Forestry Field Day

Jack Van Laar, CEED, Decatur County

Problem or Situation :

Forests and woodlots comprise very important natural areas for Decatur County and all of Iowa. They provide habitat and food for many wildlife species; buffers and cover for streams and erosion control; nutrient and organic matter recycling, and filtering to enhance both air and water quality. Oak Savanna is a type of blended prairie and woodland area which at one time before settlement and farming, covered much land area in Decatur County and other parts of Iowa. There is renewed interest in restoring and improving woodland and savanna all over the state for a number of purposes including wildlife, recreation, tourism, natural resources conservation, and marketable timber development. Typically, management to develop, restore and enhance forests has involved planting and Timber Stand Improvement (TSI) techniques. However, with savanna, research is not as extensive, and some non-traditional approaches, such as use of controlled burns in wooded areas, need to be explored.

Response :

ISU Extension Forestry Field Days are a partnership effort with Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), County Conservation Boards, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Iowa Tree Farm Committee .   Decatur County played host to a field day for woodland owners and managers at the Bill and Sibylla Brown Tree Farm south of Leon to learn about savanna restoration and management. The Browns, working with local and state conservation groups, IDNR and ISU Extension foresters, and others have been utilizing controlled burning and other pioneering approaches on their woodland acreage to clear unwanted under-story brush and non-native invasive plant growth and free up and regenerate desirable trees, shrubs, grasses and forbs. Their efforts and results were show-cased at the field day which included a walking tour with discussion at several sites in the woods, as well as formal presentations and written materials handed out to the group. The Browns also received the Tree Farmer of the Year award from the Iowa Tree Farm Committee during a special presentation.

Impact :

There were 67 woodland owners and managers from across Iowa attending the Field Day. The major program benefit was providing first-hand observation of woodland management practices and results. Participants could see and compare the plant diversity and regeneration in progress. Secondly, a great degree of sharing about practical experience with new and different techniques was evident. Adjustments in management for differing sites and goals were shared and discussed. This and similar field days held across Iowa also provide a great opportunity for networking and partnering between Extension and the other aforementioned public and private groups and afford them many teachable moments. For example, Paul Wray, ISU Extension Forester and event coordinator, along with the District IDNR forester were able to point out many basic concepts such as tree species identification, growth, succession and other forestry principles. They were also able to help participants understand a new paradigm in that although oak may be the primary tree species in many savannas, other hardwood species may dominate and are acceptable on some sites. As another example, the County Extension Education Director was also able to point out and discuss a somewhat unique tree pest, the twig girdler, which several participants had questions about. Thanks to the efforts of these groups and individuals, and educational opportunities such as Extension Forestry Field Days, forest acreage quantity and quality are making a modest comeback in Iowa, and oak and other hardwood savanna acreage will hopefully be increasing as well.


August 2006

106 - Green Industry (Commercial Horticulture and Forestry)

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