If your favorite park features tall, wide-crowned oaks shading grasses and woodland flowers, you have a good idea of the vision guiding woodland restoration at Union Ridge Conservation Area (CA). Native woodlands (not as open as prairies, not as dense as forests) have appealed to the human spirit for millennia, and most urban parks are designed on their model. Because they are so structurally diverse—providing grasses, wildflowers, a few shrubs and mature, mast-bearing trees—woodlands are also important to a wide range of wildlife. Quail and turkey nest in them, and deer browse their acorns in the fall. During the last four years, Department of Conservation staff has applied fire and thinning to roughly 300 acres of what were originally native woodlands at Union Ridge CA. In time, management will restore these acres to their native diversity and produce a classic, park-like landscape that will nurture wildlife and appeal to human visitors.
If you value your historic hardwood groves or woodlands, keep livestock out of them, especially during the growing season. Continuous grazing pressure can wipe out the forest understory, opening fragile soils to erosion and exposing the roots of mature trees. Forest browse may also be nutrient-poor or poisonous. Learn more about excluding livestock from forests at missouriconservation.org, and type “forest grazing hurts” in the search field. If you need help fencing livestock, ask your local Department forester about cost-share programs.
If you have a woodlot, especially in southern Missouri, you may be familiar with oak decline. It appears in mature oak forests where trees grow on shallow, rocky ridgelines and have suffered excessive drought, insect defoliation, late-season frosts or acute pollution. The signs include presence of red oak borers, logs riddled with holes and stringy black fungus growing on trunks and roots. Despite an increase in southern Missouri, you can stop oak decline in your private woodlot.
First, remove diseased trees from high-use areas and contact a professional forester who can help you develop a long-term management plan. Also, thin out weakened, diseased oaks and plant species such as shortleaf pine and white oak, which are long-lived and drought-tolerant.
For more information, contact your local Department of Conservation forester.
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