On Tuesday, Monica and I visited a forested
site on the property of Seton Hall Prep School in West Orange,
NJ. The property was once owned by the Civil War General George
McClellan and later governor of New Jersey. My former partner
Bruce Kershner visited the location several years ago, which was
going to be developed by the school. Bruce wrote a report of his
findings dated November 10, 2002. Athletic fields were (and
still are) planned for sections of the property that Bruce
identified as old growth.
Citizen activists of the Green West Orange Group have fought
Seton Hall on the development and do expect to compromise on
some areas - but not the old growth. Altogether about 16 acres
of forest are involved that have a scattering of old white and
black oaks, a couple of tuliptrees, and at least 3 impressive
Basically, I was asked to come down and pick up where
Bruce left off. They hoped I would confirm Bruce's observations.
I agreed to visit the site and independently judge its
worthiness as an old growth forest and provide expert witness
testimony in July if needed.
I should point out that the citizen activists are a pleasure
to work with, especially Kavin Malanga, a lawyer. But I saw
right away that the site, itself, presents some real challenges.
There is no question that the site has a scattering of trees in
the 200-year and older age class. Some may be 250 years old.
Bruce considered two areas to be bonafide old growth. In fact,
he was very enthusiastic about the site and expressed his
enthusiasm to me in our phone conservations. We talked about the
site and his involvement several times on the phone.
An immedite problem is that most ecologists experienced with
old growth forest research, who might visit the site, would
likely have serious reservations about calling it old growth.
There are lots of invasives, several old apple trees, and the
forms of many of the oldest trees are open grown. The history of
the two sub-sites that Bruce identified as old growth is no
doubt complicated, but the trees he identified as old are in
fact quite old.
Seton Hall's arborist did a complete inventory of the
trees with approximate diameters and heights measured through
ENTS techniques. Somebody working for Seton Hall must have read
The problem I have now is the substantiation of
the classification 'old growth' for the two areas of the
property that were identified as such. More specifically, the
challenge is one of interpretation and resolving how the term
was applied to the Seton Hall property and can be applied in the
future. As we have often seen, the term old growth rears its
controversial head from time to time, and in this case, I will
need to thoroughly discuss the concept in my report and show how
it applies to the Seton Hall property.
It is important to recognize that Bruce was
trying to promote the importance of preserving remnant patches
of old forest holding on in urban areas. He agreed with me that
in terms of how we described them, they needed some
qualification. At one point, I suggested the term urban old
growth and he agreed in principle. I would be most appreciative
if my fellow and lady Ents would help me think through this
situation. In my next email, I'll propose several types of old
growth definitions and ask for your evaluations and comments.
I'd like to treat the West Orange project as a participatory one