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Discussion: Downside?

in: Charlie; Charlie > 2015-11-11

Nov 12, 2015 11:56 AM # 
What is the downside for the Trust in a 'reserved right' deal like that? I assume the marked trees are all furniture-grade hardwoods such as sugar maples, walnut, cherry, hickory? Has the donor been 'grooming' those trees during his ownership, by pruning, thinning, fertilizing?

Would the Trust replant selectively? In any case, doesn't the Trust end up with an asset that has very little annual cost? And which will just become more valuable as the remaining trees fill in and grow?

Your dedicated work for the Land Trust is very impressive. It is hard to imagine a more effective way to 'pay it forward' for the benefit of future generations...of trees and humans!
Nov 12, 2015 12:55 PM # 
The land trust actually paid something for the land, but below a market price, so not quite a donor situation. We certainly have also had plenty of donated properties. The trees being taken are indeed very high quality, but almost exclusively black oak. Walnut and cherry are a bit beyond their range here. We do have cherry that grows natively, but it tends not to do very well, and walnut will only grow if planted and favored. There is a lot of sugar maple around, but not on this site. Also a lot of hickory around, but again, not on this site. Hickory is not a particularly valuable wood in these parts anyway.

Unless you are planning on something special, it is not generally the practice in these parts to plant anything. This is a really good acorn year, and if the ground is roughed up by the passage of the skidder and forwarder, there should be good oak regeneration. In particular, they did mark the relatively few white oak trees to remain standing. They produce the highest quality food source, and it would be favorable also to get a crop of white oak saplings growing.

There is also a smattering of ash on the site. Ash is under severe insect pressure and will all be dead in this range before too many more years. They are taking any ash that is marketable, and leaving the undesirable ones standing to provide nesting cavities until they fall, and then habitat for invertebrates and lizards once they do fall, and finally nutrients into the soil.

I wouldn't say there has been much "grooming" of this site. There hasn't been a cut on it in over 100 years, and perhaps just lucky to have so much high quality oak on it. Some of that luck involves the amount of water, the composition of the soil, the way the slope faces. This particular site has very little chestnut oak, because it is relatively sunny and also has some good moisture retention. The north slopes at my place are very heavily chestnut oak, which does better in drier, thinner soil, or at least does better than the red, black and white oaks that all prefer a moister, deeper soil.

There are a number of theories about how to manage a woodlot. Taking only some of the mature trees gives space to crowns and could result in others of them growing bigger and more valuable in future years. I did a cut like that in 1998. At some point, however, growth slows down and there is no economic reason to let a good veneer log stand in place.
Nov 12, 2015 1:48 PM # 
High grading is not a wise management philosophy, but if the Land Trust has no intention to harvest in the future, does it really matter?

As you say, planting trees in New England just isn't done nor is necessary. Within a year of last year's cut, I have pine and hardwood saplings up all over the place.
Nov 12, 2015 8:17 PM # 
Nice that you have so many oaks in the Connecticut forests. I thought they'd been killed off years ago. But what is a chestnut oak? Is it related at all to the American Chestnut? That is one tree I've always wanted to find in its mature, four-foot diameter glory.

Here in Illinois, west of the Great Lakes, we get much less rainfall than you folks. And preserving endangered native trees and virgin prairie fragments are a big deal. Folks collect seeds from rare prairie plants and trade them actively. Our pre-Columbian landscape was predominantly Oak Openings.

Soupbone has some of the largest native oaks I've ever seen in the midwest. And now that he's cleared out ~80 years' of invasives, they stand in stunning glory, recalling the day when they were surrounded only by miles of prairie, buffalo grass and the occasional indian camp.
Nov 12, 2015 8:45 PM # 
Nothing that I'm aware of has ever threatened the oaks in this area. Elm and chestnut got essentially wiped out by fungus problems, and hemlock is under heavy pressure from insects. I wasn't aware of the ash issues, but in some areas, all of the trees are threatened by a beetle.

Chestnut oak is an oak, not a chestnut. It happens to have leaves that are somewhat reminiscent of chestnut leaves in shape. Chestnuts are all over the place, but generally as cluster of saplings that spring up from the old roots and die off a few years later from the fungus exploding their bark. If you make a trip to the northeast, Clark, I can steer you to a few healthy large specimens, maybe not four feet in diameter, but quite presentable.
Nov 12, 2015 9:15 PM # 
Oak trees took a real beating around here quite a few years back at the height of the gypsy moth invasion. Gypsy moths were everywhere, denuding the trees of leaves at the height of the growing season. However, they fell prey to a fungus and have been less of a problem since. There was an outbreak of gypsy moth damage earlier this year when it was quite dry (south of where I live), but when wetter weather returned the fungus re-exerted control over the caterpillars. If the gypsy moths had remained unchecked, doubtful that we would still have large stands of oak.
Nov 12, 2015 9:22 PM # 
There seem to be many gypsy moth egg deposits on trees around Hurd. Haven't seen that many locally that I can remember. The oaks may be anticipating another onslaught with the abundant supply of acorns this year.
Nov 13, 2015 12:21 AM # 
Abundant supplies of acorns seem to be affected by a number of variables that are basically inscrutable to me. Certainly an evolutionary strategy of boom and bust in acorn production makes sense. All the animals in the forest eat acorns, and some of them, like squirrels, also may bury them. A bust year in acorn production crashes some of the animal populations, so that a boom year will leave a lot of acorns uneaten that can grow into trees. But it is apparently much more complicated than just that. This is a very good acorn year, though.
Nov 13, 2015 12:21 AM # 
Right, I forgot about the gypsy moths. The worst outbreak was in 1981, and it was pretty awful, but I don't think they managed to kill off many trees, at least not up my way.
Nov 13, 2015 12:28 AM # 
The story at the time was that two years in a row of defoliation was enough to kill trees, and certainly there were areas with substantial kills, but oaks apparently can survive one year of defoliation. The record of the gypsy moth years is in the tree rings, however, as growth in a severe gypsy moth year is virtually nil. There was a really bad outbreak in 1971. That was the year I moved to Granby CT. I bought a house in the forest in the spring, but when I took occupancy in July, I was surprised to see all the neighbors' houses because the leaves were gone.
Nov 13, 2015 12:41 AM # 
We remember the 1971 outbreak as we were on a visit to CT from London and impressed by the moth frittering around and the various tapes on trees to prevent their climbing into the foliage.
Nov 14, 2015 12:38 PM # 
We had a really bad local gypsy moth outbreak around 1990 (+/- ) in late June. Instead of the usual thick canopy, we could see the sunrise. It was a lesson in exponential growth: defoliation happened in a handful of days, felt like overnight - you could hear them moths chewing up the forest! Also annoying was the early morning sun shining at the house during the hot summer days. Interestingly, by end of August the leaves had started to re-grow. That was the last major outbreak I noticed around here.
Nov 14, 2015 2:39 PM # 
And was it only the oaks those moths preferred? Or would they eat any leaves, trees or bushes?
Nov 14, 2015 3:59 PM # 
They were eating everything, but they have a particular fondness for oak, if I recall. There are other bugs that specialize in other trees; I recall some years ago there was a concern that a thing called the pear thrips was going to wipe out the sugar maples.
Nov 14, 2015 5:30 PM # 
Sugar maples are under assault from other insects as well. These insects and fungi are often pretty specific in what they attack.

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