Since the Lake George Land Conservancy was established in 1988, the organization has protected more than 10,000 acres from development, largely to maintain the clarity and water quality of Lake George. But when conserving a property, its Board of Directors also considers a preserve’s broader value – for recreation, education and wildlife habitat.
In 2009, for instance, the Conservancy hired ecologists to study bird populations and in 2010, it began working toward establishing a managed wildlife refuge on one of its preserves.
And earlier this year, the board approved a Stewardship Plan for Matty’s Mountain, a 175 acre parcel in Lake George bordered on three sides by the Berry Pond Preserve.
According to Jamie Brown, the Conservancy’s executive director, the parcel was donated to the organization in 2014.
“Managing this property, rather than leaving trees to grow randomly, will be a pilot project, a test, something that could serve as a model for what this kind of stewardship can accomplish,” said Brown.
The parcel is especially well-suited as an experimental forestry lab because, Brown said, “Logging had decimated it. We set out to develop a management plan that would restore and rehabilitate the forest, a plan that would maximize the land, not for its economic value, but for its conservation value.”
Brown added, “Some people think that trees should never be cut, but birds and animals do not always do well in mature forests. Here, we can open up gaps in the woods for wild life.”
Graham Cox, a member of the organization’s Conservation Committee, which drafted the plan, said, “How will we manage the forest? By cutting trees, but very carefully, and very selectively. If we want to restore a forest, we need pro-active management.”
Cox, a long-time Audubon Society official and a part-time resident of Bolton Landing, spoke about the plan during a talk to the Southern Adirondack Audubon Society in Glens Falls on May 25.
“As stewards, we have a responsibility to think about multiple objectives, including bird habitat. By taking out unhealthy trees, we bring light to the forest floor and allow the forest to regenerate. That’s conducive to bird life,” said Cox.
While bird populations may grow larger and more diverse in the Matty’s Mountain parcel than they would were the forests left unmanaged, bird watchers will not have easy access to the woods, said Sarah Hoffman, the Lake George Land Conservancy’s communications manager.
“The trails through the Berry Pond Preserve do not connect with any trails that might exist at Matty’s Mountain, so we’re not promoting the site as a planned, interpretive bird sanctuary,” she said.
The Berry Pond Preserve, a 1,436-acre parcel which the Lake George Land Conservancy purchased in 2008 and sold to New York State last year, protects the headwaters of West Brook, said Jamie Brown. Those lands are accessible through the Lake George Recreation Center.
Photos from above: Berry Pond Preserve and Matty’s Mountain and warbler, a species of “special concern” in New York State provided by Lake George Mirror.
A version of this story was first published in the Lake George Mirror.