Usis Hemlock Update  

TOPIC: Usis hemlock update
== 1 of 5 ==
Date: Thurs, Nov 1 2007 5:28 am
From: "Will Blozan"


Fellow climber Jason Childs and I climbed in the Usis hemlock this weekend
and are sad to report that it has died. The Usis tree was the tallest known
eastern hemlock at 173.1' tall and the fourth largest documented with 1533
cubic feet of wood. It also had the largest volume of reiterations and one
of the most complex canopies I have had the honor to traverse.

To me, this tree is the finest physical representation of the pinnacle of
development of the species. Record-setting height, huge volume and extreme
gnarl make this tree a composite of significant eastern hemlock features.
The combined losses of these superlatives in one tree make its death even
more crushing. It also starkly illustrates that treatments for adelgid in
the last hour can be futile.

As of my last climb, only the Noland Mountain Hemlock is alive and has
foliage higher than 170'. This is the last surviving hemlock of only four
trees documented over 170' tall.


== 2 of 5 ==
Date: Thurs, Nov 1 2007 6:51 am
From: "Gary A. Beluzo"


I am dismayed to hear about the death of the Usis tree. How many more
will we lose before governmental officials (or the Vanderbilts and
Rockafellers) respond with the $$$ that is desperately needed.
Perhaps ENTS should approach some of the rich families. You know the
old adage that if it isn't in my backyard it is out of sight out of
mind. Our group and others are doing much research but there is a
disconnect between scientists and the policymakers. We need more
folks like Bob Leverett who can bridge the gap and bring the news with
credibility and honesty....This seems to be a symptom of our times..we
are a scientifically-based society and yet the knowledge doesn't get
to those who are in a position to make decisions. Also, perhaps we
need a new branch of government that makes decisions not based on
politics but only science. They would answer to a panel of peers
rather than the voting public.


Gary A. Beluzo
Professor of Environmental Science
Division of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics
Holyoke Community College
303 Homestead Avenue
Holyoke, MA 01040

== 3 of 5 ==
Date: Thurs, Nov 1 2007 8:10 am
From: James Parton


It saddens me to hear that this great tree has passed away. All ENTS
should mourn the passage of this great giant. I had the pleasure of
visiting the tree with you back in September and remember how awesome
this tree really is. I am sure I speak for all ENTS. Thanks for
treating, documenting & trying to save these great trees. If only the
powers that be would contribute the money to those as yourself to save
them. Must they go from grandeur in our forests as the American
Chestnut has? American Chestnut, being a specific tree of interest to
me lets me know what is happening to the Hemlock. Without help, they
will be gone. There was no Will Blozan around when the blight hit the
chestnuts. No " Castenea Search Project ". Probably no funding to
anyone trying to save the tree. The chestnut survives in only a small
fraction of its former glory, sprouting from still-living roots. The
hemlock cannot do this. It has to have mankinds help to survive! The
Usis Tree did not have to die. If you would have gotten funding
earlier it ( The Usis ) would have survived. For many trees it is just
too late. The forest service should have started having trees treated
when the adelgid first started entering our forests. True, treating an
entire forest in remote areas may be impossible but Will has shown me
firsthand that hemlocks can be treated in considerable numbers. More
than I would have thought possible.

In Middle Earth is was the Orcs that were the trees greatest enemy.
Here it's the Adelgid. Orcs in miniature form.

P.S. How do you upload pictures into the discussion list? I usually
send mine to Ed to have him to insert them into the discussion when
put on the " Newest Updates " page on the website.

James Parton

== 4 of 5 ==
Date: Thurs, Nov 1 2007 8:56 am
From: "Will Blozan"


Thanks for your support. However, the Usis Hemlock would not have been saved
if funding was available earlier- it was only discovered in January of this
year and treated a few weeks later. I agree, the USFS and the NPS should
have begun treating instantly once HWA was discovered. Believe me, I pushed
and pushed but it wasn't up to me. As a result of the delay Usis and
millions of other ancient giants have needlessly died. And they will
continue to die until it is too late. The amount of apathy I have seen
towards the seriousness of this pest is appalling. "Monitoring" programs are
nothing more than death sentence under a more "PC" name.


