Chague gene | Berkshire Woods and Waters: Bob Leverett and Old Growth Hunting in West Masse | Sports

In the January/February 2022 issue of the Smithsonian Magazine, there was a very interesting article by Jonny Diamond, editor of LitHub.com, about old-growth forests here in the Berkshires and western Massachusetts, and their attorney Bob Leverett. It was long believed that the ancient forests here had disappeared, having been felled in the 17th century for use as fuel, fields for cultivation and timber for construction.







ice valley ravine

The Ice Glen is a ravine in the southeast area of ​​Stockbridge, a short walk from the town centre. The park is a lush, untended, romantic landscape of thick piled boulders with mosses and ferns. Ice can persist at the bottom of deep rock crevices until summer. Its orientation protects the valley from a lot of direct sunlight. Surrounding the glen is old growth forest, which is rare in New England.




But loggers have missed a few spots over the 300 years, like areas in the Ice Glen ravine in Stockbridge, the Mohawk Trail State Forest in Charlemont, on Mount Greylock and other places.

So what exactly is an ancient forest? Well, according to the Smithsonian article, there is no universally accepted definition. The term came into use in the 1970s to describe multi-species forests that have been left alone for at least 150 years. Ice Glen, so named for the deposits of ice that lived in its deep rock crevices during the summer months, has such biota. 200-year-old hemlocks and other northern hardwood forest dwellers still live here.

According to the article, beginning in the 1980s, as Bob and his son Rob went on their weekend hikes, he began to notice in hard-to-reach places, hidden patches of forest that evoked the primeval woods of his childhood, the ancient hemlocks and towering white pines of the Great Smoky Mountains near where he was born and raised. According to Bob, many people, including forest ecologists, were skeptical, and he witnessed confusion among experts about how to recognize and interpret old-growth features in Berkshire forests.

Bob made his observations public in the spring 1988 edition of the Woodland Steward newsletter, with an article about the discovery of old-growth forests in the Deerfield River Gorge in Massachusetts. Harvard researcher Tad Zebryk once accompanied him on a hike near the NY/MA border near Sheffield, Mass. Zebryk brought an increment borer (used to make estimates on the age of trees based on its tree rings). After probing and examination, the age of a tree turned out to be 330 years old!







Ice Glen Ravine

The Ice Glen is a ravine in the southeast area of ​​Stockbridge, a short walk from the town centre. The park is a lush, untended, romantic landscape of thick piled boulders with mosses and ferns. Ice can persist at the bottom of deep rock crevices until summer. Its orientation protects the valley from a lot of direct sunlight. Surrounding the glen is old growth forest, which is rare in New England.




Leverett began taking meticulous measurements of the height and girth of old trees and made another startling revelation: the height of mature trees was often incorrectly measured with the traditional combination of tape and clinometer.

Using a surveyor’s transit, Bob and timber frame construction specialist Jack Sobon would cross-triangulate the location of a tree’s top relative to its base, dramatically increasing the precision. Measuring height with the equipment of the day, apparently no one – not loggers, foresters or conservationists – has generally taken into account that the tops of most mature trees rarely remain vertical above their bases, invalidating the main premise of their method of measurement. Bob, during the same time as University of Washington ecologist Robert Van Pelt and great tree hunter Michael Taylor, developed a better way to accurately measure a tree’s height in inches. Named by Leverett as the sinusoidal method, it uses a laser range finder (introduced in the 1990s) and an angle measurer.

Bob has also developed superior methods for measuring the volume of the trunk, limbs and crown. The results contributed to his discoveries about enhanced carbon capture capabilities. A recent study, co-authored by Leverett with climatologist William Moomaw and Susan Masino, a professor of applied science at Trinity College, found that eastern white pines sequester more carbon between 100 and 150 years than they do. do in their first 50 years. This study and others have challenged the long-held assumption that younger, faster-growing forests sequester more carbon than mature forests. It reinforces the theory of “proforestation” as the simplest and most effective way to mitigate climate change through forests.

