The Northeast Has Unexpected Old-Growth Forests That Survived Colonial Axes

"Expanding the remaining patches may hold the key to ecological resilience in the centuries to come".

"On his missions to find big trees, Erik Danielson comes across humanity’ s detritus—often rusty cans and broken glass, the occasional old stone wall or chimney, and once a camp chair lodged in a tree miles from the nearest trail or road. But bushwhacking into the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York on a humid summer morning in 2023, he found no signs that anyone else had been in these woods for a very long time.

At first, Danielson’s surroundings looked like any other forest in the northeastern United States—a tangle of underbrush and skinny trees fighting for the light, crowded by boulders and stumps. As he walked in deeper, though, the ecology shifted. The pines became larger, the moss thicker, and the forest harder to navigate because of downed trees and 20-foot cliffs. “It was really beautiful, but kind of hard terrain to get around,” Danielson recalled. He paused in a ravine framed by a waterfall, and then, climbing up the next ridge, he saw it: the eastern white pine he would eventually call Bigfoot. At 151 feet tall and more than 16 feet in circumference, it towered over the forest floor.

“It’s got this enormous footprint, and the trunk just goes up and up, and I think to myself, ‘This could be the largest white pine that I’ve ever seen,’” Danielson said. A self-taught botanist who never went to college and fell in love with trees while living in an off-grid cabin, he is now a laboratory technician in the Tree Ring Lab at Harvard Forest, the forestry department of Harvard University, and hunts for big trees in his spare time. Bigfoot—later confirmed to be the largest living member of its species by volume—was one of his largest finds yet.

More remarkable than Bigfoot itself was the fact that it was just one tree in a 550-acre tract of white pine forest that has likely stood since before the Civil War—an entire, intact old-growth forest hiding in one of the nation’s most densely populated and ecologically altered regions."

Krista Langlois reporttss for Sierra magazine June 10, 2024.

Source: Sierra, 06/13/2024