Morgan Hill State Forest, Fabius, NY

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ElijahW
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Morgan Hill State Forest, Fabius, NY

Post by ElijahW » Sun Nov 22, 2015 8:40 pm

Ents,

About a month ago, I stumbled across Morgan Hill State Forest while looking for nearby Heiberg Memorial Forest, managed by SUNY ESF.

Morgan Hill and Kettlebail State forests, as well as Heiberg, contain extensive plantations of Norway Spruce, European Larch, Red Pine, and Scots Pine, interspersed among the native northern hardwood forest. I don't carry a GPS unit with me, but from topo maps I've seen, the elevation seems to be around 1700' where I measured at Morgan Hill. According to the NY DEC http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/37115.html , the Morgan Hill plantations were created by the CCC and date from the 1930s.

After searching the NTS website, the only reference to Morgan Hill was a comment on the email archive by Jess Riddle, but I don't know if he ever visited the site (here's where you chime in, Jess).

I took a drive this afternoon and spent some time measuring trees at Heiberg, Kettlebail, and Morgan Hill. Heiberg, which seems to be a good bit younger than the other two, perhaps 60 years old or so, compared to about 80 for the state forests, tops out at about 105' on Norway Spruce, and less for other species, including Douglas fir and an exotic fir (probably white fir). Kettlebail seems to have maximum spruce heights of about 110' on easily accessible sites. Morgan Hill is apparently an outlier. After a quick, pretty much drive-through survey here are my results:

Norway Spruce

136.8'
134.6'
129.0'
125.0'

European Larch

109.0'
109.0'

Red Pine

102.4'

Balsam Fir (not clear whether planted or naturally occurring)

97.6'

As far as I know, the Norway Spruce is the tallest accurately measured in NY, and the Balsam Fir is close to the known maximum.

Being at a high elevation relative to the surrounding area and prone to heavy snowfall, I may not be able to return to Morgan Hill until spring. The access road is gravel and I believe only seasonally maintained.

As an interesting aside, Norway Spruce is reproducing quite well within and at the edges of these plantations.

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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bbeduhn
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Re: Morgan Hill State Forest, Fabius, NY

Post by bbeduhn » Tue Nov 24, 2015 9:06 am

That's pretty darn solid growth for 80-85 years!

The larch could be a hybrid as they tend to get taller. I believe it's a cross between Euro and Japanese. Even though the Japanese larch is smaller, the cross produces taller and I assume larger trees.

Nice finds.

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ElijahW
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Re: Morgan Hill State Forest, Fabius, NY

Post by ElijahW » Thu Nov 26, 2015 7:43 pm

Brian, thanks. You may be correct on the larches. If they're a Japanese-European cross, it's certainly a productive combination. This larch is a fairly common plantation tree in our area, and they do seem a little different than normal European larches found in yards and cemeteries. I wish planners of these CCC plantations would have mixed in some more native species, such as tamarack, red spruce, pitch, and jack pine, but it's a little late now.

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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Jess Riddle
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Re: Morgan Hill State Forest, Fabius, NY

Post by Jess Riddle » Sun Nov 29, 2015 9:23 pm

Elijah,

There are several state forests scattered around that part of New York, but I didn't have anything to go on to figure out where the tallest trees would be. Glad you're starting to check them out.

I spent a good bit of time at Heiberg, and my assessment was about the same as yours. I never saw anything worth measuring there. On the other hand, I had a class trip to Morgan Hill, and was immediately impressed by the conifer plantations. I measured a handful of trees there in 2009. You found a better area for Norway's than I did. The tallest I had was only 123.1'. I measured larch to 129.1', but I believe that tree was cut within a couple of years. The balsam fir is extremely impressive. Is it next to a swampy area?

What struck me about the Norway's at Morgan Hill was they didn't seem to be on a exceptional site. Mature native hardwoods in the area top out around 110', not much more than many other central New York woods. I always thought there must be a Norway plantation on a better site somewhere around there.

In that same area, you might want to check Taylor Valley State Forest. I measured a couple of balsam firs there to the low 90's, and there were other fens that I didn't have a chance to explore.

Jess

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ElijahW
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Re: Morgan Hill State Forest, Fabius, NY

Post by ElijahW » Sun Nov 29, 2015 9:44 pm

Jess,

I'll get to Taylor Valley asap. The balsam fir was in a swampy area in the northern part of the park, probably in Onondaga County. It was the right habitat for the species, but it could have been planted, as well.

Morgan Hill is under a management plan which includes cutting timber, but it would be nice if they left some of the larger trees. Some taller larches may still be living; I've seen just a small part of the forest. The tallest spruces were close to the main road, not far from the southern boundary, and grew in a low spot with plenty of water available. I have no idea why they're growing so well, but it's cool to see.

Thanks for your reply,

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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ElijahW
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Re: Morgan Hill State Forest, Fabius, NY

Post by ElijahW » Mon Jun 11, 2018 6:10 pm

NTS,

I paid a visit today to Morgan Hill and have a quick update on the Norway spruces. First, the good news:

1.) Two trees have surpassed the 140’ mark, at 140.1’ and 140.5’, respectively. This was done in approximately 85 years.

2.) Many trees now exceed 135’ (probably between 15 & 20).

3.) The intact forest seems to be in excellent health.

Now the bad:

A lot of cutting has recently been done in the tall-tree area, and, depending on the method of cut, these trees may soon be gone. Of course the purpose of this state forest is partially to grow trees for harvest, so the good times weren’t meant to go on forever; however, such impressive growth rates are worth studying.

Per the Department of Conservation (DEC) Management Plan, the area with the tallest trees is designated a long term conifer area, and straddles a protected stream, so it may be safe. Then again, it may not, as they’re already within a few yards of the best trees. I did send an email to the office in charge of the region in which Morgan Hill sits, but we’ll have to see what happens.

A couple photos of the Morgan Hill Spruces:
EC88F596-B10E-4AB2-9F7D-6D22BE5E76DE.jpeg
710D7216-CAA0-42F4-93C7-B1797C3C0356.jpeg
Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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ElijahW
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Re: Morgan Hill State Forest, Fabius, NY

Post by ElijahW » Tue Jun 12, 2018 5:05 pm

NTS,

Another quick update on Morgan Hill: I received a response to my email today from a state forester, who seemed very knowledgeable about what’s going on with the logging operation and Norway Spruce as a species. He largely assuaged my fears, and wrote that the area I was most concerned about would not be logged anytime soon; all trees involved in the current timber sale had already been cut.

He also alerted me to a stand of Spruce in another Central NY state forest that he considers superior to those in Morgan Hill. Of course I’ll be checking that out ASAP.

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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Lucas
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Re: Morgan Hill State Forest, Fabius, NY

Post by Lucas » Tue Jun 12, 2018 5:37 pm

ElijahW wrote:NTS,

1.) Two trees have surpassed the 140’ mark, at 140.1’ and 140.5’, respectively. This was done in approximately 85 years.

2.) Many trees now exceed 135’ (probably between 15 & 20).

Elijah
Quite the return on investment. One wonders what another 85 years would do for them.
We travel the Milky way together, trees and men. - John Muir

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ElijahW
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Re: Morgan Hill State Forest, Fabius, NY

Post by ElijahW » Sun Jun 24, 2018 4:15 pm

Lucas wrote:
Quite the return on investment. One wonders what another 85 years would do for them.
That’s the big question on Norway Spruce. Hopefully, we’ll get to see the answer.

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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