Illinois Real Estate Land

  

ILLINOIS HABITAT TYPES (WOODLAND)
 

Illinois woodland for sale, Deer hunting land/property for sale.

If you have woodland habitat on your property, you're lucky. If not, why not create some? This chapter will help you make the most of the benefits of new and existing woodland wildlife habitat.

Woody habitat can be described in many ways, based on location, community type, and other factors. For instance, woodlands may be referred to as "upland forest" or "bottomland forest." Another categorization refers to dominant species or groups of species, such as oak-hickory forest, beech-maple forest, aud hazelnut thicket. The Illinois Natural Areas Inventory classifies Illinois forests and savannas into twenty-three different community types. To simplify the concept of woody habitat, in this book we address managing and creating all types of woody cover, including forest, savannas, and shrubby cover. For purposes of discussion, we define an area with more than 10% woody canopy coverage as woody habitat and have categorized it into groups.

Deciduous woodlands are closed-canopy woodlands dominated by trees that seasonally lose their leaves, with an understory of shade-tolerant trees, shrubs, and herbs.
Savannas are open-canopy deciduous woodlands that usually contain a moderate or abundant herbaceous layer, often composed of both forest and grassland species.
Evergreen groves are woodlands dominated by coniferous or evergreen trees, those that retain their leaves year-round.
Wildlife fencerows are linear woody cover that may be deciduous or coniferous trees and shrubs or a combination.
Shrub thickets are woody cover composed primarily of closely spaced shrubs or small trees.
Shrub borders are linear woody cover, primarily shrubs and small trees, along the edges of a forest.
To supplement the general information in this chapter, Table 4.1 provides advice for specific types of Illinois forests and other woody habitats.

Before European settlement, forests covered about 13.8 million acres, or 38%, of Illinois land. Between 1820 and 1920, nearly 80% of our woodlands were eliminated. Since the 1920s, we have seen a reversal of this trend. Woodland habitat has increased in the last seventy years, largely the result of increased planting and natural succession in abandoned pastures. Current estimates indicate some 4.6 million acres of forested land statewide.

Despite the continuing increase in woody habitat, Illinois wildlife that depend on this cover face three problems:

The species composition and structure of our forests and other woody cover is changing.
The size and interspersion of our woodlands and fencerows is decreasing.
The age of our woodlands is declining.
Table 4.1 "Deciduous Woodland Restoration Guide"

Changing Species Composition and Structure

As scientists have learned how ecosystems function, one fact has become clear: fire played a historically important role on much of the Illinois landscape. Many natural communities, including savannas and some forests, were actually fire dependent; they needed periodic fire to maintain community composition and diversity. After settlement, suppression of this natural process played a major role in altering the composition and reducing the diversity of our woodlands. Oak-hickory forest, the dominant community type on Illinois' uplands, is gradually being replaced in many areas-largely because of lack of fire-by shade-tolerant species, such as maple and ash, that are less valuable to wildlife. Research has also shown that the lack of fire and altered river hydrology (human-magnified floods and artificial water levels) have changed the composition of many bottomland forests. Illinois land

The process of reforestation has also resulted in a different forest composition. Many of these newer successional forests established this century grew on abandoned agricultural Illinois lands. At present, these areas are often dominated by less desirable invader species such as honeylocust, box elder, and silver maple and by non-natives such as white mulberry and European buckthorn. Woodlands composed primarily of these species are nearly devoid of hard mast (acorns and nuts) and often lack snags (standing dead trees) and older trees with cavities. They also have a comparatively low value for timber products.

Another type of woody habitat that has nearly disappeared from the Illinois landscape is the open-canopy savanna. Savannas were a different habitat than forests; they were often the transition community between prairie and forest. Savannas had their own wildlife communities, ones that didn't entirely overlap with those of the forest or prairie. For example, bluebirds and flickers preferred savanna as their primary home. Initially, savannas were cleared for cropland because they were easier to cut off than dense forest. Some became forests due to fire suppression. Most recently, home builders have been attracted to the remaining savannas because of their idyllic open-shade settings.

