Tree Felling at Conservation Areas

As you may have read in our 2016 third quarter issue of Vistas, we’ve begun two habitat restoration projects in partnership with the Pennsylvania Game Commission to create young forest habitat. The restoration involves significant tree felling at Audubon Greenway and will soon begin at Dead Man’s Hollow.

While the resulting open canopy can be a shocking view at first, it’s a crucial step towards eliminating invasive plant species and creating optimal conditions for a young, native forest to grow. We wanted to share the Vistas article again and information from other sources to reiterate the reasoning behind the project and why cutting the trees is good for the forest.

Read about the benefits of young forest’s here on the American Forest Foundation’s website.

“I am so glad that ALT decided to work with the Game Commission to complete this beneficial habitat project. This is a great initiative to create more quality early successional habitat in this area. I will be citing this project as an example for years to come and piggyback on its success to get more work accomplished here on Boro property.”

– Nate Briggs
Forester/Emergency Management Coordinator
Sewickley Heights Borough

Article from 2016 Q3 Vistas

by Emilie Rzotkiewicz | ALT Vice President of Land Resources

The great outdoors are just that—great. But not all species in a given environment are valued equally. Just as you have a preference when it comes to your favorite hiking trails, snacks, views, etc., so too do flora and fauna have preferences for habitat.

At ALT, we protect green space that contributes to our region’s scenic quality, biodiversity, and water quality. We also track and measure species behavior; we notice when Japenese Knotweed is retaking a recently-cleared hillside, when a rare bird species is visiting a green space for the first time, or when butterfly eggs are mistakenly laid on Garlic Mustard.

During the next few months, ALT is partnering with the Pennsylvania Game Commission to create better wildlife habitat at Audubon Greenway and Dead Man’s Hollow. Visitors will notice spray paint markings on the trees, contractors coming and going and some noise when the work is underway. We will do our best to keep you updated, but the timing is weather and contract dependent. We will be treating non-native, invasive plants, restoring native grasslands and wildflower meadows, and creating a healthier, younger forest.

In general, our state has very little early successional or young forest habitat, which are critical habitats to a number of wildlife species, including black-billed cuckoo, yellow-breasted chat, red-winged blackbird, eastern cottontail, American goldfinch, and endless numbers of bees, butterflies, and more. To accomplish this, we must remove the overstory – larger, taller trees shading young trees, hardwoods, brush, etc – to create canopy gaps. You will see some significant tree cutting in some areas as we rid the woods of the unwanted invasive, Norway maple, buckthorn thickets, and oriental bittersweet vines.

The coming months may not look as pretty to the eye with downed trees and dead invasives, but please remember this is just short term. The wildlife will scurry about the down tree tops and the soil will get a boost of nutrients as the debris decomposes into the ground. In no time at all the forest will begin to regenerate and a healthier one at that!


We’ll be focusing on two different habitats— the woods and meadows. We will create young forest habitat, control nonnative, invasive plants, restore native grasses and wildflowers, and thin the forest. This will leave desirable trees, like oaks and hickories, while controlling unwanted plants in the understory, resulting in a far healthier future forest.

We will treat the fields this fall to prepare for a spring seed planting. Years of frequent mowing have removed cover for wildlife, such as native songbirds, and suppressed the native wildflowers that support pollinator species like bees and butterflies. We will plant warm season grasses and native wildflowers. The woods lack diversity with a shift to tree species like red maple, black birch and sassafras – these species have less value to wildlife. The cutting will promote the growth of oaks and hickories which provide an important food source.


At Dead Man’s Hollow we will be focusing on invasive removal and woodlands habitat improvement. The invasive work will primarily be focused around the newly developed trail system with a target of buckthorn, Japanese knotweed and Tree-of-Heaven. Significant tree removal will occur at the Calhoun entrance to the property as we cut Tree of Heaven and other non-wildlife-supporting species. Large acorn producing oaks and cherries will be left as food for wildlife.

If you have any additional questions, or are curious about more resources, please contact Emilie Rzotkiewicz at or 412-741-2750 x201.