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Kershner, Oneida, and Brant Pines

Posted: Mon Sep 05, 2011 6:49 pm
by dbhguru

Here is a slight re-write of what I sent to DCR today.

Today, I went to Zoar Gap to further check on the condition of the forest after Irene. Given the horrendous damage to the campground, I wanted to send some good news. At the gap, I met 15-year old Andrew Row and his mother. Andrew has bought a Nikon Prostaff 440 laser rangefinder on Ebay and a Suunto clinometer, and is determined to become a good tree measurer. I had promised to give Andrew instructions on how to use the laser-clinometer combination and elected to combine instructions with a check on the Oneida and Joseph Brant pines in the Shunpike area of Mohawk. While his mother waited, Andrew and I headed up the ridge to the northwest to check on the big trees. An initial check on Magic Maple confirmed that the large red maple is doing very good.

We next went to the Kershner Pine and confirmed its condition. It has grown a little since I first started measuring it in 2007. The Kershner pine is 9.5 feet in girth and now 151.2 feet tall. We then went up the ridge to Oneida Pine and measured it. The tall pine is 10.1 feet in girth and 156.4 feet tall. It continues to gain height and bulk in its upper limbs. Its radial growth at breast height is very slow.

Just above the Oneida Pine, I spotted a black birch with roots engulfing a rock. It was hard to distinguish where roots ended and rock began, as you can see in this next image.

The final destination was the big Joseph Brant Pine up the ridge from the Oneida Pine. The Brant Pine was discovered by Gary Beluzo back around 2001 or 2002, if I remember correctly. Today, we put a target on the trunk to use with the lasers, determined the mid-slope position, and moved up hill. It took some time, but we managed to find a peephole and got satisfactory laser and clinometer readings. Both lasers agreed on distances to crown and target. The result of the calculations is a height of 160.2 feet. I didn’t re-measure the girth, but it is between 11.1 and 11.15 feet. Here is an image of the Brant Pine with Andrew Row in the image for scale.

The Brant Pine becomes the 13th white pine in Mohawk to reach 160 feet or more in height. The full list for Mohawk follows. Heights and girths are in feet. Volumes are in cubic feet.
How does Mohawk fair in the Northeast? If we define the geographical Northeast as east of Ohio and north of latitude 40 degrees, then the following table lists the numbers of 160-foot white pines in the Northeast by property. There may be others, but we haven’t found them.
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Mohawk Trail State Forest ranks #2 among Northeastern sites for white pines 160 feet or more in height. There are likely a few New York sites with at least one pine in each site in the 160-foot height range. With enough searching, I would guess that the total number for the Northeast might go as high as 65, but it is highly unlikely that other than Cook Forest, we will find another site with more than Mohawk.

With the extensive damage caused by Irene, we can take pleasure in knowing that the great trees of Mohawk and Monroe came through relatively unscathed.

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Re: Kershner, Oneida, and Brant Pines

Posted: Mon Sep 05, 2011 7:54 pm
by Larry Tucei
Bob, Glad to hear all the trees in Mohawk made it through the storm. The Black Birch is one species I'm not familiar with. Cool looking tree. Congrats on another 160. So many White Pines over 150'+. One can only imagine how many thousands of trees over 150' there were in New England before the European invasion. It must have been a fantastic site to behold. Larry

Re: Kershner, Oneida, and Brant Pines

Posted: Mon Sep 05, 2011 8:05 pm
by James Parton

We have Black Birch here in the NC mountains. I'll have to show you one when you make it back up this way.

Re: Kershner, Oneida, and Brant Pines

Posted: Tue Sep 06, 2011 8:11 am
by dbhguru

Maybe we should sponsor an ENTS photographic contest for the black birch. It can be a fairly stately tree, but mostly I find its most compelling as a tree growing in rocky terrain.


Re: Kershner, Oneida, and Brant Pines

Posted: Tue Sep 06, 2011 11:32 am
by James Parton

It sounds like a good idea to me!

Re: Kershner, Oneida, and Brant Pines

Posted: Tue Sep 06, 2011 12:18 pm
by jamesrobertsmith
Just did the Mohawk Forest end up avoiding the saws and axes?

Re: Kershner, Oneida, and Brant Pines

Posted: Wed Sep 07, 2011 5:46 pm
by dbhguru

To answer your question, not all of the old growth did survive in Mohawk, but because of the extremely rough terrain and some foresighted though largely anonymous souls, the area was recognized as a surviving "virgin forest" as far back as the 1920s. As is so often the case, the foresighted were replaced by the nearsighted and the property lost probably half of its old growth, but that still left the largest OG reserve in the State. State Route 2, the Mohawk Trail road helped protect the pathway through the Cold River gorge from what would have been timber exploitation. Route 2 has been recognized as a major Massachusetts scenic route since its completion around 1913 or 1914. So denuded mountain sides wouldn't have been favorably received by the traveling public. More recently, Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest served as a deterrent to timber sales in several areas of Mohawk that had been slated for timber harvesting. Education did the trick. Now the whole state forest is a reserve, which gives it the highest level of protection from timber and other types of exploitation.

It is important for all to recognize that DCR is the agency that created the reserve with the support and urging of Mass Audubon and later TNC, as well as FMTSF. I actually drew the original reserve boundaries for Mohawk and Monroe. Those boundaries have since been extended. I feel deep gratitude toward DCR for what they did. As a consequence, I like to focus on the collaborative and cooperative aspects of the association of outsiders and insiders with respect to Mohawk. The reserve deal was consummated by real people as opposed to organizational entities. This said, there are heros in the past who still haven't gotten their much deserved recognition. I know at least one. DEM park interpreter and later environmental policemen Dave Rich was one of the early protectors of Mohawk. He worked altogether from the inside and he and others helped thwart an ill-conceived plan to ring aesthetic Stafford Meadow with campsites and build tennis courts in its center. That plan was spawned by none other than the late Kenneth M. Dubuque, a regional DEM supervisor, who later got a state forest named for him. Dave Rich hasn't gotten any recognition for his role in being a Mohawk protector.

In the northern end of Mohawk, we have the Four Graces, white pines named by Tim Zelazo for important DCR employees who have been stalwart protectors of the forest. I plan to identify another tree in the area and name it the Dave Rich Pine. I have a tree in mind. I need to do some politicing first.

I'll close with 3 images of aesthetic scenes from what has survived as old growth or mature second growth in Mohawk. The first scene is old growth on a boulder field. The second scene gives a hint as to why these areas survived. The third is me on my mission to capture intriguing root structures. The northern red seems to be reaching out tentacle style.