== 5 of 5 ==
Date: Thurs, Nov 1 2007 10:58 am
From: James Parton


Yes, if dicovered late, as the Usis was it would make little or no
difference but early funding for treatment would have saved so many others, as you have
said. It's like cancer. It has to be caught early. I know you would have pushed for the
treatments. It is obvious to anyone who has met you or spoke to you in person or via e-mail/ENTS
posts. You have a passion for what you do & care for the trees. It shows in your
Appalachian Arborists commercials too!

James P.

== 2 of 8 ==
Date: Fri, Nov 2 2007 6:15 am
From: neil


Did anyone get leaf samples to preserve the genetic material of this and
the other great hemlocks?


== 3 of 8 ==
Date: Fri, Nov 2 2007 6:27 am
From: "Joseph Zorzin"

I've said it before, in this list, and nobody agreed, but part of the solution, I think, is to purposefully reduce the concentration of hemlock so the HWA will not spread so fast. The responses to this suggestion were that it spreads so fast and easily that thinning the stands will have no effect- maybe, but is that a scientific statement? We occasionally now find healthy elms because there are so few elms to spread Dutch elm disease. (and the same with chestnut)

In stands where hemlock is very dense- once the disease enters and wipes it out- we'll have quite a problem with all those dead trees- a major fire hazard for one. Perhaps the state of Mass. will take this approach- and heavily thin stands with abundant hemlock. If there are only a few hemlock per acre, there at least a good chance those trees might not become infected.

On one state of Mass. Fish & Wildlife property in the north central Mass. region- on Tully Mountain, the entire forest is a rather boring, roughly 40 year old stand resulting from clearcutting- it's a mix of hemlock, red oak and white pine. The hemlock makes up perhaps 50% of the stand. If the hemlock were reduced so that there were only a few per acre, not only would the remaining hemlock not likely be wiped out from HWA, but the forest would be growing much more valuable oak and pine. Then, whatever hemlocks do survive, they could be designated as "trees never to be cut" (Lynn Rogers explained that mama black bears like old hemlocks since their cubs can climb them easily). The forest on Tully Mt. would also be much more attractive. As it is now, the hiking trails are rather dark and gloomy, though cool on a hot summer day.

What I'm suggesting is that the solution to this problem, as most other forestry problems is: SILVICULTURE (not expensive government programs doomed to failure), which necessitates a strong forestry profession- better educated and trained than currently, with a proper undergrad degree in ecology/biology and grad work in forestry. I could rant on an on about this, but enough for today. <G>


== 4 of 8 ==
Date: Fri, Nov 2 2007 7:20 am
From: David Orwig

Hello all, I must step in here, I am the current hold-up in the process
so far, but in the next week or so the process will begin again, I am
not willing to be so cynical yet as we have a good group assembled and
there is a real chance to move it forward with some potential funding.
I realize at times things appear slow, but just because we don't see
action right away or at the pace we would like does NOT mean the process
if flawed or doomed for failure. I ask that we continue to be patient
and not assume anything is set in stone, including taking chemical
treatment off the table. Sincerely, DAVE ORWIG

== 5 of 8 ==
Date: Fri, Nov 2 2007 7:24 am
From: "Will Blozan"

Negative. Yet another suggestion that has fallen on unresponsive gov't ears.

== 6 of 8 ==
Date: Fri, Nov 2 2007 7:38 am
From: "Will Blozan"


I still don't agree. HWA got here from Japan and has spread without bounds
other than climatic, to isolated trees or dense groves alike. Silviculture
is not permitted in places like the Smokies or other high-quality hemlock
preserves at risk. Irresponsible nursery trade will negate any silvicultural
efforts, and the resulting lower concentration of hemlocks may in fact speed
up the spread of HWA as birds and other aerial vectors seek out the last
trees and groves.

I personally think that the immense amount of money used to attempt to
control or slow the spread of HWA should be used to preserve ecologically
significant groves. Like taxes and death, HWA is a given, and must be
managed in the best economic way possible. It really doesn't take much money
to save a forest- certainly far less than an equivalent silvicultural
treatment per unit area. Plus, you know it will work. Shouldn't that be the
basis of management decisions?


