Department of Environmental Conservation

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Forest Stewardship Auto Tour

Eight roadside stops in Birdseye Hollow and Moss Hill State Forest show how forests grow from young seedling/sapling stands to mature sawtimber forests about 100 years old. You'll observe firsthand how forest management helps make these forests valuable for people and wildlife alike.

The stops can be visited in any order. View the panels at each stop for a map of the route (PDF, 7 MB).

Black Walnut Forest

Skillful management has helped this beautiful and uncommon black walnut forest fight off invasive grapevines and honeysuckle and even produce almost $9,000 worth of lumber in a recent harvest.

black walnut branches, leaves and nuts
Walnuts on a walnut tree

This is a stand of black walnut trees, a popular furniture wood with a lovely dark color. This color, and its relative rarity, make it one of New York's most valuable hardwood trees. This stand of trees has been managed for many years:

  • 1979 some trees were pruned and others harvested.
  • 2002 wild grapevines that were beginning to smother the crowns of trees were cut.
  • 2008 herbicide treatment of undesirable understory of honeysuckle, harvested trees earned New York State $8,800 in revenue, and 55 bushels of walnut seeds were planted.

Did you know?

The Black Walnut produces juglone, a chemical which will kill, or slow the growth, of many plants that come in contact with it. The toxic zone from a mature tree is usually a 50 to 60 foot radius from the trunk, but can be more. Other plants are not affected by it at all, such as the honeysuckle, rose, and sedges you see growing below these trees.

The dark wood produced by black walnut is used to make furniture, gun stocks, and cabinets for kitchens or baths. Often it is sliced very thin to produce a thin veneer which can be layered over top of cheaper plywood for use in furniture and cabinet making.

Protection Forest

Front cover of the Best Management Practices Field Guide.
Available from your local DEC Forestry office

During logging, some forests need extra protection because of features such as wet soils, endangered wildlife or plants, historical artifacts or recreational uses. For example, the steep slopes of this oak forest are prone to erosion, so skid trails used for logging equipment here require additional erosion control techniques.

In another case, harvesting during winter when the ground is frozen may be the best option to protect forests with endangered plants or wet soils. Some areas are so fragile that they cannot be harvested at all.

Did you know?

In the mid-1800's New York State was only 20-25% forested, but it is now 63% forested. Most of that forest land is in private ownership.

The acorns from these oak trees provide plenty of nourishment for white-tail deer, black bear and blue jays.

Uneven-Aged Forest

Sugar maple leaves in yellow fall colors
Fall sugar maple leaves

An uneven-aged forest contains trees of at least three different age groups at the same time. Look closely and you will see trees of many different sizes in the stand behind this sign. Only shade tolerant tree species like sugar maple and hemlock can grow under larger trees and form uneven-aged stands. Trees such as oak require full sunlight when they are seedlings and are often found in even-aged stands. When a timber harvest occurs in an uneven-aged stand, trees need to be removed from all the age classes, both young and old, in order to continue the various age groups into the future. This provides for a continuous supply of wood over the years, with no pause to regrow the entire stand from seed.

Did you know?

Sugar maple is the official state tree of New York. In the spring the sap can be harvested and boiled down to produce maple syrup and sugar. It takes somewhere between 40 and 90 gallons of maple sap to produce one gallon of maple syrup, the exact amount varies depending on the amount of sugar in the sap.

Plantation Forest

Log truck full of logs
Harvested logs

This red pine forest was planted in 1964 on an abandoned agricultural field, so all the trees are the same age and size, in other words it is an even-aged stand. Harvests to relieve overcrowding have taken place in 1985, 1999 and most recently in 2009. These trees are now 12 inches or more in diameter, large enough to produce lumber.

Did you know?

Conifer trees such as pines, hemlock and spruce trees provide habitat for many wildlife species such as the pine siskins songbird, red squirrels and white-tail deer.

