Winter Work: What does our land management team do in the cold season?
As snow begins to fall, the ACRES land management crew gets ready to curl up with hot chocolate around the office fireplace where they will enter hibernation, a state of deep sleep maintained until early spring… ah…just kidding.
The Land Management crew is hard at work during winter treating non-native invasive plants, managing properties and preparing for the next growing season.
“It’s a misconception that we slow down during wintertime,” says Land Management Specialist Evan Hill. “If anything, we’ve become even busier! We’re still managing invasive species, running the forestry mulcher, maintaining trails and surveying properties.”
Director of Land Management Casey Jones explains that winter is a great time to treat woody invasive species like bush honeysuckle and autumn olive, due to their seasonal cycle:
As weather cools, plants begin to store nutrients in their roots, similar to how animals begin to store fat for hibernation. By the first snowfall, many woody species have lost their leaves, leaving behind a branchy, dormant skeleton. Since spraying foliage is no longer an option, land management switches to a method called “cut stump herbicide treatment.” After bushy invasive plants are cut down, they continue to move nutrients to their roots—while also taking up the herbicide applied directly to the exposed stump bases.
This cut stump method is the perfect wintertime solution since it is nearly impossible to cause collateral damage, clearly safer than foliar spraying for surrounding habitat. (This treatment is less efficient during the growing season when plants are pushing out nutrients into stem and leaf growth, and not taking much back into their roots.)
During winter, you can hear the ACRES forestry mulching machine running, cutting down woody invasive plants and clearing large sections of brush. Using this machine in winter allows us to see through dense patches of brush because they are leafless. This prevents us from causing unintended damage to adjacent plant life. At this time of year, many animals are dormant or hibernating, so our work is less harmful to them as well.
This video shows a forestry mulcher at work in the growing season, crunching up a dense patch of non-native invasive brush.
Land Management continues maintaining trails in winter. As storms roll through and heavy ice and snow weigh down branches, trees fall on the trails. “It’s surprising, but we use our chainsaws more in winter than any other season,” notes Matt Dunno, land management specialist.
In winter, it’s also easier for the Land Management crew to walk through a dormant, leafless forest monitoring and surveying properties. The team confirms property boundaries through mapping programs using the Global Positioning System (GPS) with Geographic Information System (GIS).
“We are managing and observing ACRES’ properties year round. We just have different strategies during different seasons,” comments Casey Jones. “For example, we focus on tree plantings and evaluating past work in spring, while we do more species surveys in summer.”
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