This blog is devoted to increasing the awareness of our natural world and to the people working to conserve it. Approximately every four weeks, you’ll have the opportunity to vicariously follow along with David Cordray and discover the beauty, excitement, wonderment, and sometimes tragedy of our natural world.

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Open oak woodland restoration

Environmental Returns does a lot of tree and brush removal in the winter. Yesterday, I was working at a site in Dane County WI that has many species of oak trees including northern pin oak, white oak and bur oak. Fortunately, this site was relatively free of invasive shrubs and small trees such as honeysuckle and buckthorn. And I found many native shrubs species including ninebark, hazelnut, nannyberry, alternate-leaved dogwood, elderberry, hawthorn, wild plum, gray dogwood and prickly ash. The landowners' ecological goal for this site is to return it to a healthy and functioning oak woodland. And their first management objective is to remove all invasive trees. White mulberry and box elder were the two most frequent species that I removed. While box elder is a native species, historically, it would have not been able to colonize this upland oak community due to its sensitivity to fire. I also thinned, but did not eliminate, some of the dense clones of prickly ash and gray dogwood. Some of the white mulberries were getting up there in size, and anyone who has worked with this species knows that their tops with wide-spreading and intermingling branches can be unwieldly to manage.

But manage we did! As I went around felling and cutting up trees into manageable pieces, the landowners organized an impressive group of workers to drag branches to the burn pile and logs to the firewood pile. We worked in separate areas to avoid conflict between chainsaw hazards and people. It was an impressive operation and a hardy collection of helpers considering the wind chills were in the double digits below zero.

I often find myself impressed with the ingenuity and creativeness of the landowners I worked with. In this case, the landowners are saving a lot of money by utilizing other labor resources for the needed management tasks that do not require expertise in tree/shrub identification and chainsaw use.

Oak woodland restoration


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Hello Readers - I'm taking some time off from writing. Have a great summer! Cheers, David

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