Friday, September 18, 2009

Loggers Landing

This is the site of an old loggers landing. During a logging operation, cut logs are brought to these landings to be loaded on to trucks for transport to the saw mill. In creating a landing, the logger will level off a small area for the truck to park while logs are being loaded. This helps balance the load and reduce the risk of accidents. The level area is typically large enough to accommodate the truck and the piece of equipment that lifts the logs onto the truck.

I have several sites such as this at Blue Jay Barrens and each presents different management challenges. As you enter one of these areas, there is often an abrupt drop from the natural ground to the leveled surface. At the time it was created, this was probably a vertical cut. Through the years the soil slides down in an attempt to form a stable slope. This is a long process that makes it difficult for vegetation to become established.

These old landings suffer from loss of topsoil that was removed during leveling. The activity on the site also severely compacts the remaining soil, making it extremely difficult for water or plant roots to penetrate. The fact that no trees have encroached on this site in over three decades is testimony to the potential destructiveness of this type of activity. Responsible loggers now reclaim these sites so they will return to healthy woodlands.

Vegetation has managed to cover the soil surface, but there’s really been very little improvement of the soil structure over the years. A lot of the plants are lichens and mosses that are adapted to colonizing really rugged sites.

A couple of the plants manage to make a showy display. This is Prostrate Tick Trefoil, Desmodium rotundifolium, a sprawling vine that can spread and cover a large area. The leaf is composed of three round leaflets held close to the ground. The flower is held aloft where it is accessible to flying pollinators.

The area of the landing is interesting, but it’s the surrounding area that I’m really concerned with right now. I see a battle for dominance between the cedars and the prairie. If left alone, this area would become cedar woodland. If you have guessed that this area is not going to be left alone, you are correct and may reward yourself in the manner you deem most appropriate. This is going on my list to clear this winter. Next summer we should see a great resurgence of prairie here.

The area of future prairie is confined to a generally level terrace area, which is where I’ll be clearing. I’ll stop when I reach the slope leading to the creek floodplain. This should result in a prairie opening of just over one-half acre. There should be some interesting changes here during the next few years.

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