During October – December 2012, trees are being cut and removed along several roads in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. This habitat restoration work is taking place along Old State Road and Kings Road as well as short portions of East Lydius Street and Siver Road in the town of Guilderland and city of Albany, NY.
Aspen trees, native to the Albany Pine Bush and black locust trees which are not native, have become overabundant throughout the preserve in the absence of sufficiently frequent fire. These species are clonal, meaning that they grow rapidly and spread quickly through root suckering, and are able to out compete other less common and more desirable pine barrens species like scrub oak, pitch pine, blueberries, and wild blue lupine. Additionally, their dense closed canopies create a micro climate that is less attractive to important pine barrens wildlife species of concern, including the federally endangered Karner Blue Butterfly. Once mature aspen and locust trees have taken over an area, they preclude fire from being able to be used for restoration because the fire will not burn under the damp closed canopy. The number of aspen and locust trees must therefore be significantly reduced or eliminated in other ways before the habitat can be returned to a true pitch pine-scrub oak pine barrens ecosystem comprised of all of the rare plants and animals that make the Albany Pine Bush Preserve such a unique and special place. After restoration is complete, aspen trees will continue to be present in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve, although in much smaller numbers. Complete eradication of black locust trees, on the other hand, is a long term objective for the Preserve.
For many years the task of removing aspen trees has been accomplished throughout the interior of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve using a mechanical technique called girdling. Please visit our website for more information on aspen girdling. Girdling is not an appropriate methodology to use near roads or preserve property boundaries because this procedure results in standing dead aspen trees which will eventually rot in place and then fall down unpredictably. In order to remove roadside and boundary aspen and locust trees, the Commission has contracted professionals to safely cut and remove these roadside trees. Pitch pine and oak trees will not be cut but occasionally other trees like cherry and red maple will also be cut as the Commission continues to convert many of the more forested portions of the Preserve back to a more open pine barrens. This accomplishes the goal of restoring habitat back to pitch pine-scrub oak barrens in a more controlled way along the road edges.
While the changes that you’ll see along the preserve roadsides might look abrupt, they are being made with the Albany Pine Bush Preserve’s ecological goals and ideals foremost in mind. Fall and early winter is a time of year when birds and other animals are least likely to be harmed by these activities as nesting and young rearing activities are complete, and in fact, bringing nutrient rich tree buds down to ground level will provide a temporary additional food source for many animals. Additionally, the tangle of branches from any trees that are left on site at ground level will provide a temporary habitat for a variety of animals both this winter and next summer before the branches and trunks rapidly decompose in place.
Restoration is an often messy and at times unsightly process, but one that is critical to the protection and advancement of the globally rare inland pine barrens ecosystem that we are so fortunate to have here in our own backyards. We hope that you recognize that this is a necessary process and will grow to enjoy the beauty and majesty that the long term results of our restoration in this special place will bring.
If you’d like more information about our current management practices please contact Stewardship Director, Joel Hecht at firstname.lastname@example.org