Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe: Forest Stand Improvements in Ash

Yes
Action
The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe is using forest management to improve the condition of ash forests and reduce risks in anticipation of the invasive emerald ash borer beetle.

Project Area

The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe is located in the St. Lawrence River Valley in northern New York and Canada. The tribal forestry program manages approximately 6,800 acres of forest, much of which is forested wetlands. Members of the St. Regis Mohawk community, similar to many tribes in the Midwest and Northeast, are very concerned about the introduction of the emerald ash borer (EAB). The beetle is known to be present in Cornwall, Ontario, which is along the Canadian border and less than 1.5 miles away from the reservation. Because of its close proximity, it poses a very high risk to the health of tribal forests. The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe received assistance from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to conduct forest stand improvement cuts on approximately 500 acres of forest as a means to reduce the potential risks from the emerald ash borer.

Management Goals

a forester marks trees to be cut in an ash forest

The goal of the forest stand improvement cuts are to improve forest health to protect against future stress and invasive species, including emerald ash borer. Harvests would reduce the density of ash and increase overall species diversity. At the same time, forest stand improvement can also help meet many other broader goals of the tribe. It can be used to initiate stand regeneration and restore native plant communities, including desired understory plants. Other purposes include improving recreation, aesthetic and open space values, water quality protection, water conservation and yield. Forest stand improvement aids in the management of carbon storage and uptake. Another purpose of this practice is to increase the future quantity and quality of forest products. Harvesting forest products is often a secondary benefit of forest stand improvement.

Climate Change Impacts

For this project, the most important anticipated climate change impacts include:
A longer growing season could favor invasive plant species like buckthorn, which out-compete native species while they are dormant.
Model projections from the Climate Change Tree Atlas indicate that the suitable habitat for black ash will decrease as a result of climate change.
Many lowland hardwood forests containing as are found in areas with high water in the spring generated from snow. Shorter, milder winters will affect the depth of water at the beginning of the spring melt, and other changes in climate could alter hydrolog
Shorter, warmer winters also make forest harvest operations more challenging and can increase damage to the forest when there is a lack of snow cover.
The emerald ash borer can be killed be extremely cold temperatures, but extremely cold temperatures are becoming less frequent as the climate warms.

Challenges and Opportunities

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

Challenges

Many different threats, including emerald ash borer and climate change, point to worsening conditions for ash trees. This is of particular concern for black ash, which is a highly-valued species for the cultural tradition of basket making.
Other species, such as native red maple or invasive plants, could become more competitive and reduce the diversity of the forest.
Any future damage from emerald ash borer will further reduce the ash component in these forests, reducing forest diversity and potentially exacerbating other impacts from climate change.

Opportunities

If other species have increased habitat farther north, such as silver maple, oaks, or hickories, this may lessen the potential for red maple to become the primary dominant species. This would increase forest diversity, but not address the loss of ash from

Adaptation Actions

The Adaptation Workbook was used to identify some potential adaptation actions for this project, including:

Area/TopicApproachTactics
Lowland and riparian forests; northern hardwoods; transition hardwoods
2.1. Maintain or improve the ability of forests to resist pests and pathogens.
9.1. Favor or restore native species that are expected to be adapted to future conditions.
Use forest thinnings to reduce the ash component of forest stands to 20% of the stand.
Use current forest composition to guide management for other benefits, such as regenerating northern white-cedar or performing patch cuts of quaking aspen to improve grouse habitat.
Favor high-quality trees to serve as crop trees.
2.2. Prevent the introduction and establishment of invasive plant species and remove existing invasive species.
Monitor sites for buckthorn and other invasives species, and treat as needed using herbicide.

Monitoring

Several monitoring items were identified that could help inform future management, including:
Presence and abundance of invasive species, particularly buckthorn
Species composition and proportion of stand that is ash
Tree species composition and diversity of regeneration and proportion of drought- and heat-tolerant species
Age class diversity

Project Photos

Click to enlarge photos

Project location map.
a forester cuts an ash tree in the forest
a forester cuts an ash tree in the forest
a forester marks trees to be cut in an ash forest

Project Documents

Next Steps

The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe performed a forest inventory and forest stand improvement treatments in this project area during August 2014 to February 2017. This project was also used to consider how climate change might affect the management of forests containing as as part of the Forest Adaptation Planning and Practices online course in early 2017, and ideas from the online course and Adaptation Workbook may inform future management. Continuous forest inventory plots will be established in the treated stands to inform future management as well as gain information about the effects of the treatment and of climate change.

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact Maria

Keywords

Insect pests, Lowland/ bottomland hardwoods, Water resources, Wetlands

Last Updated

Monday, April 17, 2017