Sunday, March 22, 2009

Joe Neal finds Trillium pusillum variant ozarkanum at Cave Springs Natural Area on March 22, 2009

After seeing the trilliums in bloom at Ninestone Land Trust on March
20, I decided to head over to Cave Springs Cave Natural Area in Benton
Co., to visit the mother lode of Ozark Wake Robin (Trillium pusillum
var. ozarkanum). They were sure enough in bloom -- thousands on a
gentle north-facing slope above a cave that houses the rare Ozark Cave
Fish. I was also hoping to get my first spring hearing of
Black-and-white Warbler, an early parula or Yellow-throated Vireo, but
struck out. The trilliums alone were worth the effort. However, I
didn't go away feeling all that great about the visit...

Unfortunately, patches of these rare trilliums on Cave Springs Cave
Natural Area are in the process of being overwhelmed and smothered by
honeysuckle. The only cure for such a thing is mother nature's
favorite tool, fire. Repeated winter or early spring burns, before the
trilliums are up, would suppress/push back the honeysuckle and other
alien plants, leaving the cherty rubble free for the emergence of
trilliums and other botanicals adapted to open forest landscapes free
of smootherers & stranglers like honeysuckle. Some patches have
already been lost to honeysuckle.

I mention this in the context of rare trilliums, because the same
thing hugely impacts birds. Many among us in the conservation (in our
case, bird lovin/ Audubon community) still don't have the fire thing
figured out -- how historically fires shaped the natural landscape,
and how without deliberately using fire, it will be impossible to
reset the clock, even in those patches that we call preserves, natural
areas, national forests, etc.
Admittedly, my attitude about this is STRONGLY shaped by years of
working as a USDA Forest Service Wildlife Biologist with endangered
Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, which were headed for extinction before
biologists began to strongly push fire back into southern pine
forests. Bobwhite quail, Bachman's Sparrows, Prairie Warblers and many
other birds have rebounded in those habitats where fire is
reintroduced. I saw it for myself on the Ouachita National Forest in
west central Arkansas.

So, my friends in the conservation community with a worry about fire,
treat yourself to a good read. The bible in this case: Restoring North
American Birds, Lessons from Landscape Ecology, by Robert A. Askins (I
read the second edition). Unlike many environmental books, this one is
pure as a bedside reader, Aldo Leopoldish astride our fire-hungry

We don't need to keep scratching our heads about this one. Just get
that drip torch and go to work!

JOSEPH C. NEAL in Fayetteville, Arkansas

1 comment:

  1. Well, yes, you are suspect:

    "... admittedly, my attitude about this is STRONGLY shaped by years of working as a USDA Forest Service Wildlife Biologist with endangered Red-cockaded Woodpeckers ..."

    Fire is part of the natural landscape. The solution is to keep separate the cultural landscape from the natural landscape so that fires, regardless of how they are caused, are under the control of natural forces. Smokey the Bear protects people and their things and not the forest.

    Creating post fire zones for specific species is a human plan. Human plans do not speak to the natural landscape.

    Your use of non sequitur is appalling. It does not follow that, because fires rejuvenate forests and prairies, it is appropriate to start fire.

    Forest management is really people management. Did you not know that?

    You are suspect, indeed. You do not speak for and do not wear the hat of the natural landscape. You may in the future, but for now you are a forester and consult for forestry which is known for grooming the land.

    Richard H. Stafursky
    Pres., WSLF
    Conway, MA (Massachusetts), United States (USA)
    (802) 257-9158

    WSL (World Species List Forest)

    The Natural Landscape

    Richard is also known as Dropintheforest on YouTube

    Richard lives in Brattleboro, VT (Vermont), United States (USA)