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Forest Restoration Projects

Baltimore County's Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability (EPS) is conducting forest restoration projects to improve forest habitat, water quality, and the structure and the function of forest ecosystems. These projects are based on quantitative forest health assessments and management plans completed by a Licensed Forester under contract to EPS.

Current Projects

Lower Back River Peninsula – Stands 19 to 21 Canopy Thinning (October 2014)

EPS is conducting a forest restoration project for three forest stands within the County-owned forested properties at the Lower Back River Peninsula (LBRP). The project implements recommendations from the Forest Health Assessment and Management Plan for the Lower Back River Peninsula, Baltimore County Properties (December 2010). Forest management recommendations were provided by EPS’s licensed Forester consultant, Mar-Len Environmental, Inc.

The project involves thinning the forest canopy on portions of a 110-acre area located within stands 19 to 21 of the LBRP properties. This work is being completed by the EPS on-call licensed Forest Product Operator, Glatfelter Pulp Wood Company, Inc., under the supervision of Mar-Len Environmental. The harvesting is using low impact harvesting equipment. Overall, the forest in this area is in poor condition and restoration is required in order to sustain a healthy forest ecosystem for water quality and habitat management objectives.

Restoration is supporting the designation of the majority of the project area as a Habitat Protection Area within the County’s Chesapeake Bay Critical Area. Trees are significantly overcrowded and desirable canopy species such as oaks are under-represented due to aggressive Sweetgum and Maple growth. In addition to reducing stand stress from overcrowding, invasives need to be controlled in the understory.

Completed Projects

Oregon Ridge Park – Stand one Canopy Thinning (April 2013)

In accordance with the Forest Health Assessment and Management Plan for Oregon Ridge Park (2007), a single-tree selection harvest (thinning) was completed in April 2013 for Stand one. Stand one is located at the western-most side of Oregon Ridge Park and is adjacent to Falls Road. The stand contains 37 acres. Forest management activity was restricted to less than 30 acres, consisting of areas outside a 100-foot stream buffer and associated steep slopes at the eastern boundary of the stand. The thinning was accomplished using low-impact harvesting equipment.

Stand one is a Chestnut oak and Black oak-dominated stand averaging about 120 years in age with large trees (average 18 inch diameter). The stand is greatly overcrowded with trees (Basal Area of 157 square feet per acre and relative density of 117 percent) to the extent that the stand is not generating new native tree growth. Canopy closure is about 90 percent, which effectively precludes oak regeneration. Five of the eight canopy species are oaks, yet there are no oak trees less than seven inch diameter in the stand that can fill the existing canopy as the older oaks decline. The stand also contains about 25 square feet per acre of unacceptable trees, those with poor form and vigor or damaged and diseased, that makes them a poor risk for long-term survival.

Selective thinning was completed to reduce Basal area to no less than 80 square feet per acre of acceptable quality trees in order to reduce environmental stress on healthy trees and facilitate oak regeneration. The thinning opened the canopy to allow sunlight to reach the forest floor, creating a more conducive environment for oak regeneration. The thinning removed unacceptable growing stock and the least desirable trees. Under favorable conditions, oak regeneration would begin shortly after the selection thinning.

Oregon Ridge Park – Gypsy moth Salvage harvest (July 2008)

In 2006, Gypsy moths infested 20 acres of mature (115 plus years old) Chestnut oaks at Oregon Ridge Park in an area near the Nature Center. This area was not sprayed in 2006 during a small but intense infestation. The defoliated area was the most densely stocked tree stand at Oregon Ridge, and the region had just emerged from a drought (2002 to 2006). These conditions caused the entire stand of oaks to die with virtually no leaf-out in 2007. In the ensuing year, standing and falling dead trees presented a severe safety hazard to the public. A salvage harvest was conducted in July 2008 by Glatfelter Pulp Wood Company, which removed 36,000 board feet of logs and 1,400 tons of pulpwood. Because oak regeneration was generally absent and only maple, black gum, and beech occurred within the two inch to ten inch size classes, oak dominance would be lost for the future.

As a result, EPS staff implemented an aggressive reforestation project to replant five species of oak and hickory, and the Nature Center Council planted a small stand of American Chestnut. This provides some diversity while maintaining oak dominance, in order to make the stand more resilient to future Gypsy moth infestations. Over the subsequent years, EPS has sprayed invasive tear thumb and other species that threaten the survival of the reforestation, using the non-toxic defoliant RoundUp. Reforestation included sheltering a small number of existing desirable species that sprouted following harvesting, planting and sheltering one- to two-foot potted seedlings, planting and sheltering (special larger shelters for deer) four to six foot three-gallon containerized trees, and installing empty shelters for seeding acorns by citizen groups working with the Nature Center staff and Council. Continuing restoration includes selective manual removal of non-oak seedlings as necessary to maintain oak dominance in the forest canopy.

Revised January 28, 2022         


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