Observe, Consider, Act: Restoration work never stops, but this time of the year is particularly busy for those of us out in the field. After a winter of prioritizing and planning, it’s finally time to take advantage of the lengthening days and warmer weather to get after it. Fully capitalizing on growing season days means making good decisions about where, how, and when to allocate our time and other resources. In my experience, these decisions depend on good observations and multiple options.
One goal for our stewardship crew this spring is to ramp up our prescribed fire acreage. Fire is an effective element in both woodland and grassland management if applied appropriately and with the intent of achieving specific outcomes. Knowing the fuel and weather conditions that will optimize those outcomes while maintaining safety for crew and other resources is critical. There is no substitute for observing the quality of prepared fuel breaks and fuels on site as your expected range of burn dates approaches. In addition, continual monitoring of weather forecasts will allow you to anticipate conditions that will promote the most effective application of fire while mitigating risk. No matter what the forecast says, direct observation, or better yet, measurement of weather at your burn site, is essential to making an informed go/no-go decision.
Another major goal for our work this spring is to keep the pressure on the non-native, invasive species populations on our properties. For us, this includes a range of herbaceous, to woody shrub and tree, to vine species that all require different timing and approaches. Observing both the results of past efforts and current conditions of those populations gives us the necessary feedback to effectively allocate crew and other resources. Searching for garlic mustard in March is possible, but keeping an eye out for it as you walk out to cut and herbicide treat honeysuckle is a more efficient use of time. That is until those second year garlic mustard plants bolt, at which point the clock is ticking to remove as many as possible before seeds are formed and dispersed. Rainy days that put a literal damper on herbicide application provide excellent conditions for pulling small honeysuckle shrubs and non-native bittersweet vines. Since we have multiple properties and numerous priorities, maintaining a flexible approach to stewardship allows us to carry on in most conditions.
One of the many benefits of continual observation, especially in the spring, is the chance to witness the day-to-day change in any landscape. Migratory birds are on the wing, while others establish their nests. Pollinating insects emerge or arrive in search of a succession of spring blooms. Frogs serenade us with overlapping songs from their wetland and pond performance spaces. These are just a few of the myriad changes to observe when you get outside for work or play – enjoy.
Bur Oak Land Trust currently maintains and preserves eleven local natural areas for the enjoyment and education of the public. These areas are managed in part by the Trust’s Land Steward, volunteer property stewards, volunteers, and community organizations. Volunteers play a crucial role in maintaining and preserving our properties.
Volunteers are needed for a variety of tasks on Trust properties including: prairie burns, invasive species removal, trash clean up, trail maintenance, planting native species, and harvesting prairie seed, to name a few. We have various workdays throughout the year to provide everyone the opportunity to volunteer on a Trust property. Bur Oak Land Trust also needs help in the office with mailing, publications, community relations, and events. If you wish to volunteer, we can find something for you, no matter what your experience.
If you are part of a group or organization and would like to schedule a volunteer day, we would love to hear from you!
For workdays on the properties, contact Carter Johnson at carter@BurOakLandTrust.org or call 515-450-4800.
Thank you to Big Grove Brewery for supplying wooden nickels to reward our workday volunteers!
Here’s a video Jack Dickens put together of drone footage of an O’Mara-Newport burn and shots from volunteer workdays – with music by Elizabeth Moen. I hope this inspires you to get out and volunteer!