Sunday, February 24, 2013

Removing invasive plants from glade at Ninestone Land Trust brings out the philosopher in Joe Neal

CHAINSAWS RUNNING midst an old glade on Ninestone Land Trust in Carroll County, magnificent gushing waterfall in back, for me a Top Ten hit of Best Sound so far, category Conservation-In-Action, in this Year of Our Lord, 2013.

Thank goodness for chainsaws and volunteers from Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society, Audubon Arkansas, Fayetteville Natural Heritage Association, and otherwise, willing to run them, to pull brush into piles, wear rough leather gloves to protect against thorns, generally initiate the process of natural glade renewal in the Ozarks. 

For a few hours to put down binoculars, cameras, and field guides. To get sweaty, dirty, sometimes even a little torn from inch-long and longer thorns on robust invading locusts.

Glade in question, under a blue sky, Bald Eagles soaring over, 18 folks from as far away as Little Rock and Jacksonville, 6 saws singing as they are cutting through what obstructs the old glade and its native plants, common and rare. Singing for stunted and gnarled trees covered with mosses and lichens. Singing for Prairie Warblers, Eastern Towhees, and Field Sparrows that nest here.

How ironic that chainsaws bring justice to glades. How the saw cuts through BS to the heartwood business of restoring to Ozark glade creatures open space justice they require. How they cut through widely disseminated moving targets alternatively mislabeled Left or Right,  Democrat or Republican. 

How there's no way to do the futile exercise called finger-pointing, because your finger is on the trigger of a chainsaw, or perhaps well occupied with a big pair of limb loppers, or an herbicide sprayer, or firmly grasped on some limbs dragged to a pile.

Shutting down the saw, taking a break, under a thoughtful sky, I am reminded how around northwest Arkansas, Siloam Springs to Lake Fayetteville, folks have taken up saws and gloves to uncover our inner prairie. How Master Naturalists donate to conservation-in-action, removing from Searle's Prairie trash blown in from the too-busy-for-life so-called and mislabeled "lifestyle".

How folks voted their values in 11 dump truck loads of trash and non-native plants removed from Lake Atalanta in Rogers, the cleanup of our nightmare trashaholism, blown into lakes and a streams. How folks work to create and nurture a human scale perch to view eagles and native plants adjacent a coal-fired electrical generating plant at Gentry. How they work to organize and realize the protection of an urban green space like Kessler Mountain. 

Ultimately it's not the acres, or spots, or the species that count. It's our spirits, and that's not confined to Sunday go to meeting, as all of you know quite well who attend Birdside Baptist and similar congregations. Our spirits can conquer, and will, if well nurtured.
Somewhere in the Ozarks I can at least metaphorically hear the old mountain boomers – eastern collared-lizards to you pointy-headed liberal environmentalists – snapping their jaws in praise. Prairie from below, among mosses, miniatures like sedum, in seeps over sandstones and thin to non-existent soils.  I think I even hear that rarity, Barbara's Buttons, pushing up through Ninestone's hilltops glades. I may be getting a little light-headed here, but you know, it's all of that clean mountain air around Ninestone, a local Rocky Mountain high.

Today, for me, it's not the waterfall pouring over rocks, though sublime it is. Not sudden appearance of Red Crossbills, Call Type 3, in the native shortleaf pines on Ninestone -- exciting and pleasurable as that is. Not the golden yellows of a Pine Warbler midst green needles, spring coming. 

It's the saws and their songs, taking back glades. It's the joy of cutting through BS. The vision of what is to come. The thought we've only just begun.

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