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  • Writer's pictureMarson Nance

The Dog Days of Summer

In the world of land stewardship, summertime is probably the most grueling and satisfying season. With monitoring of conservation easements behind us for the year, our efforts turn to management of the properties and preserves we own. This is really a 3-legged beast (in the best way possible) of improving and maintaining public access infrastructure, invasive plant management, and habitat restoration. This is where our planning rubber meets the road, or trail, or prairie, or forest.

Beginning in May, our crew descended upon Wilson Springs Preserve, mowers and loppers in tow to work on plant management, trail maintenance, and other things that make the preserve special. The 121-acre prairie remnant explodes with life in early summer. Wildflowers bloom and set seed, birds of all beaks feed and rear young, fawns and other young of the year begin to find their way in the world, and hundreds of people flock to the trails to marvel in this urban sanctuary. With funding from Arkansas Game & Fish and US Fish & Wildlife Service, our Wilson Springs team Brittney and Dalton have worked long, sweaty days to remove and control invasive plant species on the preserve. Each season we start with a plan of attack, that often leads to all out warfare on Japanese Stiltgrass, Privet, Reed Canary Grass, Perilla Mint, and dozens of other ecological enemies. It’s a tough business keeping all these plants in check with a small and dedicated team.

Each year though, our Wilson Springs crew further cements their rock star status in the NWALT annals.

As the invaders are removed, space is created for our native plants. This year in one of our treatment areas a dogwood species not previously observed was discovered.

That makes all the sweat and ticks and chiggers and blackberry scars worth it. Life, uhhh... finds a way.

This year we were excited to construct a bird blind on the beaver pond at the west side of the preserve. This was constructed using reclaimed decking from one of our supporters who was doing a little home renovation. Folks have already put this to good use observing sandpipers and herons in the mud flats. It’s a great spot to watch swallows leap from snags and catch insects on the wing. A volunteer painted the blind in camouflage, making it ready for winter duck watching season.

Our Betty Hinshaw Bird Sanctuary saw the beginning of its restoration this summer. Partnerships with Arkansas Game & Fish and US Fish & Wildlife Service will help us continue our goal to create a grassland bird sanctuary. The NWALT team laid fresh gravel on the entrance road, erected a small fence to delineate the parking area, and installed some signage. The trail loop continues to be mowed and a patch of common milkweed has expanded. Over 100 bird species have been identified on the sanctuary this year!

Wilson Springs Preserve

Flint Creek Headwaters Preserve saw a huge uptick in visitation this year. The crystal spring fed water attracted many to beat the heat in several swimming holes. A bench was installed, and interpretive signs will soon be in place. The pollinator habitat exploded with ironweed and wingstem, and staff keep fingers crossed we can conduct our first prescribed fire there this fall. Staff also worked to remove over 350 illegally dumped tires from our Lake Frances Preserve. And we’re still not done! It took a herculean effort to get them out of a gulley and off the property. Lake Frances also has its first few miles of single-track mountain bike trails installed with some more to come. Work on the paved trail to WOKA is also underway. This will be an exciting addition to the preserve!

These are just a few of the projects our stewardship team has been working on. Thanks to partners and volunteers it has made the load a little lighter this year. As the dog days of summer roll on into false fall, there are still many more projects to work on and complete. NWALT’s stewardship crew has miles to go before we sleep, and our boots are strapped on tight.

1 Kommentar

Eddy Smith
Eddy Smith
17. Mai

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