Allegheny National Forest culls dying Ash trees

The Allegheny National Forest (ANF) has run into an issue with the ash trees that inhabit their five boat access campgrounds.

Rich Hatfield, district ranger, announced at the COG meeting on Wednesday that Morrison, Pine Grove, Hopewell, Handsome Lake and Hooks Brook Boat Access Campgrounds were all closed for two weeks at the end of June into the July 4th weekend.

Some people still set up camp over the weekend, but with the campgrounds being closed, it was up to the campers if anything happened.

The reason for the closure of the five campgrounds was the hazardous conditions created by the dying ash trees in the area.

When ash trees begin to die, they become very brittle and branches break off very easily.

“Any tree is a danger when it’s dying, but ash trees especially,” said Hatfield.

Hatfield said that the decision to remove the ash trees from the area was probably overcautious. However, they did not want to wait for the trees to show obvious signs of decay.

At the Handsome Lake campsite alone, there were close to 200 ash trees showing signs of death and decay.

The ash trees being removed are not anticipated to be included in lumber sales.

The ANF has made the decision to “cut and leave” in the majority of the cases. According to Hatfield, there is not a lot of value in ash trees on the lumber market.

Four out of five of the boat access campgrounds have been reopened. Handsome Lake is still closed and is expected to be closed for a while longer.

Hatfield also announced at Wednesday night’s meeting that a new forest supervisor has been appointed, Jamie Davidson.

The previous supervisor officially retired in December of 2018. However, she was working on another job detail so the ANF has been dealing with acting forest supervisors for the last 15 months.

Davidson is set to assume duties in September of this year.