Non-native plants have also changed the composition of the understory and forest-floor plant communities, usually to the detriment of wildlife. Many non-native woody and herbaceous plants are very aggressive once they get a foothold. Species such as Japanese honeysuckle, garlic mustard, and the bush honeysuckles (Tartarian and Amur) invade forests, smothering or shading out nearly all other plants, including woodland wildflowers, shrubs, and small trees. Climbing euonymus can climb and smother even large trees. The loss of diversity of native plants reduces the variety of natural nesting sites and food, and there is evidence pointing to a corresponding reduction in the diversity of insects, an important component of the food chain.

Exotic plants often gain a foothold in forested areas that have had some human disturbance, such as grazing or logging. And lack of fire may allow the plants to spread; some of these exotics cannot withstand burning like many fire-adapted native plants.

Changing Size and Interspersion

Although forest acreage is increasing, Illinois land has about 9.5 million fewer acres of woods today than in 1820. The reduced acreage has spawned other problems, primarily a change in the size and connectedness of the remaining woodlands. Our existing forest tracts are smaller and, for the most part, more isolated from each other. Many woodland wildlife species, including some of our most colorful songbirds, cannot reproduce successfully in smaller forests. And smaller animals, such as salamanders, mice,;and lizards, that cannot travel long distances eventually disappear if their habitat is too small and there are no nearby populations to bring in "fresh" genes.

Woody fencerows and windbreaks, which have played an important role in linking fragmented woodlands, have decreased significantly since the 1970s. Agricultural policies that promoted intensive farming were largely responsible. These fencerows not only provided corridors from one woodland to another, they also provided valuable habitat for edge-loving species and stopover points for many migratory birds.

Changing Age

Much of the recent increase in forested acreage is due to abandonment of pastures and new planting efforts. Coupled with continued reversion of mature forests to younger growth or early successional forests through logging, the result is a significant amount of young forest.

Forests commonly referred to as "old growth" are in very short supply on Illinois land. This type of forest is characterized by a diversity of age classes, including a canopy of very old trees, 125 to 300 years old. To be considered old growth, a forest would have been relatively undisturbed by logging or grazing for one hundred years or longer, with the exception of an occasional tree cut for firewood or perhaps lumber. Large-diameter trees are important to the survival of some wildlife species, such as the pileated woodpecker. The Illinois Natural Areas Inventory found only 11,600 of the state's existing 4.3 million forested acres to be older, relatively undisturbed forest.

Mature forests are still relatively plentiful on Illinois lands, but this, could change if timber demands increase or the sale of mature woodlands for homesites continues at its current pace. Mature forests are those that may have been selectively logged during the last century but currently have recovered and typically support a wide range of tree age classes. Trees 60 to 100 years old are scattered throughout a mature forest.

It can take centuries to develop a truly mature, full functioning forest ecosystem. The multiple layers that develop support a diversity of wildlife. Yet a sizeable forest ecosystem can be eliminated in a matter of days! Because it is the slowest of all habitat types to recreate, think carefully before converting forest to another habitat type. Remind yourself how long it takes a tree to grow when you're cutting one down.

Illinois landowners can help wildlife that use woodlands and other woody habitats in two significant ways:

Create new forests, fencerows, and other woody cover
Protect and properly manage existing and newly created woody habitats
If you have an opportunity to create new woodland on your property, you should read "Creating New Woody Habitat" for specifics that will enhance your success, from choosing species to planting correctly. Every reader, whether you are creating new woodlands or maintaining or enhancing existing ones, should review "Protecting and Managing Woody Cover" as well as "Management Considerations" . Create food plots on Illinois hunting land for sale.

A variety of factors that affect the value of woody cover for wildlife should be considered when you are planning to create or manage woodlands. When biologists develop a management strategy or plan for a particular site, they typically think on two levels. One is the landscape perspective: where the particular habitat site, or patch, fits into the surrounding landscape. The other is the patch perspective, which considers the management of the habitat within the patch or site. These perspectives for woody habitats are detailed here; chapter 1 provides additional insight.

