I turned off the main road and started up the long driveway back into the woods. As I slowly drove back, I noticed numerous sugar maples, (Acer saccharum). Other names for the sugar maple are hard maple or rock maple, but sugar maple is what I prefer.
It got me thinking.
As a conservation/agronomy guy, I tend to look at things from a crop standpoint. Meaning I am looking for a way to fully utilize the products of the land. Remember, conservation is wise use! The Northeast as a whole has woodlots and forests that are growing with little or no management. There are even aged woodlots that sprang up out of old abandoned farm fields all over the state. Many have never had any type of forest management. Those prime deer and grouse brushy young forest stands of 20 to 40 years ago are now getting up in age, like the rest of us.
Logging occurs in some areas, but sound management for a species like sugar maple is lacking in many areas. There are some very well managed maple sugar stands in our area, especially in Clinton County. But there are many more that are sitting idle.
As I continued my drive, I noticed white pine (Pinus strobus), popple or aspen (Populus tremuloides), white ash, (Fraxinus americana) eastern hophornbeam which goes by other names like, hardhack or ironwood (Ostrya virginiana), hemlock (Tsuga Canadensis), wild apple (Malus) and a few scattered elms (Ulmus americana).
From the various species, the silhouetted shapes of the pines, and the smooth ground that they grew on, deduction told me I was looking at an old pasture or hay land that had grown into a woodlot. My bet goes with pasture being the last use before the trees took over. The white pines had numerous stems and branches which meant they were growing in the sunlight in their youth and attacked by the white pine weevil (Pissodes strobi). The hophornbeam is a species that cattle don’t graze or browse so they thrive after the cattle are removed from a site. The art of figuring out what happened in the past, making the present day woods what it is, is interesting, forest forensics at its best.
Rich Redman is a retired District Conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and an avid outdoorsman. His column will appear regularly. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.