I am sure that our recent spate of summer-like weather has prompted many of you to pull out your canoe or kayak and get in some early-season paddling. Early spring is usually a great time to be venturing out on the Commonwealth’s rivers and larger streams, as the higher water levels and vigorous flows enable paddling on many streams that tend to be too rocky in the summer.
If you have already been out paddling, you may have noticed an increase in the amount of downed trees and branches in and along the river, perhaps resulting from last year’s weather events like Tropical Storm Irene or the pre-Halloween snowstorm. Working your way through all the wood in the river might have made your paddle feel more like an obstacle course, as you clambered in and out of your boat to avoid numerous fallen logs and overhanging branches.
Living and dead trees, branches and logs in and along a river confer a myriad of ecological benefits, serving as perching areas for birds, cover for fish to hide from predators and prey, and basking spots for turtles, as well as non-ecological benefits such as attenuating downstream flooding. The way the river interacts with the downed wood creates undercut banks, side channels and other “nooks and crannies,” contributing to habitat complexity, a key characteristic of a healthy river ecosystem.
That being said, downed wood in rivers can be a possible safety hazard, such as when a fallen tree piles up against a bridge abutment, or lies across a fast-moving section of water where it could act as a “sweeper” or “strainer” that could flip a boat and pin it underwater. When to remove trees and when to leave them be requires performing a balancing act and to provide clarity the Division of Ecological Restoration’s (DER) Russ Cohen collaborated with Mike Gildesgame of the Appalachian Mountain Club on Trees, Paddlers and Wildlife: Safeguarding Ecological and Recreation Values on the River.
There has been a brochure, video and newly-posted PowerPoint presentation Russ delivered at the Mass. Association of Conservation Commission’s 2012 Conference, are all intended to educate paddlers and others about why trees are good for rivers and to encourage their retention except where significant safety hazards exist, and even then to look for the minimum action possible such as judicious pruning or relocation of the vegetation to abate the hazard.
Also, DER compiles an annual Rivers and Wetlands Months Calendar, listing all the public paddling trips and other river- and wetland-related activities taking place in the Commonwealth during May (Wetlands Month) and June (Rivers Month). The 2012 Calendar will cover the period from Saturday, April 28 to Wednesday, July 4. So, if you know of an event taking place during that time, please feel free to send an e-mail about it to Russ firstname.lastname@example.org.
2015 DAR Agricultural Calendar: April posted on May 14
A lamb at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in North Grafton. Photo by David Cawston April’s contest winner was David Cawston who photographed a spring lamb at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in North Grafton. The Cummings School of …Continue Reading 2015 DAR Agricultural Calendar: April
2015 DAR Agricultural Calendar: March posted on Apr 23
Girard’s Sugarhouse in Heath, MA. The sugarhouse was built in 1887 and produces around 250-300 gallons of syrup annually. Photo by Michael Girard March’s contest winner was Michael Girard who photographed his family’s sugarhouse in Heath. Michael Girard has been a sugarmaker since 1961 when he …Continue Reading 2015 DAR Agricultural Calendar: March
2015 DAR Agricultural Calendar: February posted on Feb 25
February’s contest winner was Amanda Bettle, who photographed sheep at The Natural Resources Trust of Easton. This photo features Dog, a former 4-H show animal and sole male sheep among the nine ewes in the Natural Resources Trust of Easton (NRT) flock. It is the mission …Continue Reading 2015 DAR Agricultural Calendar: February