Table 4.2 "Mast Producers"

Table 4.3 "Snag-Dependent Wildlife"

Table 4.4 "Minimum and Enhanced Levels of Den and Snag Trees"

Landscape-Level Management

Because wildlife don't recognize property boundaries like humans do, it is important to consider the bigger picture of how a particular field or tract of land works with the surrounding landscape to provide regional habitat. In other words, no field or piece of Illinois land exists in a void. The animals and plants in and around the site are affected by and interact with the surrounding landscape. In any grassland creation or management effort, be sure to evaluate the following landscape-level considerations.

Patch size and shape must be considered. A square, rectangular, or oval piece of forest has less edge than an irregularly shaped one. Since edge is good for some forest species and not others, you must decide on your personal goals and consider the needs of the wildlife in your area. If you are managing for forest-interior species, such as the ovenbird or scarlet tanager, the larger the parcel of Illinois land and the less edge, the better. If you are trying to attract edge species, such as the eastern bluebird or blue jay, smaller, irregular parcel shapes will achieve your goal.

Not all forests need to be large, but consider how your existing or planned woody cover fits into the local and regional landscape. Will your project fill an open hole in a larger block of forest? Or could your open field be reforested to connect two separated woodlands? Or maybe your tree planting will be in the middle of an otherwise agriculture-dominated area, where adding to an existing forest isn't a consideration.

Though wildlife can be found in a forest of any size, size does dictate which species might use an area. Many species, including certain birds, reptiles, and amphibians, require larger expanses of closed canopy forest. Only a few areas of Illinois land still have forests large enough to support sustainable populations of the most sensitive of these species. Examples include the Kaskaskia River corridor, the Shawnee National Forest, and parts of the Mississippi River corridor.

Medium-sized forests, which are more widespread, support a whole range of species that are vulnerable in or absent from smaller, isolated woodlands. Of course, small forests-a few acres in size: provide habitat for edge-dwelling wildlife, for species that use a matrix of forest and open lands, and for birds using them during seasonal migrations.

However, because small forests are much more abundant in our state than medium and large ones, efforts to increase the size of these habitats is desirable. Either through creating a new forest or adding to an existing one, expanding the tract sizes of this habitat on Illinois land will help not only the most common forest-dwelling species, but also those woodland wildlife that are in the greatest need.

Connectivity and adjacent habitats relate to both patch shape and size. Species that prefer brushy edge habitats would benefit from several connected fencerows and brushy habitats. Wildlife that need larger blocks of unbroken forest would benefit from several big blocks of forest within a regional landscape. Small animals, such as ground-dwelling mammals (chipmunks), reptiles (lizards), and amphibians (salamanders and some frogs) would benefit from woody fencerows connecting two blocks of forest.

Patch-Level Management

Once you have evaluated landscape-level considerations, you need to determine the management of the site or field itself. To provide suitable habitat for wildlife, a minimum standard must be met for each of four criteria:

Appropriate application of disturbance
Plant-species diversity and mast production
Successional stage or age class
Structural components
Disturbance

Some disturbances can be useful patch-management tools, but they can undermine habitat values if you apply them without a specific goal. This section discusses the harmful aspects of the major disturbances associated with woodland habitat. Appropriate application (if any) of the same disturbances is discussed in "Protecting and Managing Woody Cover".

Grazing. For the most part, livestock grazing and improving woodland habitat for wildlife are not compatible. While strategies are being developed in the emerging field of agroforestry for both timber and cool-season grass production, improving wildlife habitat is not a main goal.

The negative effects of livestock grazing in woodlands aren't always obvious to landowners. After all, the trees are still there, right? But a forest is more than just tall trees. Moderate to heavy grazing essentially eliminates the other parts of the woodland the understory and the woodland forbs and grasses. A few species that are not relished by cattle, horses, or hogs may remain and dominate, such as hawthorn, coralberry, and poison ivy. But the rest of the wooded pasture is barren and void of cover, food, and nesting sites for wildlife.

Even light grazing damages forests. If grazing is not so heavy as to eliminate the understory and floor-layer plants, it will cause a shift in species composition, with the plants tolerant of grazing or not palatable to livestock becoming dominant. Diversity is reduced as some plants disappear.

