Thursday, September 27, 2012

Harvesting Historic White Pine

The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) is harvesting nearly 16 acres of white pine at the college’s Huntington Wildlife Forest in Newcomb. The harvest of the historic white pine plantation along Route 28 at the base of Goodnow Mountain began last week.

Many of the trees are 140 feet tall and 25 to 30 inches in diameter. White pine has significant historical importance in the United States. Not only did the British treasure the tall, straight stems for ship masts but nearly every colonial structure in the New World was constructed with white pine.

“Every time I go in that stand of white pine I get chills because it’s such a beautiful place. The trees are so tall and straight you might think you’re in a Douglas-fir forest in the Pacific Northwest. When you walk in there you think you’re in an old-growth stand of trees, but they’re not old growth — not even close. They’re not even a hundred years old. It’s because they’re growing on such good soil,” said Dr. René Germain, a professor at SUNY-ESF’s Department of Forest and Natural Resources Management.

The white pine plantation at Huntington was planted in 1916. The stand represents the most productive growing stock (of any species) in New York state, its managers say, supporting nearly 60,000 board feet per acre. By comparison, a typical northern hardwood stand in the state averages 3,000 to 5,000 board feet per acre.

The trees are economically mature and the stand is ready to regenerate; without silvicultural investments, the stand will revert to hardwoods. The first objective of the research is to test the effectiveness of a modified shelterwood regeneration method and site preparation techniques for regenerating white pine on high quality sites.

Another aspect of the research is economic. Researchers will follow the harvested logs through the Ward Lumber sawmill in Jay to monitor the yield and quality of the lumber. This will help determine the economic viability of investing in white pine on high quality sites where they would otherwise succumb to hardwood competition.

Ultimately, researchers say they want to contribute to the restoration of white pine in New York State by demonstrating how well white pine can grow when planted and well maintained in high quality soil.

Germain said, “Believe it or not, we are in danger of losing white pine as a cover type in the state. Currently, it represents less than 5 percent of the state’s forest cover, while in the 1970s white pine represented about 10 percent of the state’s forest cover.”

There will be signs at Goodnow Mountain and along Route 28 explaining the white pine research project, plus a kiosk at SUNY-ESF’s Adirondack Interpretive Center in Newcomb to help people understand how a working landscape keeps the forest vibrant and healthy.

The harvest is part of a research and demonstration project funded under a McIntire-Stennis grant administered through a 50-year-old federal program that funds forestry research.

Photo: White Pine Logs at the Newcomb Plantation (Courtesy Bruce Breitmeyer, SUNY-ESF).

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2 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    Interesting story.

    I wonder why they compare production of board feet of soft wood to production of hard wood. Northern hardwoods do grow slowly, I think that is part of the reason why it is of such high quality in some cases.

    The economic analysis will be interesting. I assume they can correct the study for the current low market prices. If I had a stand like this I would not cut it and sell it right now.

  2. catharus says:

    These dense plantings of pines don’t come close to reproducing the natural beauty of forests — even as they were, with predominantly white pines! I’d want to see any future plantings to better mimic the natural density of what the mature forests were 300 years ago (or so). Maybe they’d be much more aesthetically pleasing if the plantings weren’t done all at the same time (not an even-aged crop), but again, done in such away to mimic what natural regeneration would have been like.

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