Hello! Welcome back to the TNI stewardship blog. Many different things are happening at TNI; prescribed burns, maple and honeysuckle reduction, and the winter closing of the preserve.
As our avid hikers have noticed, we have employed the services of our best management tool available to land stewards. Prescribed fires do many tasks quickly, that otherwise may take stewards weeks or months to accomplish. The burns are the best tool to remove and control the dreaded bush honeysuckle. Most invasive species do not like fire. We can cover many acres in a short period of time. Fire also removes large amounts of fuel from the prairies or forest. This protects them from wildfires, and the non-native invasive plants. Fire is also needed for the regrowth of the native Oak-Hickory forests. Without fire, the acorns and hickory nuts do not receive enough sunlight to sprout. The burns also help release the shells covering the seeds.
A native tree, that can produce many problems for the Oak-Hickory forests, is the sprouting of numerous soft maples. They inhibit the growth of new trees, by shading out the sunlight. The simplest form of control is to cut down the smaller trees. As we reduce this mid-level canopy tree, the redbuds, dogwoods, spice bushes, and paw paws rush to take their place. As the sunlight pours onto these mid-sized trees and bushes, they fill a missing habitat level in our forests. The sunlight will filter through these plants to the forest floor, allowing Oak-Hickory regeneration and the lower level plants to reestablish themselves in our forests. The natural habitat, for these maples is the creek bottoms and the north facing slopes of the preserve. As you will see on your hike, we cut these trees on the south facing slopes. We leave the maples in the creek bottoms, and on the north facing slopes.
TNI properties will be closed starting December 28 and will remain closed for the months of January, February, and March. We will reopen on April 1st. Guests will still be able to enjoy our trails during TNI hosted events. You can head to the event calendar to see these opportunities.
The reasons for closing are many, and I will share a couple. The 411 acres of preserve is a large area. It contains many different types of wildlife. These winter months are the hardest for the mammals to survive. The energy they expend hiding, running away, etc. may be what keeps them from making it through the winter. The closing will hopefully help them, be ready for you to see at the start of spring. The winter break allows the stewards to perform tasks without having to worry about your safety, as we work on trails, remove invasive plants, and conduct prescribed fire.
Enjoy your hikes at TNI and remember to stay on the trails.
Director of Stewardship