Thursday, October 26, 2017

Forests as communities, not commodities.

It is no surprise to anyone who knows me, I am a very big fan of trees.  In fact, most of my educational programs in 2017 were about trees.  Those programs included stories about incredible, ancient trees.  Including trees and forests worthy of a special trip to see:  Goose Island State Park, TX,, Congaree S.C, and  Cook Forest, PA.

One of those enduring forests is in nearby Mohican State Park and Forest (near Loudonville, Ohio.)  You will find the Old-Growth portions within the Clear Fork Gorge State Nature Preserve. There you can visit trees over 300 years old. 

Imagine, trees older than your parents' parents. Older than your great-grand-parents' parents.  Human being beings are such a short -lived species, and yet we rarely take time to notice those who have been on this planet --living, breathing-- and releasing oxygen to sustain the mammals beneath them.

Pardon my paraphrasing of Aldo Leopold's quote to "meme" this magnificent picture of friend, Dan Boone.  The photo was taken in the Clear Fork State Nature Preserve by the talented Andrew Lane Gibson.  Both Dan and Andrew are tree guys, and they have a deep and abiding respect for these giants who will live long past our time on this pale blue dot.

We people of the forest admire not only the trees, but also the plant communities or ecosystems which support- and are supported- by our planet's trees.  We are better off  for having visited these quiet place to commune with nature.  We admire the birds and salamanders.  We study the lichens and ferns. We don't take our forests for granted, as we have seen too many destroyed for short term gains.

Once again, the environmentally savvy find ourselves speaking up for the protection of Mohican and the Hocking Hills.  These trees' value to the local tourism economies far out-weighs the paltry dollars brought to the State coffers by timbering the very trees people come to visit and enjoy.

North Central Ohio Land Conservancy is circulating a petition requesting Gov. Kasich  permanently protect Mohican.  Please consider the merits of its text:  "The State of Ohio has no compelling need to timber our valuable forest lands. Timbering only reduces the value for tourism and recreation.

"These ecosystems provide habitat for breeding species of state threatened birds, bats, and flowers.  Pine groves and hemlocks protect the watershed from erosion and condition the riparian corridor for gamefish and the state endangered Hellbender salamander."

Please follow this link to the NCOLC petition and print two copies.  You, too, can help preserve the trees and habitats Ohioans love to visit.  Use your voice to preserve Mohican in its entirety as a State Park, and allow future generations an opportunity to see these grand evergreen forests in Mid-Ohio.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Howard Marsh- the excitement begins.

This week the Division of Wildlife held their annual Wildlife Diversity Partners' meetings.  It is an opportunity for the birders, butterfliers, snake handlers and nature center representatives from all across Ohio to get together and share ideas and learn the latest offerings by Division of Wildlife.

We also vote on the photo that will be on the Wildlife Diversity Stamp.  This year's winner is a garter snake, but oh, what a snake it is!  You'll be proud to display it as a sign of your commitment to non-game species being helped by Wildlife dollars in Ohio.

We also took a tour of a wetland complex the Toledo Metroparks has teamed with the Division of Wildlife to create.  Next spring when you are at Magee Marsh and Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, go a few miles more to the west and your find the newly created Howard Marsh Metropark.

Howard Marsh as seen from Metzger Marsh causeway.
If you drive down the causeway at Metzer Marsh, look to the west and you'll see some newly created impoundments and water handling systems.

Sign of the times.
The sign for Howard Marsh includes the many partners that have given this 700 acre project a boost.

 Dave Sherman from Division of Wildlife and Dennis Franklin from Toledo Metroparks carefully explained the project with the aid of detailed map and artist's renderings.

Newly created topography.

Howard Marsh will offer miles of hiking trails, a kayak launch, and multiple bridges and observation decks.  The first stage was to create some depth and topography in the fields which were once known as Howard Farms. Restoring this area back to a marsh is far closer to the original form of the land when the Black Swamp occurred here.
Black Saddlebags dragonfly
 Wetlands are filled with biodiversity, from the blue Asian day-lilies to the myriad of dragonflies species that will immediately begin to use the impounded water as breeding grounds.  Wetlands are the cradle of life in northwestern Ohio.

Big cloud drama, provided by stormy skies.
Wetlands reflect light and color back to the cloud-filled skies on a September afternoon.  If you aren't a huge fan of wetlands yet, just try spending one afternoon in their appreciation.  Once you've found a couple frogs and hear the Sandhill Cranes calling as they wing across the sky... you may never be the same again.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Getting Down to Business for Mohican

 Dear Friends,

We only have -days- to comment to forestry about the sweeping changes they want to enact in Mohican State Forest.  If you like hiking, birding, botanizing, fishing or enjoying the sweet sounds of nature, you already know you do not want to see our "little jewel" of Mohican become an industrial timber lot.

Some places are just too special to have commercial timber operations interfering with tourism. Ohio Division of Forestry has made some very questionable calls in the past on places they thought were appropriate for timbering:

Please click on the PNG photo/form below to print and send!  We have a right to request our public forests be used primarily for recreation, conservation, and health benefits for people and the land.  

