Development pressure is significant in this region, with bedrooom communities for Bentonville popping up all over the place. My hopes are high for the health and sustainability of the black bears, red-headed woodpeckers, and this rich landscape that today is virtually free from all the onslaught of homogenization.
Thursday, December 04, 2014
Every month, I receive really fun email newsletters from a whole mess of Missouri and Oregon wineries. In recent months, the Missouri Wine and Grape Board's monthly email newsletters have been so engaging, visually appealing, and fun to read that I generally think that I must be working for them in some parallel universe, one in which I have kickin' graphic design skills. See below a fantastic graphic illustrating which Missouri wines pair with a variety of Christmas cookies. These people in the Department of Agriculture speak to me, and I listen.
Wednesday, December 03, 2014
If you haven't been to Augusta (that darling wine-producing region near Hermann) during Christmas, you're missing out on a gem of an experience. On Friday, December 5 and December 12, the town will be lit up with hundreds of luminaries, chestnut roasting in the town square, and Christmas decorations abound for their 32nd annual Candlelight Christmas Walk. While you're there, stop into Augusta Winery for their perfectly supple wines, perfect for gift giving, and a taste of their Christmas specialty, mulled wine warmed by the tasting bar.
Monday, November 24, 2014
Most unfortunate (from my perspective) is that much of the fire-related damage I’ve seen in recent years is preventable, and largely due to improper fireline placement and timing. Fireline installation is underway all over the state, so I'd like to reiterate this basic fact, an integral part of any responsible burn plan: roads and trails do not make appropriate firelines. To truly emulate a historic fire regime (which is challenging in itself in the Ozarks due to dominant out-of-historic-context fuel types resulting from years of abuse by logging, grazing, and fire suppression), a responsible practitioner will allow fire to move naturally across the landscape, will allow fire to follow topography, aspect, slope with properly designed burn units that include appropriate fuels and historic fire-mediated systems. Old logging roads and hiking trails were not designed with fire behavior in mind. Too many times in recent years I’ve noted highly destructive forces at work from improperly placed firelines, and it’s giving responsible fire a bad name, along with burning out of historic prescription and burning areas that likely never saw fire on a frequent return interval.
So, I’ve repeatedly written for years that significant woodland acreage across the Missouri Ozarks no longer resembles its historic character, that of large diameter oaks mantled in grasses, sedges and forbs. I’ve reiterated that high quality sites are hard to come by, that I seek them out, but it’s becoming harder to find them thanks to mismanagement -the human element-, deer overpopulation, and continued development. Our scattered nice sites exist today as vignettes, not largescale landscapes. I spend time in nice woods, and I help develop really nice burn units in appropriate settings for fires that follow a cogent prescription with restoration or maintenance in mind. I do hate to cast stones, but just as the vitriolic Westboro Baptist Church does not accurately portray religion, irresponsible practitioners do not represent all of fire management in the state.
If you'd like to follow along with fire season, to check in with Spot Weather Forecasts so carefully forecast by our wonderful folks at the Springfield NOAA office, go here. May others listen and learn from the ongoing discussions, and may we carry fire forward responsibly to help restore fire-mediated systems across Missouri this winter.
Thursday, November 13, 2014
A concise map of Missouri’s extant glades separated by geologic landforms has major conservation implications. The glade mapping project revealed that the majority of Missouri’s glade acreage still exists, although in variously disturbed condition and quality. Mapping methodology and field verification assumes that the mapped glades are to some degree restorable (other than glades destroyed by highways, housing developments, reservoirs and quarries), which means that it can be reasonably assumed that if a landowner cuts and burn cedars, and keeps the cows off these native grasslands, that some semblance of biological integrity can be recovered. During the field verification exercises, I encountered multiple private landowners who were excited that they owned a special piece of landscape, and many of them commented about the "big dragons" and "pretty yellow coneflowers" that exist on their land, but not quite knowing what to do with it. Unfortunately, we also discovered thousands of acres of glades that had been grazed to hell by domestic livestock and may never recover. Missouri's landscapes are a patchwork quilt, obviously, of high, low, and restorable quality, but glade restoration is easy. Keep the cows out of native ecosystems, and use fire periodically to stimulate the seedbank.
An equally important application of the mapping data is the analysis of Missouri’s glade distribution/patterns, rock substrate type and floristic affinities. Throughout the Interior Highlands, it has been noted that 25 glade types across 8 states exist, and the conservation importance of these special natural communities include that at least 207 plant and animal species of conservation concern inhabit these areas. And now, anyone with internet service can see where the glades are.
Saturday, November 08, 2014
Today's crisp and sunny weather is truly ideal for the celebration of National Wine Tourism Day. The leaves are quickly shedding from the trees, and wineries all over the state are rolling out new vintages and featuring their special holiday wines. November is officially Chambourcin Month in Missouri, the perfect dry red wine for Thanksgiving. There is much, much to celebrate today at Missouri's 120+ wineries!
The days are shorter, winter botany time has come, and recreational winery hopping throughout the state tends to be a surefire way to keep spirits up...