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ALCS 2018 Year in Review

December 16, 2018

2018 was a great year for ALCS, but you might not know that from the dearth of news items we have posted this year. Looking at the past fourteen years' worth of news posts, one might conclude that we are asleep at the wheel in 2018. Nothing is farther from the truth, as this year was very good to us and to our project partners.

One of the challenges all small businesses face is time management and keeping up with our websites. This is one of the reasons why so many small businesses have moved their online presence to FaceBook. ALCS will continue to have our own independent website, however, where we can post without limits to content or file size.

Looking back on a busy 2018, two themes emerge.

The first theme is that you can't win 'em all. For example, while we have been working on several property acquisitions over this year, and from years past, there was one property that we kind of held in our back pocket. It adjoins Pennsylvania State Forest and would be a good addition to the surrounding public land, and we felt certain that it would remain off the market and out of the development process for some time. But, the next thing we knew, it had quietly changed hands. One of the reasons we had not been more aggressive pursuing it is its very poor access, which pretty much protects it from being over-developed. But it is still tough to watch a property one desires slip by; but, as we all know, we can't win 'em all. Some are just going to get by us, especially when we are working on higher priority properties.

The second theme is diligent hard work is required to stay in the game, if not on top of the game. For ALCS, though we continue to work on land acquisition projects, 2018 was almost entirely devoted to timber management activities, all of which required us to run hard and fast all year long. Working with private landowners either as timber buyers or timber managers, ALCS has done some really neat, aggressive forest management that will provide enormous wildlife benefits for decades to come. Getting to that point takes a lot of education for most landowners to buy into before moving ahead.

Let's face it, most timber harvesting can look pretty rough, even the dreaded "select cut" diameter limit high-grade, which is a no-no. A person would have to be pretty much blind to ignore the fact that a mature forest is a beautiful sight, and cutting it down is painful to do and to see, irrespective of the known scientific benefits. The key to getting over the natural and healthy emotional hurdle to aggressively managing a mature forest is knowing just what the benefits are and will be for many decades to come.

Audubon, other bird conservation groups, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission have all made the repeated point that early successional forest is a dramatically limited and diminishing habitat type, although it is also critically important for a widespread variety of birds. Especially ground-nesting birds and some beautiful migratory songbirds. ALCS has leveraged many of our timber projects' proximity to State Game Lands to turn aggressive forest management into virtual life support for birds that are otherwise literally disappearing, including woodcock and whippoorwills.

In the coming months we will be posting many before-and-after photos of some of our projects, showing the benefits of aggressive forest management where it is appropriate. Recall that forest fires were always a natural and important fixture of eastern forests, and with Twentieth Century forest fire suppression and Smoky Bear came decades of unhealthy changes to forest ecosystems that must be corrected in some way. One of those resulting unhealthy changes has been the proliferation of non-native plants like Asian bittersweet, Japanese knotweed, multiflora rose, Russian olive, Japanese honeysuckle, barberry, and other invasive non-native plants that are very susceptible to fire. Add to that mix red maple and black birch, both native trees that are behaving like non-native invasives. This is an issue that our land management efforts are really just coming to grips with.

We at ALCS have been blessed to work with a small but close-knit network of professionals - surveyors, foresters, sawmills, custom loggers, investors - as well as conservation-minded landowners and clients, and we thank each and every one of you for helping us implement our unique legacy business model that benefits everyone.

May 2019 be a blessed year for us, you, and America. Happy Holidays and have a prosperous New Year!

Above: One of dozens of apple trees ALCS planted inside tree shelters on a property we logged in 2015. Is it a good thing or a bad thing that the native forest surrounding these tree shelters has exploded and now towers above the fruit trees we intended to benefit wildlife? Note the invasive Japanese stiltgrass growing around it; it was choked out by the proliferation of native trees that quickly grew up around it.

Above: ALCS has been managing land on both sides of the Appalachian Trail, and therefore addressing a lot of public-private land use issues. The sign on top was the "old" sign, which was misleading and invited trespass onto private property. ALCS helped design the new sign, below, which is accurate and which protects both public and private interests.


Above: Ailanthus, or "Tree of Heaven," is an aggressive invasive non-native plant that often begins on field edges, here on the edge of a soybean field under ALCS management. Cutting it down is just step one in its removal; spraying Glyphosate or some other strong chemical is needed to prevent hydra-like new sprouts from resulting.

Above: A 185-year-old, 52-inch-diameter red oak on a parcel aggressively managed by ALCS in 2014. Like all of the other old-growth trees on this property, this beautiful but old tree was losing its top branches and had begun to decline. A large dead tree lying on the ground in the background demonstrates how this patch of forest was already beginning to die and decay. The question for private landowners is should these trees be preserved from human intervention until they fall, or should they be monetized and the proceeds used to promote wildlife habitat and conservation? Today, five years later, the "after" photo for this exact location is amazing: A veritable jungle of regenerating native forest has taken the place of the dying giant shown above.

Above: A 260-acre parcel in northern Pennsylvania, aggressively managed by ALCS in 2011, and shown here five years later in an explosive state of early successful forest regeneration. Wait til you see the 2019 photo of this same plot! If you love green things and healthy wildlife, then you will like this picture.