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Protecting Hemlocks is Important Part of Lake George Land Conservancy’s Work

Protecting Hemlocks is Important Part of Lake George Land Conservancy’s Work December 11, 2020
Jamie Brown.

The Lake George Land Conservancy protects the land that protects the lake.  We make sure that the important wetlands, forests, stream corridors and other places in our watershed are protected forever.  Since we started this work in 1988, we have protected over 11,500 acres of these important lands.

However, protecting these lands from development or clear-cutting is not the only way that the LGLC protects the lake.  Just as the lake must be protected from aquatic invasive species, the LGLC monitors and manages our land for terrestrial invasive species.  Every year we work to keep our land free of persistent and damaging pests that would otherwise harm the forests, wetlands, and streams.

As you know by now, the Lake George watershed saw its first substantial infestation of Hemlock Wooly Adelgid (HWA).  This aphid attacks the hemlock tree, a keystone species and one of the most abundant and iconic trees in our forests.  These trees stop erosion, cool streams, and provide habitat.  

Once the infestation was confirmed the reaction was swift, efficient, and unified.  The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) led a coalition of groups to provide a robust, “all-hands-on-deck” response.  Mark Whitmore, an expert on hemlocks and HWA and an LGLC partner since 2016, also led the response.  His knowledge was invaluable.   The LGLC offered to be part of the response, based on our expertise and familiarity with HWA.  

The importance of the hemlocks to Lake George has been described in various ways.  Statistics, scientific language, and maps have been used to explain this concept.  As an alternative, consider a few of the human aspects of the hemlock.

The scope and breadth of the response to the infestation was intense, indicating that DEC correctly recognized the importance of managing this infestation.  The enthusiasm and urgency of the work were reflected by the crews on the ground as well.  Staff from various State agencies from all over the State, the Hemlock Initiative, and LGLC staff came together and instantly jelled into teams to complete this important work.   These people of different ages, backgrounds, and education levels were pressed into service to spend weeks in the woods to squint through a hand lenses to search for rice-sized pests.  We shared stories, knowledge from our different fields, and joked around.  Mark Whitmore, with his passion, boundless energy, and limitless knowledge gave the crew members a semester’s worth of knowledge.  The urgency to protect this vital tree brought everyone instantly together.

Hemlocks have been referred to as the “Labrador retriever” of the forest because of the affection that people feel towards them.  As we paused for lunch amidst the beautiful, majestic hemlocks, breathing in their wonderful smell, with the lake to our back, it was easy to understand why these trees have a place in our hearts.  

Protecting the land that protects the lake means more to the LGLC than just a land transaction.  Protecting the watershed’s hemlocks is also an important part of our work.  We appreciate so very much all that the DEC, Mark Whitmore and the Hemlock Initiative, and all of the other partners who have worked so hard this Summer and Fall to address the HWA infestation.  We know that there is more work to be done and will work continue to work to protect our lands and the watershed.

Jamie Brown is the executive director of the Lake George Land Conservancy 

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