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2 The Outdoors: The ancient trees of the Adirondack Mountains

A grove of Eastern White Pines stands as a monument to life, even in death.

PAUL SMITHS, N.Y. — The Adirondack Mountains are ancient, over five million years old, and at six million acres, it's also immense. So it's a given that there are numerous hidden hollows with life that's free to grow to its own limits. 

Hiking into one of these groves of old-growth trees is like walking into a green cathedral. Here you'll find a stand of towering Eastern White Pines. Justin Waskiewicz, a Forestry Professor at Paul Smith's College, explains. 

"This tree is part of a stand of eight to ten acres, and the significance is, they're the oldest trees around. There isn't a grove of this age for some distance, and they're spectacular to look at, they're beautiful."

Credit: Terry Belke
The state's tallest tree at almost 160 feet, recently fell.

The Eastern White Pine is one of the tallest tree species East of the Mississippi, and in this part of the forest, they're quite old as well. Last December, tree 103, NY's tallest known tree, almost 160 feet, came crashing to earth during a windstorm. Howard Stoner is a retired Math Professor at Hudson Valley CC. 

"We measured them, and discovered that one of them, 103, the one that we're talking about, was the tallest one that was accurately measured in the state of NY at the time."

"The oldest known were about four hundred, and these ones here are pushing that, they're about three hundred fifty years old, we think," said Waskiewicz.

Credit: Terry Belke
Some of the Eastern White Pines here are 300-350 years old.

The fallen giant joins other White Pines in the grove that have toppled in recent years. The trees, which are all about the same age, are reaching the end of their lives. Paul Smith's Professor thinks that this part of the forest will never be the same as the huge pines will give way to other species. 

"This grove will be replaced by a Spruce, Fir, Maple grove. It won't look anything like this ever again. And none of those trees are at all capable of being as large or long-lived as the White Pine are."

But even in death, Waskiewicz says the trees will continue to feed the cycle of life. 

"It'll  feed generations of organisms for many, many, many more decades, and of course, that's just a little stuff, there's big stuff too, that's going to use this."

Credit: Terry Belke
Tree 103 was named after Bruce Kershner, a tireless tree champion from Western New York.

Tree 103 will also serve as a monument to a tree champion from WNY. It was named after Bruce Kershner, an old-growth tree expert who passed in 2007. 

Stoner believes that the honor is fitting as Kershner spent much of his life defending forests. "He was just vivacious, full of energy, pep, go, let's get out there, let's get going, let's get the job done. Very dedicated to old-growth, and anything having to do with saving the planet."


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