ALBANY, NY – During the months of July through December 2014, wildlife habitat restoration involving the removal of invasive, non-native trees will take place on 47 acres in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve near the intersection of Washington Avenue Extension and New Karner Road (Route 155) in Albany.
Christopher Hawver, Executive Director of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission said, “The Pine Bush is not naturally characterized by large, mature forests. In order to save this globally-rare ecosystem we have to restore these forested areas to more open pine barrens habitat.”
Land clearing equipment will remove primarily black locust trees from the Preserve in preparation for spring planting with native grasses, wildflowers and wild blue lupine. Native pitch pine trees and oak trees will not be removed. According to Stewardship Director Joel Hecht this project “has the double advantage of not only removing invasive black locust trees from the Preserve, but also providing ideal sites where new pine barrens habitat can be created for the endangered Karner blue butterfly and many other native Pine Bush plants and animals”.
Wildlife habitat restoration work will take place in the portion of the Preserve south of the intersection of New Karner Road and Washington Ave. Ext. with completion expected by December 2014. Signage will indicate areas of the Preserve that are temporarily closed to the public while this work is taking place.
Black Locust trees are not native to the Pine Bush or the northeast. These trees are extremely invasive, spreading rapidly wherever they are found. Currently the 3,200-acre Preserve has over 400 acres dominated by black locust trees that outcompete native species. Over the past 15 years the Commission has successfully removed over 250 acres of black locust trees and restored these sites back to pine barrens habitat. Removal of additional black locust trees will continue over the coming years in many portions of the Preserve.
Wildfires occurred naturally or were set by earlier native peoples and later by colonists in the Pine Bush, but the suppression of fires over many decades has enabled invasive plants to grow more rapidly. Black locust trees have become overabundant throughout the Preserve due to the absence of frequent fires. Locust is a clonal species meaning that it spreads rapidly through new shoots growing off a continuous root system.
Director Hecht notes, “Once mature locust trees have taken over an area, they preclude the use of prescribed fires, which are carefully-managed fires set by trained personnel under very controlled conditions and used as a restoration tool. Locust trees must be eliminated before the habitat can be returned to a true pitch pine-scrub oak barrens complete with the rare plants and animals that make this Preserve such a unique place.” Hecht continued, “While the changes to this area will at first seem abrupt, the long term effect will be a return to the diversity and unique ecology of open pine barrens that once existed. The results will once again bring the beauty of the pine barrens to these parts of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve.”
Located within the Capital District Region, the Albany Pine Bush’s gently rolling sand plain is home to a variety of rare plants and animals, including the Federally-endangered Karner blue butterfly. The 3,200-acre Albany Pine Bush Preserve also creates a special habitat for a number of other rare and unique plants and animals, while providing visitors with an assortment of non-motorized recreational opportunities including hiking, jogging, nature study, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, mountain biking, hunting, fishing and canoeing.
The Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center transforms this globally unique destination into an exciting adventure where learning comes naturally through hands-on activities. As the gateway to the Pine Bush, the Discovery Center introduces visitors to everything that makes the Preserve rare and adventurous. Admission to the Discovery Center is free (there is a small fee for programs). The Center is open DAILY weekdays 9AM-4PM, weekends 10AM-4PM (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day). For more information, visit www.AlbanyPineBush.org or call 518-456-0655.