I was asked to write a chapter for a book about the scientific application of Gigapans, high-resolution images made by stitching together many normal digital photographs. I am not sure if anything will come of the book idea, but you can see my chapter here, which describes the diverse environments of the Salisbury Municipal Forest. You can also see the full resolution Gigapans featured in the chapter at the Salisbury Panoramas pages.
News and Issues of the Salisbury Town Forest
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Bryan Jones is a new member of the Salisbury Planning Commission, and attended his first meeting this month when four members of the Conservation Commission were present to help start a discussion of management options for the Salisbury Municipal Forest. Bryan and I continued this discussion during a three hour walk through the eastern part of the municipal forest yesterday. The Planning Commission will have to make recommendations about generating revenue by harvesting trees on the property, so we noted the quality of the merchantable timber as we walked.
There is almost no sugar maple anywhere in the town forest, so the most valuable trees are red oaks and white oaks. The forest near Upper Plains Road includes some good quality oaks, and stands near the town shed and recycling barn will be attractive to loggers because road access is very good. As we travelled east, away from the road, there was more beech and red maple, and the oaks were smaller and not as straight. A couple hundred yards from the road we reached the base of a steep bedrock slope which would stop a logging skidder, the heavy equipment which drags logs to a landing. At the top of the ridge, the thin soil supported a stunted forest with lots of chestnut and white oaks (Dry Oak Forest), so there was not much for a skidder to retrieve there. There is one place along this ridge where one can get a view to the west over Salisbury.
East of this ridge, deeper, wetter soils nourish some oaks, hemlock, beech, red maple, and yellow birch in a small valley surrounding a vernal pool. Although the quality of the timber is less than that near Upper Plains Road, there is probably enough of it to support a timber sale. However, a skidder would have to cover a lot of territory to gather enough logs, and the logs would have to be taken out to the south across land owned by the Keewaydin Foundation and the US Forest Service along some roads that would have to be newly built or restored. The expense of this might reduce the profit margin substantially.
Farther east, the town forest’s largest area of Dry Oak Forest covers the south slope of Bryant Mountain. This is an unproductive forest of stunted chestnut, white, and red oak, and red maple with little commercial value. I was expecting an impressive display of shadbush on the slope, but only a few scattered trees were blooming. The photo here was taken last year on April 29, so maybe the display will be better in a few days.
We ran out of time and had to turn back before we got into the hemlock forest at the eastern margin of the town forest. Maybe next time there will be less talking and more walking.
Galen and I made a nice loop in the town forest yesterday (April 13), checking out the sites east of Upper Plains Road. We found two more clusters of wood frog egg masses in the high vernal pool, one with seven masses and one with three. These had been deposited since my visit on April 7. There were no egg masses in the lower pools, including the one south of the quartzite canyon. These pools are shallower and probably won’t last as long as the uppermost pool.
To the west of the canyon we found a charred stump, evidence of an old forest fire. There is another charred stump on the other side of the canyon, but they are the only ones I have found. Maybe the fire did not spread far, or maybe other evidence of the fire has been lost. The stumps were well rotted, so they probably record a fire from the mid-twentieth century.
In the hemlock grove at the eastern boundary of the town forest, we found a couple of large, old hemlocks that I had not noticed before. That makes a total of five hemlocks that are about 300 years old. There are lots of trees in that stand that are about 200 years old, so it is probably the oldest forest in Salisbury. The stand also includes cut stumps dating from the last 60 years, so it is not an undisturbed forest.
The weather has been so good I expected to see lots of plants blooming. We found some trailing arbutus in bloom, but no other wildflowers. The next week will doubtless see more flowers.
There was still ice on the vernal pools in the Town Forest when I was there in March, and tonight’s visit was planned then. It went more or less as I had hoped.
It rained today in the late afternoon and evening, but it was just misty as I climbed the steep ridge east of Upper Plains Road at 8:00 PM. I could hear lots of spring peepers calling behind me even from the top of the ridge, and when I crested the ridge, I could also hear them in front of me.
There were several peepers calling in the vernal pools between the ridge and Bryant Mountain, and a few wood frogs as well. I quickly found some wood frog egg masses, but only in one place at the deepest part of the pool. About 15 separate masses were attached to branches in 5 inches of water, all within a few feet of one another.
There were some handsome predaceous diving beetles (probably Acilius mediatus) swimming around the eggs. I saw one wood frog, and on a mossy island found a pair of spring peepers who I interrupted to photograph. One of them (the male) was calling and puffing out its throat, the other was just listening (nevertheless, probably a female).
I had to put the camera away and don raingear for the walk out. I lost the route and stumbled upon a porcupine den I had never seen before. I am not sure I could ever find it in the daylight.
Yesterday evening the Salisbury Planning Commission jumped into a new project to prepare guidelines for the management of the Salisbury Municipal Forest. Chris Olson, the Addison County Forester, was invited to review the information he had collected about the town forest, and distributed copies of several pertinent old and recent documents. Four members of the Salisbury Conservation Commission were also present to answer questions about the natural resource information currently available for the town forest. Quite a bit of good information is available, and the Planning Commission hopes to receive more after Eric Sorenson, a Natural Communities Ecologist with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, surveys the town forest this spring. Chris Olson also accepted an invitation to expand the timber inventory he has done into other areas of the town forest. The Conservation Commission agreed to compile existing information about wildlife use of the town forest. We are making all of the documents available online here.
I will be leading a public walk through the town forest on May 8, and I hope I can lead other walks just for members of the Planning Commission or Select Board. This is the last springtime opportunity we will have to explore the forest before the new town plan is adopted in March 2011 with management guidance for the town forest.