Of Forests and Floodplains (continued)

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Jane Roy Brown is a member of The Trustees who lives in the Highlands.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2012 issue of Special Places, The Trustees' member magazine. To subscribe, join The Trustees today.

In June, volunteers from The Trustees and Project Native, a nonprofit native plant farm, nursery, and wildlife sanctuary in Housatonic, helped plant 25 elms, also donated by The Nature Conservancy, at the Cobble. “A regular team of volunteers comes weekly in the spring and summer to help on projects across the whole property, and some of them have worked on the floodplain forest,” says Kate Preissler, Trustees Engagement Manager for the Berkshires, Pioneer Valley, and Central Massachusetts. “They find the floodplain project really exciting.”

“It’s really a unique opportunity for our volunteers,” says Richburg. “They get to start a great project like this and follow it through the years. Their efforts are visible right after they plant these trees, but then they’ll get to watch the trees grow. They’ll see how they have helped to create habitat, and then get to see it change over time.”

The project has also served as an outdoor classroom for The Trustees’ Holyoke Youth Conservation Corps. The team of five to six teens, who range in age from 15 to 17, work during the summer on stewardship projects at Trustees’ reservations across the region – Dinosaur Footprints, Land of Providence, and Little Tom Mountain – as well as at Mt. Tom State Park and several other sites around the city. “At Land of Providence, the Youth Corps has cleared invasive plants, watered newly planted trees, posted informational signs, and other basic tasks needed for the forest restoration to succeed,” Preissler says.

They’ve also been great partners with Richburg in her work back at the Cobble, helping to pot and care for newly planted silver maple seedlings plucked from the banks of the Housatonic. Hundreds of these seedlings sprout along a Housatonic riverbend, but they get scoured by ice every winter. “These little plants cannot survive the scouring, so in 2011 we scooped out about 300 of them and trucked them back to Land of Providence to spend the winter at The Trustees’ greenhouse there,” she says. “They’re now two and three feet tall. In 2013 we will take them back to the Cobble and plant them.”

When the Youth Corps returns to plant the young silver maples in the Cobble’s hayfield next year, the chances of the trees surviving are excellent, Richburg says. “Silver maples can survive in a wide range of conditions, but replanting them where they have evolved in the unique conditions of that particular site is the best possible situation. It’s like they not only speak the language of that land, but the local dialect too.”

It will be a few years before Richburg gets to see the full impact of her work, as the trees take root and grow. “We’re really looking at more than 20 years before the trees start to close the canopy,” she says. But other benefits, like restored habitat for plants and animals, will be achieved more quickly. With several other restoration projects currently underway along the Connecticut and Housatonic rivers, including by Project Native and The Nature Conservancy, The Trustees’ efforts have the potential to have a significant impact, especially as forecasters predict bigger and more severe storms like Irene in the years to come.

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Published December 2012


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