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Adirondack Sub-Alpine Forest Bird Conservation Area

This BCA includes Adirondack Mountain summits above 2,800 feet-more specifically, those with dense subalpine coniferous forests favored by Bicknell's thrush. Bicknell's thrush prefers dense thickets of stunted or young growth of balsam fir and red spruce. Found less frequently in other young or stunted conifers, and heavy second growth of fir, cherry, and birch.

Adirondack Sub-Alpine Forest BCA Management Guidance Summary

State Ownership and Managing Agency

Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)


Adirondack Mountain summits above 2,800 feet in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, and Warren counties. Surveyed and confirmed nesting locations for Bicknell's thrush include: Mount Marcy, Algonquin Peak, Blue Mountain, Cascade Mountain, Giant Mountain, Gore Mountain, Kilburn Mountain, Hurricane Mountain, Lower Wolfjaw Mountain, Lyon Mountain, Mount Haystack, Phelps Mountain, Porter Mountain, Rocky Ridge Peak, Santanoni Peak, Snowy Mountain, Vanderwhacker Mountain, Wakely Mountain, Whiteface Mountain, and Wright Peak.

Size of Area

Approximately 69,000 acres

DEC Region


Vision Statement

Continue to maintain the wilderness quality of the area, while facilitating recreational opportunities in a manner consistent with conservation of the unique bird species present.

Key BCA Criteria

Diverse species concentration site; individual species concentration site; species at risk site (ECL §11-2001, 3.f, g, and h). Peaks over 2,800 feet with dense subalpine thickets provide habitat for a distinctive bird community, which includes Bicknell's thrush, blackpoll warbler and Swainson's thrush.

Critical Habitat Types

Dense subalpine coniferous thickets. To a lesser degree, young or stunted and heavy second growth of cherry or birch.

Operation and Management Considerations

Identify habitat management activities needed to maintain site as a BCA.
None identified for certain, although human access and acid rain could be impacting.

Identify seasonal sensitivities; adjust routine operations accordingly.
The BCA is comprised of lands that are within the Adirondack High Peaks Wilderness Area, and other lands within the broader Adirondack Forest Preserve. The Adirondack High Peaks Wilderness Area portion is subject to relatively stringent regulations and use limitations. Portions of the BCA that are not within the High Peaks Wilderness Area may have less stringent use limitations.

Access to wilderness areas is completely limited to foot trails and non-motorized access, including horse trails. Access in wild forest and intensive use areas may include motorized forms of access. Examples include a road up Blue Mountain to transmitters, and a road up Whiteface. The road up Blue Mountain is used largely for administrative access to the transmitter towers. Whenever possible, routine maintenance on these towers or the access road should be scheduled outside the nesting season for Bicknell's thrush (May through July). The road up Whiteface sees considerable use by the public.

Trail and road maintenance activities have the potential to disturb nesting activities of high altitude birds (in particular, Bicknell's thrush). Whenever possible, routine maintenance should be planned so that it can be completed outside of the normal nesting season. Should maintenance be needed during the nesting season, the use of non-motorized equipment would help to minimize the impacts.

Identify state activities or operations which may pose a threat to the critical habitat types identified above; recommend alternatives to existing and future operations which may pose threats to those habitats.
Ensure that bird conservation concerns are addressed in the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, individual unit management plans, and other planning efforts. For those areas where plans have already been completed, incorporate concerns for subalpine bird communities at the earliest opportunity.

On May 18, 2000, Emergency Regulations were adopted for the High Peaks Wilderness Area, which comprises part of the BCA. These regulations prohibit camping above 4,000 feet; limit camping between 3,500 and 4,000 feet to designated areas; prohibit campfires above 4,000 feet, and require the leashing of pets above 4,000 feet.

Identify any existing or potential use impacts; recommend new management strategies to address those impacts.
There has been little research on what effect normal use of hiking trails has on nesting birds. Recreational use in some areas of the BCA is relatively high. More research is needed on whether there is a significant impact to bird populations from the current level of human visitation. The Adirondack High Peaks Wilderness portions of the BCA are remote locations and access is largely limited to foot trails. Motorized vehicles are not normally allowed. Those areas of the BCA outside of the High Peaks Wilderness Area allow the use of motorized vehicles and have fewer restrictions on other uses. The Unit Management Planning process for these areas should assess the effects of current levels of recreational use, and the need for new trails (including placement, timing, and construction method) on subalpine bird species (in particular, Bicknell's thrush). Consideration should be given to prohibiting motorized vehicle access to subalpine forests above 2,800 feet.

Education, Outreach, and Research Considerations

Assess current access; recommend enhanced access, if feasible.
Recreational use in some areas of the BCA is relatively high. Further study or research would help to assess impacts of recreational activities on nesting high altitude species. The need for protective measures will be discussed and incorporated as part of the planning process for the Adirondack Forest Preserve and Wilderness Areas that form the BCA, or at the earliest opportunity.

Determine education and outreach needs; recommend strategies and materials.
There is a need to identify to the public the distinctive bird community present in subalpine forests over 2,800 feet. The potential impacts of human intrusion need to be portrayed to the public, and a "please stay on the trails" approach may be beneficial. Continue partnerships with the National Audubon Society, High Peaks Audubon Society, Adirondack Mountain Club, and other groups involved in education and conservation of birds of the Adirondack High Peaks.

Identify research needs; prioritize and recommend specific projects or studies.
Acid rain deposition may be having an impact on nesting success of songbirds at high elevations by causing die-offs of high altitude conifer forests, and killing snails and other sources of calcium needed for egg production. More research is needed on this. The curtailment of sulphur dioxide emissions and the reduction of acid rain is currently a significant New York State initiative.

A detailed inventory and standardized monitoring of special concern species is needed for the area. In particular, all peaks above 2,800 feet should be surveyed for Bicknell's thrush.

The impact of the current levels of human use on nesting success needs to be assessed.

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