Albany Pine Bush News

The Commission recently had aspen trees cut along Old State Road in Guilderland as part of restoring habitat back to pitch pine-scrub oak barrens.  Residents in the area have been contacting the Commission to find out if they can cut and take the downed trees for firewood.

Preserve regulations do not allow for the removal of anything from the Preserve, including this wood for firewood, by the public (ECL 6 NYCRR Part 648.4(a)). In addition, because of liability and safety issues the Commission cannot allow the public to cut and remove this wood for personal use.

Because Aspen is a softwood these trees will rapidly decompose over the next several years.  In addition, with increased sunlight on the forest floor resulting from the tree cutting, shrubs, grasses and wildflowers will rapidly grow in these areas over the spring and summer, making the trees less obvious while they decompose.  Additionally, the tangle of branches at ground level will provide a temporary habitat for a variety of animals both this winter and next spring and summer.

Wildlife habitat restoration work can be unsightly at times.  However, over the long term these areas will be transformed back to the beautiful pine barrens that they once were.

~Joel Hecht, Stewardship Director

Joel @ 12:08 pm

Come into the Discovery center to check out the new Exploration Station…

Exploration stations are temporary exhibits set up in the Karner Classroom. The topics change about every 3 months.  The current topic is The Subnivean Zone – Go Below The Snow which will be installed through March. The subnivean zone is the area between the surface of the snow and the ground. Many animals actually depend on snow for protection and warmth during the winter months. Come tunnel through the indoor subnivean zone, make snowflakes and learn more about animals in winter!


Sara @ 9:50 am

Dear Preserve Stewards,

I hope that you all had a lovely holiday season!  I was on vacation the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and then spent the short week after that catching up on e-mails and getting myself organized so I don’t have much to report from that time period.

Since then we’ve been working hard on both indoor and outdoor projects!  Indoor work has included things like working on the production of a new trails map for the preserve, organizing all of our GIS files, and completing the budget for next fiscal year (beginning April 2012).  By this point in the year, we typically would not be able to do  much more outdoor work, but with the relatively warm weather (this weekend excluded!!!) and the lack of snow, we have been able to continue working on outdoor projects.  Dave and Tyler have been continuing right along with “drill and fill” aspen herbiciding work, and last week I was able to finish installing split rail fences and signage at Blueberry Hill to keep preserve visitors on the new trails system and off of the recently closed trails.  Although the ground was frozen, I was able to dig post holes anyway with our tractor powered post hole digger.  We purchased this implement last spring, and what a great tool it has turned out to be!

We will begin laying out the next iteration of preserve trail changes in the next few weeks, will continue to tackle the aspen herbiciding project, and plan to finish up some late season mowing in the near future.  It’s kind of fun to get some “bonus time” to keep working outside, we’re getting a lot accomplished which feel good!  Hope all is well with you, talk to you again soon!


~Jesse Hoffman, Preserve Steward

Jesse @ 3:03 pm

Over the next few weeks, National Grid will be accessing their power lines, which run through the preserve, to conduct routine maintenance work. Crews will enter the preserve through the Willow Street Trailhead (#8). You may see bucket trucks or other heavy equipment near the Willow Street trailhead or in other areas of the preserve adjacent to power lines. Minor tree pruning, digging, and grading work are expected to occur.

Jesse @ 9:35 am

Aspen Tree Cutting

Aspen tree species, while native to the Albany Pine Bush, have become massively overabundant throughout the preserve in the absence of sufficiently frequent fire.  These species are clonal, meaning that they spread rapidly and grow 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 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.  Aspen trees must therefore be 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.

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 trees, this year we have hired professional contractors to cut these trees down.  This accomplishes our goal of restoring habitat back to pitch pine-scrub oak barrens in a more controlled way.

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.  The late 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 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

Jesse @ 10:05 am
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