Monday, December 08, 2014

Chilly Day in the Elk River Hills

On a normal late fall day in the Ozarks, frost flowers are ephemeral as the temperatures rise to above freezing by noon. In the farthest reaches of southwest Missouri last week, the northwest winds and thick cloud cover never allowed for enough warmth to melt these delicate ice structures.

Battling horrible holiday traffic for four hours, I drove down after Thanksgiving with the intent of flagging firelines around four separate tracts, altogether comprising roughly 2,000 acres. The cherty, rugged terrain and slippery oak leaf litter proved more difficult to traverse than expected; by the end of the first day, one unit flagged, I was truly exhausted, but excited by the beautiful country and 379 acre unit.

It's black bear country down there, with plenty of territorial evidence of scat on logs and much grubbing. In this fire-mediated landscape, food opportunities for wildlife abound, from acorns to the bright berries of Rusty Blackhaw, American Wahoo, and multiple species of wild grapes.

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.

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