Mississippi island turned into forestry Petri dish
June 20, 2013
RED WING, Minn. -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, will finish a three-year reforestation project with a massive planting of 7,000 trees this June.
The project, called the Gores Reforestation Project, is intended to enhance wildlife habitat and manage invasive species on a Mississippi River island located near Red Wing, Minn., which is public land managed by the Corps. Reed canary grass, an invasive, has slowly been taking over this 60-acre site.
The project includes having 60 acres on the island broken into three 20-acre sites, each using one of three 'silviculture' treatments, to include clear cutting, group selections (removing a percentage of the trees in small groups) and shelter wood (removing overgrown trees to release established seedlings), to determine which treatment works best. Corps Forester Bobby Jackson, the project manager, said the Corps and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will monitor the site for an additional five years to determine which method gives the best results.
"Our main objective is to ultimately have a new forest made up of native trees that provide high level habitat for the next 50 to 100 years," said Jackson. "We want to be able to manage the spread of reed canary grass, because we know we can't control it."
Additional partners are working with the district to collect more data throughout the life of the project for a number of different research projects. Jackson said the U.S. Geological Survey is monitoring bird response pre and post -- harvesting to document bird response in each treatment. They are also testing two different types of deer enclosures on the new seedlings. He said, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin DNRs and Pierce and Vernon counties in Wisconsin are studying the planting of enriched American Elm at the site to see how they compare in survival and growth in each treatment, as well as how they compare with other types of native hardwood species also being planted.
Since the site is natural habitat and ever fluctuating, due to it being on a river island, Jackson said the project has involved a lot of adaptive management. For example, he said, he had to change one of the sites at the last minute with the contractor standing there due to high water content in the soils where it wasn't anticipated.
"Overall, it's been very challenging, but the data we obtain from this project will help us at our other sites," he said, explaining that the data will assist the many agencies working on the Mississippi River in coming up with a cost effective, consistent management plan for reforestation along the river.