By Glenn Graves DELHI –

The key participants in the development of the Lennox Model Forest, which climbs the hillside across Back River Road from 4-H Camp Shankitunk near the Delhi-Hamden town line, were treated to a tour of the forest last Thursday. The Lennox Forest is one of four model forests in the New York City Watershed, which will be used to research, monitor and demonstrate the effects of certain forestry practices, both good and bad.

The forest was donated to Cornell Cooperative Extension of Delaware County by the estate of John Lennox, who served as the first director of Camp Shankitunk, with which the forest is affiliated. The idea for a demonstration forest was put in place several years ago, according to the 4-H camp’s present director, James Rice.

Rice said the forest would have taken decades to set up using only the 4-H camp’s limited resources, but the agreement reached between the watershed communities and New York City in 1997, when the city was negotiating its Filtration Avoidance Determination with the United States Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Health, offered an opportunity to speed up the project.

The Watershed Agricultural Council’s forestry program was enlisted to participate, with funding from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Cooperative Extension, the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, SUNY Delhi, Americorps, area farmers and foresters, state logging associations and several United States offices and agencies were also enlisted as partners.

Thursday, the cooperative met for lunch at Camp Shankitunk, and braving threatening skies, headed up into the forest for the first official tour. The afternoon hike began with a visit to a kiosk at the foot of the trail that was donated by the Susquehanna Chapter of Trout Unlimited, which offers insight into the forest practices which are demonstrated in the forest, and the health of the west branch of the Delaware River, which runs through the valley below.

Along the logging trail, which was designed to prevent erosion and run-off, 20 interpretive signs have been installed. Each sign provides information about the 13 silvicultural treatments evident in the area – these include clear cutting, diameter limit cutting, high grade cutting and crown thinning, as well as others – and six examples of the best management practices identified by the Watershed Forestry Program (WFP). In addition, hikers witnessed parts of the forest in different cycles of its life.

Marcus Phelps of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service said, “Lennox Forest offers an opportunity to take snapshots in time, to see a forest in each stage of its development. The experience is unique and valuable, because the human lifespan is too short to fully understand and appreciate the development otherwise.”

Forester Justin Perry, a member of the WFP staff, said the demonstrations serve multiple purposes. He said one area has been set aside, where cuttings are done around healthy trees, which will allow the seeds to fall and generate new growth. He said that, eventually, the trees used for propagation may be cut, if or when the seedlings are established, but that decision will be left to foresters at a later date.

He said the forest ‘Would also offer the foresters insight into the interaction between forests and wildlife. Perry said that he, personally, was interested in discovering how deer browse and ferns are related. He said, “Ferns are beautiful, but signify a stagnant forest. By studying the fern growth, we hope to discover if ferns hinder the development of other growth, or if browsing deer remove the seedlings, leaving nothing but ferns. We do know that once the ferns are established, very little else grows. It’s tough to grow under ferns.

“We know that wildlife enhancement can be affected by forestry,” he continued. “For example, when this area was dominated by farms and cleared lands, the bluebird was plentiful, but now that some of that cleared land is being taken over by tree growth, the bluebird habitat decreases.”

Other aspects of forestry and wildlife will also be explored. Dead wood has been left in some areas, to provide habitat for birds and other small animals, and the tops of felled trees have been left in other areas as food for deer, and as a supply of nutrients for the soil as they decompose.
“We want people to appreciate their forests and wood lots and make informed choices when approached by a logger or forester,” Perry said as the tour was nearing the end of the trail. “Hopefully, these forestry comparisons will make them better consumers when they have to decide how and what they want done.”

Perry said deciding on a forestry practice was much like building a house. “The property owner should consider the forester as an architect, who will explain the options and design a plan for the optimum results, and the logger as the contractor, who will implement the plan,” he said. “In this area, we have an adequate number of foresters, and an adequate number of loggers, but we don’t yet have an adequate number of landowners who understand their relationship and value.”

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