Thursday, 15 November 2018

Why Are Invasives So Bad?

photo of Phragmites also called common reed grass.

Phragmites creates stands so dense that wildlife cannot move though it.

For the past year, I have been fielding questions about conservation, biology and invasive species on the forum Quora. It gives me a chance to hear the questions and concerns that people have and give back to the community. Questions I think Conservation Digest readers might be interested in have found their way into the FAQ section of this website.

This question appeared last week. Below is my response. After reading it, I hope you see what motivated me to create the website and write this blog.

Invasive garlic mustard, honeysuckle and buckthorn have all but wiped out spring wildflowers from the woodlands of southern Wisconsin. Japanese knotweed crowds out everything along stream banks where it becomes established. Wild parsnip causes serious chemical burns when the sap gets onto the skin. Cattails take over wetlands reducing open water for waterfowl and displacing the native sedge, reeds and wetland wildflowers. Phragmites (common reed) creates such dense stands that waterfowl cannot use the wetland.

Those four sentences capture a small portion of the problems caused by invasive plants that plague natural areas in Wisconsin. They only begin to scratch the surface of the issues created by invasive species.

Check out our new webpage About Invasive Species to learn more about the problem and how to prevent new invaders from getting a foothold in Wisconsin.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Order Trees Now!

Now is the time to place your order for trees from the DNR for next year. Certain species sell out fast, so you need to decide early which tree and shrub species you plan to put in the ground once spring arrives.

Planning

If you do not already have a forest management plan for your woodland, the Wisconsin DNR offers technical assistance for landowners through their Cooperating Foresters. DIY woodland owners will want to check out the Wisconsin Forest Management Guidelines. Regardless of whether you use a forester or do-it-yourself, this publication will make you a better woodland owner. For individual woodlands greater than 20 acres, the Forest Forest Landowner Grant Program offers cost sharing, in addition to technical assistance.

Getting Started

The Wisconsin DNR Tree Planting page is the place to start. There you will find links to help you plan your planting. It also contains instructions for properly plant the trees and shrubs so that they have the best chance of succeeding in their new home. Your trees and shrubs come as bare root seedlings. Planting and care instructions tell you how to protect stock prior to planting.

The DNR nursery sells both conifer and hardwood trees. Among the more popular conifers are Balsam fir, various pine and spruce species. Hardwood seedlings include various maple, oak, hickory and birch species.

Those interested in bringing back ruffed grouse should consider aspen seedlings. Young aspen stands create prime habitat to attract and hold these highly sought upland birds.

Hunters and others who want to improve wildlife habitat should consider adding some beneficial shrubs. Among the most popular with birds and nut loving animals are American hazelnut, high bush cranberry and American plum. Several shrub species can be rather aggressive given the right growing conditions. Red osier dogwood, silky dogwood and nine bark provide good wildlife food but spread quickly and should be watched to make sure they do not get out of control.

Placing Your Order

The website walks you through the ordering process to buy from the state nurseries. Use trees and shrubs for conservation purposes such as that is erosion control, wildlife habitat or wood fiber production only. Make sure you do not resell DNR nursery stock. Also, do not use seedlings for ornamental landscaping or Christmas tree production.

The minimum order is (a) a packet*, (b) 500 shrubs or (c) 1000 trees. Tree and shrub seedlings must be ordered in increments of 100 of each species. Contact the Wisconsin DNR nursery or call 715-424-3700 with any questions.

* – A packet consists of 300 seedlings of the landowners own choice of any combination of conifers, hardwoods or wildlife shrubs, in increments of 100 of each species.

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October 2018

Monday, 22 October 2018

Lighten Your Brush Cutting Burden

Conservation Digest kicks off a new product review section of our website. People ask about the best choices for equipment, tools, planting materials and even herbicides. We listened and will showcase innovative products and best picks to help you manage your land.

First up had to be the revolutionary Husqvarna 14″ Battery Chainsaw 536 LiXP. Husqvarna wants you to rethink what you think you know about chainsaws. See how well a battery powered chainsaw can pull its weight in the woods.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Patagonia to Hustisford

If you are looking for that special winter getaway, Chile might be just the ticket. The Route of Parks trail spans across 1,740 miles from Puerto Montt all the way to Cape Horn.

