Schoharie sets forest aside to foster 'old-growth'

ContributedThe Paulson Preserve in Schoharie County has joined the Old-Growth Forest Network with a 100-acre plot of land that has been designated a 'new old growth' property. 

Schoharie County is a county of relatively few people but it has many forests, and someday will be one of the few counties in America with two old-growth forests. 

The Schoharie Land Trust announced last month it had entered into an agreement to turn 100 acres of its Paulson Preserve into a new, old-growth forest.

"The idea is to take a forest and ensure it will be around for a long time," Schoharie Land Trust President Andy Mason told The Daily Star on Friday, Jan. 8. "So we decided to take a portion of our property, Paulson Preserve, and dedicate that as an old-growth forest.

"It is not an old-growth forest right now," he continued. "Some of it may be, but I think a lot of it is mostly second growth. But what we are able to do is say the land will not be logged, so someday, and forever, it can be an old-growth forest.

The designation is the creation of an Easton, Md.-based conservation group, the Old-Growth Forest Network. Mason said the land trust needed to submit an application to get the designation, complete with a map, pictures and a plan to preserve the forest.

"We are building not only a network of forests, but also an alliance of people who care about forests," the OGFN website said.

The distinction did not cost the trust anything in fees or in mandates. It also did not bring with it any grants or immediate donations. 

According to the SLT website, the Paulson Preserve is 342 acres in the towns of Jefferson and Summit, which were donated to the Land Trust in 1997 by Liselotte Paulson. 

Mason said the goal of the old-growth group is to designate and preserve a forest in every county in America as old-growth.

"You can go on the national website and do a search for old-growth forests," he said. "There are no old-growth forests in Delaware or Otsego counties. That kind of surprised me a little bit.

"The amazing thing is we aren't the first old-growth forest in Schoharie," he said. 

In Esperance, straddling Schoharie and Montgomery counties, the Landis Arboretum also has a old-growth forest. 

"We are a new, old-growth forest," Mason said, "but they are already an old-growth forest." 

According to the Landis website, "Landis Arboretum is one of three arboreta in eastern North America that have old growth forests. The other two are the New York Botanical Garden and Rutgers University (in New Jersey)."

Both Schoharie forests are public access lands, which is part of the criteria for the distinction, Mason said. 

"It does have to be open to the public," he said. "The entire (Paulson) property is open to the public and there is a trail going into the old-growth section." 

Mason said the trust had hoped to have an official announcement ceremony at the preserve, but between winter and the coronavirus pandemic, the idea of an event had to be shelved. 

Being named as a partner for the network was a source of regional pride for Mason and the trust he said. 

"Long after I am gone, those trees will still be here for people to enjoy and appreciate," Mason said. 

Go to www.schoharielandtrust.org, www.landisarboretum.org or www.oldgrowthforest.net for more information. 

Greg Klein, staff writer, can be reached at gklein@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7218.

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