As winter is finally upon us, we are well into removing invasive species from our pine plantation. A contractor from the West Bend Elevator has been using a forestry mower to remove the underbrush, almost all of which was invasive buckthorn. Before I explain the entire process, I want to share a little background information on that plot of land in the conservancy.
Aerial photographs of the area encompassing Lac Lawrann Conservancy (LLC) are available dating back to 1941. Prior to 1960 the photos show the approximately 7 acre Pine Plantation area as empty fields with little cover. The first indications of rows appear to be on the 1963 photo. This would seem to indicate that the trees were planted sometime between 1958-1962 for the growth to visible in the aerial image. This would indicate the pines are about 60 years old and the age of the trees harvested for use in the Maurin center bear that out. For the habitat and soil type in the West Bend / Washington County area, the typical maximum age of survival for red pine plantations is 60 years. As the pines reach that age, particularly on our alkaline soils (high pH), they begin showing decline.
Some general thinning was done around 10 years ago and again in a selective harvest 8 years ago (summer 2012) to provide trim, paneling and cabinet materials for the Maurin Center then under construction. The plantation stand of red pine is also beginning to show signs of “red pine pocket mortality” in the SE corner of the plot. A combination of fungus and insects contribute to the death of one, then several trees in an area. This leaves an open “pocket” within the stand. While openings can be beneficial in some instances, the benefits are lost if the pocket spreads. However, over the past 3 years more trees have been dying back. (See photos.) This area of the plot is also the wettest, having a somewhat lower topography than the rest of the plantation. As a result this area retains water and remains wetter than the rest of the plantation for much of the year helping to enlarge the pocket.
To address the issues LLC faces with respect to the Pine Plantation, it has been decided that the entire plantation be harvested. Taking this action now will result in the conservancy gaining some financial resources from sale of the timber. These resources will help restore the area to a site resembling an oak savanna. This type of habitat would more closely resemble what that area may have originally looked like . Waiting will only accelerate the rate the fungus infects other trees in the stand, further diminishing their value resulting in the conservancy having to pay to have the trees removed. That harvest will take place late this summer or next winter. Removing the invasives now will allow for a smoother harvest.
Once the mowing is complete ,the area will be treated to keep the buckthorn from re- sprouting. After the timber harvest, the area will again be forest mowed, chipping the remaining tree waste. Finally the area will be replanted with burr oak, white oak and sugar maple trees that were purchased (and are currently in tree nursery holding areas) with funds from our grant. This project will take another 3 years before we will see the start of the next act for our pine plantation. So stay connected with us to hear and watch the progress.
See you on the trails,
Paul De Chant