Monday, May 16, 2016

Conservation Council President On Managing ‘Forever Wild’ Lands

Wilderness around Fulton Chain from Castle Rock above Blue Mountain Lake

At a recent meeting I attended with other sportsmen, outdoor advocates and various environmental professionals, the topic of balance among the concerns of our lands and forests, wildlife, and people was being discussed.

From the perspective of the New York State Conservation Council, there is nearly a complete loss of balance on state lands in the Adirondacks because of an overbearing philosophy within the forest preserve, the forever wild philosophy, and wilderness and wild forest classifications. Thus the carrying capacity for song birds, wild game and other species in the Adirondacks is severely lacking.

A knowledgeable voice from the back of the room stated that if we want new growth and the type of habitat that will promote increased wildlife populations in the Adirondacks we will get it; it is in nature’s plan which is just slightly impacted by man. The problem for people my age is this new growth initiative will start to take place in about 50 to 75 years. A basic cycle of 175 to 250 years (of decay, regeneration, growth, decay, etc.) will re-forest land in the Adirondacks if un-impacted by man. Once the trees reach their mature state it is not that long by nature’s time clock that they begin to die, rot and fall, thus creating the opportunity for nature’s new growth initiative.

Because of logging in the Adirondacks much of the forest is on the same time schedule to reach maturity. This will eventually lead to tree mortality and the regeneration of forest lands that we as bird watchers, sportsmen and animal lovers value so highly. So in 50 to 75 years my friends will be initially saying, “Wow – our animals are back.” And the tree advocates will be saying, “Look at what is happening to our forests.”

Left to her own devices, Mother Nature manages by extremes – extreme highs followed by extreme lows if not regulated. There are control mechanisms built in to buffer the natural progression of nature’s life cycle, such as the beaver, fire, and flooding which impact nature’s cycle sporadically at best. One more element that Mother Nature intended to be used that is all too often being ignored in the Adirondacks is man – the scientist, the element with knowledge, the logger and harvester, the one able to implement sound conservation practices.

We all want to protect the forest in the Adirondacks and everywhere else. The definition of a healthy forest system varies by different groups. We are being told that the future of the Adirondack forest faces certain degradation or destruction on a large scale at the hand of nature in the future. But there is a method to manage the Adirondack forest for sustainable and balanced growth, where maturity of different forest areas is on a different time line. Will our children’s grandchildren be able to say we managed our Adirondack natural resources wisely as our management practice now stands? That would be no. Can we do better? You know we can! Will we? Can we take the opportunity to look ahead and can we work proactively? Can we learn from sound science and objectivity?

The New York State Conservation Council’s point of view comes principally from science and sound balanced management philosophies. The logger is our friend. Wise use of our forests ensures a sustainable forest, some wilderness forest, and an ecologically balanced forest.

Photo courtesy John Warren.

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The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional guest essays from Adirondack residents, visitors, and those with an interest in the Adirondack Park. Submissions should be directed to Almanack editor Melissa Hart at

25 Responses

  1. Jim S. says:

    I believe forest preserve lands should be managed by mother nature. Given enough time the Adirondack forests will and should return to old growth status. Managed forests are everywhere but old growth is truly rare.

  2. John Sullivan says:

    Where is it written that every generation must get exactly what it thinks it wants? Leave the Forest Preserve alone. I’m with Jim S.

  3. Todd Eastman says:

    The pro-logging in the Forest Preserve perspective combined with old-school wildlife management = NYCC

    A recovering forest is not unhealthy…

    … compared to the state it is recovering from.

    Perhaps an “egologically balanced forest”???

  4. George L. says:

    The article is pure assertion and long-repudiated propaganda – not science and not conservation. Most of the major Adk forest fires occurred during the logging era.

  5. I can see from the comments that these folks must have missed (or skipped) the ecology lessons concerning natural succession.

    And I also see the same people do not understand that, due to logging well before the ADK was placed under “forever wild”, the majority of this forest will DIE completely within the next 75 years. Fast-forward 75 years and folks like the current ones who have commented will be apoplectic about the trees all dying, and it is our fault, and we must regulate more to save the forest.

    The chainsaw is our friend, when used properly and a forestry management plan, based on science, is implemented.

    We like biodiversity, we like wild treasures, but you cannot have that under the current conditions the ADK is forced into.

    Let’s develop a solid forest management plan and implement it. Will save a lot of angst, improve conditions for wildlife, and leave the areas impacted in much healthier shape for the generations yet to come.

    Or, we can leave it alone to satisfy the selfish, personal feelings of the people today, the generations of tomorrow be danged.

    Where do you stand?

    • Dave says:

      You are asserting that if we do not artificially manage the forest today, if we just leave it to nature, that it will all be dead in 75 years?

      Dare I ask where you studied ecology?

      • Do you know what natural succession is? Self-evident that you do not, otherwise you wouldn’t have asked that question.

        • John Warren says:


          Your claim that the trees were cut down and others planted at the same time is not supported by the facts. Logging of the Adirondacks took place at various times and places, and with various species, over about 150 years, from say 1800 until about 1950. There are areas that were completely logged off, that have regrown and are now essentially old growth. Additionally, there are estimates from 150,000 to almost 600,000 acres of first growth, never been logged lands.

