Friday, 01 September 2017

Labor Day Resolution: Work Smarter, Not Harder

As Labor Day weekend approaches, my father’s admonition to “work smarter, not harder” comes back to me. I was talking with a friend last week and he mentioned that they had begun pulling buckthorn on their newly acquired property in Columbia County.

There is no other way to say it; pulling buckthorn is hard work. In the following days, I thought about the many buckthorn projects that dot my past twenty years of conservation work in Wisconsin. Along with the blisters and sore muscles came hard earned experience that changed the way I look at habitat restoration in general and buckthorn clearing in particular. First is to avoid the “activity trap.” We see a problem and want to tackle it head on.

More to the point, we see the most obvious problem and take it on with the first or only tool we know. Years ago I learned that being successful means doing right things right. That means before doing anything, it is important to know that you are doing the right thing.

Doing the right thing can only happen once you have looked at the situation strategically. Why do you own a substantial piece of property? Usually there are several reasons, such as: having access to productive hunting land, getting away from urban life, giving your children an opportunity to learn about nature, or secure long-term income from forest crops.

If one of those reasons is that you want to preserve the natural heritage of your property, then protecting native plants and getting rid of invasive weeds and brush are important goals.

It might not jump out at you right away, but the best way to achieve those goals is to preserve and protect the good stuff first. None of us has enough money to do everything at right now. Once you ensure the best pieces of your land stay in good shape, you can take on the lower quality sections. Using this strategy makes sure the whole property stays at least as good next year as it was last year and hopefully a little better.

With a prioritized list of tasks, you will know you are doing the right things … and in the right order.

Then you are ready to decide whether you are doing things the right way. If there ever was an case of, “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” pulling buckthorn is it. There are a range of methods for removing buckthorn, pulling is the most tedious and labor intensive.

Buckthorn produces both male and female trees. Once they are mature, male trees produce pollen while the female trees produce fruit with seeds. So, when it is time to tackle that big stand of buckthorn, the first targets should be the mature female trees.

A wise man told me that, “when you dug yourself a hole up to your neck, for heaven’s sake put down the shovel.” Buckthorn seed is viable for more than seven years; so the sooner you eliminate the seed producer trees, the sooner you will start running out the clock on that seed bank.

Clearly, mature buckthorn trees are too big to pull with anything but a bulldozer, so we are talking chainsaw work. Cut trees as close to the ground. This will prevent tripping hazards and damage to equipment once the grasses and wildflowers grow up. Treat stumps with Triclopry at the cut stump rate on the label. Add dye to the solution so you can see where you spray. Use a small hand sprayer and only apply the herbicide to the outer ring of the stump where the sapwood is found. This will save you a lot of chemical and limit collateral damage.

If you are cutting this fall, haul and stack the trees in the tightest brush piles you can manage. Run your chainsaw through the brush pile to reduce the size because this will make the piles burn much easier. Burn the brush piles once there is snow on the ground. The wood will have had time to dry out and snow will prevent embers from starting a wildfire.

After the first snow is also a good time to spread seed for next spring. Once you open up the soil by removing the buckthorn, you will be amazed at how quickly things pop there next year. Chief among the spouts will be baby buckthorn seeds. If you do not get native seeds started, you will end up with a stand of new buckthorn even more dense than what was there before.

Because there will be buckthorn seedlings sprouting up next year, consider doing a controlled burn of that section of property in the following fall after the summer grasses and wildflowers go dormant. Fire will kill the new buckthorn seedlings which will still be green but will not harm the native plants that will already be sleeping for the winter.

To my friends getting started on their new property; best of luck and enjoy the journey. Hope these insights will help you see more success sooner. Stepping back and getting to know your land and playing out your plans into the future will allow you to make better decisions and achieve your goals.

August 2017

Monday, 21 August 2017

Heads Up: Time to Check Your Oaks

If you have oak trees on your property, this is the time of year to cruise the woodlot and look for signs of oak wilt. Once a tree becomes infected, an entire stand can be affected because the disease moves across root grafts from one tree to the next. Oak wilt has been confirmed in 61 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties.

The Wisconsin DNR has a quick online Oak Wilt Guide that can help you assess your oak wilt risk. Now is the time to identify oak wilt if it exists on your land and make plans for dealing with it this coming winter.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, oak wilt is transmitted by a beetle that is attracted to sap from open wounds. This beetle carries the oak wilt fungus (Ceratocystis fagacearum). That is why it is very important that landowners only prune oaks during the dormant season; late fall through mid-winter. Trees should not be pruned during April, May, or June or whenever the beetles are active.

There is no cure for infected trees. According to the US Forest Service, the only control action available is to isolate infected trees by cutting any root grafts between infected and uninfected trees. A trencher or vibrating plow set to 2-4 feet deep separates the root systems of adjacent oaks, preventing underground spread.

Infected trees should be cut down before April 1st; burned, chipped or covered with plastic for sixty days to prevent overhead spread of the beetles and fungus. New sprouts from infected roots need to be controlled with herbicide.