Sparked by the recent donation of 408,000 hectares of private conservation land by Tompkins Conservation, the Chilean government announced that it will convert 2 million hectares of conservation reserve land into national park land. Combined with the Tomkins donation and existing national park property, the new Patagonian Route of Parks trail stitches together a network of national parks that occupy around 11.5 million hectares.

Douglas and Kristine Tompkins made their fortune in outdoor apparel, founding both North Face and Esprit. They created Tomkins Conservation and began buying up land for conservation in the 1990s. Tomkins Conservation made the donation last year, following the accidental death of Douglas Tomkins kayaking the Patagonia in 2015. 

While I do not usually post about outdoor recreation, this story is different. The Patagonian Route of Parks not only created a trail for hikers and backpackers, but a vital corridor for wildlife.

Meanwhile back in Wisconsin

Fragmentation is second only to habitat loss as threats to rare plants and animals. In Wisconsin, this plays out as small prairie remnants nestled along old town road right-of-ways, railroad corridors and the forgotten corners of early graveyards. Minute micro habitats where a tiny number of native plants, as well as the insects and animals that depend on them, hang onto a tenuous existence.

An increasing number of private landowners are deciding to manage part of all of their land for conservation. Small restored prairies are showing up in areas where once they dominated the landscape. Woodland owners are investing great effort to thin over-mature woodlands and clear invasive shrubs that a generation ago chocked out grasses and wildflowers.

 

Staying connected

While the work and money these landowners are plowing back into their land is vital to conserve and protect Wisconsin, those efforts cannot by themselves same many of the species that are heading for a quite death. These islands of habitat need to be connected.

Take for example the whirled milkweed. This tiny member of the milkweeds, grows barely a foot tall. It spreads through rhizomes into patches thirty feet or more across. However, whirled milkweed does not self-pollinate. That means that pollen from stems in the same clone must be transported to flowers on a different clone in order to pollinate those flowers and produce seed.

As farms and the equipment got bigger, fences were removed. Less productive land was also worked up for cultivation. This reduced that places where the Whirled milkweed could grow.It also isolated the few remaining populations that had been hanging on. These plants can live for thirty years of more. However, without cross pollination, the few remaining plants will eventually die without producing seed for new generations.

The solution to the problem is obvious, we need to connect fragmented islands of habitat. These do not need government to set aside vast expanses of public land to make that happen. As private landowners, we can work together to protect our natural heritage. Working together, neighbor to neighbor, we can make a difference.

Maintaining our outdoor traditions means ensuring we have a strong habitat where wildlife can survive long-term. This is called resilience, which comes from keeping as many pieces of the puzzle as we can.

Better together

So what can you do? None of us are billionaires who can purchase hundreds of thousands of acres. We can, however, walk next door and talk to with the folks who live around us. That marsh stretching a half mile south across the next two properties is more valuable for waterfowl if you work with your neighbors.

Together, we cans share equipment, labor and knowledge to increase the impact our conservation work has. This is especially important when taking on tough invasive species like buckthorn, garlic mustard or phragmites. Increasing waterfowl production will  be much easier if you can get those two neighbors upstream to work with you.

Restoring and maintaining the natural heritage of our state is too big for individual landowners to fix. Government cannot maintain the land it owns, so they can only be very limited partners. Neighbor-to-neighbor, is the only way we get back the quail and ruffed grouse. Working with neighbors is the only way to ensure our woodland remain clear of buckthorn and garlic mustard. A shared vision is the best way to return waterfowl production to that marsh seemingly lost to cattail and phragmites.

It takes time to make these things happen, but there is no time like right now to go for a walk with your neighbor.

September 2018

Friday, 14 September 2018

Birdsfoot Treefoil Best Managed in October

 

Birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) is a low-growing, perennial broadleaf plant native to Eurasia and North Africa. It was introduced into the United States for erosion control and livestock forage and is still sold commercially. Birdsfoot trefoil is invasive in Wisconsin. Birdsfoot trefoil is found along roadsides, and in waste areas, fields, prairies, wildlife openings, and open disturbed areas. It tolerates a variety of soil types including dry, moist, hardpan or droughty soils.

