NEW RESEARCH BY A LOCAL SCIENTIST PREDICTS THINNING FORESTS TO CONSERVE RARE WILDLIFE ALSO REDUCES WILDFIRE RISK:
Commission invites the public to view habitat work
ALBANY, NY – Thinning pitch pine forests to improve wildlife habitat will reduce the chances for dangerous, uncontrolled tree-top fires in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve, according to new research. The paper, titled Predicted Crown Fire Risk Adds Incentive to Restore Open-Canopy Pine Barrens at the Wildland-Urban Interface, was published in a January 2015 special issue of the Journal of Sustainable Forestry devoted entirely to the fire ecology of the Northeast.
Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission Conservation Director Neil Gifford is one of the paper’s authors, along with scientists from Oklahoma State University and the Tall Timbers Research Station and
Land Conservancy in Tallahassee, Fla. The authors were invited to submit the paper for publication following a lecture Gifford presented at a 2014 fire ecology conference at Yale University. According to Gifford, creating open-canopied pitch pine-scrub oak barrens and reducing wildfire risk have restored more than 1,500 acres and increased the Preserve’s population of the endangered Karner blue butterfly to more than 14,000. Other rare wildlife listed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation as Species of Greatest Conservation Need, including the eastern bluebird and American woodcock, also appear to be improving in restored habitat.
As a result of Gifford’s research, 85 acres of pitch pine forest in the Preserve are being thinned this winter, says Joel Hecht, Stewardship Director of the Pine Bush Preserve. Due to wildfire suppression and historical agricultural activities, parts of the Preserve no longer resemble the unique landscape it once was. Hecht and his stewardship team will be thinning crowded pitch pine trees along with some other tree species, which will allow important pine barrens plants and animals to flourish.
The tree thinning will be completed during the winter of 2015 in the Madison Avenue Pinelands area (Trailhead # 7) of the Preserve. This work is being done during the winter months in order to minimize disruption to wildlife and avoid the breeding season.
For safety reasons, recreational trails in this area of the Preserve will be temporarily closed from Jan.
5 to Apr. 1 while the trees are being removed. The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission Education Department is offering special guided tours of the site. Anyone interested in learning more about the project can sign up for a tour by calling 518-456-0655 or through www.AlbanyPineBush.org/Events.
Once tree thinning is complete, prescribed burning will be used to restore and maintain the pine barrens vegetation that is currently being shaded out by pitch pine and hardwood trees.
According to Commission Executive Director Christopher Hawver, the research illustrates how the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission is increasingly recognized as a regional and national leader in ecological restoration and fire management.
For more information on all Preserve management activities, one can visit www.AlbanyPineBush.org or the Pine Bush Discovery Center on New Karner Road in Albany, or call (518) 456-0655.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON THE PINE BUSH:
The 3,200 – acre Albany Pine Bush Preserve (APBP), located in New York’s Capital District, protects one of the best remaining inland pitch-pine scrub oak barrens in the world. This extraordinary fire-dependent habitat provides homes for many plants and animals and contains 55 New York State-designated wildlife Species of Greatest Conservation Need, including the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly. The Preserve is a National Natural Landmark, a New York State Unique Area, Bird Conservation Area and a National Audubon Society Important Bird Area. Characterized by rolling sand dunes and miles of trails, the Preserve offers visitors many recreational opportunities including hiking, bird watching, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, mountain biking, hunting, fishing and canoeing. The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission is a public-private partnership created by the NYS Legislature in 1988 to protect and manage the APBP and provide the public with educational and recreational opportunities.
As the gateway to the Pine Bush, the Discovery Center is a state-of-the-art “green” certified interpretive center where visitors come to understand why the Pine Bush is rare and special. A visit to this unique destination is an exciting exploration where learning comes naturally through interactive exhibits, an outdoor Discovery Trail, and numerous programs on the ecology, natural history, cultural history and management of the Pine Bush. Admission to the Discovery Center is free (there is a small fee for programs). The Center is open daily weekdays 9am-4pm, weekends and most holidays 10am-4pm. For more information, visit www.AlbanyPineBush.org or call 518-456-0655.