if yer not forest,
yer aginst us
Bruce Kershner
Ancient Forest Activist
1951-2007
Vanishing Forests

Proposal protects state's old trees
Legislation would cover 35 species
in nearly 400,000 acres of forest

by Brian Nearing, Staff writer
Albany Times-Union, Wednesday, May 9, 2007

ALBANY—It would be illegal to cut remaining old-growth forest in New York under a proposed law that has bipartisan support. The law would shield 35 tree species—some dating to colonial times—from the logger's saw. To be protected, a tree would have to date to 1850 or earlier, or be of a certain girth based on species. There are about 400,000 acres of old-growth forest in the state, mostly in the Adirondacks.

The Kershner Heritage Tree Preservation and Protection Act, named after the late Buffalo-area naturalist, Bruce Kershner, is aimed at protecting wilderness that helps promote tourism, supporters say.

"We must save New York's important forests," said Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, a Buffalo Democrat. "So much damage has been done. We have to make sure we can stop the continued destruction of one of the state's great assets." Over the last decade, Hoyt has helped block state plans to log old-growth forests in Allegany State Park and Zoar Valley, where hemlock, yellow birch, sugar maple and northern red oak are up to 350 years old, and gnarly hemlocks can date back 500 years.

"We are thinking to the future," said John Emery, a spokesman for Sen. Mary Lou Rath, an Erie County Republican who chairs the Senate's Tourism Committee. "People are attracted to environmental aspects of our forests."

But a spokesman for the logging industry questioned whether it goes too far. "This will raise a lot of questions for private forest owners around the state," said Kevin King, executive director of the Empire State Forest Products Association. The group's members own and manage 1.2 million acres of forests and employ more than 20,000 workers. "This looks at private lands as well as public lands," said King.

He questioned whether the proposal includes trees that are too small to be considered old growth. For example, the proposal sets a minimum diameter of 32 inches for a sugar maple tree to be protected. "This is not a big tree. It is not something that anyone would consider old growth," King said.

A spokesman for the Sierra Club said the law might give timber companies a loophole to cut younger trees in old-growth forests. "The proposal says you can cut down other trees and leave the heritage trees behind," said club executive director John Stouffer. "Then it is not an old-growth forest anymore. We would rather see the habitat type protected."

About 2.2 percent of the state's forests—about 400,000 acres—are old-growth, according to Ancient Forests of the Northeast, a 2004 Sierra Club guide co-written by Kershner, who died of cancer in February at age 56.

Private individuals own about a third of old-growth forest stands, the guide estimates. Not-for-profit nature preserves own 25 percent, the state owns 20 percent, local parks own 20 percent.

"There are laws to protect wetlands and rare plants, but not laws for a rare ecosystem like old growth. You wonder why we aren't we protecting these," said Fred Breglia, who with Kershner co-founded the New York Old Growth Forest Association. "These forests are historic landmarks of how our landscape used to look."

About 300,000 acres of old-growth are in 50 stands in the Adirondacks, while the Catskills has another 70,000 acres in 20 stands. Another 5,000 acres are scattered in 110 stands around the rest of the state.

Roots that go way back

In the Capital Region, old-growth forests can be found at:

Lisha Kill Natural Area, 112 acres in Niskayuna, between Troy, Rosendale and River roads just southwest of Lock 7. Has about 30 acres of hemlock, white pine, northern red and white oak, and beech.

Old Maids Woods, Schemerhorn Road, Schenectady, a 21-acre city-owned forest that contains 220-year-old pitch pines, some of the oldest examples of the species in the U.S.

Little Nose and Big Nose, near Sprakers, Montgomery County, where 500-year-old northern white cedars cling to limestone cliffs visible from the state Thruway between mile markers 188 and 190.

Schoharie Escarpment and Vroman's Nose, near the village of Middleburgh, Schoharie County, where red cedars up to 900 years old hold fast to sandstone cliffs.

Brian Nearing can be reached at 454-5094
or by e-mail at bnearing@timesunion.com

click here to read
S4637
Bruce S. Kershner
heritage tree
preservation & protection act

an act proposed to the NYS Senate

advocate
for our forests
help pass
this landmark legislation

for more information
Fred Breglia
Landis Arboretum
landisfb@midtel.net
518-875-6935


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