“If we just left the world’s existing forests alone, by 2100 they would have captured enough carbon to offset years of global fossil fuel emissions, up to 120 billion metric tons,” the study says.

Trees can continue to add a lot of carbon at much later ages than previously thought, especially for New England white pines, hemlocks, and sugar maples. Bob Leverett literally wrote the book on how to measure a tree: American Forests Champion Trees Measuring Guidelines Handbook, co-authored with US Forest Service veteran Don Bertolette.

If the goal is to minimize the global warning, cites the Smithsonian, climatologists often emphasize the importance of reforestation (planting new trees) and reforestation (reproduction of forests). But according to climatologist William Moomaw, there is a third approach to managing existing forests: proforestation (the preservation of older existing forests). He provided hard data that older trees accumulate much more carbon later in their life cycle than many had imagined: they can accumulate 75% of their total carbon after 50 years.

Leverett’s work made him a legend among “big tree hunters”. They meticulously measure and record data – the height of a hemlock, the diameter of the trunk of an elm, the extent of the crown of a white oak – for inclusion in the open database maintained by the Native Tree Society, co-founded by Leverett. To win over tree lovers and conservationists, Bob began in the early 1990s to write a series of articles for the quarterly journal Wild Earth to spread his ideas about old-growth forests. He has led thousands of people on ancient forest tours for groups like Mass Audubon, the Sierra Club, conservationists, activists, builders, backpackers, painters, poets and others.

His work, along with that of Dr. Anthony D’Amato (now of the University of Vermont), has helped ensure the protection of 1,200 acres of old-growth forest in Commonwealth Forest Reserves. Its message is “We have a duty to protect an ancient forest, both for its beauty and for its importance to the planet. … There’s a spiritual quality to being here: you’re walking silently through these woods, and there’s a spirit coming out of it. Other people are more eloquent in their way of describing the impact of the forest on the human spirit. I just feel it.

I think a lot of outdoor enthusiasts will agree with Bob.







Ice Glen Ravine

The Ice Glen is a ravine in the southeast area of ​​Stockbridge, a short walk from the town centre. The park is a lush, untended, romantic landscape of thick piled boulders with mosses and ferns. Ice can persist at the bottom of deep rock crevices until summer. Its orientation protects the valley from a lot of direct sunlight. Surrounding the glen is old growth forest, which is rare in New England.




Knowing that habitat managers for MassWildlife are high on early successional growth (which provides food for birds and other wildlife), I posed this question to DFW and DCR officials. Do you have old growth forests in your areas and would you try to protect them?

DFW’s response was, “We don’t believe there are any in our Wildlife Management Areas, but if we found any, we certainly wouldn’t cut them down or harm them.” We have large trees on our properties, but avoid cutting them.

DCR’s official response was that they manage approximately 500,000 acres of land across the Commonwealth, with just over a thousand acres of that land containing old growth forest. While there are many contributing factors the agency uses to define an old-growth forest, in general, these types of forests are typically several hundred years old.

For a forest to reach full maturity and old-growth status, it must avoid significant disturbances, such as wildfires, invasive tree pests, diseases, high-impact storms, and originating activities. human. Additionally, most of Massachusetts’ old-growth forests are located deep within parks, forests, and preserves and are off the beaten path. To help preserve these ancient forests, DCR refrains from publicizing their location to better protect them and ensure they are trafficked less; however, most are located in the western part of the Commonwealth. In addition, ancient forests are protected natural lands and it is DCR’s policy to preserve them, while allowing the forest to manage itself.

I contacted Bob to see if I could get another photo of him that was not copyrighted by the Smithsonian. He said yes, but I had to go through his photographer who has the copyright. He introduced me to David Degner online who he thought was in Germany. When I contacted David he was actually in Tunisia and agreed to send a photo. He normally takes a fee for a photo, but only asked me if I would credit him for the photo and give his email address. You can see more great photos of his work with Leverett at www.DavidDegner.com, or contact him at [email protected]

Thanks to David, Bob and everyone involved who contributed to this article.

In fact, you could say it was truly an international effort to bring you this photo and this story.