About Brandon Loomis

Brandon Loomis is editor of the Adirondack Explorer.

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  1. Boreas says

    I personally do not see middle-age forests to be an “affliction”. Rather, it is a symptom – a symptom of slow healing, resulting from the near deforestation of our forests from the 18-19th centuries. It takes at least 500 years for a forest to get back to its normal state of trees of various species that are also of various stages of life. What we see today is the fresh scab of healing, not the healthy, organism of an old-growth forest. The next few generations of people will not see it either. Forests exist in a different time scale than humans.

    The existing Forest Preserve does not yet consist of a strong, healthy forest. Trees that grow from deforestation and logging grow too fast to their detriment. For trees to grow to a ripe old age, they need the help of other trees and organisms, not humans. A forest is a community, and more of it exists below ground than above. The term “wood-wide-web” has been coined to help describe the barely-understood macro and microscopic network of roots, fungal mycelia, bacteria, and invertebrates that make up forest soil. This entire community is laid to waste with typical logging operations that open up too much canopy and compact the soil. Health can return to the soil, but requires centuries, not decades.

    For trees to grow old and strong, they need to grow SLOWLY with communal support from this wood-wide-web. This happens when they spend their first 100-200 years shaded under the arms of what is referred to as mother trees. Young trees that are exposed to unlimited sunlight grow very fast. Good for foresters, but not for the trees. When they grow so fast the growth rings in the trunk are very wide, which makes the trunk less dense and not as strong. This, of course, makes them more susceptible to weather damage and disease. The life expectancy of these trees will not be as long as trees grown in old-growth conditions. A healthy forest only emerges after several generations of trees have grown and died in place.

    Much of the subterranean life in old-growth forest soil is yet to be cataloged and understood. For every acre of forest canopy we open, we may be destroying many more species than we are helping above ground. They may not be fuzzy or colorful but have existed as long as forests have existed on land. The amount of old-growth forest soil in the world is diminishing as rapidly as the old-growth forests. Sunlight uninterrupted by foliage warms the soil excessively. Wind not checked by foliage helps dessicate it. Then rain unchecked by foliage and roots helps to contribute to soil erosion and stream siltation, among other things.

    What does all this have to do with the article? It is my opinion that the Forest Preserve needs to be kept whole, unmolested, and allowed to become ancient. It does not need or even benefit from human intervention. I feel early-succession or grassland vertebrate species such as the birds and deer can be “managed” on private lands if desired, but not in the Forest Preserve. If landowners – including lumber operations want to manipulate their property, they should be able to do so in an environmentally friendly way. If NYS or the federal government wants to help these landowners accomplish this management, all the better. I applaud landowners who manage their lands to help species that are in trouble. But I do not feel this should be the purpose of the Forest Preserve. I feel our unique, limited concentration of healing Forest Preserve within the Park should be allowed to grow old – if for no other reason than to show that humans possess the potential to let Nature run its course as much as possible.

    For more reading, I would strongly suggest “The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate” by Peter Wohlleben. He is a German forester with a unique understanding of forests, from which much of this spiel was gleaned. Very easy and enlightening reading I can’t recommend enough.

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