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Glading - is it really harmful to the forest?

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  • #31
    Are we talking about downhill ski trails or backcountry ski trails?


    • #32
      Originally posted by Bunchberry View Post
      Are we talking about downhill ski trails or backcountry ski trails?

      They don't exist in NY yet but there are, for instance in VT, man-made BC ski trails that are glades i.e. they are not cleared of large trees but maintained to give enough space to ski around and in between the trees. If you ski at a place like Whiteface or Gore, which are state owned, they maintain ski trails that are glades and not vast clear cuts. I'm sure the state could glean some data from those in the future.

      I think some older skiers get annoyed by this because it doesn't apply to them. They ski little-known natural glades and if any trimming goes on, no one really talks about it. And whatever, that's fine. I ski at places like this and I don't really talk about it. It's not a secret, but it's not exactly well known either.

      The issue becomes either supporting or opposing these type of trails on Forest Preserve lands in NY. There are groups working to promote this (groups I support financially). But truth of the matter is I'm rather ignorant, and when I learn more, sometimes my stance may change. Other people that aren't really skiers, but who have right to public comment on these type of things when UMP changes come about - or maybe in this case even an amendment to the constitution to allow these type of trails to be legally marked and maintained. Some may say the current system of secrecy works fine, but the fact is backcountry skiing, either XC or DH is getting more pressure than ever. Our snowpack may limit our ambitions in the future, but I think these are the kind of things that are going to come to surface. At minimum, there are groups that support building of more XC-type trails and in higher difficulty but that also include large opening on steeper sections to allow turning.

      At any rate, whether you ski or not, you probably should have some idea on the impact of these sort of things and whether or not they would be an appropriate addition if any of the proposals ever gain steam. I was previously of the mind that glading was not detrimental, but I have a little bit more conservative position on that now.


      • #33
        Originally posted by Schultzz View Post
        Montcalm: Fascinating facts. I believe what you said.
        LOL - don't believe me. Believe the data.

        Originally posted by Neil View Post
        Perhaps the term "harmful" needs to be defined. One person's harm can be another's help or benefit. (more productive commercial forest, better recreational opportunities)
        I would ask, what is the "impact" of glade or trail cutting.

        For some, cutting a single tree is "by definition" bad because it's a wilderness zone. End of discussion. For some, leaving all those ADK forests to grow so chaotically due to Forever Wild is a crime.

        As for the Beeches (those dendrological bullies and their selfish genes) that's almost a whole 'nuther thread right there. Where is DSettahr?
        I get a little annoyed by us discussing these kinds of things because... well we're old. I think it is really for the next generations to decide how to manage. We'll be dead and gone before those trees even know what hit them, but our kids, or our grandkids will be the ones that will see the unintended consequences of our carelessness, or the benefits of knowledge and restraint. It's always that case, I'm not picking on any one generation in particular.

        I think other than the odd latrine, trees probably don't find much we do to be beneficial. And also, I'd argue we, as a species, have a hard time doing anything that isn't beneficial for ourselves, at least in the short term.

        Originally posted by Neil View Post
        One thing I recall reading in an on-line outdoors magazine is that when people go into the woods for BC skiing they disturb the wildlife. Anyone else aware of that?
        Is this true, or a joke? It's the internet and I can't decipher ambiguity.

        Originally posted by backwoodsman View Post
        A book worth reading is" Field Notes from the Northern Forest " by Curt Stager . There is a chapter called Underground Connections , fascinating stuff .
        I think all of this is not new. And of course people are cropping up who have read Peter's book. I knew that would happen. Anyway, I think certain foresters and ecologist have observed these kind of things and that's what lead to more intensive research. Dr. Simard's PhD thesis was published in 1995, I think. That's not exactly new, but in terms of science that's at least been around long enough to be peer reviewed, and hopefully results confirmed, etc... by others. The longer an explanation to data or a phenomenon sticks around, the more likely it has stood a good many challenges and has hopefully been looked at from different lenses within the field.


        • #34
          Originally posted by montcalm View Post

          Is this true, or a joke? It's the internet and I can't decipher ambiguity.

          A world-renowned athlete stopped skiing in sensitive areas. Can she convince others to do the same?
          The best, the most successful adventurer, is the one having the most fun.


          • #35
            I would think that a back country ski trail would have the least amount of impact on the forest.

            It would cut only the smaller trees which I assume is good.

            If we can assume that the trails are not maintained for summer use then the ground would not be very compacted. Soil compaction does have a negative impact on forests.


            • #36
              Interesting. But my bet is no one will gaf.

              Originally posted by Bunchberry View Post

              It would cut only the smaller trees which I assume is good.
              You can lead a horse to water...


              • #37
                It would cut only the smaller trees which I assume is <<better>>.


                • #38
                  I know this topic was a little touchy for some, but personally I've learned so much more on the subject in the past year, and the more I learn, the more I think glading really is a poor practice. I think I'm with the DEC stance on leaving it be. Dr. Simard inspired my curiosity of these things, and even beyond the underground connections between trees, simply regenerating healthy forests is a difficult thing. And even trimming the "weedy" beech may exacerbate their situation of continually propagating an understory thicket. Maples can do the same thing. But even so, those trees need to be there, and ready to take a spot in the canopy when a larger tree fails. This makes the forest more robust against invasives and disease.

                  I think actually there is a good argument here that hiking trails are quite bad though - that they become the main pathways for invasives to enter, although I'm not sure that's a valid concern in the winter.

