Young Forest Project Underway in Adirondacks

Foresters and wildlife biologists with Lyme Adirondack Forest Company (an affiliate of The Lyme Timber Company) and the Wildlife Management Institute have sited a young forest habitat demonstration project on part of Lyme’s 239,000-acre ownership in the Adirondacks of upstate New York.

Kunjamuk Young Forest Demonstration Project

Carefully planned commercial timber harvests on Lyme Timber Co. lands in the Adirondacks will create significant acreage of young forest, helping a broad range of wildlife./E. Ross

Timber harvests began in December 2015 on the Kunjamuk Young Forest Demonstration Project, a 3,373-acre area along the Kunjamuk River that is part of Lyme’s 25,226-acre Speculator Tree Farm tract north of the village of Speculator.

On the project area, Lyme and WMI will demonstrate how commercial timber harvesting can be used to create young forest over many decades in a carefully planned, science-based and sustainable way.

WMI vice president Scot Williamson said, “Timber management on state-owned land in Adirondack Park is prohibited, and most large private parcels aren’t open to the public. The Speculator Tree Farm is accessible to the public thanks to a conservation easement held by New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation. The Kunjamuk Young Forest Project represents a unique interpretive opportunity – a place where people can visit and see how timber harvests can create the young forest habitat that so many kinds of wildlife need.”

Check out this fact sheet about the Kunjamuk Project, which includes a map of the project area.

Young forest grows back on wooded sites following logging. It consists of densely regrowing trees, shrubs, and diverse other plants that offer enhanced food and cover to wildlife, including many Species of Greatest Conservation Need identified by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC), also a partner on the Kunjamuk Young Forest Demonstration Project.

Chestnut-sided warbler

Chestnut-sided warbler is one of many forest birds that need young regrowing woodlands./T. Berriman

Another key partner is Audubon New York, the state’s leading nongovernmental organization for the conservation and protection of natural resources for birds.

Many kinds of songbirds, as well as ruffed grouse, American woodcock, wild turkey, snowshoe hare, bobcat, black bear, and white-tailed deer, are a few of the wild animals that will use the new young forest as it arises in the Kunjamuk Corridor.

By spring 2016, trees on approximately 100 acres will have been harvested, setting the stage for the lush regrowth of native vegetation. Lyme and WMI have established a harvest design that complies with all Adirondack Park Agency and Wild and Scenic River requirements. Over the next 70 years, ongoing harvests will create dozens of 1- to 8-acre openings, with the goal of harvesting around 330 total acres every 10 years. This schedule will ultimately result in 10 percent of the area being in a young forest growth stage at all times.

The shapes of individual harvest openings will vary and will tend to follow terrain features and forest stand boundaries. Streams, wetlands, vernal pools, and unique habitat features such as rock outcrops and large snag and den trees will be protected.

Harvest areas will remain as young forest for approximately 10 to 20 years. After that, they will naturally become older forest, which no longer has the dense structure needed by many kinds of wildlife. And after 70 years, trees in the first cuts will have grown to a size where they can be harvested again.

Timber harvest in Adirondacks

Patch timber harvest on Lyme woodlands in Adirondacks. As well as creating important wildlife habitat, harvests will help the the upstate New York economy./E. Ross

The Kunjamuk project is part of a larger, regionwide effort called the Young Forest Project, whose partners, including state and federal wildlife agencies, conservation and wildlife organizations, land trusts, timber companies, Native American tribes, the U.S. military, and private landowners, are actively making young forest habitat for the wildlife that needs it.

“People sometimes think timber harvests degrade the forest,” said Sean Ross, director of forestry operations at The Lyme Timber Company, a private timberland investment management organization representing Lyme Adirondack Timberlands, the largest private landowner in Adirondack Park. “In fact, if those harvests are planned and carried out correctly, they can mimic the natural disturbances that once brought ample young forest to our woodlands – events like floods, wildfires, and the tree-cutting and stream-flooding activities of beavers.”

Continued Ross, “The timber harvests planned for the Kunjamuk project will also bring an economic boost to the region by providing jobs for loggers and truckers and raw material for area wood-consuming mills. And they’ll create age and tree-species diversity in our woodlands, something that helps keep the forest healthy and resilient. Our focus here is to show that a private company can achieve wildlife habitat goals through the use of traditional forest management practices without compromising economic returns.”

With NYSDEC holding a conservation easement on the Speculator Tree Farm tract, no development will take place, and the site will remain open to the public for hiking, hunting, birdwatching, canoeing, fishing, wildlife viewing and snowmobiling and mountain biking on some roads. Lyme and WMI plan to put up signs and information kiosks and to reach out to Adirondack conservation groups and organizations, making them aware of the need for young forest in the Adirondacks and explaining how the project will be conducted. Biologists will also monitor wildlife populations to learn how they respond to the increase in the amount of young forest in the Kunjamuk corridor.

American woodcock

American woodcock, like this hen holding tight on a nest, will find new and improved habitat for breeding and feeding in the Kunjamuk Corridor./C. Fergus

In the Adirondack Park, most public land is held in a “Forever Wild” state where no logging can take place. Private landowners who wish to harvest timber must follow strict regulations set forth and administered by the Adirondack Park Agency and NYDEC. Because little heavy cutting takes place, young forest – often called early successional habitat by biologists – is especially rare in the Adirondacks today.

Yet many kinds of wildlife need that kind of habitat, for breeding, feeding, or both. Birds that nest in young forest include the olive-sided flycatcher, alder flycatcher, Canada warbler, whip-poor-will, and white-throated sparrow. All are Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) in New York, and all can be expected to breed in the Adirondacks.

Recent research has also shown that many birds that nest in more-mature forests, such as scarlet tanagers and wood thrushes (both New York SGCN), take their newly fledged offspring into young forest in late summer. Such forest is often less than 10 feet tall, dense, and amply stocked with insects and fruits. Both young birds and their parents rely on these foods to build up fat reserves for the autumnal migration southward. The dense structure of the habitat, with its many upright stems, protects young inexperienced birds from aerial predators such as hawks.

In June 2016, Audubon New York conducted a breeding bird survey on the demonstration area. Biologists detected a total of 47 bird species within 50 meters of the center of each point. Red-eyed vireos were the most abundant species detected (70 individuals) followed by chestnut-sided warblers (43 individuals) and ovenbirds (31 individuals). The semi-open young mixed forest habitat type yielded the highest species richness (34 species), followed closely by the semi-open older mixed forest habitat (29 species). The "semi-open" aspect of the habitat came about as a result of earlier partial timber harvests.

For a map of the Audubon New York survey points, plus a preliminary report on results, see the Attachment section below.

“Lyme Adirondack views the Kunjamuk Young Forest Demonstration Project as a very important undertaking,” said Lyme’s Sean Ross. “We’re not solely focused on making wildlife habitat at any cost, and at the same time we are not solely focused on optimizing tree growth or the yield of forest products per acre. The site will be a place where people can see how Lyme is integrating wildlife habitat management into our day-to-day and year-to-year forest management program, something that we’ve been doing for years on all of our Adirondack holdings.”

The Adirondack Park includes more than 6 million acres, with 2.7 million acres owned by the state of New York and more than 3 million acres in private ownership. Lyme Adirondack owns and manages more than 20 tracts inside the Park totaling more than 239,000 acres. The company, based in Hanover, N.H., bought the land from International Paper Company in 2006.

The Lyme property is certified to standards of both the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the Forest Stewardship Council. Sustainable forestry operations protect water quality and wildlife habitat and ensure the longterm maintenance of the forest resource in an environmentally sound manner.