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Oak ecology workshop to protect wildlife habitat
April 26 hike includes free oak seedlings
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“Oak Ecology in the Driftless Landscape” is a workshop being offered for all who are interested in learning to support the beneficial role of the oak trees in our area.

The workshop April 26 from 9 a.m. until at least noon will be led by Armund Bartz, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Ecologist.  Co-sponsors of the event are Valley Stewardship Network, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Kickapoo Woods Cooperative, and Lower Kickapoo Initiative.

The oak tree has a special place in our driftless landscape, as it provides high-quality food and habitat for many species while protecting soil and water below. Oaks have been the dominant tree species in most of the upper Midwest for millennia and thus play a central role in the ecology.

Because of changes in our land use and management, the oak tree is in serious decline.  Suppression of natural wildfires allows competing fire-sensitive species to be established, stifling the fire-adapted oak trees.  Competition from non-native invasive species such as buckthorn, and deer browse are all reducing oak regrowth.

Another big factor is poor timber harvest practices such as “high-grading”, the removal of the largest, highest quality trees for profit while leaving lower quality trees. Removing fewer trees is more cosmetically appealing to the eye, but it is very detrimental to oak. It does not allow enough light to reach the forest floor to regenerate oak, and it selectively removes genetically superior individuals from the stand.

This oak ecology workshop will share information on the importance of oak trees in the local ecology and strategies and techniques for encouraging oak regeneration.

Bartz will lead workshop participants on a tour of his 80-acre Crawford County property to view areas he has been managing for oak. The property is typical for the region with part of it in the Managed Forest Law program and landowner goals seeking to balance recreation and economic return in addition to rare habitat/species conservation.

Participants will see woodlands that have been managed with prescribed fire for 16 years, a small oak release clearcut, oak plantings, and early results of management planned to foster oak regeneration prior to an upcoming timber harvest. There will be a broad reaching discussion on oak ecology, oak regeneration, rare species/habitat management, and invasive species. The hike is moderately difficult and participants are encouraged to bring a sack lunch and drinking water.

Each workshop participant will receive five free oak seedlings contributed by Valley Stewardship Network.

Registration for the event is $20 per person / $30 per family. Registration is limited. Please pre-register by contacting Maggie Jones (email preferred) or call 608-872-2297.