                  One idea I know that was proposed was creating skiable width trails, more like a snowmobile trail but perhaps a bit wider on steep pitches, but closing them to summer use and putting slash over them to keep growth down in the summer. Some may argue this more closely represents a natural occurrence of blowdown and without soil compaction and invasive contamination (not much invasive contamination during winter) those trails may be less impactful than leaving older trees and taking out saplings over a wide area.


                  • #39
                    Wouldn't be the first time I was cancelled. I've been getting cancelled before that was even a thing...

                    My goal with discussing any of this kind of thing is not make people who can't handle looking at things from an alternative perspective mad, but to understand what the real impacts are, and inform myself, and others on matters that might concern them in choosing what or what not to support on the forest preserve.

                    If skiing (or any other recreation) is your number one goal and you want to support that with no other considerations because that is what you like to do, then go for it. No one is stopping you. There's plenty of people pushing that kind of thing, but just think about your stance when you oppose a snowmobile trail or a highway or a power line or a hotel (if you do). Everybody wants to develop land in some way or another that is best aligned with their personal interests, but it's our responsibility to make sure we keep that overall impact small and preserve nature. Or at least that should be the number one goal of the forest preserve.

                    If it bothers you to think about things from that perspective and just want to blindly support your self-interests, then go for it. I have, I do, everyone does to some degree. But trying to understand these issues and what your may or may not agree with is part of the process. Maybe it doesn't matter? But in this particular instance, it's an uphill battle, so perhaps an alternative solution will best serve skiers, and conservationists?


                    • #40
                      The issue of clearings affects not only trees but also some other species. Some birds, for instance, require large tracts of undisturbed forests. Clearings allow "edge species" to establish and out-compete or prey upon the deep forest species. I suspect that trails are too small an area, or area-per-acre, to be a problem.

                      It would be nice if everyone, skier or otherwise, found this kind of thing worth discussing.


                      • #41
                        Originally posted by Wldrns View Post
                        When trail clearing with the permission of and even while being accompanied by a DEC officer in charge, I always thought it interesting that I am authorized to willfully kill hundreds of saplings and seedlings that could have one day grown up to be large mature trees. Yet if I did the same thing in a random location in any wilderness area, I could be fined a considerable amount per each tree for doing the same.
                        As a trail maintainer, I ponder a same situation in a slightly different way. Sometimes I'll be walking on a trail and see a small tree right next to the trail trimmed to the trunk. I think to myself that it should have been completely removed long ago but someone was too soft. Then, when I'm clipping out a trail I'll see a small tree too close to the treadway that needs to go and I think to myself it would be so nice if I could relocate this little guy somewhere. I get that "feeling" more often with lone trees vs. children trees like beech. IMO, there should be a program to relocate saplings from trail corredors, but maybe I'm just too soft that way.


                        • #42
                          Originally posted by John H Swanson View Post
                          IMO, there should be a program to relocate saplings from trail corredors, but maybe I'm just too soft that way.

                          Perhaps this thread doesn't seem that way, but I try to think of things a bit more pragmatically.

                          Yeah, killing saplings is like killing "baby" trees, but it's also not really an apples to apples comparison. Many, actually most, saplings will die. Most seedlings die. Trees are meant to produce a large number of offspring with the hope that one will make it to maturity and take an open spot in the canopy. But the reality is, that only happens to a few.

                          We've chosen to cut and maintain trails - they have some impact, but in terms of acreage degraded vs. acreage preserved, it's by far a net benefit. Most trails can be built and maintained in such a way they really don't interfere with established trees, and there are ways to circumvent blowdown or beaver activity, although our regulations perhaps make that more challenging than it needs to be. Trails that get regular use will not grow vegetation, seedlings or otherwise, due to trampling.

                          Again the main difference I see here is area. If you want to clear a huge swath of hill of saplings and maintain it like a ski area, it's going to have large, contiguous, detrimental impact on the forest. A trail has an impact, and it's contiguous, but if it's an acre total of sapling clearing, it's spread over a much larger area say if it's spanning 1 mile of trail (hypothetical swags). If you clear an acre of saplings for skiing in a glade, it's going be concentrated in that one acre.

                          Maybe it's not much different in terms of impact as is a beaver pond? But it affects a different environment i.e. steep slopes, so there are probably more detrimental impacts in terms of erosion and water quality than is a lowland, where you act to trap those sediments and build up deeper soils with deforestation.

                          This goes back to my theory of "dilution" of impact. Trails cause a heavy impact but they are spread out and rehabilitate quickly after abandonment. Same with campsites. That's why periodically relocating or building them for higher use is I think a better practice. For instance, there are tons of old camp and cabin sites that are probably not much older than the APA i.e pre-1970s that are almost completely indistinguishable from the rest of the forest except for garbage left behind. If not for that, it might be hard to tell if that "hole" in the forest was caused by a blowdown or lightning, etc...
                          Last edited by montcalm; 03-25-2022, 03:44 PM.


                          • #43
                            I think there's also the question of what looks "natural". Perhaps, to some, a ski glade might look natural, and even appealing.

                            I was actually thinking a hybrid trail system for skiing might be best i.e. combination of glading to effectively widen the trail on steeper pitches, but only contained to a width of 20' or so. I believe I mentioned this concept before somewhere else, but essentially this would be having a marked trail but pole size trees and larger would be left, and clearing of saplings would be contained to +/-10' to the marking. This then gives the trail a more natural feel but allows skiers to open up steep sections a bit to make turns. On pitches with less grade or for climbing trails you'd revert to a more conventional single track width of 3-6'.
                            Last edited by montcalm; 03-25-2022, 10:26 AM.