          This is well documented in Barabara McMartin’s Forest of the Adirondacks. You can read more about this here:

          • Cranberry Bill says:

            From reading these comments, I am beginning to wonder how forests ever survived without humans. Perhaps humans invented trees. That would explain why wood rots. I would also wonder why we would invent trees when our main goal is to level the landscape so we can build Home Depots where we sell wood.

          • Tell this to the NYS Forestry folks.

        • Dave says:

          Natural succession… “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means”

          Ecological succession does not, in any way, support this peculiar theory you put forward.

          Even if all of the trees in the Park were cut down and re-planted at the same time… which of course is not true, as John perfectly points out… but even if it were true, saying that the result of that would be some doomsday countdown to a mass die-off resulting in a dead forest after 75 years is truly an outrageous assertion supported by exactly zero facts.

          That is not how nature works.

          For anyone following this odd conversation and wondering what on earth is going on here… Rich Davenport is an officer of the Conservation Council, the organization behind this guest article. Among other things, they are a well known hunting/trapping lobbying organization and one of their stated goals (as outlined in the guest article above) includes increasing the carrying capacity of game species. Not because it represents any sort of natural balance, but because it benefits their constituency. This means being against anything that might interfere with that goal… including allowing forest ecosystems to develop, mature, and exist naturally. This helps explain why they are anti-Forever Wild and why they promote dated artificial “management” practices that have long since been replaced by the science of conservation biology.

    • Jim S. says:

      The alarm goes off in 75 years and all trees will fall all at once.

      • Charlie S says:

        Ginkgo leaves….they all fall at once….amazing. In 75 years we might all be gone the way things are going Jim.

    • Boreas says:

      Another thing to keep in mind is that many people are aware of the collateral damage the late 19th century logging practices caused. Intense fires caused by dead limbs and tops that were left behind left many areas at higher elevation burned so deeply that no trees ever returned. The thin mineral soils were essentially sterilized. Siltation and warming of streams caused damage to aquatic systems.

      Thankfully we have learned from the past and forestry practices have been modified to mitigate these problems, but many citizens still are not overly trusting of logging operations.

  6. Todd Eastman says:

    “the ecology lessons concerning natural succession.”

    What part of “natural” do you have problems with?

    • The fact we cut the trees down and the replanted them at about the same time. Is that “natural”? Nope. So, rather than wait for the trees to age and die, at approximately the same time, we should correct this while we can and implement a management plan as to avoid the entirety of the forest dying at the same time.

      Or do you not get it?

      • Todd Eastman says:

        Do you live on a tree farm with old Gifford?

        The Adirondacks are repairing well from past logging. Nothing is dying at the same time, never has, never will except where TSM is done on commercial forests. Yea, let’s spray herbicides to suppress un-marketable species while we’re at it.

        Forests change nicely on their own. The amazing recovery of the Adirondacks sets a nationwide standard for limiting timbering on public lands and letting the landscape heal.

        Now if the goal is to log and as a by-product, create roads in the Forest Preserve that are convenient for “sportsmen” to drive to, come out and say that.

        Please share your data for the death of Adirondack woodlands.

        • Chuck says:

          Todd please read what I said. I said in 50 to 75 years we will see a change, a change in balance. It will be a significant change as reported to me. The source for my comment were professional biologists familiar with the Adirondacks. Forest changes on their own, when they happen, tend to be extreme in nature Man has an impact on nature even if it is to do nothing as some suggest. Be it forest or wildlife, left unchecked they tend to swing from one extreme to the other over time. Man’s ability, may I say charge. is to manage wisely and be good stewards of the land. A balance system in the Adirondacks would have ample mature forest and habitat for wildlife. The sportsmen appreciates the opportunity to hunt, fish, and trap. Those opportunities arise “naturally” through proper management practices.

  7. Charlie S says:

    Jim S. says: “Given enough time the Adirondack forests will and should return to old growth status.”

    Once old growth is gone it is gone forever Jim S! Not coming back. Ever!

    • Jim S. says:

      Certainly not in our lifetime. I am thinking really long term.

    • Todd Eastman says:

      Old growth is a relative term. Natural disturbances in the forest are always creating a mishmash of pioneer to climax species.

  8. Wayno says:

    We have plenty of Forrest in the US, and even in the Adirondacks, that are ‘managed by the chain saw’. We can afford to leave a legacy to our grandchildren’s grandchildren that will reflect a more purely natural state in the Forrest Preserve.

  9. Doug P says:

    If you want to view wildlife in the Adirondacks you should go to a ski area in the off season. The slopes offer food for many varieties of wild animals.
    The sun brings warmth and a place for young and old to romp around,
    while the surrounding trees offer protection and shade on the warmer days.
    If you want to see a Green Desert, climb up a mountain and look around.
    Nothing but 60 foot hemlocks just waiting for a lightning bolt to touch off a catastrophic forest fire. Thanks to the ADK I have not visited the Adirondacks in almost 30 years. Their beliefs on forest management are based on the destruction of the forest almost 100 years ago.
    There is no pretty way cut down trees and drag them out of the forest.
    However, selective cutting and proper disposal of limbs and tops can allow sunlight to reach the forest floor to let new growth begin.
    A new food source is developed and wildlife begins to move back into the area. First insects, then birds and then larger mammals appear.
    It’s the “Circle of Life” Simba. Maybe you should open your eyes and smell the wild flowers if you can find any growing in the deep dark woods.