Old-Growth Forests in New York State Protected Under New Legislation

adirondack forest photo

Somewhere beyond that forest clearing in the Adirondacks could be some old growth forest. Photo: Stacy Lynn Baum.

When most people think of old growth forests in North America, and I include myself in this, they think of some majestic stand of timber in California, the Pacific Northwest or in British Columbia. Well, that's only part of the picture: Though obviously not contiguous, New York has nearly 350,000 acres of old growth forest. The good news is that under a new law the portion of these forests on public land will be protected from from development. Law Sets Criteria for Old-Growth Forest Classification
To qualify for protection under this new law, the Bruce S. Kershner Old-Growth Forest Preservation and Protection Act, a forest must be at least 10 acres in size and have "an abundance of late successional tree species, at least 180 to 200 years of age in a contiguous forested landscape that has evolved and reproduced itself naturally, with the capacity for self perpetuation".

Budget Constraints Limited Scope of Law
Though, as passed, the law only includes public lands, it was orginally envisioned to include tax breaks for private landholders who preserved old-growth forests, but due to tight state budgets this part was dropped so as not to prolong the two years it took to draft the legislation.

Law Offers Old-Growth Forest Additional Protections, Short of Preserve Status
In practical terms what does this law do? While it does not establish any new Forest Preserves it does extend stronger protection to areas designated as old-growth forest, allows municipalities to designate areas as old-growth forest if the required criteria are met, and allows private lands to be protected by the state through conservation easements.

Why Are Old-Growth Forests Important?
If you're a regular TreeHugger reader, you probably don't need to be told why old-growth forests are important, but for those who need a reminder the orginal ENS article states it quite well:

The law recognizes the role of forests to cool the climate, stating that part of its purpose is "to maintain the ability of old-growth forests to sequester carbon, thereby helping to avoid an increase in the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere."

It is also intended to "maintain the ability of old-growth forests to transpire water and to provide shade and large woody debris to streams, rivers, and creeks; to provide habitat for endangered and threatened species that are dependent on or associated with old-growth forests; and to encourage, as appropriate, the retention of old, large, dead, dying or deteriorating trees that provide necessary habitat for wildlife and nutrients essential for forest health, and retain moisture that enhances water quality and quantity."

via :: ENS
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