Picture of Birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus).

Birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) starts growing early in the spring and stays green after native plants have gone dormant.

Identification

A recent edition of the TechLine Invasive Plant News provides the following description of Birdsfoot trefoil. [It] “is in the legume family and produces stems up to two feet in length. Leaves are alternate and compound with five oval to linear leaflets. The plant flowers from May to August, when clusters of yellow, pea-like flowers develop. Fruits are pods that occur in head-like clusters with each pod containing up to 49 seeds.” It has a taproot that can reach three feet deep. There are also secondary roots, rhizomes, and modified stems (stolons) near the soil surface.

Concern

Birdsfoot trefoil outcompetes native prairie and savannah plants because of its dense root system, long growing season and multiple ways of spreading. It reproduces by seeds, and spreads laterally by stolons and rhizomes. Because it is a legume, birdsfoot trefoil increases soil nitrogen unfavorable for native plants. It is especially invasive in new restoration sites.

Management

Birdsfoot trefoil can be effectively controlled with Milestone® specialty herbicide at 5 to 7 fluid ounces per acre (fl oz/A). Field trials conducted by Dr. Mark Renz, University of Wisconsin found that Milestone at 7 fl oz/A provided good to excellent control in either June or October. It was significantly better than Transline® specialty herbicide at 1 pint per acre applied in June (Figure 1). Milestone applied at 5 fl oz/A was more effective when applied in October compared to June with similar level of control.

Manually digging plants to remove all root fragments can control small infestations of birdsfoot trefoil. Frequent mowing at a height of two inches for several years may reduce seed production and spread, but will impact desirable vegetation. A predatory insect called trefoil seed chalcid (Bruchophagus kolobovae Fed.) is available but is not good enough to provide significant control. Burning increases seed germination allowing the plant to establish and spread rapidly in areas managed for native prairie.

UW Extension has a fact sheet that contains more information about chemical, as well as other management practices for birdsfoot trefoil.

August 2018

Monday, 13 August 2018

Oak Landowners’ Workshop

Large open growth form oak tree

Oak trees are the iconic tree of the driftless region of Wisconsin.

Save the date Saturday, September 29, 2018 for the Oak in the Driftless Landowner workshop in Baraboo, Wisconsin. The session runs from 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM CDT. While targeted to landowners in the driftless area, landowners across southern Wisconsin will benefit. If you own land with oak trees or live south of the tension zone and want to re-introduce oaks to your property, this session will help get you on your way.

Conservation Digest is proud to support organizations like the Aldo Leopold Foundation and My Wisconsin Woods.

Location

University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/Sauk County
1006 Connie Rd
Umfoefer Building
Baraboo, WI 53913

Schedule

Morning sessions include:

* Oak ecology
* Improving wildlife habitat
* Properly harvesting trees
* Tree planting
* Identifying and controlling invasive species
* Using prescribed fire
* Managing for deer and turkey
* Understanding what your trees are worth
* Programs and resources available to woodland owners
* Developing a plan for your woods

Lunch

Afternoon field trip options include visiting woodlands that focus on:

* Invasive species control
* Tree planting
* Shelterwood harvest – a two-step method of tree harvesting that encourages oak to grow.
* Patch-cutting – a method where landowners can create small openings in their woodlands to encourage oaks to grow.

Other topics covered during the field trips include wildlife habitat improvements, using financial programs, prescribed fire, and how to implement a management plan.

Registration

Early Bird Registration Fee: $25 (Individual) or $40 (Couple) ends August 26th.

Registration Fee after August 26th: $35 (Individual) or $50 (Couple) ends September 17th.

Click here if you plan to attend.

Door prizes are being donated by McFarlanes’ Retail and Service Center in Sauk City.

Sponsors

Workshop sponsors include: The Aldo Leopold Foundation, McFarlanes’ Retail and Service Center, My Wisconsin Woods, National Wild Turkey Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service and UW-Extension.

