Saturday, December 29, 2012

Five Days, Four Chainsaws

On a cloudy and cold Friday morning, I hiked up the steep powerline cut to the site of a 12 acre glade restoration project. I was told they had only just begun work on this big, broad flat in the Niangua Basin; these balds are pretty common in Niangua country--float from Bennett to Prosperine on the Niangua River and around mile 6 you'll see one similar to this one just around a bend. I've walked all over the one on the road to Ho-Humm, (it's totally trashed out), and every time I see it around mile 6 on a float, I want to cut the cedars off of it and send a headfire up to the road.

Anyway, it had only been a matter of days since they had hired the staff to do the work on this higher quality glade, but you certainly wouldn't know it looking at the progress they've made on clearing cedars. Stepping onto the glade next to the newly made lock box created to store tools at the site, the large stumps were visible for almost an acre. All this accomplished while also working on touching up firelines which had been installed in late October.

Some cedar choked glades in Missouri are packed with an even-aged doghair stand of closely packed cedars, but not so here. Widely spaced, open grown, large diameter trees are scattered all over the glade. I counted 90 growth rings on one stump that was surrounded by a thick mat of Carex eburnea , the cedar-loving sedge with wiry, smooth leaves. Even though the trees are scattered all over the glade, the stumps showed evidence of a wall of trees, once removed revealed old post oaks of gnarled character. 

The four men hired to do this fine work moved like streetsweepers down Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras night--methodically removing the undesirable, no cedar standing in the way. Unlike other sad "restoration" projects, these folks don't cut down the post oaks and chinquapins, and manage any oak sprouts or other woody vegetation with natural processes, not with a chainsaw and Tordon. Aside from the four well-maintained chainsaws, another two men are on site to pile these massive trees into heaps which will be burned when there's snow on the ground (or when conditions are favorable to burn the surrounding 110 acres that include the glade). Burning cedars when they're still green (but desiccated) prevents the super hot fires that come from burning at red needle stage and results in less damage to the fragile glade soils beneath the heaps. The potential of airborne embers is also lower when piles are burned when green rather than at red needle stage, so the chances of wildfire are reduced. 

 I've visited about five other glade restoration projects spearheaded by this remarkable team, and they've all been successful--no cedar skeletons left on the glade, no big burn out spots with nothing but fireweed and mullein, just quality glade vegetation that we sample after every burn to track restoration. Glade restoration projects are possibly one of the best "instant gratification" exercises, but only if they're accomplished properly--cut cedars, burn the cedars, burn the glade to keep woody sprouts like Carolina buckthorn and redbud from taking over. It's really easy, and I think this crew needs to write the manual.

1 comment:

Paul W. Nelson said...
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