== 3 of 6 ==
Date: Fri, Nov 2 2007 5:57 pm
From: JamesRobertSmith

>From what I've seen in my travels around the Southeastern USA, the
best place to make a last ditch effort to preserve vast sands of
hemlock trees is on the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee. I saw huge
forests of hemlocks all over the plateau in numerous locations and in
many state parks and wilderness areas. All it would take is the money
for treatment, as I am sure thousands of volunteers could be located
to devote the time and effort to tramp into the backcountry to treat
for hwa infestations. Many enormous stands of hemlock trees are
currently in various canyons. I saw hemlocks there are recently as
four months ago that were in excellent health, some with no sign
whatsoever of hwa. Now is the time to make a move.

== 4 of 6 ==
Date: Fri, Nov 2 2007 8:25 pm
From: "Laurie and Scott Bolotin"

IS EVERY HEMLOCK SUSCEPTIBLE TO HWA? Is the rush to thin hemlocks similar to the rush to cut chestnuts before the blight? I've heard the proposal that a disease resistant American Chestnut was probably cut down unknowingly in the rush to salvage timber before the blight hit.................



== 6 of 6 ==
Date: Fri, Nov 2 2007 9:21 pm
From: dbhguru


No, Joe doesn't think that way. He is trying to be constructive in terms of a strategy to protect a select few hemlocks, given that the vast majority will perish. Unfortunately, the strategy of isolating and scattering small populations in hopes they'll be more likely to survive doesn't seem to apply to the darned adelgid. I think our avian friends are the primary vector for locating hemlocks wherever they may be.

By contrast, the strategy you describe is exactly the one being pursued by the Massachusetts Bureau of Forestry. They seek to salvage while there is still monetary value.


TOPIC: Usis hemlock update

== 1 of 5 ==
Date: Sat, Nov 3 2007 4:49 am
From: "Mike Leonard"


There is very little if any monetary value in hemlock sawlogs. I am
using an operator now who prefers to send all hemlock through his
chipper (it can take up to 30" DBH logs) to sell to the wood burning
plant in Westminster rather than load trailers because at least he can
make some money selling the chips. The stumpage price for hemlock has
generally stayed the same ($25-30/MBF) for decades. With the current
depression in timber markets, you can't give it away!
I'm not sure what the MA Bureau of Forestry's strategy is for the HWA,
but it can't be to make any serious revenue from hemlock salvage because
there's no money to be had there.

Mike Leonard, Consulting Forester


== 3 of 5 ==
Date: Sat, Nov 3 2007 7:30 am
From: "Joseph Zorzin"

There is a huge difference between properly thinning hemlock stands and what happened with the chestnut salvage operations- back then, they tried to cut every chestnut they could find- nobody bothered to look for vigorous, resistant trees to leave.

Besides, I don't see any rush to thin hemlocks. I wish there was. Unfortunately, hemlock is a very low value species so even if we decided to thin the forests, there are no markets in much of its range.


== 4 of 5 ==
Date: Sat, Nov 3 2007 7:39 am
From: "Joseph Zorzin"

Well, there still are large areas of the hemlock range with abundant hemlock- if these stands, across the range, were heavily thinned, it seems that there would be a better chance to reduce the spread of the disease- it has spread so rapidly, even to isolated trees, because of the vast number of hemlock which has allowed the population of HWA to become immense. In areas where hemlock is very abundant, the HWA must build up huge populations which can then spread more easily- than if hemlock were not so abundant across its range If such a treatment could slow down the spread, then perhaps silviculture could be applied in a National Park- not doing so is irresponsible- Congress could pass a law allowing this, I'd presume. Regarding "the immense amount of money used to attempt to control or slow the spread of HWA...."- thinning shouldn't cost a vast amount- it could break even or better - though hemlock is a very low value species, I'm quite sure a market could develop if our nation wanted it to develop- if we could go to the moon, we could come with uses for hemlock lumber and/or fiber. That would be the "best economic way possible" to deal with the problem.



