G-RAS Lands Report Winter 2019
Below is our quarterly report on land management efforts and plans for each property G-RAS is restoring. Past reports can also be found in newsletters.
Victor Illichmann - Land Manager
Androne Woods. We have planted 1500 white oak and killed a lot of brush this year. In 2020 we’ll kill a lot more. Historically this has been an oak woods. It is essentially an oak woods again, though many of the oaks are still quite small. By eliminating the shade tolerant trees, the buckthorn, and dramatically reducing the population of garlic mustard, we have been getting good regeneration here. Some of our native honeysuckle blossomed this year. They are a beautiful sight. We also found we have Virgin’s Bower, a wild clematis. It has clusters of brilliant white blossoms. Much of this is a plus, the ground cover of native vegetation is doing very well and there is good regeneration of red oak and hickory. The white oak, we are planting, the acorns are so desirable to the wildlife that there is little if any regeneration. There have been unintentional consequences, the hackberry, elm, and raspberries have also been regenerating. The raspberries especially are a problem. The combination of them and fallen trees have made it so impenetrable that we can’t get at the garlic mustard in some areas. Even with the much reduced garlic mustard population, we are finding it difficult to torch the whole sixteen acres. We are mowing raspberries and cutting and burning fallen trees. In some areas we can use the tractor, otherwise we use the DR, and in some areas our pole trimmer. This year we’ll plant 100 Fire Cherry and in 2020 we’ll plant 100 Witch Hazel and 1000 white oak. I checked with Nicholas Koltz. He said for a grant to plant in 2020 we need to apply now. I am applying for $6600. Half will cover the out of pocket expense. With $3300 in volunteer time our cost will be zero. After 2020, we will have no contractual obligations here. We will continue torching garlic mustard and cutting raspberries in the fall and spring. In even years, we’ll kill unwanted woody
Cleophas Reserve. We have mowed almost all the area to be restored, much of it twice, and mowed the parsnip before they could seed out. We got rained out so we couldn’t herbicide the canary grass this fall. We will complete one EQUIP Contract in 2019. We have another contract that will be completed in 2023. When completed we’ll have 10 acres of prairie restoration and 5.5 acres of oak savannah. Along with the 36 bluebird houses that we have, we’ll need to put in 3 bat houses. The plan is that by keeping the canary grass and weeds under control, the prairie will spread into the areas we didn’t restore. In odd years we’ll need to kill any unwanted woody vegetation that invades.
Gabower-Reilly Reserve. We didn’t get as much brush killed as we should have. We spent a lot of time in Androne Woods instead. We’ll make up for that in 2020. We are burning fallen trees so Pheasants Forever can burn this spring. In 2020 we have about 20 acres across the south end to restore to prairie. We will need to contract this out. Our small group of dedicated volunteers can work miracles, but this would be one too far. With an EQUIP Contract and volunteer time herbiciding brush, we should be able to get this at a minimal cost. We had at least 5 Compass Plants and 2 Prairie Dock blooming here this summer.
Spring Creek Reserve. We need to kill large amounts of brush this coming summer. We have 7.9acres on the west side of this property that is being rented out as farmland. Some years it is so wet that our renter can’t get access to this field. Three years from now we can restore this to prairie. At least the planting will have to be contracted out. There is a fence row along our west property line. We have a party that will remove the trees in return for the wood. When we have this done, we can put a barrier around our parking area to limit access of motorized vehicles like we have at Gabower-Reilly. We have 6 acres east of the creek where we have removed the brush and burned the fallen trees. If we can get an EQUIP Contract to restore this yet this fall it would be great. The government shut-down is making this difficult We may need to do it the following fall. The 2 acres at Bass Creek are toosmall to get a contract for. Dave Gundlach will work to get this included with the work at Spring Creek. We need to remove trees and kill canary grass before it can be restored. The planting will need to be contracted out. This would be a good place to plant some Bur Oak for a small savannah. Putting a barrier along the north side similar to what we did at Gabower-Reilly would be a good move. There is a 25 acre field along the east side of Spring Creek that is being rented out. We should make a decision soon as to whether to restore this fairly soon.
Bluebirds. The houses are all cleaned out and massive numbers of mice displaced. We desperately need someone to volunteer to monitor 70 some houses.
Eagles. We have been seeing eagles near Androne Woods. One day one perched in a tree near the house at fire #7642. Last year we spotted 3 on the ground near there.
Hawks. Often, when I go to Androne Woods, a hawk lets me know he would prefer me to be somewhere else.
Shed. We moved our equipment to another wing of the shed. Where we had our equipment earlier, the roof was becoming irrelevant. It has been repaired this fall.
Nature Trail. We desperately need someone to volunteer to redo this. We could easily have a hundred or so signs identifying plants here in Androne Woods for starters.
Enjoy. With 7 plus miles of firebreaks and trails,there are many opportunities to hike. There are many opportunities to view birds and wildlife. Androne Woods is a top place in Rock County to view wild flowers. The East Branch of Raccoon Creek is the only stream in Rock County with natural reproduction of Brook Trout. In the fall, when they are spawning, it is a wonderful sight to see.
The Sunny Peace Prairie – Norm Aulabaugh, Project Manager
The Sunny Peace Prairie is a 75 acre conservancy, located at 2604 South Coon Island Road, just north of Orfordville, Wisconsin. The land was donated to the Green-Rock Audubon Society by Norman and Carol Aulabaugh. A conservation easement, held by the Groundswell Conservancy in Madison, Wisconsin, will assure the land is never developed and will exist as a conservation preserve forever into the future. A land management plan has been prepared to guide the restoration and future use of the property.
The restoration, financed with applied for grants and contributions by Norm and Carol, will return this property to the approximate condition it was in before the land was farmed. An endowment fund established with the Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin will provide monetary support to maintain the property perpetually into the future. The property consists of 10 acres of woods, 15 acres planted to cool season grasses, with the rest being cropland. The main feature on the property is a large hill with spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.
The land will eventually be open to the public. Local organizations and schools will be encouraged to use the property as an outdoor laboratory. Paths will allow visitors to quietly walk the conservancy and enjoy nature.
A request for quotation was prepared early in 2018 detailing the restoration work and initial maintenance work to be performed at the property. This work includes planting 42 acres to prairie grasses and forbs. RFQ’s were sent to six local area contractors.
Five responded and from these, Tallgrass Restoration of Milton, Wisconsin was selected to do the work. In November, 2018, Tallgrass Restoration treated all trees and vegetation in a small stone quarry on the property and small undesirable trees and brush in the eight acre woods with herbicides as part of the restoration process. The first planting of grasses and forbs is scheduled to begin late in 2019.
Quotations have been requested for a pole building to house equipment, a pavilion for picnic use and educational presentations, a vault type restroom, and an information kiosk. These facilities will be located in the north east corner of the property.
Norm Aulabaugh is performing work at the property as his time permits. Norm first carved out an equipment path so he could easily move his tractor, Bobcat Skid Steer Loader and other equipment to the property to do work. Norm is clearing fence lines and is restoring a small wooded area which has grown up around a quaint old farm lane which used to be used by the dairy cows at the farm associated with this land back in the mid-nineteenth century.
Here is a YouTube Link to a four minute video concerning this restoration: Enjoy.