Albany Pine Bush Preserve removes invasive trees

During the months of July through December 2014, wildlife habitat restoration involving the removal of invasive, non-native trees will take place on 47 acres in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve near the intersection of Washington Avenue Extension and New Karner Road (Route 155) in Albany.

“The Pine Bush is not naturally characterized by large, mature forests.  In order to save this globally-rare ecosystem we have to restore these forested areas to more open pine barrens habitat,” said Christopher Hawver, executive director of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission, in a release from the preserve.

Land-clearing equipment will remove primarily black locust trees from the preserve in preparation for spring planting with native grasses, wildflowers, and wild blue lupine.  Native pitch pine trees and oak trees will not be removed. 

The project “has the double advantage of not only removing invasive black locust trees from the preserve, but also providing ideal sites where new pine barrens habitat can be created for the endangered Karner blue butterfly and many other native Pine Bush plants and animals,” said Stewardship Director Joel Hecht in the release.

Wildlife habitat restoration work will take place in the portion of the preserve south of the intersection of New Karner Road and Washington Avenue Extension with completion expected by December 2014.  Signs will indicate areas of the preserve that are temporarily closed to the public while this work is taking place.

Black Locust trees are not native to the Pine Bush or the Northeast.  These trees are extremely invasive, spreading rapidly wherever they are found.  Currently, the 3,200-acre preserve has over 400 acres dominated by black locust trees that outcompete native species.  Over the past 15 years, the commission has removed over 250 acres of black locust trees and restored these sites back to pine-barrens habitat.  Removal of additional black locust trees will continue over the coming years in many portions of the preserve.

Black locust trees have become overabundant throughout the Preserve due to the absence of frequent fires, the release says.  Locust is a clonal species, meaning that it spreads rapidly through new shoots growing off a continuous root system. 

Hecht said, “While the changes to this area will at first seem abrupt, the long-term effect will be a return to the diversity and unique ecology of open pine barrens that once existed.”