I still don't agree. HWA got here from Japan and has spread without bounds other than climatic, to isolated trees or dense groves alike. Silviculture is not permitted in places like the Smokies or other high-quality hemlock preserves at risk. Irresponsible nursery trade will negate any silvicultural efforts, and the resulting lower concentration of hemlocks may in fact speed up the spread of HWA as birds and other aerial vectors seek out the last trees and groves.

I personally think that the immense amount of money used to attempt to control or slow the spread of HWA should be used to preserve ecologically significant groves. Like taxes and death, HWA is a given, and must be managed in the best economic way possible. It really doesn't take much money to save a forest- certainly far less than an equivalent silvicultural treatment per unit area. Plus, you know it will work. Shouldn't that be the basis of management decisions?


== 5 of 5 ==
Date: Sat, Nov 3 2007 7:48 am
From: "Joseph Zorzin"

Unfortunately, there isn't much monetary value- the state has NEVER made a profit on timber sales, not even selling oak, cherry and hard maple- they absolutely cannot possible make penny of profit harvesting hemlock- so if they claim that's what they're doing, then they're liars.

I suggest that all the biologists/ecologists and others interested in this problem need to go out and find resistant trees- then begin propagating those trees to nearby areas to spread the resistant genes.

The state people should be looking for resistant trees and stands- and retaining those. Stands that are truly susceptible, though the state will lose money on the thinning, should proceed to reduce the density of hemlock.

I also have no doubt that as a nation we could develop a market for hemlock- I've been told by loggers and builders that building codes in much of the nation hold down the market for hemlock because those codes demand graded western lumber. I'm sure there must be ways to enhance the market place with changes in such building codes and by other incentives- once the market improves, more hemlock could be profitably "MANaged".


== 5 of 5 ==
Date: Wed, Nov 7 2007 10:55 am
From: "Joseph Zorzin"

I suggest that this is simply due to the fact that when HWA arrived in North America, it was "virgin territory" and because of an absence of any control on them, they rapidly expanded their numbers- which is why heavy thinning of hemlock throughout its range will result in far fewer HWA to infect the hemlock that remain- again, the solution to many forestry problems is the application of excellent silviculture.

I strongly believe that hemlock is far more abundant than it was before the mass wasting of forests by the white man. In much of its territory, it's there by chance. I'll give an example- near here in North Central Massachusetts, it seems to be extremely common- despite the fact that much of the landscape is very well drained soils on granitic bedrock- not what you might expect- it's mixed with red oak and white pine. If the hemlock were heavily thinned to enhance the oak and pine- the forests would be "improved" as such terrain is a more natural environment for oak and pine. The hemlock spread to due to high grading and clearcutting - which breaks all the rules since that clearcutting should have resulted in early succession species, not hemlock, a climax species- presumably this happened because hemlock was already present in the understory. I know some folks here think such thinning won't make a difference- that the HWA numbers will remain large and they'll find whatever hemlock is remaining- but, common sense says that if hemlock were reduced in numbers everywhere, it wouldn't be long before the HWA population would crash.

At least in this area, we simply don't need as much hemlock as we have.



TOPIC: Usis hemlock update

== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Wed, Nov 21 2007 3:58 am
From: "Mike Leonard"

Why are some beech trees immune to beech bark disease which is the
combination of the European beech scale and the native Nectria fungus?
Are they resistant to the scale or the fungus or both?
If some beech trees are resistant to the scale, why would it be
impossible that a few hemlock might be resistant to HWA? Oaks produce
more tannins when they are being defoliated to make them less palatable
to caterpillars (remember the story on "talking trees").
Well could a few hemlocks produce something that make their needles less
palatable to HWA?
Charlie Burnham of DCR's Forest Health division suggested that their may
be some hemlocks that are resistant but I guess they haven't been
discovered yet or most likely just wishful thinking.