June 2018

Monday, 18 June 2018

Pollinator Week Kicks Off Today

National Pollinator Week runs from June 18 – 24, 2018. Pollinators are necessary for the production of most of the fruits we eat, as well as coffee and chocolate. Livestock that produce meat and dairy products depend on forage pollinated by bees, butterflies and moths.

Habitat loss due to development and high density agricultural practices mean less forage for native pollinators. Pesticides (especially neonicotinoids) kill not only bees,  but butterflies and moths, as well as their caterpillars. Invasive non-native plants have been found to reduce pollinator abundance and diversity. They also disrupt pollinator services to some native plants, which could reduce seed production. Help protect native pollinators and increase their numbers on your  property.

Here are some fun activities from the US Fish and Wildlife Service to help celebrate throughout the week:

  • Activity guide (Go! Wild) – learn about pollinators at Rocky Mountain National Wildlife Refuge, then match plants to pollinators and enjoy other games. Can you guess which animals pollinate plants in your yard?
  • Podcasts – listen to broadcasts about native bees, endangered pollinators, pollinator gardens and backyard habitat, and a view a video clip from Green Springs Garden. Are you providing good habitat for pollinators in your yard?
  • Webcasts ( Pollinator Live and Monarch Live) – take a trip on these websites to “see” monarch habitat across North America and learn about the great migration of monarchs, or learn how bees and other pollinators benefit people and how to attract them to your schoolyard.
  • USFWS monarch butterfly website – learn about its lifecycle and migration, and how you can help save this iconic species.
  • The Nature’s Partner’s Curriculum – fun activities for clubs, schools, and families to learn about pollinators. Children may need some help from adults with many of these activities.

For more information check out http://www.pollinator.org.

May 2018

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Palmer Amaranth Alert: Check CRP Seed Mixes

Palmer amaranth can produce 500,000 seeds per plant.

Native to the desert southwest, Palmer amaranth can produce 500,000 seeds per plant and has developed resistance to glyphosate (Roundup).

DATCP Lists Palmer amaranth as Prohibited Noxious Weed 

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer protection (DATCP) recently issued a new emergency rule listing Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri) as a prohibited noxious weed seed. Including it in a seed mix will now result in a civil or criminal violation for the seed labeler.

Palmer amaranth is a broadleaf weed that grows 2-3 inches a day. It commonly grows 6-8 feet tall, but may reach 10 feet. This plant has separate male and female plants, and the females may produce as many as 500,000 seeds. 

Though native to southwestern states, it became established in the southeast and began moving north. Pollinator seed mixes that contain Palmer amaranth were sold for use on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana and Ohio. More than half the counties in Iowa now report the new invader.

Identification

Palmer amaranth is related to water hemp and other “pigweeds”, common in Wisconsin, and a casual observer might confuse the two. The leaf stem on the first true leaves are longer than the leaf blade, where water hemp leaf blades are longer than the leaves. The most obvious difference is the length of the seed heads. Palmer amaranth has seed heads that can be 12 inches or longer. Hence it can produce vastly more seed than its native cousin. Purdue Extension has an excellent video that describes the distinguishing characteristics.

Herbicide Resistance

Strains of Palmer amaranth have developed tolerance for the herbicide glyphosate, making control much more difficult. Farmers in other states started using dicamba but are finding that off target herbicide drift is a real problem for both surrounding crops and natural lands.

Keep In Mind

DATCP has the following advice. If you are planting a pollinator or conservation seed mix:

  • Find out what Palmer amaranth looks like. You can find many clear photos in an online image search.
  • Buy local seed mixes if possible, with no pigweed or amaranth listed on the label.
  • Thoroughly clean equipment after seeding, especially if your seed mix came from out of state.
  • Call your University of Wisconsin-Extension office if you suspect you have found Palmer amaranth.

Follow these tips for conservation planting—without weed seed come from our neighbors at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture:

  • Do not purchase unlabeled seed
  • Check labels—and keep all labels used in a specific planting
  • If restricted noxious weeds are present make sure they’re present at a rate of less than 25 seed per pound
  • Don’t use seed with any prohibited noxious weed seeds
  • Ask seeding contractor for planting records including: seed lots planted in specific locations, planting procedures, site preparation and equipment used with equipment cleanout records
  • Keep invoices and paperwork
 Contact your local Extension agent for the most current information about this and other weed problems on your land.