Not only does grazing destroy the current habitat, but the future of the forest is compromised as new seedlings are continually grazed and destroyed. Grazing also negatively affects existing trees. The prolonged trampling by livestock hooves compacts the soil. Tree roots become exposed and are physically damaged or left susceptible to disease. Hogs will actually root at the bases of trees and can kill a tree in a fairly short time. Studies show that the nutritional benefit to livestock is much lower in a mature wooded pasture than in a grassland. The bottom line is that grazing can damage woodlands, provides inferior forage, and adversely affects wildlife habitat.

Burning. Many woodlands can benefit immensely from prescribed fire, but indiscriminate burning can severely damage forest integrity. Burning should be conducted only as detailed in "Woodland Protection with Prescribed Burning"

Mowing. Like grazing, mowing can destroy the understory. It should not be done except on a limited basis for specific management needs, such as controlling a brushy understory to promote wildflower growth, to control certain exotic problem species, and to maintain trails, access routes, or fire lanes. Mowing should not be done to promote the look of a city park or to keep a forest "cleaned up." Keep your forest a diverse wildlife haven. Buy Illinois land

Cutting. Cutting and wildlife management may be compatible; but only when done according to a specific plan. Random cutting can result in the removal of valuable trees and can destroy forest integrity. Cutting should be done only as detailed in "Woodland Protection with Timber Management" and "Woodland Protection with Selective Thinning".

Development. Moving to "the country" is an increasingly popular choice of people seeking to own a piece of nature and to escape the hassles of urban life. Development poses one of today's most serious threats to our state's remaining woodlands. Taking appropriate measures will minimize the impact of this trend.

If you're building a new home on property with woods, build in or near existing openings (the road, cropland, or grassland) rather than removing trees and fragmenting the forest for your homesite. Also plan your yard, garden, or orchard in or near these openings and near your home to leave a larger core of woodland intact.

If you must build in the woods, insist that contractors protect mature trees around your home, and have as little mowed yard as possible, This approach will provide some continuity with the forest and give your home shade, Avoid driving heavy equipment or piling dirt within twenty-five feet of trees you are keeping, Although mowing woodland around homesites may provide an appealing parklike setting, such disturbance should be avoided if woodland wildlife are desirable, It is cheaper, easier, and better for wildlife if humans keep rural woods as natural habitat.

If you're planning to construct trails or fire lanes in the woods, make them no wider than twenty feet, comprising no more than 5% of the woodland, Trails narrower than six feet are preferable, Minimize erosion by building trails across slopes instead of up and down them.

Try to avoid any tree cutting at your building site from April through July, which is the primary nesting season for most Illinois birds, When cutting in winter, check any trees slated for removal for wintering bats, squirrels, and other animals.

Be aware of non-native flowers and bushes that are known invaders of Illinois forest habitats, and don't plant species such as Amur and Tartarian honeysuckles.

Plant-Species Diversity and Mast Production

In general, the more monotypic your woody habitat, the less wildlife it can support. Plant-species diversity includes trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants, Different types of insects and other invertebrates use different plant species, and different plants produce assorted fruits and nuts at various times. A larger assortment of plants provides a more varied and dependable food supply throughout the year.

No single tree species should make up more than 90% of any woodland. Despite some exceptions in nature, there are general guidelines on diversity. For minimally acceptable wildlife habitat, at least ten species of trees and shrubs need to be present, with no one occupying more than half of the canopy cover. At least two species should be represented from each of the black oak, white oak, hickory, and soft mast groups. (See Table 4.2 for details on these groups.) In addition, at least ten seasonal forest floor (herbaceous) plants should be present. High-quality woods often contain dozens of herbaceous plants.

In addition to ensuring plant-species diversity in any woodland, you need to provide sufficient mast-producing trees; mast is one of the most important food sources for many wildlife species. Timber harvest and selective thinning can greatly alter how much mast is available in a woodland by changing the tree species, age class, and canopy composition. Before undertaking a timber harvest or thinning project, consider consulting with a forester or biologist to ensure that there will continue to be adequate mast production for wildlife after cutting.

