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It included some of the oldest white and bur oak and shagbark hickory trees on the farm, and many black walnuts. He was sickened to learn that the Iowa Department of Transportation DOT contractors planned to pile and burn the trees. In forest management plans, data is gathered and synthesized to provide recommendations for management. Larry hoped to return it to the condition it had been in a century before, when his grandparents had first moved onto the land.

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A lot had changed in years. Honeysuckle was creeping in from an adjacent park, where it had been planted in the s in an ill-founded attempt to improve the habitat. The honeysuckle, along with another invasive—Russian olive—had been slowly taking over the understory, blocking native woodland wildflowers from sunlight.


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They now grew in impassable, wall-like thickets with large patches of bare soil beneath them. Larry has seen blue lobelia and other native plants re-appear following the discontinuation of cattle grazing. And [by managing invasive plants] we can hopefully make the timber into a revenue stream by having a fair amount to harvest. Larry decided to work with Luke to create a forest management plan to guide the restoration. It would help him and his siblings determine the value of the timber they owned, identify threats and opportunities for improving wildlife habitat, and receive recommendations to meet their goals for the land, including recreation and future timber harvests.

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To create the forest management plan, Luke first met with Larry and then collected data to evaluate each parcel. The data revealed that years of grazing had taken a toll on the woodlands.

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Many species of wildflowers that should have been present had disappeared from the landscape. In lieu of repairing the fences that had been cut open during the overpass construction, Larry decided to enroll all 80 acres of woodland in the Forest Reserve Program. This state program waives property taxes on qualifying woodlands in exchange for eliminating grazing and limiting timber harvests.

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Goats are browsers, and prefer to eat to leaves of honeysuckle, autumn olive, and other invasive shrubs. Throughout the process of restoration, Larry was inspired by the book Timberhill: Chronicle of a Restoration by Sibylla Brown. In it, Brown documents the reappearance of many species of plants and wildlife in her oak savanna remnant after prescribed burns were conducted.

Larry knew that fire would be an important part of his restoration as well.

Plus, many non-native plants are killed or set back by fire. The dense thicket was opened to chainsaws and prescribed fire for further management. The first burn crept across the woodland in the fall of In spite of high humidity and milder-than ideal wind speeds, the low intensity burn took hold. That is why we brought in the goats—to let them work on those ten acres.

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Timberhill: Chronicle Of A Restoration

Soon, all honeysuckle and Russian olive leaves within reach of a goat on its hind legs had disappeared. The combination of browsing and cutting would enable sunlight to reach the bare soil beneath the shrubs, allowing ground vegetation to grow enough to carry a prescribed burn. Following goat browse, large honeysuckle and autumn olive shrubs were cut with chainsaws and the stumps were treated.

South-facing slopes will ready to burn by late fall or winter of The cooler north and east-facing slopes, on the other hand, will require another year of growth for a sufficient fuel load. Unlike native prairies that have been completely lost to agriculture or development, woodlands that have not been plowed or seeded with non-native pasture grasses will sustain portions of their native plant diversity.

Depending on previous land use such as grazing, actively managing these systems will restore the oak dominance and a diverse understory of wildflowers, grasses, and sedges in as little as three years. Deeply shaded and highly degraded woodlands can take much longer but they, too, can recover. By trial and error, by observing and tracking the response of plants, fungi, and animals they have successfully restored their overstocked woodland to a fully functioning oak savanna ecosystem. This book chronicles their efforts.