Poletimber Forest

Old tour stop sign with sapling trees behind it
Photo taken about five years after harvest

The forest behind this sign began its life cycle with a clear-cut harvest in 1985. Since then, these trees have passed though the seedling and sapling stages and are now 6-12 inches in diameter, and called "poletimber" by foresters. Growth is very rapid at this stage and the stronger, faster-growing trees are shading out the slower-growing ones.

At this size they are large enough for use as firewood, but too small for lumber. This size class provides habitat for wildlife as well, although it is not as useful habitat for wildlife as seedling/sapling, sawtimber or conifer can be.

Did you know?

Firewood is often measured by the "cord". A cord is a stack of (split or unsplit) wood 4 feet high by 4 feet wide by 8 feet long. A "face cord" is a stack of wood 4 feet high by 8 feet long, the width is whatever length the pieces are cut to.

Traditionally wood to be made into paper or cardboard was also measured in cords, but with modern equipment it is now more quickly measured by the ton on a big truck scale.

Forest Thinning

Forester marking trees to be harvested with blue tree paint
Forester marking trees for harvest

The area to the right of this sign has been harvested and thinned in 1985, 1998 and 2009, allowing sunlight and growing room for the remaining trees. Notice that, although there are fewer trees on the right than in the uncut area on the left, the trees on the right look healthier, have more space, and are better shaped, with larger average diameters. In other words, on the thinned portion individual tree growth is maximized; average tree diameter is larger and number of trees fewer, meanwhile, net growth on the unthinned portion has now reached zero. This means some trees must die in order for others to get larger, and individual tree growth is very slow.

Trees to be harvested are selected based on poor form or health, and the spacing required for good growth of the remaining forest. On the unthinned portion to the left, individual tree growth is very slow.

Did you know?

Every year trees add length to the end of their branches and width to the trunk. In the spring, summer and early fall new growth is added, and growth stops during the cold winter months. This cycle of fast growth in the spring and early summer followed by slowing and stopping growth results in annual rings of light then dark wood.

In years of good weather and growing conditions, lots of sun and rain, the growth ring will be wide. In years with bad growing conditions the rings will be narrow. Thus a tree growing in a thinned stand that has lots of sunlight available will have larger growth rings than one growing in close competition with neighboring trees.

Seedling/Sapling Forest

This seedling/sapling forest began its life cycle with a clear-cut harvest in 2005. Clear cutting encourages tree species like black cherry, oak and aspen, which need full sun as seedlings. At less than 6 inches in diameter, seedlings and saplings are not large enough to produce commercial products, but they do provide excellent habitat for wildlife such as ruffed grouse, eastern box turtle and New England cottontail. Although sometimes regarded negatively, clear cutting can result in a healthy new forest and abundant wildlife.

Did you know?

In addition to sprouting from seeds, many types of trees such as oak, beech, maples and aspen also sprout from stumps, and some from roots as well. Aspen and beech are well known for creating dense areas thick with sprouts all connected together by one root system. This results in multiple stem trees, and is called a coppice.

Mature Forest

End grain of cut boards
Lumber ready to use

At about 100 years old, the stand behind this sign is approaching maturity and provides a wide variety of habitat for different wildlife and a steady supply of lumber and paper for us. Trees greater than 12 inches in diameter are known as "sawtimber," as they are large enough to be sawed into lumber and will soon be harvested to make space for young trees. Forests in this stage are good habitat for cavity-nesting birds, grey squirrels, and woodpeckers.

Did you know?

Lumber is measured and the volume of trees estimated in units called a "board foot" which is a piece of lumber 1 inch thick, 12 inches wide and 1 foot long, or its equivalent. A red oak tree 16 inches in diameter and 32 feet of trunk has about 180 board feet in it.

The first cut, or rough cut, of green (still wet) wood is the full 1 inch measurement. The lumber shrinks as it dries and then the rough surface is planed smooth resulting in a final product that is about ¾ of an inch in thickness.