Tree Thinning in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve: improving wildlife habitat and reducing wildfire risk
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ALBANY, NY- The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission is protecting and managing the globally rare inland pitch pine scrub oak barrens known locally as the “Albany Pine Bush.”
“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 trees along with some other tree species which will allow other important pine barrens plants and animals to flourish. The thinning will also help protect adjacent properties from 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 the wild blue lupine.”
The tree thinning will be completed during the winters of 2014 and/or 2015 on 85 acres in the Madison Avenue Pinelands area (Trailhead # 7) of the Preserve. Some pitch pine trees, as well as other tree species in this region of the Preserve have recently been marked with paint. This tree thinning work is being completed during the winter months because winter habitat restoration minimizes disruption to wildlife during the breeding season.
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 with native pine barrens 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 the survival of 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 the pitch pine and hardwood trees. The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission is continuing to restore many additional pine barrens acres in the Preserve as described 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 x1213.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON THE PINE BUSH:
Located within New York’s Capital District, the Albany Pine Bush Preserve is one of only twenty inland pine barrens left in the entire world and widely considered to be the best example. The 3,200-acre Preserve is predominantly defined by gently rolling sand dunes that support an extraordinary fire-dependent habitat. Home to more than 55 New York State-designated Species of Greatest Conservation Need, including the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly, this globally-rare ecosystem also offers visitors 18 miles of trails for an assortment of non-motorized recreational opportunities including hiking, jogging, nature study, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, mountain biking, hunting, fishing and canoeing.
The Discovery Center is a state-of-the-art interpretive center that introduces visitors to everything that makes the Preserve rare and adventurous. As the gateway to the Pine Bush, this LEED Gold-certified “green” building transforms a visit to our unique destination into an even more exciting exploration where learning comes naturally through interactive exhibits, the interpretive Discovery Trail, and numerous programs on the ecology, natural history and cultural history 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 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.