Over the next few weeks, I plan to photograph more of areas of
native red pine habitat in Massachusetts. Ill send pictures and will
be interested to see if you continue to observe habitat parallels to
areas in Minnesota.
Here in Massachusetts, the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species
Program is probably aware of 90%(I'm guessing) of the natural
occurrences of red pine in Massachusetts, but they don't make that
information available to the general public for obvious reasons. At
one point I knew more than they did. I shared all the places I knew
with them, but I think that they've since picked up data on outlier
red pine communities that I haven't seen.
With returned mobility of movement, I plan to get to as many places
as possible to photograph, measure, and document our forest
treasures here in Massachusetts - with a concentration on individual
trees, of course.
In pursuit of that mission, tomorrow, Monica and I go to visit the
champion red spruce (height-wise) on Mount Greylock. I haven't seen
the tree in at least 3 growing seasons - actually 4, I think. I have
high expectations for it. I'm hoping for 135 feet.
If you recall the Williamstown conference and our field trip into
the Greylock Hopper, where the spruce grows, was where you and I
first met. You picked out old fire signs in an oak stand on Greylock
for me. That occurred in 1994 at the second old growth forest
conference in our continuing Eastern Ancient Forest Conference
Series. If you recall, we also held a concurrent old growth forest
definitions symposium at Harvard Forest and again in 1998.
O ne of the local objectives of that second conference was to
involve the then Massachusetts Department of Environmental
Management (DEM) and introduce its resource people to the thinking
of ecologists and other scientists doing research in eastern old
growth forests. At the time, most of the folks in the Massachusetts
Bureau of Forestry (including the chief forester) held that the old
growth forest remnants in Massachusetts were composed almost
entirely of diseased, decadent, and over-mature trees in earnest
need of removal - except for a couple of small areas retained for
historical reasons. We've come a long way since those days. We have
an old growth protection policy. However, there is a push developing
today to increase the amount of young, early successional habitat on
DCR lands, presumably to the benefit of species that thrive in that
kind of habitat. Presumably that won't impact the old growth, but
could impact mature, exemplary second growth. I fear that an
underlying motive for calling for the increase of young, early
successional habitat is to soften public resistance to future clear
cutting (cast under euphemistic descriptions) on DCR lands to feed
planned biofuels projects. The price of protection is eternal
From your experience, what is the current "state of awareness" about
Minnesota's old growth ecosystems among state-level natural resource
people in Minnesota? You've spoken to that in the past, but we all
see that the forces of exploitation wear many disguises. What are
the current trends for both state and federal agencies? Do state
designated areas of old growth carry statutory protections or just
administrative ones easy to abandon?
At the federal level, this past July, I was impressed with how much
the San Juan National Forest resource people know about their old
growth and the extent to which NF officials have gone to protect it.
Of the nearly 2,000,000 acres of the San Juan NF and co-located BLM
lands, close to 70% of it is classified as unsuited for timber
management, and I might add, when one ventures out into that 70%, if
one had doubts, they are quickly erased. Remote and rugged!
I'll close with an image taken this past July from the San Juans.
The location is Lobo Lookout astride the continental divide. The
view looks eastward and toward a band of showers that didn't quite
reach Monica and me. I was at about 11,500 feet altitude when I
snapped the image. As you can see, the slopes are heavily forested.
Englemann spruce and sub-alpine fir are the two primary species and
they fairly quickly attain significant height.
One can wander through long, snaking meadows near timberline,
encountering stands of impressive trees tucked into sheltered spots.
The zone that reflects the changeover from forest to tundra is very
complicated in the San Juans.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Lee Frelich"
Sent: Friday, July 31, 2009
Subject: [ENTS] Re: Mt Tom Adventures
Looks like the Boundary Waters in northern MN. Just take out
and farms below and replace with a hundred feet of water, and it
look just like the Pine Lake and Fowl Lake area at the east end
Boundary Waters. We have millions of dwarf and semi-dwarf red
basalt, granite and greenstone cliffs there.
Lee Frelich wrote (July 31, 2009)
I saw that 130 foot red spruce during the conference in
believe it was that long ago.
Regarding your questions:
In MN and WI, inventories have been done and most existing old
known and reserved in some way.
We have an old-growth reserve system in MN with about 48,000
it, all on state owned land. It was intended to provide examples of
growth for all forest types and ecological regions of the state.
this is administrative, but at a high level, by declaration of the
governor. It would be very hard to reverse. About 30 or 40% of the
old-growth stands are also within state parks or natural areas and
a higher statutory level of protection. We also have several hundred
thousand acres of other primary forest, much of which is old growth,
designated wilderness (Boundary Waters Canoe Area), or in parks,
preserves, or dwarf forest.
Old growth issues are regularly discussed and planned for at the
administrative level at the headquarters within the Department of
Natural Resources. In field offices, awareness and attitude vary a
with some who think old growth is a waste and know almost nothing
others extremely interested in it.
The national forest staff in our region have plans for protecting
growth, or in some cases creating secondary old growth because there
almost no primary old growth left. On the vast Superior NF, which is
almost the size of MA, there is a lot of old growth within the
wilderness, and they don't think it necessary to have additional old
growth elsewhere. Chippewa and Chequamegon-Nicollet National Forests
have almost no true old growth,but they have either wilderness areas
that will approach old growth status in a few decades or special
management zones where forest will be allowed to get older than on
rest of the landscape, with some sort of minimal selection harvest
taking place. Some of these are quite large, as much as 20,000