UW Extension has an informative Oak Wilt Bulletin that provides useful information about the pest; its diagnosis and control.For more information, contact the Wisconsin DNR Forest Health Staff.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Little Things Mean a Lot

A new Ontario study shows that destruction of small wetlands can increase algae blooms in the Great Lakes basin. The Canadian Press notes that while government agencies tend to focus more of their attention on large wetland remediation projects, smaller wetlands actually punch above their weight when it comes to filtering out nutrients from runoff.

Authors, Nandita Basu and Fred Cheng, writes in Water Resources Research, Biogeochemical hotspots: Role of small water bodies ilandscape nutrient processing, “Results suggest that small wetlands play a disproportionately large role in landscape-scale nutrient processing.”

Their conclusions suggest that what you do as an individual landowner makes a real difference. “Thus, given the same loss in wetland area, the nutrient retention potential lost is greater when smaller wetlands are preferentially lost from the landscape. Our study highlights the need for a stronger focus on small lentic systems as major nutrient sinks in the landscape.”

The Wisconsin Wetlands Association publishes My Healthy Wetland a handbook for landowners. They also host workshops and publish a quarterly e-newsletter.

Thursday, 03 August 2017

Whoop It Up in Baraboo

Two Sandhill cranes standing on a sidewalk.

Two wild Sandhill cranes wander outside the Wisconsin DATCP labs in Madison, WI. [Photo courtesy of Anette Phibbs]

Want to learn more about Wisconsin’s Sandhill and Whooping cranes, as well as cranes from around the world? Come to the Cranes of the World Festival on Saturday, August 5, 2017 from 9:00AM to 5:00PM at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

In 1975 there were only a few hundred Sandhill cranes left in Wisconsin. Overhunting in the early 20th century and the pesticide DDT completely eliminated Whooping cranes and nearly wiped out Sandhills from the state. Today, thanks to the work of the International Crane Foundation, these incredible birds have made a successful comeback.

The folks at the International Crane Foundation began work in 1973 on cranes when little was known about them and their numbers were crashing around the world. From their humble start in Baraboo, the ICF has become the world’s leading international crane conservation group. Their projects in Africa, India, China and Southeast Asia have helped to stabilize crane populations globally. This one-day event is their way of sharing what they have learned with their neighbors.

Many landowners want to know more about cranes so that they can better manage them. The Cranes of the World Festival offers property owners an opportunity to talk to the experts about crane conservation and best management practices for their land.

The International Crane Foundation is located at E11376 Shady Lane Road, Baraboo, WI. For more information email: info@savingcranes.org

July 2017

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Good Things Come in Small Packages

Wetlands educator show difference between Reed Canary Grass and native wetland grasses.

According to a new study released by University of Waterloo (Ontario, CA) professor Nandita Basu, small wetlands seem to be more efficient at reducing nutrient loading. His team reviewed 600 studies worldwide of wetlands rivers and reservoirs. They concluded that smaller wetlands are more effective as “nutrient sinks” because they have more soil that filters less water.

These findings are particularly important for Wisconsin because too much nitrogen and phosphorus cause the algae blooms that poison our lakes.

The way you manage runoff from your land affects the land and waters that are downhill. Small wetland restorations high in the watershed make a big difference. Restoration contractors and consultants can help you figure out the best practices to manage nutrient runoff.

Wetland restoration can be complicated. Moving soil and many other activities in wetlands require the right licenses and permits. Look for a professional who is trained in wetland ecology and has a proven track record doing wetland projects. Make sure to ask for and check out their references.

The Wisconsin Wetlands Association is a great first stop to find information about out wetlands. They not only have general information about wetlands, they provide really good resources for private landowners. The Wisconsin DNR has an online Wetland Restoration Handbook that has chapters to walk you through the entire restoration process.

Wisconsin’s wetlands are so much more than cattails. You will be amazed at how easy it is to fall in love with your swamp.

June 2017

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Let’s Get Cutting

With the early onset of hot weather in Wisconsin, wild parsnip is now starting to bloom. This is the best time to mow this serious invasive plant.

Check out this article by WDNR invasive plants coordinator Kelly Kearns:

Wild parsnip blooms early, time to mow or take other control steps

Remember to watch out for wild parsnip sap. If you get it on your skin while exposed to sunlight, the sap causes serious chemical burns.

Out Foxing One Another

Check out this cool video taken at the Necedah Wildlife Refuge.

Red Fox Kits Playing

When mom is away the kits will play!Video: Red fox kits courtesy of Volunteer Marie Pierce

Posted by Necedah National Wildlife Refuge on Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Necedah National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to see all sorts or wildlife; from cranes to butterflies … and really cute fox kits.

Saturday, 03 June 2017

Pulling Together

Many hands make light work. When it comes to getting rid of invasive plants like Garlic mustard, Phragmites and Japanese knotweed working together as a community can be the only effective way to get control of an otherwise retractable problem.

Across Wisconsin and the midwest public land managers, right-of-way supervisors and private landowners are coming together to form Cooperative Weed Management Associations (CWMAs). These groups identify and prioritize invasive species, create management plans and execute those plans to reduce noxious weed populations and improve the landscape for everyone. 