April 2018

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Volunteer: Build Skill and Confidence

Volunteer using chainsaw to cut up a boxelder tree.

Want to learn firsthand skills you can use on your land? Your best bet just might be by helping somebody else. Every year dozens of volunteer organizations like the Nature Conservancy and Prairie Enthusiasts, Pheasants Forever and the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association donate thousands of hours to conserve the natural resources of our state.

Most of the work is done on public lands or non-profit nature preserves. Volunteer groups will sometimes give their time to help private landowners who have conservation projects that support their mission. Contact one of these groups when you plan your next conservation project. Some hunting groups provide free or low cost professional consultation to help you develop your wildlife improvement plan. They may also help you find matching grants to help pay for it.

Wisconsin DNR welcomes volunteers at their parks, as well as state wildlife and natural areas. State park volunteers assist with a wide variety of tasks from hosting campsites and staffing visitor centers to maintaining trails. There are more than 650 state natural areas (SNA) protecting the natural heritage of Wisconsin. SNA volunteers help protect rare plants and animals; getting up close and personal with some of the coolest natural resources in our state.

Volunteer This Weekend

Trout Unlimited is one of those groups that help all of us by doing conservation work on Wisconsin’s trout streams. This Saturday, you can learn several important skills while helping to improve the shoreline of Smith-Conley Creek, south of Ridgeway in Iowa County.

This volunteer work day runs from 9:00 AM to noon. The crew will remove large boxelder trees that are hazards to trout anglers and disrupting steam flow. This is a good opportunity to watch experienced sawyers at work and get more comfortable around chainsaws. You will also learn how to construct brush piles for burning or providing wildlife cover. Contact Jim Hess if you plan to attend or need additional information

One additional piece of equipment that is likely to be used is a powered capstan. It is a gasoline engine that can be tied off to a truck or large tree. The engine turns shaft, called a capstan, that resembles a sewing thimble. a long rope is tied off to a tree and loosely wrapped around the capstan. An operator starts the engine and take up the slack on the loose end of the rope. As the rope tightens, the spinning capstan pulls the tree an the other load end of the rope, while the operator hold tension on the slack end. Powered capstans are especially useful for removing fallen trees from stream beds. The first time I saw a powered capstan at work I put it on my Christmas list.

Find the Right Group

Wisconsin groups actively involved in conservation groups include:

Ducks Unlimited, Wisconsin
Ice Age Trail Alliance
Nature Conservancy, The – Wisconsin 
Prairie Enthusiasts, The
Wisconsin Waterfowl Association

Conclusion

If you want to develop your conservation skills while helping out in the community, consider volunteering a few hours this weekend. You will get plenty of exercise, meet some new neighbors and maybe pick up some pointers you can use to improve your property.

 

 

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Groups Get Things Done

 

People have always worked to together in groups to get things done. Whether it is neighbor helping neighbor, professional organizations or government agencies, folks working together for common goals is how we make a difference.

The Groups section of the Conservation Digest provides links to hundreds of local, statewide and national groups that support conservation work. Landowners can find information, technical assistance, financial support and even volunteer labor to help them improve their property.

Rare plant expert discusses issues of invasive zebra muscles on Lake Michigan.

See What Is Available

You will find a wide range of organizations listed. They are listed according to their mission.

ACADEMIC/INSTITUTIONS
AGRICULTURAL
CONSERVANCY
ENVIRONMENTAL
FRIENDS
GOVERNMENT
HUNTING/FISHING
LAND TRUSTS
OUTDOOR/TRAIL
PRESCRIBED FIRE
PROFESSIONAL
WATERSHED
WEED MANAGEMENT
WETLAND
WOODLAND
YOUTH  

By connecting landowners with the right group, we help you learn from experts, improve your land management, and protect your property; now and for future generations.

Make Us Better

If you know of an organization you would like to see listed, contact us and let us know how to find it.

Please enter your email, so we can follow up with you.
Please tell us the name of the recommended group, as well as any contact information you have (i.e., address, phone, email, website address).