$325,000 Awarded to Hamilton County to Track Tree Migration

For Immediate Release

HAMILTON COUNTY, NEW YORK - Hamilton County, NY received a big boost this week for their upcoming effort to track tree movement on the forest floor. The Forest Migration Foundation (FMF) announced on Monday that Hamilton County, NY has been awarded a $325,000 grant to conduct a new study on tree migration.

The grant application was spearheaded by the Hamilton County Visitor Center Coalition (HCVCC) which consists of representatives from the towns of Long Lake, Inlet, Indian Lake and Speculator. "The need to study tree migration came to the forefront a couple of years back when we started to see a substantial increase in complaints," stated HCVCC Chair, Arlene Potters in a recent press release. According to Potters, the Visitor's Center has seen a spike in tourists reporting that while vacationing in the area they had located missing trees from their personal property outside the Park. "At first we thought that it was just someone who was, let's just say a little confused, but as the inquiries increased and we looked into it, we realized that the trees really seem to be migrating into the Park."

The FMF grant will support researchers studying migration movements of Adirondack forest. Many factors influence trees species and movement. The study will take into consideration traditional migratory factors which include climate temperature, precipitation, elevation, bedrock geology, topography, soil quality, drainage, as well as both human and natural disturbances. But what is being seen in the Adirondack Park exceeds what is explainable by these natural factors. "Trees are moving at a much faster rate and over longer distances than we previously understood that they could," states forestry management specialist and dendrologist, Randy Stevenson.

Stevenson explained that the study will consist of three phases: inventory, observation & analysis. The first phase will start in June of 2015 and will include conducting an inventory of the trees. "We really only have a general understanding of how many trees are within the park, what we need to do is get out there and get an accurate count." During the initial counting phase each tree will be assigned an identification number. In addition, general information such as the GPS location, age, size and species will also be recorded.

Volunteers will be needed for the big count. On May 6th during the county-wide Community Pride Day, when people hit the streets to clean up their associated communites, the HCVCC will be setting up volunteer sign up booths for the tree inventory that will start in June. Volunteers will be asked to attend a 6-hour training session and then will be assigned geographic coodinates for which they will be responsible for counting and collecting the required information for the study.  

Once phase one is complete, microchips will be implanted in a random sampling of the trees. The microchips contain radio transmitters that emit a signal that can be detected by polar orbiting satellites. The grant funding will cover the cost of sampling 3.6% of the tree population. Since the FMF required a matching contribution, Hamilton County will be purchasing an equal amount of microchips to reach the study's desired population sample of 7.2%.

Afer the microchips are implanted, a command center will be set up to monitor the trees migratory movements over a three-year period. The command center will be manned 24/7 on both a paid and volunteer basis by the Hamilton County Visitor Center Coalition.

Following the microchip implants and observation phase, the third phase of the study will be executed. For the third phase we will need to get out and re-inventory the tree population. "This is why it is critical that we take meticulous notes during phase one," states Stevenson. During the third phase we will be keeping an eye out for trees that appear to be over 3 years old but are not on the initial inventory. These are the trees that will need further studying to identify where they have come from. Based on this finding, the county would plan to fund a second study to further track where the trees are migrating from.

"We are thrilled to have this opportunity, it was a very competitive grant application process and having the FMF step forward and fund this study is proof that we are on to something," stated Potters during her closing remarks at Monday's Press Conference. 

Located completely within the Adirondack Park, Hamilton County is third largest county in New York State, but with a population destiny of 2.8 people per square mile* it continues to maintain distinction as the least populous county in the State. The County is made up of the Towns of Inlet, Long Lake, Lake Pleasant, Indian Lake, Hope, Arietta, Benson, Wells and Morehouse, as well as the popular vacation hamlets of Raquette Lake, Speculator and Blue Mountain Lake.

* Population density in Hamilton County as reported in the 2010 Census Numbers

 ** The preceding story is fabricated in celebration of April Fools' Day. However, if you do decide to get out and count the trees this summer, please share your findings with us!

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