With the worldwide pandemic of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) shutting down the social and commercial bustle of our lives it gives us a chance to step into nature and reconnect with the ecological systems around us. As we enter early spring hikers across the state will notice some of the first plants to leaf out adorning their light green foliage. Many of these “early risers” are actually invasive species that are getting a head start on growing for the season. An invasive species is a non-native plant or animal that disrupts native ecosystems by outcompeting local resident species. This trait of leafing out early allows invasive plants to begin growing, utilizing nutrients, and shading the understory before many native plants even have a chance to begin their yearly photosynthetic cycles. One of the worst invasive offenders is a pungent plant called garlic mustard. NICHES works with volunteers every year to battle back this aggressive plant but with the emerging threat of the coronavirus this valuable window of opportunity has been closed, at least to group volunteer workdays. However, there is still hope!
Trash. Nobody likes it, yet we create lots of it.
Humans are hard on the land. Not as often, but still today some people choose to save money and not pay for trash pickup and use their back woodlot as the disposal area for the family. Leaving a mess for future generations to clean up.
Holley Savanna like many properties was used as a depository for the family trash back in the day. Thankfully they confined it to a couple of locations.
We have known about the trash at Holley Savanna since before NICHES became the owners of the land in 2005, but the location was not the easiest to get to back to you, due to thickets of hazelnuts, oak grubs and wetlands.
This past winter, NICHES opted to work with a timber company to log the woods at Holley in order to achieve our goal of having the canopy structure closer to 30-40% than the 80% or more that covered most of the property, which will be great for many of the savanna species that need light on the ground.
Quality management of natural lands in the Midwest requires a multifaceted strategy of controlling invasive species, restoring hydrology, controlling highly impactful species (deer) and returning the natural processes of fire to name a few of the big-ticket items. These four items are the basis of our stewardship work. Watching natural systems behave over the years, we have learned that NICHES’ lands are not remote isolated islands, but part of a greater connected landscape. A landscape in which some of those adjacent lands have significant issues with invasive species (not to say, that our lands are free of invasives), which are contributing to the degradation of NICHES when left unchecked.