Forestry demonstration areas in Maryland's Sugarloaf Mountain enable foresters, biologists, naturalists to examine habitat, water quality, other forestry environmental factors, while allowing public to see what works best in forest regeneration

Audrey Dixon

Audrey Dixon

Aug 12, 2013 – The Frederick News-Post

DICKERSON, Maryland , August 11, 2013 () – Sugarloaf Mountain is known for its hiking, biking and horseback riding trails. It's also known for its spectacular views. What it's not known for is its forestry demonstration areas.

Forests in various stages of growth can be seen on a short walk around Sugarloaf, in southern Frederick County, allowing foresters and the public to see what works best when regenerating forests.

Some areas contain clusters of trees that are mostly the same age, called even-age management, while others contain trees of various ages, called uneven-age management. The first trees were planted in 1991, and demonstration areas have been implemented in approximate five-year increments ever since.

The demonstration areas allow foresters, biologists and naturalists to examine habitat, water quality and other environmental factors affected by forests. These areas face typical threats, including gypsy moths and deer. Deer are less of problem now than they were in the mid-'90s, because Sugarloaf now conducts a managed hunt to limit the herd to about 100 deer.

The demonstration areas are about 10 acres each. The idea is to harvest timber off the land while keeping the forest healthy. The goal, according to Russ Thompson of Stronghold, is to make small cuts in perpetuity. Stronghold is the management firm for Sugarloaf, which totals about five square miles, most of it wooded. The income is used to maintain Sugarloaf's recreational areas.

Thompson and Mike Kay, Frederick County forester for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, led biologists and natural resource professionals on a tour of the demonstration areas earlier this summer.

Tulip poplar, oak, red maple, hickory, beech and ash make up many of the trees that grow naturally in Sugarloaf. Ailanthus, or tree of heaven, also grows in abundance there, but this tree is usually treated with herbicide because of its highly invasive nature.

The oldest demonstration area has many tall shade trees, including tulip poplars, beech, red maple, ash and oak. The only weed control done on the plot was for tree of heaven. The heavy tree cover now provides good habitat for ferns.

The area planted in 1996 was clearcut, and since then, red maples, beech, hickories, oak and ash trees have returned. A spike in erosion in the area was controlled, allowing the trees to regenerate naturally.

"Stronghold has been very open to what we've proposed," Kay said.

Area D was planted in 2006. This more open area has a lot of undergrowth along with trees, but nothing has been planted, Kay said. The undergrowth will die off as the trees grow. "I'm not seeing any bad invasives here," he said.

A slightly older area, clearcut in 2001, is now nearly covered in tree canopy, he said. These slightly open areas allow habitat for birds such as ruffed grouse, woodcock, cerulean warbler and yellow-shouldered warbler.

"A lot of landowners (of wooded land) don't want to clearcut," Kay said. These clearcuts, however, are necessary to the survival of many bird species that live in open fields. "There is a need for this type of habitat," he said.

In several of the demonstration areas, 20-50 percent of the original tree canopy was kept as seed trees. These shelter woods are used to regenerate oak stands damaged by gypsy moths. Some of these stands have more undergrowth than clearcut areas which are now home to fully regenerated forests with little undergrowth. The undergrowth provide areas where wildlife can flourish.

The demonstration areas allow foresters to try various types of timber harvest and to gauge what happens to a forest after clearcutting. These areas also provide landowners and students with knowledge about what can be done with tracts measuring 10 acres or more to provide income, and at the same time maintain a healthy ecosystem.


(c)2013 The Frederick News-Post (Frederick, Md.)

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