I hiked the southern-most section of the Earl Cardot Eastside Overland Trail last Saturday with my dog Lolli and my friend Terry and his dog Mozart. Parts of that section are really gorgeous. Other parts are in transition.
The section we hiked, from V – the very end – to S – about 2.5 miles, lies completely on property owned by Chautauqua County. In the section between points U and T, there are signs posted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation that explain two different projects.
The first involves harvesting a mature plantation of Austrian Pine. Here’s what the notice says:
In the 1940’s this was open field, whose fertility had been depleted by over 100 years of continuous farming. That year, the State purchased this parcel of land and began the process of restoring it to a forested condition by planting Austrian pine at a spacing of 6′ X 6′. Now the pines are not maintaining adequate growth on the heavy, poorly-drained clay loam, and will not respond to additional thinning. Therefore, forestry staff decided to harvest and utilize these trees before they begin to die and blow down. This stand will be harvested in a series of blocks. Each block will be harvested one to two years apart. This will create a variety of areas with different age classes of trees. This type of cutting benefits Ruffed Grouse, Turkey, and White Tail Deer and many song bird species, while maintaining this area in continuous forest cover. If you look closely there are already hardwood trees such as hard maple, red maple, white ash and black cherry starting as seedlings in the understory cover of the Austrian Pine.
The native hardwood trees that will grow here, after the Pine removal, are better suited to the soil conditions than the non-native pines, and will have more value for wildlife and timber as well. The planted pines did serve an important purpose, however, by rapidly returning the field to forested cover and avoiding the thornapple/brush stage which can take over an old field for decades.
Over the next 60 years, this will become a mature hardwood forest, and will have been thinned one or more times for firewood and other products.
The second project involves managing the forest for healthier trees and overall ecosystem health. My photograph of the sign isn’t good enough for me to quote the sign exactly… So let me give you the basics. The purpose of the project is to improve the overall forest health and diversity. Some old straggly trees with cavities are being left to provide wildlife habitat. But mostly, they are taking out trees to provide more sunlight and less competition for some of the fine healthy-looking specimens. Woody debris will be left on the forest floor so that when it decomposes it will return nutrients to the soil. Also, the branches will protect new saplings from deer browse. A few man-made structures will help protect water and soil resources – things line travel mats, culverts, and gravel for better drainage.
The trees targeted for removal in this project are marked with colorful paints, making for a strange looking woods:
Both of these projects can be found between points U and T on the Chautauqua County Trail Map. If you park at U, you can hike south and avoid all the timbering. If you want to hike north and still avoid the mess, stay on Harris Hill Road until you get to Point T, then head right (east) onto the trail.