Stewardship During Winter
As the weather cools and deciduous trees become bare, ACRES stewardship crew still has vital work to do. From invasive species management through the cut-stump method, prairie plantings, forest stand improvements, boundary inspections, and access enhancements, ACRES “stew crew” work is never done.
Cut-stump is the primary management practice of combating non-native invasive species in winter. This method involves cutting the invasive down to its stump and applying herbicides to its outer rings. Why in winter? In colder seasons, rather than feeding the nutrients to the leaves, plants redirect their nutrients to store them in the roots. Cut-stump ensures the treatment reaches the roots.
Using herbicides is essential because leaving stumps untreated can lead to vigorous regrowth, resulting in multiple stems sprouting from an untreated stump. The stewardship team employs the cut-stump method to reduce invasive species including honeysuckle, autumn olive and multiflora rose.
When asked if invasive species management has had a visible impact on the preserves, Evan Hill, ACRES stewardship director, responded enthusiastically: “One of the highlights of my job is seeing the results of our work. For example, when you visited Vandolah five years ago, you would step onto the trail to find yourself surrounded by a wall of invasive honeysuckle and autumn olive. After three years of intensive management, we have removed the invasive shrubs. With sunlight now unobstructed, we see abundant native herbaceous plants!”
Along with combating invasive plants, the stew crew is also busy planting seeds for future prairies. Although winter may seem an odd time to plant seeds, it is the optimal time for most prairie plants because they require an extended cold period to germinate successfully as soon as spring arrives. Using a tractor with a seed drill, or an RTV equipped with a seed spreader, the stew crew is nesting these native prairie seeds now for winter.
Other projects our fantastic stewardship team completes during the colder season include improving our visitor amenities by installing new signs, expanding parking lots, and maintaining stairs and bridges on trails.
We thank our committed stewards for their expertise and diligent work restoring native habitats. If you see them on the trails this winter, be sure to send them warm wishes!