Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation – Bureau of Forestry: Sykes Mountain Timber Harvest

Yes
Planning
The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation is using a timber harvest to retain vulnerable conifer species in the most suitable locations, while simultaneously promoting a diversity of future-adapted tree species in other areas.

Project Area

This project is located in the northern portion of October Mountain State Forest, which is the largest state forest in Massachusetts. This area is currently being managed under the "Central Berkshire Forest Resource Management Plan" (2007) and the "Landscape Designations for DCR Parks & Forests: Selection Criteria and Management Guidelines" (2012). The project area contains 218 acres of northern hardwood - conifer forests (mixedwood) stands. This area has been affected by the emerald ash borer and repeated ice storms.

Management Goals

The project area in fall.

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation manages state forestland in the Central Berkshires for a variety of public and ecosystem benefits, including biodiversity, recreation, and sustainable forest harvest. The primary goal in the treatment of the project area is to retain the current mixedwood forest habitat type by promoting the regeneration of softwood species and increasing structural diversity for wildlife species. Additional goals include providing examples of sound practices for logging and forest road infrastructure that protect forest productivity and soil and water resources, and providing wildlife benefits by increasing structural diversity and the abundance of soft and hard mast trees.

Climate Change Impacts

For this project, the most important anticipated climate change impacts include:
The property has already been affected by emerald ash borer killing mature white ash. Insect pests like the hemlock woolly adelgid are expected to cause more damage as warmer temperatures enable the species to expand its range.
Warmer temperatures and altered climate conditions are expected to cause changes in forest composition and favor many hardwood species. Although the area is expected to stay forested, the forest may change dramatically over time.
Some species are projected to be extirpated from the region due to climate change, particularly the conifer species that currently make up a substantial portion of the project area. Heavy rain events are becoming more common and extreme across the region

Challenges and Opportunities

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

Challenges

All four softwood species have challenges: Spruce and fir are sensitive to warmer temperatures, hemlock is at risk of insect infestation, and white pine is hard to regenerate in this area.
Promoting softwood species is also likely to difficult due to competition from beech and red maple. More severe storms, heavy rainfalls, and wind events cause erosion damage along streams and skid roads.
More variable weather conditions mean that foresters can no longer plan on the dry summer and frozen winter conditions that are best for logging.
Climate change exacerbates issues with insect pests.

Opportunities

The warming temperature will aid in promoting oak, hickory, and cherry species in the project area.
Longer growing seasons may help some of the species that are currently limited by the cold climate and competition from cold-adapted species.
Hardwood species can easily persist and take over the site, which means that the area will remain as forest.
Regenerating conifer species now may allow new trees to establish and delay the transition to a more hardwood-dominated forest community.
There is currently a good mix of species, which creates opportunities for a wide range of options for future forest composition.

Adaptation Actions

The Adaptation Workbook was used to identify some potential adaptation actions for this project, which will be implemented through a timber state in the next 1-3 years. These actions will work to maintain the softwood component for as long as possible on the most suitable locations, while simultaneously encouraging a suite of species that are expected to be better adapted to future conditions on other sites in the project area. 

Area/TopicApproachTactics
Project area
5.1. Promote diverse age classes.
5.2. Maintain and restore diversity of native species.
Regenerate the forest using an irregular shelterwood.
4.2. Prioritize and maintain sensitive or at-risk species or communities.
Create marking guidelines that encourage the retention and regeneration of softwood species on favorable microsites to maintain this component on-site for as long as possible.
1.4. Reduce competition for moisture, nutrients, and light.
Use chemical control of beech where necessary to allow desirable species to populate the project area.
9.1. Favor or restore native species that are expected to be adapted to future conditions.
Favor future-adapted species like oak, hickory, and cherry where the likelihood of softwood regeneration is low.
1.3. Maintain or restore riparian areas.
5.2. Maintain and restore diversity of native species.
No harvest buffer strips along streams and wetland will also give the existing hemlock and spruce component a chance to regenerate slowly under a mostly closed canopy.
Maintain uncut (except ash) filter strips along streams and wetlands to add additional buffer from run off.
2.1. Maintain or improve the ability of forests to resist pests and pathogens.
During harvest, remove large ash trees (retain trees under 10”) and thin hemlock trees to reduce impacts from insect pests.
1.1 Reduce impacts to soils and nutrient cycling.
When repairing/creating water control features over size culverts/bridging, reduce spacing of water bars and broad based dips, and armor ditching to prevent erosion.
1.2. Maintain or restore hydrology.
Repair and/or replace existing failed water control features.

Monitoring

The MA DCR will perform forest inventories to assess the forest condition and evaluate whether management actions are accomplishing the intended effect. Pre-harvest and post-harvest inventory data can be compared to determine whether management goals were met. Overstory measurements will record tree diameters, crown health, and mortality of the residual overstory and identify whether marking goals were met. Course woody debris transects will indicate whether more wood is on the forest floor after harvest. A road and trail survey will be conducted annually and after severe storms to inspect water control features to determine their effectiveness in avoiding damage associated with both natural events and recreational use; photographs taken after the forest harvest is closed out will provide a baseline for future comparison. Another inventory is planned for 4-6 years after harvest, which will include:
Measurements of the forest understory will quantify the variety, quantity, and size of regeneration and evaluate whether there has been sufficient regeneration of a mixture of desirable species.
Success in meeting regeneration goals would be indicated by the presence of softwood regeneration on 25-30% of measured plots and the presence of oak, hickory, or cherry species on 50-60% of measured plots.
Measurements of the forest overstory would be used to assess whether the residual overstory was able to remain intact with minimal wind throw, crown damage or root damage.
The condition of the residual overstory will also determine if retention of legacy ash and thinning of hemlock is an appropriate management action.

Project Photos

Click to enlarge photos

A map of the proposed harvest area
an old stone wall in a forest
A photo taken from inside the forest showing tree stems of various sizes
A photo taken from inside the forest showing a fallen tree

Project Documents

Next Steps

The project is currently under public review. After pubic review, the climate change considerations described above will be integrated into the prescription for timber harvest.

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact Maria or learn more at: https://www.mass.gov/guides/central-berkshire-forest-management-projects

Keywords

Insect pests, Upland conifers, Upland hardwoods

Last Updated

Friday, March 9, 2018