Paul Smith’s College Woodlands: Creighton Compartment

Paul Smith’s College is interested in how its 12,000-acre forest may be affected by climate change and how forest management can enhance its ability to adapt.

Project Area

Paul Smith’s College is a private, undergraduate college located inside the boundaries of the “forever wild” Adirondack Forest Preserve. The college owns and manages approximately 12,000 acres of forest lands, which includes a variety of spruce-fir, northern hardwoods, and pine forest and other wetland and upland ecosystems. A new management plan is being written for the whole property using the Adaptation Workbook as a guide. The Creighton Compartment is one compartment within this ownership, covering approximately 800 acres and containing a variety of forest types characteristic of the Adirondacks.

Management Goals

A new management plan is in development that will guide the future management of the forest. The Paul Smith’s College Woodlands are managed for diverse goals that include maintaining the integrity and health of ecosystems, protecting biodiversity, providing recreational opportunities, and providing for the sustainable production of timber. One important and unique goal of the Paul Smith’s College Woodlands is to engage students in the forestry and natural resource curriculum with active commercial forest management on the property. The Creighton Compartment will be managed with these goals in mind. Additionally, one portion of this compartment will be managed to maintain and expand maple syrup production for an educational resources and employment training for the maple production industry.

Climate Change Impacts

For this project, the most important anticipated climate change impacts include:
Shorter and milder winters make is more challenging to conduct harvest operations on snow-covered or frozen ground, increasing the risk of damage to soils.
Hotter and drier conditions during the growing season may decrease plant germination or growth.
Many currently-abundant tree species are expected to have declining habitat in the future, including red spruce and sugar maple, particularly under greater levels of climate change.
Warmer and more variable temperatures in late winter can cause maple sap to run earlier in the year.
Future climate conditions or enhanced disturbance could increase the ability of many invasive species to establish and spread.
Some wildlife species, such as snowshoe hare or ruffed grouse, may face declining habitat conditions.

Challenges and Opportunities

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing the management objectives of this project, including:


Altered and more variable weather conditions (e.g., warming winters, extreme precipitation) can make it more difficult to implement forest harvests, particularly during the academic year.
Sugar maple vigor may decrease, reducing sawlog quality and possible sap and syrup production.
Deer abundance is likely to increase as temperatures warm and winters become less severe, which would negatively affect forest regeneration.
An earlier sap run would require students to mobilize earlier during the spring semester, which would alter how coursework would need to be arranged.


Some species may have increased suitable habitat in the future and can be favored through management; one species is black cherry, which currently grows well on the property and has high commercial value.
Current management often focusing at increasing diversity at the stand, compartment, and property levels, which reduces the risk of climate-related declines of individual species.
Forest management and timber harvest may be able to influence and even accelerate changes in forest composition.
An earlier sap run would require students to mobilize earlier during the spring semester, which could create room for other activities to occur later in the spring.

Adaptation Actions

The forest manager working on this project used the Adaptation Workbook to identify several adaptation actions, including:

All forest types
1.3. Maintain or restore riparian areas.
3.3. Alter forest structure to reduce severity or extent of wind and ice damage.
5.1. Promote diverse age classes.
Use silvicultural techniques like group and patch selection and patch clearcuts to increase species and structural diversity in forest stands and reduce risk from extreme weather events.
1.3. Maintain or restore riparian areas.
Avoid active management in riparian and wetlands areas.


Several monitoring items were identified that could help inform future management, including:
Species diversity (overstory, regeneration) at 5 and 10 years post-harvest
Species richness of songbird species
If possible, establish a continuous forestry inventory system using established plots on the property to be measured on a 5-year rotation.

Project Documents

Next Steps

The property will be inventoried compartment by compartment for 15 years by the Paul Smith’s College senior silviculture class. The class will provide maps, stand data, climate change considerations, and silvicultural recommendations, which will then be compiled and revised by the forest manager to meet the forest stewardship goals of the college. Silvicultural recommendations will be implemented using a combination of commercial timber sales, classroom timber sales, and the Paul Smith’s College logger training school.

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact Maria


Lowland/ wetland conifers, Upland conifers, Upland hardwoods, Management plan

Last Updated

Thursday, April 13, 2017