Successional Stage or Age Class

Forests and woody areas of different ages will attract different species of wildlife; To evaluate your current habitat and define your goals, you need to know the different successional stages of woody habitat. Tree diameter is measured and expressed as "dbh," or diameter at breast height, to help create consistency in the way trees are measured.

Shrub/sapling is the early successional stage of a forest; it is often a field filled with shrubs and young tree seedlings. The seedlings are usually numerous at this point, all intensely competing for moisture, light, and nutrients. Of the hundreds that start out, perhaps ten to twenty will survive to dominate an acre of woodland. Hunting property for sale in Illinois

Pole timber stands with trees three to nine inches dbh are often dense, with a heavily shaded understory. If all the trees were planted at the same time or were established concurrently when land was abandoned, the trees in this stand will compete intensely for moisture and light.

Mature timber typically contains multiple layers of trees from the ground up to the canopy. Mature trees sixteen inches and more in diameter are scattered about in good proportion, and there is a full complement of seedlings, saplings, shrubs, and pole-size timber. Mast production should be at its peak in this stand. A few trees dominate the canopy, but they are not extremely old.

Old growth contains trees more than 100 years old plus seedlings, saplings, shrubs, and pole-size timber. Also present are a full measure of dens, snags, rotting logs, and abundant mast production to support a variety of wildlife.

If your objective is a diverse mosaic of forest in different successional stages, consider having 5% to 20% of the land as brushy habitat, pole timber, or both, with mature woodland and old growth each composing 30% to 60% of the site. If you are striving for large patches of a fairly uniform habitat, mature woodland or old growth can compose 100% of the site. Buy Illinois huntind land/property and farm ground

Structural Components

Dens and cavities, snags, logs, vines, leaf litter, and sometimes rocks or rocky outcrops are important structural components in forests and fencerows. Dozens of vertebrate species of Illinois wildlife are known to use hollow logs or tree cavities during some part of their life. Many use these cavities to bear their young; some use them for winter shelter. Some species prefer hollows in standing trees; others prefer them on the ground. In either location they are valuable forest and fencerow components. Snags offer dens for wildlife, and they harbor a plethora of juicy insects relished by many birds and reptiles. Table 4.3 details some of the wildlife that depend on snags.

To create minimally acceptable habitat, you should include in your woodland both den and snag trees. Some should be ten to twenty inches in diameter, and at least a few should be larger. For ideal habitat, a woodland should contain several den and snag trees per acre. See Table 4.4 for recommended levels of snag and den trees.
Remove no more than half of the logs that fall from normal limb loss and tree mortality for minimum wildlife habitat. To create optimal habitat, remove or destroy no more than 10% of the logs bigger than six inches in diameter.

Native fruit-producing vines provide valuable food for numerous animals, offer nesting sites for birds, and create canopy travel lanes for small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Retain all native vines, except where they are constricting the trunks of young crop trees selected for future mast production or where they have become dominant and are killing the tops of larger trees. Any non-native vines, such as Japanese honeysuckle and climbing euonymus, should be eradicated.

Rocks and rocky outcrops are locally present in many Illinois deer hunting counties, particularly in the south, west, and northwest. These rocky areas, which provide valuable habitat for many species of reptiles, amphibians, and mammals, should be kept intact. Rocks for landscaping and other purposes should be obtained from rock cuts, quarries, or other human-made sources.

Leaf litter serves many important functions in forests, shrub thickets, and fencerows. What a brushy fencerow provides in habitat to a rabbit or Bobwhite quail, leaf litter provides to some lizards, toads, and mice. It is a permanent home for many species and a nesting and foraging site for others. Leaf litter also helps regulate soil temperature and retains valuable moisture. And as the leaves decompose they return nutrients to the soil. Except when prescribed burning is appropriate, the leaf litter should remain undisturbed.

