Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Master Forest Owner Training, SUNY-ESF-AEC

Well, I’m here at the Huntington Research Forest / SUNY-ESF Adirondack Ecological Center (AEC), checked in, bag unpacked, and we’ve already made some general introductions and had dinner together at the dining hall. Laurel Gailor, Natural Resources Educator for Warren County Cornell Cooperative Extension and Cornell Department of Natural Resources Program Director Gary Goff (who is primarily leading the training) welcomed me with internet access and a map and schedule.

There are twenty folks here for the training including large landowners and small representing 3,400 combined acres in Warren, Essex, Hamilton, Tioga, and even Broome County. Most are retirement-age men, but we have a handful of women. The group looks pretty diverse as far as experience. Several have been foresters or in the forestry industry for many years, one dairy and maple producer, three engineers, two corrections officers, one college administrator, one principal, two teachers, an anthropologist and a superintendent of highways. One trainee working on his town’s comprehensive plan.

The highlight of tonight’s session (yes, I said tonight, the schedule runs to 8 or 9 pm each night) was an introduction to the Huntington Forest and the Adirondack Ecological Center by the center’s program director Paul Hai. Hai reviewed the history of the Huntington Forest, so I thought I’d relate some of what he said here.

SUNY-ESF is the oldest college in the US solely dedicated to the study of the environment. It was founded in 1911 as the College of Forestry at Syracuse, although Cornell University actually established the first New York State College of Forestry in 1898 under Bernhard Fernow. It was the first professional college of forestry in North America but didn’t last long. Fernow established a research forest near Saranac Lake (I’ve written about that in the past), but opposition from local wealthy landowners and pressure applied to the state legislature forced the closure of both the research forest and Cornell’s Forestry School in about 1909.

Syracuse took up the mantle in 1911 and in 1932 the Huntington family (famed for their connection to the trans-continental railroad and first owners of the Pine Knot Great Camp) donated some 15,000 acres to the College of Forestry. The Huntington Forest allows “research on a landscape scale,” according to Hai, largely because it is private land and therefore outside the constitutional “forever wild” clause. The goal at Huntington is to study the wildlife and biology of the Adirondack / Northern Forest Ecosystem, but also the dynamics of a healthy forest products economy. The AEC has been conducting one of the longest whitetail deer studies in America, and more recently they have been studying how road salt affects amphibians.

In the 1950s cutting-method blocks were established in the Huntington Forest, and later this week we’ll be able to walk through a half century of forestry methods in just a few miles.

Much of what has been learned through research being conducted published in a variety of peer reviewed journals. AEC maintains a list of publications online.

Breakfast at 6:45 am – I’ll try and report more around noon.

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