Celebrating Old Growth Forests

The Old Growth Forest Network has identified two sites in West Virginia and added them to its list of old growth forests.

The first is Giant Tree Trail/Hollow at North Bend State Park.   North Bend State Park comprises 2500 acres.  Within the state park is the Giant Tree Trail/Hollow forest which is about 25 acres in size.  Fifteen of those acres exhibit all the characteristics of an old-growth forest. Four tree species in the stand reach height records for West Virginia. The largest known White Pine is present there. The Old Growth Forest Network formally added it to its list of old growth forests on March 18.

The second is theAnn Bailey and Burnside Trails of Watoga State Park. Surrounding the Ann Bailey and Burnside Trails at Watoga State Park are nearly 1000 acres of old-growth forest.  It is populated with oaks whose age range has been estimated to be 300-350 years old.  This beautiful forest has been fortunate to have been overlooked by logging – much to the benefit of Watoga State Park.  The Old Growth Forest Network formally added it to its list of old growth forests on March 19.

This forest will be the second Pocahontas County forest to be included in the Network.  The first one was Gaudineer Scenic Area in Monongahela National Forest.

The Old-Growth Forest Network began in 2007.  It hopes to identify and help protect one forest in each county of the U.S. where forests could grow and let people know where they were located. In this way it could help stop the destruction of what old-growth remained, help some forests recover, and enable more Americans to experience an old forest. For more information, see www.oldgrowthforest.net.

Old growth forests are important for the ecological role they play.  The old-growth stage of a forest’s life is especially important because of its unique structure. Various canopy layers and berry-producing plants are beneficial for many bird species. In a forest that has not been disturbed for hundreds of years some trees will develop hollow cavities, these cavities become important nesting places for animals. In an undisturbed forest some large trees will die and fall, creating yet more habitat: numerous insects, fungi, reptiles and amphibians benefit from the fallen trees. The moisture retained within an old-growth forests benefits lichen and mosses, and the species that live among the mosses and lichens. Old-growth forests are one of the few land uses where topsoil is created instead of destroyed. More carbon and nitrogen are retained in an old-growth forest than in forests of other age classes. For improving water quality and air quality there is nothing better than an old-growth forest.