During the last week of September, the Lakes Region Conservation Trust (LRCT) hosted a field trip at the Castle in the Clouds Conservation Area, one of several field trips for the 2023 Eastern Old-Growth Forest Conference.
LRCT’s Land & Stewardship Director, Dave Mallard, joined ecologist Dr. Rick Van de Poll, who led 20 conference participants to view stands of old-growth forests that have been preserved with the conservation of the Castle in the Clouds Conservation Area. These old-growth forests had only a few previous owners who kept the forest protected for over two centuries. A bioinventory conducted by Van de Poll brought these old-growth stands to light, and they have been permanently protected by LRCT through the conservation of the 5,246-acre area since 2002.
The forests are northern hardwood-oak type, with several uncommon plants growing in the understory, situated on what is thought to be the possible remnants of an ancient volcano. The forest has signs of fire history, and the combination of enriched bedrock and dry conditions supports an unusual assemblage of species. Van de Poll has studied and mapped the old-growth forest throughout the conservation area and taught participants about their unique characteristics. Participants viewed these 350-year-old trees, some surprisingly small in stature.
The 2023 Eastern Old-Growth Forest Conference was the 7th in a series of conferences dedicated to the study, awareness, and appreciation of the original forests of the Eastern United States and Eastern Canada. Since the last conference held in 2004, advancements in understanding these old forests’ distribution, dynamics, and values have been significant and far-reaching. Hosted by the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, the 2023 conference provided an important and unique forum for exchanging ideas and discussing numerous topics relative to old forests’ special role in today’s world.