Eschner, A. R. 1965. Forest protection and streamflow from an Adirondack watershed. Ph.D. Dissertation, State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, 209 pp.


Summary:

Water and the need for a regular, assured streamflow was one of the main reasons cited for the passage of laws establishing the Adirondack Park and authorizing the retention and purchase of land for the Preserve in the late 1800’s.  Today, water and its many potential uses is a focal point for much of the conflict on the status of the Forest Preserve lands.  This thesis provides information which will make possible intelligent evaluation of the effects of the Preserve on its streams.  
   
On the Sacandaga River watershed a slow one-directional change in land use and increase in forest cover has been correlated with a decrease in annual, dormant season, and April runoff over the 39 year period from 1912 to 1950.

In 1912, the total forest stand density and the density of conifers was near the lowest it has been, after logging, insect attacks and a series of fires.

As the forest density and crown cover of conifers increased up to 1950, the streamflow decreased.  Also, the average length of time it took for the most concentrated one-half of the annual streamflow to run off increased by 19 days, from 67 days to almost three months.  

The storm of November, 1950 disrupted the patterns of stand development and streamflow change.  Continuing mortality of trees weakened or exposed by the storm damage has not permitted the reestablishment of any well-defined pattern in either stand development or streamflow since that time, although the changes in quantity and timing of flow reflect the changes in vegetation and verify in a large measure, the relationship inferred for the previous period.

It is reasonable to assume that other areas of the Forest Preserve have had similar changes in vegetation over the period represented by the Sacandaga record.  However, streamflow changes such as those described on the Sacandaga River watershed above Hope may not be demonstrable for a number of reasons.

There are 20 gaging stations which have been measuring the streamflow from Adirondack watersheds for more than 40 years, however, the records of 18 of them mention some upstream regulations in the form of diversion of flow, dams, or reservoirs, almost all of which appear to exercise a more significant degree of control than that on the Sacandaga above Hope.

Most of the other streamgaging stations in the Adirondacks measure the flow from watersheds which have a larger proportion of private land, where logging has been continuing.  Until the 1930’s most of this logging would have been for conifers and would have helped to keep this most effective component of the forest stands (in intercepting snow, shading the snowpack, and thus influencing streamflow) at its early twentieth-century low level.

Although there may be other justifications for its continuance, the policy of maintaining the Adirondack Forest Preserve as “wild forest lands” does not serve, particularly well, the watershed management purpose which contributed to its establishment.  A diversity of cover giving the favorable snowmelt pattern which developed over the 39 year period up to 1950 might have been accomplished in a shorter time by cutting to create openings and favor conifers.  A managed forest of sound, vigorous trees would be less subject to damage by such natural catastrophes as insect attack, disease, and high winds with their adverse effects on Adirondack streamflow.