Remember, sharing is caring! 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Mohican love.

Some things are simply too special to be treated like the rest.  Your grandchildren for example, are somehow more- dear to your heart.  Or the Vietnam Memorial, feels like a yet fresh wound.  Something we treat a bit differently than a Revolutionary War relic.

Mohican State Forest is like that.  Sure, when it was set aside as a State Forest, it was because the land had been misused and eroded.  It needed the protection offered by the State. The Civilian Conservation Corps planted thousands upon thousands of trees to restore the land. A Memorial Forest was set aside, as a tribute to those who had died in American wars.   The land, like our country, began to heal.

Today, those pines stand tall.  Occasionally, with a glimpse from the right angle, you’ll even notice the straight lines in which they were planted.  But the course of time has changed things, dramatically.  These are no longer the saplings our forefathers planted.  They are tall, nearly century old trees.  A forester might say they are “over-mature”.  But in the scale of deep-time and the ages, they have barely started.  Compared to rock and the soils in which they stand, they are mere kindergarten trees.

Trees, like people, don’t always age well.  Some get disease, other are victims of invasive insects, accidents, or calamitous weather events.  Death is a part of life, and death in the forest means regeneration.  The fallen- feed the molds and microbes until they become one with the soil again.

The openings created when a tree falls become an interior island of biodiversity.    Pioneering plants, waiting as seeds in the soils, react to the sunlight with luxuriant growth.  Young trees quickly race toward the sky to fill the hole. Birds and other wildlife, respond to these edge habitats, filling them with song and young.

Not all of Mohican is planted pines.  The Mohican Gorge is a gift from the Ice Age.  The steep banks and soft native Hemlocks create habitat for ground thrushes, like Veery and Wood Thrush. Wintering migrants, such as crossbills and Evening Grosbeak seek the shelter of our dense evergreen forest, unlike the 4%-5% of evergreen cover the Division of Wildlife cites for the rest of Ohio.

We don’t want Mohican to look or feel -or sound- like the rest of Ohio.  It is special.  From the Clear Fork State Nature Preserve and the trails at the Covered Bridge to the pine woodlots, Mohican is more than a good place to produce pulpwood and timber.  It is not just a forest for the trees.  As in any dynamic ecosystem, Mohican needs all stages and ages of lifeforms- including trees.

Ohio Division of Forestry would like us to think of Mohican as an industrial woodlot.  And yes, they are the experts on producing board feet of timber and pulp.  However, if another stick of lumber never came out of Mohican, we would have no “timber crisis” or shortage in Ohio.  Our private foresters are serving us well, producing 97% of Ohio’s timber products on private lands.  But Mohican’s public land is simply too special to be in a timber rotation, or subject to selective cuts.

Mohican is for Moms and Dads. It is a place for family picnics and hikes.  The roar of saws and timber trucks should be as infrequent as the ones in our own backyards at home: restricted to safety issues and truly hazardous trees.

Most of all, Ohioans own Mohican and should not be brushed aside by the Division of Forestry to use our recreational haven for their timber crop.   

Mohican should not be treated like other state forests, it is simply too special.

Cheryl Harner, Weedpicker

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Admiring Trees

This week has been peak bloom for mid-Ohio's native Black Locust trees.  Their Latin name  Robinia pseudoacacia is a reflection of its Acacia-like flowers. You need to look no further than Ohio's highways and byways to find their white blossoms standing out like a beacon. The extra inches of rain we had this winter/spring must have super-sized their fragrant flowers. 

Two landscape specimens near Chesterville, Ohio.
 Any landscaper or nurseryman would be likely to snuff and dismiss this native tree with a "too weedy, too thorny." However, I am noticing the spectacular beauty of specimen trees from long-ago landscapes.  I never realized Black Locust could become such a sizable tree.  Each of these two are about five feet in circumference, and the older trunks are thornless.

The Acacia like flowers of Black Locust.
These flowers are the real selling point.  Giant pea-like blossoms waft an incredible fragrance across the country-side.  Bee keepers know that Black Locust is favorite for their striped wards. I've been told the honey tastes like cotton candy.

In honor of pollinators, let's all plant a few of these bee trees.

This unexpected behemoth resides in Ontario, Ohio.
It did my heart good to find this venerable old locust on the edge of a landscaper's parking lot of a in Ontario, Ohio.  One can only hope the owner appreciates the size and age of this over-sized tree and continues to allow it to grace the property. It would take the outstretched arms of at least two adults to encircle this massive tree.

Who is this funny-looking caterpillar?
 Black locust are not just beneficial to bees.  They are also the host plant to the strange stripey caterpillars of the Silver-spotted Skipper.

Silver-spotted Skippers... doing what they do.
 The only Silver-spotted Skipper photo stored in my files was this mating pair.  Funny how we forget to photo document the most common butterflies and birds we see. This should be a lesson to us. Five  years ago when the Monarch butterflies were in the worst year of their decline, we all wished we had taken more photos of them when they were considered commonplace.

If you want to know what a person treasures, look at their photographs.  As for me, I am taking more photos of Black Locusts, bees and butterflies.