Green Mountain National Forest: Robinson Integrated Resource Project

Yes
Planning
Green Mountain National Forest staff considered climate change effects and possible adaptation actions for a large integrated resource project.

Project Area

The Robinson project area is located in the Rochester Ranger District of the Green Mountain National Forest and covers roughly 59,000 acres of National Forest, state and private lands in central Vermont. The project is within the watershed of the White River and is bounded by several ridgelines of the Green Mountains. Most of this area is covered by mixed-wood and northern hardwood forests that are dominated by species like red spruce, sugar maple, yellow birch, and balsam fir. Recreation resources within the Robinson project area include Vermont’s Long Trail, other multiple user trails, developed recreation sites, (such as campgrounds, shelters, and picnic areas), and dispersed recreation activities.

Management Goals

A group of people seated in a gymnasium, being spoken to by National Forest staff.

The Green Mountain Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan) guides land management across the entire forest, including the Robinson project area. The Forest Plan identifies the desired balance of multiple uses to meet public needs while providing the management framework for protecting, restoring, and enhancing our natural resources. The Forest Plan outlines a number of goals that guide the management within the Robinson project area, including goals to:

  • Maintain and restore quality, amount and distribution of habitats to produce viable and sustainable populations of native and desirable non-native plants and animals.
  • Maintain and restore aquatic, fisheries, riparian, and wetland habitats in areas on or near the Forest.
  • Maintain or restore the natural, ecological functions of the soil
  • Provide a diverse range of high quality, sustainable recreation opportunities that complement those provided off National Forest System lands
  • Manage designated wilderness to preserve an enduring resource that represents ecosystems and natural processes unique to northeastern forests while providing opportunities for solitude and unconfined recreation
  • Maintain or enhance visual resources such as view sheds, vistas, overlooks, and special features  

Climate Change Impacts

A natural resources professional stands next to the bole of a large hemlock tree.
Vermont’s climate is already changing. Some of the most visible changes include:
Warmer temperatures throughout the year with longer growing seasons. Temperatures have increased the most during the winter season, leading to reduced snowpack and earlier spring thaws.
Precipitation has increased over the last century, with dramatic increases in the frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation events.
Forest insect pests, such as hemlock woolly adelgid and emerald ash borer, have been able to expand their ranges northward. The reduction in extremely cold temperatures reduces the likelihood of pest mortality from lethally-cold winter temperatures.

Challenges and Opportunities

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing the objectives of this project, including:

Challenges

Warmer and more variable winters with reduced snowpack and non-frozen soil conditions may increase the risk of erosion and damage from forest management operations or limit operations altogether where wet or sensitive soils occur.
Many of the most common tree species are projected to have declining habitats as conditions become warmer. Other plant species, including rare species found on south-facing cliffs in the project area, may also be vulnerable.
Red spruce and balsam fir are especially vulnerable to future changes in climate. Shifts in forest composition that reduce conifers would reduce certain wildlife habitats.
Changes in hydrology and increases in heavy rain events increase the risk of erosion, sedimentation, and flooding and can negatively impact soil and water resources, roads, and other forest infrastructure.
Warmer water temperatures can reduce habitat for coldwater aquatic organisms.
Reduced snow retention could affect winter recreation (backcountry skiing, snowmobiling, cross country skiing and snowshoeing) because of a more limited season.
Increase in extreme weather events can damage forests, cause blowdowns across trails, and create hazard trees at recreation sites.

Opportunities

Longer growing seasons may increase tree growth and forest productivity in the absence of disturbance or forest health issues, enabling forests to attain the desired conditions faster.
More summer harvesting on sites where soil disturbance and scarification are optimal for regeneration.
The season for some recreational activities will increase. For example, non-winter recreation and camping season may be extended.
Changes in forest composition may allow for increases in some habitat types, such as oak forests.

Adaptation Actions

Project participants used the Adaptation Workbook to develop many possible adaptation actions for this project. The list will be considered and refined as Forest staff complete the environmental assessment for the Robinson project.

Area/TopicApproachTactics
Forest Habitats
5.1. Promote diverse age classes.
5.2. Maintain and restore diversity of native species.
Increase regenerating/early successional habitat through shelterwood, seed tree, and clearcut harvests
Enhance and increase softwood habitat, and enhance structural diversity through group selection with improvement cuts in hardwood, mixed-wood, and softwood stands
Enhance late successional habitats in the Diverse Backcountry and Remote Wildlife Habitat Management Areas
Remove non-native Norway spruce or red pine plantations
Increase and enhance aspen/birch and oak habitats
Maintain existing and create new permanent upland openings for early-successional habitat
1.4. Reduce competition for moisture, nutrients, and light.
9.3. Guide changes in species composition at early stages of stand development.
Site preparation for natural or artificial regeneration of some harvested stands to promote regeneration of desired species
Plant a mix of native softwood species in areas proposed for regeneration to softwoods or mixed-wood
1.5. Restore or maintain fire in fire-adapted ecosystems.
9.1. Favor or restore native species that are expected to be adapted to future conditions.
Prescribed fire to regenerate oak followed by mechanical treatment of beech and maple to reduce competition where it is favorable to increase the oak vegetation
5.3. Retain biological legacies.
6.1. Manage habitats over a range of sites and conditions.
Identify areas to improve deer wintering habitat, maintain apple trees, and create snags for bat denning.
Riparian areas
1.3. Maintain or restore riparian areas.
9.1. Favor or restore native species that are expected to be adapted to future conditions.
Plant American elm cultivars resistant to Dutch elm disease in riparian areas locations along the White River
Water resources and aquatic habitats
1.1 Reduce impacts to soils and nutrient cycling.
1.2. Maintain or restore hydrology.
Increase existing instream large woody material to improve aquatic habitats and improve stream resilience to extreme events
Install complexes of large woody material and boulders in the channel and on the floodplain of the White River to create wetlands and off-channel habitat and stabilize river banks
Replace existing culverts with structures that would allow for aquatic organism passage and flood flow resiliency
Soil resources
1.1 Reduce impacts to soils and nutrient cycling.
Perform management activities to improve soil and wetland conditions, including increasing the number of water bars and other drainage features to reduce erosion and decommissioning a trail with numerous washouts

Project Photos

Click to enlarge photos

Seven adults stand in the forest and have a conversation
An opening with herbaceous vegetation within the forest.
a wide river with a forested hill in the background
Natural resource professionals standing at the outlet of a large culvert
a trail in the woods
view of a forested landscape
a pond with a forested hill in the background
a gravel road in the woods

Next Steps

This project will continue to be refined, with an environment assessment released for public comment in 2018.

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact Maria or learn more at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=48884

Keywords

Upland hardwoods, Early-successional habitat, Water resources

Last Updated

Tuesday, December 19, 2017