The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Carpenter Falls Unique Area and the Finger Lakes Land Trust’s Bahar Nature Preserve were formally inducted last week into the national Old-Growth Forest Network.
Carpenter Falls Unique Area and the Bahar Nature Preserve, contiguous properties in the town of Niles, Cayuga County, together protect over 6,420 feet along Bear Swamp Creek, which flows through a dramatic 100-foot-deep gorge on its way to Skaneateles Lake. The forest within the gorge harbors Eastern hemlock, red oak, giant tulip trees, and very large oaks well over 100 years old. Together, the properties form a 90-acre retreat with a 1.6-mile trail that leads visitors through a stunning forest with impressive views and plunging waterfalls.
DEC’s 37-acre Carpenter Falls Unique Area provides an elevated boardwalk and viewing platform constructed to be accessible to people with disabilities, allowing all visitors the opportunity to view the spectacular upper falls as it cuts through a notch in the massive overhanging limestone caprock and plunges over 80 feet into a deep pool.
The trail connects to the Finger Lakes Land Trust’s Bahar Preserve which winds its way along the south rim of the gorge through old-growth Eastern hemlock and red oak to the shores of Skaneateles Lake. The preserve protects 65 feet of lakeshore, which is a fine place to beach a canoe or kayak before hiking up the rim trail.
To maintain the unique, deep-shade forest habitat that hemlocks provide, emblematic of many gorges in the Finger Lakes region, both the DEC and the Finger Lakes Land Trust are treating the most ecologically important trees to protect against further infestation of the invasive hemlock woolly adelgid.
OGFN Founder Dr. Joan Maloof states, “We are thrilled to welcome this unique and beautiful forest into the Network as the forest representative for Cayuga County. We want to honor and celebrate the Finger Lakes Land Trust, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and all of the people who have stewarded and safeguarded this special forest through time, protecting it for future generations.”
Mike DeMunn/Da hā da’ Nyah:—forester, member of the Hawk Clan of the Seneca Nation of Indians, and longtime friend of the Finger Lakes Land Trust—said, “For us to walk in an old growth forest stand today is to be in a living remnant of the world our ancestors knew. Ours is an oral tradition and the old growth that still survives has priceless stories to tell us, and is the place to return to when we have lost our way and are not sure of our direction in the changing chaos of the world around us.”
“Carpenter Falls Unique Area is already a Central New York gem, popular with tourists, recreationists, and the community alike,” said DEC Region 7 Forester Christopher Sprague. “DEC is honored that Carpenter Falls now also holds the distinction of providing public access to picturesque forest in Cayuga County which will be protected from harvesting and allowed to mature into old growth forest.”
The mission of the Old-Growth Forest Network (OGFN) is to connect people with nature by creating a national network of protected, mature, publicly accessible, native forests. The organization’s goal is to preserve at least one forest in every county in the United States that can sustain a forest, estimated to be 2,370 out of a total of 3,140 counties. OGFN’s program works to identify forests for the Network, ensure their protection from logging, and connect people to these properties to experience old-growth forests. OGFN also educates about the extraordinary ecological and human wellness benefits of old-growth forests, and speaks out regarding immediate threats to specific ancient forests.
Founded in 2012 by Dr. Joan Maloof, OGFN has over 185 forests in 32 states. The forest of Bahar Nature Preserve and Carpenter Falls State Unique Area will be the 19th New York forest to join the Old-Growth Forest Network, joining Zoar Valley Unique Area in Cattaraugus County, Thain Family Forest – New York Botanical Garden in Bronx County, Rockefeller State Park Preserve in Westchester County, Old Growth Trail – Green Lakes State Park in Onondaga County, Ancient Forest Trail and Woodland Trail – George Landis Arboretum in Schoharie County, Ampersand Mountain in Franklin County and more. The full list of forests in the Network may be viewed at oldgrowthforest.net.
OGFN depends on volunteers in each U.S. county to help identify and induct forests into the Network. Larry Day of Locke and Kurt Stavenhagen of Hannibal were instrumental in the dedication process and Nick Dietschler of Locke has joined their team. Interested volunteers are welcome to contact OGFN through oldgrowthforest.net.
By working cooperatively with landowners and local communities, the Finger Lakes Land Trust has protected over 29,000 acres of the region’s undeveloped lakeshore, rugged gorges, rolling forest, and scenic farmland. The FLLT owns and manages a network of over 45 nature preserves that are open to the public and holds perpetual conservation easements on 176 properties that remain in private ownership. Additional information about the Finger Lakes Land Trust may be found at fllt.org.