Our annual Smokey Bear Day is on Monday October 8, 2018, 10am – 2pm at the Discovery Center.
After decades of extinguishing wildland fires, other methods in addition to prescribed fire are needed to restore a viable pitch pine scrub oak barrens, recover the endangered Karner blue butterfly, and conserve other wildlife Species of Greatest Conservation Need. Mechanical management, including forestry, mowing, girdling and seeding is also needed. With thousands of Preserve acres to restore mechanical management will likely be used annually for a number of years until a complete rotation of burning has occurred on these lands.
Mowing vegetation is sometimes a necessary and effective way to ensure safe and effective prescribed fire management and control the spread of certain weedy species. Similarly professional forestry (cutting or thinning forested areas) is also required to eliminate invasive trees and to restore currently overgrown pitch pine — scrub oak barrens in areas where severe wildland fires cannot be permitted.
This is another means of restoring and managing degraded pitch pine scrub oak barrens. This technique uses felling equipment to remove weedy trees like the black locust that currently dominate hundreds of acres in the Preserve. Black locust has spread into almost every corner of the Pine Bush. Clonal characteristics and the ability to vigorously re-sprout have created a significant challenge in the eradication of this tree. Cutting, burning or girdling only stimulate the plant to grow and spread faster. Instead, mechanical removal of these trees, along with their stumps and roots, has proven very effective. As of 2013, over 280 acres of black locust have been removed and the sites replanted with native pine bush vegetation able to support Karner blue butterflies and many other pine barrens animals. Silviculture is also an important tool for thinning white pine, aspen, red maple, pitch pine and black cherry trees that have become dominant in some areas of the Preserve. This is an especially safe and effective habitat management tool in areas where adjacent human development precludes effective prescribed fire.
Though native to the Pine Bush, aspen trees have become overabundant in many areas of the Preserve. These trees are fast growing and rapidly out-compete desirable pitch pine scrub oak barrens vegetation; historically fire maintained the balance between these species. Because fires have been suppressed for many years, aspen trees have spread rapidly. The dense shade they create eliminates most of the more typical Pine Bush vegetation, eventually killing many species, including pitch pine that require full sunlight to thrive. Girdling (stripping the bark from a section of the tree) is more effective than cutting the trees, since cutting triggers re-sprouting. Girdling exhausts the energy stored in the roots, effectively reducing potential re-sprouting.
Girdling is most easily accomplished from May to July using a tool called a bark spud: the sharpened metal edge on the end of a wooden handle is inserted under the bark to peel off a portion of the bark completely around the trunk of the tree. After two or three years the trees die and allowing sunlight to again reach the ground permitting native Pine Barrens vegetation to reclaim the area. Volunteers and students from local schools have girdled thousands of trees in the Preserve over the past 15 years.