SOUTH FORK WOODLAND AND GLADE RESTORATION PLAN TAKES FURTHER SHAPE
Dr. Don Culwell
Tuesday, October 3, the crew working in the forest and glades was there, boots on the ground, equipment close at hand. South Fork acres were being prepared for the their first controlled burn to be professionally conducted sometime the last two weeks of November whenever weather will permit (proper moisture in the ground, relative humidity, air currents, etc.); the timing of the burn late in November will allow necessary time for protection of the bat populations that call SFNC home.
A controlled burn of approximately 40 SFNC acres will be a part of the restoration process of returning the forests and glades to a condition similar to that noted in a number of historical records from across the state. With the forest canopy opened up by a thinning of existing tree species and removal of unwanted surface seedling growth (pine, cedar, and certain hardwoods), herbaceous growth (forbs and grasses) can return to open areas between trees. Restored glade areas can exist for flowering plants useful to pollinators like butterflies and bees. Fire lines extending from established trails to surround the burn areas were cleared by Clint Johnson on Tuesday, a private lands biologist from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
While Clint was getting the woods and glades ready for the controlled burn, Wade Hargrave (Hargrave Forestry Management Service) and his crew were employing a “hack and squirt” procedure that will kill treated trees allowing a thinning of the forest stands. Hatchets hacked open areas in the bark into which the poison, arsenal AC, was sprayed with a squirt bottle; treated trees will die in about 6 months and become habitat for woodpeckers, insects, fungi, etc. Wade also began marking with blue paint the larger trees that are to be removed in the harvest for timber sale. So, forested areas will be opened up and glade areas cleared for herbaceous growth. Don Culwell marked a number of mostly larger specimen trees using colored flagging, trees that were to be kept for species diversity as well as aesthetic beauty of the Nature Center (flowering dogwoods will be protected in the process).
The restoration process written for SFNC by Clint Johnson is now in full swing (the US Fish and Wildlife Service has previously funded SFNC glade restoration in 2014, 2015; Witsell and Baker, 2006, conducted a plant and community analysis of South Fork Nature Center).