Many Illinois landowners are reluctant to plant new woodlands or expand existing ones because it takes so long to see the results. But insuring woodlands for the future is of paramount importance, even if those who planted them won't see the final results for years. Proper planning for establishing woodland promotes habitat development at the fastest possible rate. And of course shrub thickets and shrubby fencerow habitat will develop faster than forest habitat.

What type of cover should you establish? Consider the woody cover types mentioned earlier in this chapter.

For deciduous woodland, plant deciduous (broadleaf) trees and woodland wildflowers with the goal of eventually creating a forest. Create a savanna by planting widely spaced deciduous trees or thinning overgrown woodlands and by incorporating appropriate herbaceous plants.
To establish an evergreen grove, plant evergreen or coniferous trees to create a grove or windbreak.
To establish a wildlife fencerow, including corridors that connect other woodlands, plant strips of native shrubs or trees (or both) in open lands.
For a shrub thicket, establish clumps of native shrubs or small trees by planting or thinning to create brushy habitat.
For a shrub border, establish strips of native shrubs or small tref by planting or thinning at woodland edges to develop brushy wildlife habitat.
Determining what type of woody cover to plant depends on your objectives and the type of site you have. It is useful to determine what type of woody cover may have been present historically on or near your Illinois property.

Your specific objectives will dictate whether you plant a diversity of woody cover types or just one type. For high habitat diversity, you can use a combination of 5% to 20% shrubby cover, 5% to 70% evergreen cover, and 20% to 90% deciduous cover. However, since evergreen-dominated woodland is not a common natural community type in Illinois, we recommend that you limit coniferous plantings to a maximum of one-acre blocks. If you are managing for forest-interior species by trying to reduce forest fragmentation and your planting is "filling in" part of a larger forested tract, plant mostly deciduous trees with only an occasional conifer or shrub.

What Species to Plant

Once you have chosen what type of woody habitat to establish, you need to select species. This again largely depends on your site. Many trees and shrubs tolerate a wide range of conditions and will grow almost anywhere they are planted. But many species, while they may initially grow and look healthy, will develop problems if not planted on an appropriate site. For example, landscape plantings of pin oaks often do poorly. Pin oaks planted in alkaline soil, which includes many of the prairie soils, often suffer from a condition known as "foliar chlorosis." Leaves of affected trees turn yellow, and in a severe case the tree may die. Plant trees on appropriate sites. This promotes landscape health as well as re-creating some semblance of the original Illinois landscape. Refer back to the restoration guide early in this chapter for characteristic species in each woodland community type.

Spacing and Number of Plants

Once you've decided what species to plant, you can determine spacing. Deciduous tree} are typically planted in twelve-by-twelve-foot spacing. To mimic a more relaxed natural aesthetic, you can plant trees in a somewhat random manner. But keep in mind the area needed per tree to supply sunlight, water, and nutrients. Evergreens in a windbreak can be planted up to twenty feet apart; for a grove they can be planted as close as eight feet. Savannas were generally made up of scattered individual trees or clusters of trees; a random pattern with a spacing of twenty to fifty feet will help create savanna-like conditions. Shrubs generally require a four- to six-foot spacing for sufficient density. These spacing recommendations take into account the fact that in any planting a certain number of plants will die before maturity.

Another planting method that can be particularly effective is direct seeding of acorns and other tree seeds. The natural method of regeneration-trees growing from seed without being transplanted from their germination site-can often provide the best results for establishing a forest, savanna, or fencerow. Seedlings germinated on site will often do better than transplants. For information on seed selection, seeding rates, care, and planting, see Growing Illinois Trees from Seed in the suggested reading list at the end of this chapter.

Obtaining Plants

Unless you have a lot of time and money, the most practical way to do large plantings of small trees and shrubs is to use bare-root seedling stock. Potted or balled-and-burlapped trees and shrubs are expensive, can take considerable planting time, and require more care after they're planted.

By having your management plan written or approved by an Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) biologist or forester, you can obtain no-cost, bare-root seedlings. (However, the seedlings are sometimes limited, so you may not get all the trees or shrubs you need the first year you are ready to plant.) A limited selection of seedlings is also available from many Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) in spring and autumn. Bare-root stock is also available from mail-order nurseries and some local nurseries. When buying from commercial nurseries, be sure you're buying species native to Illinois land.