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announced the 2017 Pulling Together Initiative Request For Proposals. The Pulling Together Initiative is now accepting applications for competitive funding. Details about this funding opportunity are provided in the Request For Proposals, and additional program information can be viewed at www.nfwf.org/pti. The process includes a pre-proposal stage; the pre-proposal submission deadline is July 12, 2017.

The Pulling Together Initiative program is inviting applications for competitive grant funding to promote the conservation of natural habitats by preventing, managing or eradicating invasive and noxious plant species. In 2017, the program will award grants to develop or advance Cooperative Weed Management Areas (CWMAs) and Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas (CISMAs).

Eligible applicants include non-profit 501(c) organizations, federal, state, tribal, local, and municipal government agencies, and educational institutions. Approximately $850,000 is available in 2017 and grant requests may be up to $100,000.

If you are interested in finding out more, you can join a webinar on Monday, June 12 at 12 PM Eastern Time/11 AM Central Time to learn about the 2017 grant funding opportunity through the Pulling Together Initiative. You will learn about funding priorities and the application process, receive tips for submitting competitive proposals, and have the opportunity to ask questions. The webinar will last approximately 30 minutes. Please register at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8045866934844885763

If you have any questions, please contact:

Caroline Oswald
Senior Manager
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Central Regional Office
8011 34th Avenue South, Suite 242
Bloomington, MN 55425
612-564-7253
Caroline.Oswald@nfwf.org | www.nfwf.org

 

Thursday, 01 June 2017

June is Invasive Species Awareness Month

What do you think of when you hear invasive species? Some folks see in their minds garlic mustard and buckthorn choking their woods. Others conjure up images of lakes clogged with Eurasian milfoil. Still others may imagine gypsy moths or emerald ash borers attacking their trees. All these threats and more face landowners and those who spend time in the outdoors.

As a landowner, invasive plants tend to present the most common issues for land management. Some problems have been around for many years, like honeysuckle while others like Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana), Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri) and Lesser calandine (Ranunculus ficaria) are just beginning to show up on the landscape.

Regardless of the threat, prevention is the best strategy for protecting your land. The Wisconsin DNR recommends, “Be careful of materials brought onto your land, especially soil, mulch, compost and plants. They may come with unseen roots, seeds or invasive earthworms.”

Some folks are really deep into controlling invasive species. Each year the Wisconsin Invasive Species Council recognizes individuals and groups that make significant contributions to finding and getting rid of these problems. The Invader Crusader Awards honor professionals, volunteers and organizations that have made a difference across our state. Find out who is making a difference.

To learn more about invasive species in Wisconsin and what you can do to protect your land, keep up regularly with our blog posts, make the Conservation Digest website for conservation management information and check out this article in the Prioritizing Invasive Plants in the current issue of the WDNR Natural Heritage niche magazine.

May 2017

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Snapshots Improve Wildlife Management

Photo of fawn bounding out of a patch of goldenrod.

Photo from Wisconsin DNR website

Better wildlife management requires better science. Better science needs improved data. As a private landowner, you can help provide that better information that Wisconsin wildlife managers need to make better decisions.

Private landowners manage the majority of wildlife habitat in Wisconsin. While it does not seem like it sometimes, we manage most of the property on which our game and non-game species live.

Snapshot Wisconsin is a volunteer based monitoring effort to capture images of all types of wildlife including deer, elk, bears, fox, bobcats, whooping cranes and more to learn more about Wisconsin’s wildlife. This project is led by Department of Natural Resources staff in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and UW-Extension.

This project offers a unique opportunity to view wildlife in their normal routines in the wild and data collected will help researchers better understand Wisconsin’s ecological landscapes. To date, 604 volunteers currently maintain 687 trail cameras – 10,336,444 photos have been collected.

“Snapshot Wisconsin is a great way to get involved in volunteer-based monitoring and learn more about all of our different wildlife species,” said Susan Frett, one of the volunteer coordinators working on the project. “We have volunteers in Wisconsin participating as trail camera hosts and approximately 4,000 volunteers from around the world participating in crowd-sourced classification of our images on www.snapshotwisconsin.org.”

If you are a landowner with access to at least 10 acres of contiguous private land in Dane, Grant, Rusk, Taylor, Marathon or Clark county and agree to maintain a trail camera on that land for at least one year. Training and supplies are provided and no prior experience with trail cameras is necessary. Basic computer knowledge and access to the internet is necessary to participate. Local, in-person training sessions are currently planned for July and online training is also available.

Snapshot Wisconsin is also recruiting applicants in Dodge, Iowa, Iron, Jackson, Manitowoc, Marinette, Oneida, Racine, Sawyer, St. Croix, Vernon and Waupaca counties. Tribal members or affiliates on tribal lands and educators throughout the state are also encouraged to participate. Additional counties will be added over the next few years.

Volunteers can sign up by visiting www.snapshotwisignup.org or find out more details by contacting Susan Frett, DNR Snapshot Wisconsin program, 608-221-6323.