On October 1st, our woods crew met with our Dane CountyParks advisors, Botanist/Naturalist Lars Higdon and Land Restoration Specialist Shane Otto, and walked the 60 acres to assess the next steps in restoration.
The KEY WORD is SUNLIGHT.
We need to get more sunlight into many areas slated for Oak Savanna to get seedlings to grow. As we walked the woods, we noticed some seedlings growing on south-facing slopes toward the bottom, where enough light could get through.
After two years of not cutting trees in the South Units, we’ve now returned there to take out many trees ourselves. We had hoped to contract the removal of larger trees to loggers, but the County has been unsuccessful in contracting such a logger.
We began this thinning process in the Circle Unit that lies in the middle of the South end. We now have large branch piles and lengths of tree trunks (that can be cut into firewood) awaiting removal. The county hopes to give us some hours with their skid steer and grappler unit to take the brush to a burn area outside the unit, so we have one large burn scar instead of so many smaller ones in this seeded area.
The logs can be taken to a place outside the woods to be loaded up and hauled away or cut into firewood pieces for FREE firewood access. (More on that later.) Keep in mind the wood will need at least a year to dry before it’s good to burn. There are still some trees to remove in the Circle Unit and we are waiting for a day when more than one chainsawyer is on hand to work with them. Sometimes tall trees get hung up on other trees and can jam a saw in the cutting process, or require ropes to pull the tree down. A few of the thinner oaks that are near a larger oak’s canopy (and so, slated for removal) will be used for this winter’s Mushroom Log selection. We like logs that are 4 to 6 inches in diameter for this cutting, and they are easy to access for harvesting.
For two weekends in October ’22, we have been working in the SW Unit. The amount of sunlight now streaming into the big kettle in these glorious fall days near the canoe/kayak racks is amazing! We expect our seeded areas to multiply, with growth of savanna grasses and flowers in 2023 and years to come.
The Northern Unit of the woods will remain Oak Woodland. This is defined as having 50-90% canopy cover, as opposed to the Southern Unit with Oak Savanna/Opening, which has less than 50% canopy cover by trees. (See the post “Restoring our Oak Savanna Serves Silverwood Park’s Goals” from earlier in 2022 for more.)
We had a very successful burn on May 15th, especially in the Northern unit, and there is not much green cover on the ground. As invasive plants sprouted this spring and summer following the burn, they have been sprayed using the backpack sprayer with a Garlon/Escort mix. We will be seeding these areas with native plants when they need less chemical application in a year or two.
We have hopes that this winter a logger will able to log the 30+ marked Black Walnuts in the South Woods. We will then have the clean-up of the slash as our winter/spring work.
My thanks goes out to the many volunteers helping us throughout the year. Especially to Mike Meier who has spent most of his weekends making this restoration happen (while I snuck off for some enjoyable bike rides!) and to Yoshi Saimi, our other loyal chain sawyer and woods restoration crew member.
By Rita Fox
Rita leads the Oak Savanna restoration for Silverwood Park. She is a retired Middle School teacher, Ice Age Trail volunteer, and avid student of woodland restoration management.