On this #ForestFriday I wanted to talk about an issue facing New York State and Northeast forests.
The Northeastern United States was once and is again one of the most densely forested areas in North America. But it hasn’t always been this way. When Europeans began to colonize the Northeastern states, they deforested much of the land for farming. Culturally, “taming wilderness” in this way was seen as the pinnacle of success in the New World. (For a great history on early views of America’s relationship with wild land, Wilderness and the American Mind is a must read.) For over two centuries land was continuously cleared to farm and trees were logged in droves. Once major agricultural operations began moving to the Midwest where conditions were more ideal, farming started to decline in the Northeast. Trees began to take back the land and would become the forests we know today. Now, these second growth Northeastern forests are reaching maturity, or have reached the end of their lifespan already. They are on the brink of third growth regeneration.
But the environment has changed dramatically over the last few centuries and the natural understory that would normally allow a forest to regenerate itself is in jeopardy. Between exploding deer populations, invasive species, etc, the healthy regeneration of forests is at risk.
What’s most interesting – 80% of New York’s woodland areas are privately owned, meaning the future of our forest cover rests on the shoulders of these landowners. We’re going to have to depend on them to take the necessary steps to manage forest restoration or Northeastern landscapes could be significantly altered.
Much more to come on this, but for now read this op-ed by New York Forest Owners Association.
Watch Peter Smallidge’s Cornell Cooperative Extension ForestConnect presentation on Challenges to Forest Regeneration.