Visible landscape changes in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve: improving wildlife habitat and reducing wildfire risk
ALBANY, NY- Travelers in and around the area of the I-87 and I-90 interchange may notice a significant change happening in the nearby Albany Pine Bush Preserve. The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission is contracting tree thinning that will be completed during the fall and winter of 2016 on 91 acres in the Rapp Barrens area (Trailhead # 2) of the preserve. This tree thinning is being completed during the winter months because winter habitat restoration minimizes disruption to wildlife, avoiding the breeding season for species that inhabit the preserve.
“Historically the Pine Bush was an open landscape of grasses, shrubs, wildflowers and scattered pitch pine trees. Due to wildfire suppression and historical agricultural activities, the Pine Bush in some regions of the preserve no longer resembles the unique landscape it once was. To restore this habitat the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission will be thinning crowded pitch pine and oak trees along with some other tree species. Non-native trees like black locust will also be removed. This will allow other important pine barrens plants and animals to flourish. The thinning will also help reduce the potential for tree-top or “crown” fires in this sandy, dry, fire dependent environment,” said Albany Pine Bush Preserve Stewardship Director, Joel Hecht.
Executive Director Christopher Hawver added, “With fewer than 20 places like the Pine Bush on Earth, this project will improve habitat for rare wildlife while preserving the barrens for future generations to enjoy. Some of the wildlife species that will benefit from this habitat restoration include birds like the prairie warbler and eastern towhee, other animals such as the hognose snake, spadefoot toad and federally-endangered Karner blue butterfly along with flowers like wild blue lupine.”
For safety reasons the recreational trails in this area of the Preserve will be temporarily closed in late fall and winter while the trees are being removed. Preserve visitors are encouraged to explore many of the other preserve trails during this time as there are almost 20 miles of official trails in the preserve. Exact trail closure dates can be found at www.AlbanyPineBush.org.
According to Mr. Hecht, “The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission, over the past 25 years, has implemented wildlife habitat restoration on hundreds of acres. This is accomplished by removing invasive plants, planting native wildflowers, grasses, trees and shrubs, mowing and implementing prescribed burning in the preserve. Throughout the Pine Bush, past agriculture practices coupled with wildfire suppression has resulted in unnaturally dense forests that jeopardize rare wildlife. By removing some trees the forest will be thinned to allow more sunlight to reach grasses, wildflowers and shrubs. This restoration will improve rare wildlife habitat while also reducing potential tree-top fires in this part of the preserve.”
Successful examples of pitch pine tree thinning as part of habitat restoration have taken place in several other northeastern pine barrens including Ossipee, New Hampshire, Montague, Massachusetts, the Central Pine Barrens of Long Island, New York and the New Jersey Pine Barrens.
Once this restoration project is completed, 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. The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission is continuing to restore many additional pine barrens acres in the preserve as mandated in the 2010 APBP Management Plan.
For more information on all preserve management activities please visit www.AlbanyPineBush.org, the Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center located at 195 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 ecosystem provides habitat for many plants and animals and supports 69 New York State-designated wildlife Species of Greatest Conservation Need, including the endangered Karner blue butterfly. The APBP is a National Natural Landmark, Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area Site, 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 APBP 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.