TOPIC: Usis hemlock update

== 1 of 3 ==
Date: Fri, Nov 16 2007 5:59 am
From: "Will Blozan"

Joe (and other foresters),

You may not be able to answer this but what would be your estimate of the
costs on a per acre basis involved with thinning a hemlock forest? I know
there are lots of variables to consider but I want to compare your
suggestion to that of preservation. I have a really good idea of what it
costs to preserve hemlock forests (in the southern Appalachians) on a per
acre basis but have no idea what the mechanical costs of thinning might be.
Although coming from a background in arboriculture and performing some large
thinning and "TSI" projects I have an idea if I was to do it, but I
certainly don't use the same equipment or techniques as you would.

Thanks for any input!


== 2 of 3 ==
Date: Fri, Nov 16 2007 3:13 pm
From: "Mike Leonard"


Stumpage prices and logging costs vary from region to region. I have no
idea what they are in the southern Apps. Here in MA, hemlock stumpage is
only worth about $15-25/MBF. Loggers here say they need $120/MBF (and
$50-60/cord) to put logs on a landing. So it all depends what you want
to do. If you simply want to thin, then you can mark and sell the
hemlock stumpage for the going rate to a reputable logger you can trust
to do what you want (or put it out to bid). If you want the logger to
chop and skid for you then you have to pay the going rate/MBF - here
it's $120/MBF, maybe cheaper there?
If it's just TSI, then perhaps an operator might charge $200/acre? Mark
the timber first and then show it to a few good operators and see what
they say.
Then you have to consider what kind of machines you want in there.
Grapple skidders work good because they pull nice tight loads that don't
flail out like cable skidders that tend to damage the residuals too
much. I've had nice jobs done by operators with just a forwarder. A
shear or feller-buncher is great because you can make sure the trees are
dropped in holes avoiding damage to the residuals. I like a shear
combined with a grapple skidder or forwarder best.
That doesn't mean a cable skidder can't do a good job; the operator just
has to be more careful and slow down a bit especially around corners!
If it's all unmerchantable poles then you have to specify slash disposal
- slash no higher than two feet from the ground, etc. Or maybe girdling
is an option too.
Hope that helps a bit.


== 3 of 3 ==
Date: Fri, Nov 16 2007 3:51 pm
From: dbhguru


Thanks ever so much for giving Will truly expert advice. It is great to have experienced foresters as members of ENTS. There are lots of conservation ideas that can be productively discussed on the list.


TOPIC: Usis hemlock update

== 1 of 2 ==
Date: Sat, Nov 17 2007 10:00 pm
From: Russ Carlson

There is some species variability, but any of the natural
hemlocks in the east are susceptible. This is an insect, not
a disease. There is no real immunity.

The pest is spread during the crawler stage, often 2
generations a year (in the mid Atlantic region). They
usually hatch in Delaware around late May to early June, and
again in early to mid September. They have been known in the
Philadelphia area for more than 50 years. The crawlers can be
carried by birds and by wind. In 1985, Hurricane Gloria
passed off the coast of Delaware and New Jersey just after the
fall hatch, then crossed Long Island, Connecticut, and up
through New England. In 1986, high populations of HWA were
found throughout New England. (The loss of millions of
crawlers didn't seem to affect the population down here, though.)

IMO, thinning of the stands will not retard the spread very
much when wind dispersal can easily spread this pest very
quickly over long distances. I've seen single landscape trees
more than a mile from any other hemlock become infested. It
is like the pine bark beetles of the west--once a population is
established, silvicultural methods become reactive, not

Chemical control is a short-term effort, too, IMO. While some
resistance might be genetically bred into the native species,
I think the real hope will be finding a biological control
that will stifle the HWA enough that many trees will survive.

Russ Carlson
Bear, DE USA

== 2 of 2 ==
Date: Sat, Nov 17 2007 10:22 pm
From: dbhguru


I think a lot of folks agree with you. Biological controls are the best means of control in the long term. Chemical treatment is a stop-gap measure. In past e-mails discussing the situation here in Massachusetts which has a committee studying options, I have expressed pessimism. However, Dave Orwig of Harvard Forest, a member of the committee, offers hope for a broad-based approach. I am a member of the committee and have faith in Dave's judgment. Maybe Massachusetts will assume a position of leadership in this situation.