check to see that no trees were inadvertently marked that they feel are on their property. I know our property lines. I have checked myself and am confident that this will not be a problem. I will keep readers of this column apprised as this process unfolds.

We did have one of our beautiful white ash trees that stands right in front of our home inoculated this past spring with an insecticide that will kill any invading EAB. Expensive, but I believe well worth it as this tree is beautiful and irreplaceable. This protective process must take place in the spring when the sap is running. If any of you are interested in this ash tree protection, call me and I will give you the number of the licensed outfit.

When driving our roads here in Andes most of us are conscious of the potential for a whitetail deer collision, but how about a large black bird with a white tail and white head? Yes I almost nailed a bald eagle on Route 30 along the Pepacton. He dropped right down out of seemingly nowhere, passing over the windshield by no more than two feet, and then tailed me down the road for about one hundred yards. Only in Andes! ~