Acorns, hickory nuts, and other tree seeds may be collected from local trees. This option insures that your source is local and that the resulting trees are suited to your planting location. If you can't collect your seed or are planting a large site, you can also buy tree seed commercially.

If you are planting a small area and prefer to see your seedlings before placing them on the site, try raising your own in pots from acorns or other seed.

Planting Methods

If you are planting up to 500 tree and shrub seedlings or you have several people to help you plant larger quantities, you can use a tree-planting bar to accomplish the job. Figure 4.1 illustrates its recommended use. For plantings of more than 500, a tree-planting machine may be more efficient. To use a tree-planting machine, you must have seedling-sized bare-root stock.

Tree-planting machines are available for loan or hire from certain IDNR offices, SWCD offices, and local nurseries. A tractor is needed to pull the machine. If you don't have a tractor, the Farm Bureau or Natural Resources Conservation Service can suggest local farmers with tractors for hire. You can also hire a tree-planting contractor to do the entire job.

Acorns and other seeds may be planted by hand with a small spade or shovel. But, again, if large quantities arc involved, a planting machine is much more efficient. Acorn planters may be available at some IDNR offices or from local tree-planting contractors. Buy Illinois property

Prepare a Site for Planting

To prepare your woodland planting site, eliminate existing vegetation when possible, either by tillage or with herbicide. Treat four foot-wide strips where seedlings will be planted to provide a jumpstart for the young trees and shrubs. Woody plants have difficulty competing with sod. Besides competing vigorously for moisture and nutrients, some grass species are actually "allelopathic," meaning they prevent other plants from surviving near them by producing chemicals that inhibit other species' growth.

In some situations existing vegetation should not be entirely removed from a planting site. If the site is highly erodible, consider removing the existing vegetation only where each tree or shrub will be planted. And don't completely remove vegetation from sites composed of sandy soil or situated on exposed ridgetops or bluffs where winds will continually dry the ground. The loss of moisture through evaporation is actually more of a threat than the competition that existing vegetation poses to new seedlings, and some existing ground cover will help retain moisture on a dry site.

If you are using an acorn-planting machine, you must till the site before planting. Using the machine in thick sad or weeds will usually clog it, making planting i possible. If the site is highly erodible or dry, try tilling in strips across the slope rather than plowing up the entire field. This practice minimizes erosion.

If you are hand-planting with a tree-planting bar, you can plant into existing ground cover, although it is usually easier in bare soil. Figure 4.1 shows the proper root placement of seedlings. In sandy soil, if the soil is finely tilled and very dry, planting can be difficult because the sand slides back down and fills the slot before you can position the seedling. The easiest solution is to plantafter a rain, when moisture will help hold the sandy soil together.

Seedling Care

If bare-root seedlings arrive in a sealed bag, leave it closed until you are ready to plant. The seedlings can survive for five or six days in these bags as long as they are kept in a cool, shady place.

If you cannot plant the seedlings within a week, you have two alternatives for temporarily protecting them. You may put the unopened bag into a refrigerator, or you may remove the seedlings, separate the bundles, and "heel them in" to soil. Heeling in is accomplished by digging a trench deep enough to completely bury the roots, placing all the plants close to each other, and covering them with a layer of soil. Try to dig the trench in shade and near a water source so you can water the plants. Plants can be refrigerated or heeled in for a few weeks, but seedlings need to be planted by early May at the latest to survive summer heat and dryness.

Never allow the roots of seedlings to dry out or they will soon die. When you start planting, keep the plants in a bucket of water, but not for longer than six hours because the plants may suffocate. Illinois hunting property for sale

Protecting New Plantings

Newly planted trees and shrubs face numerous threats. Every care should be taken to insure optimal growing conditions for your new plants.

Visibility. Mark seedlings for easy relocation: tie bright treemarking ribbon on plants, or place wire-stake flags near them (or at least near the plant rows). Leave mowing room between seedling rows and nearby woods, fields, fences, and so on. Don't guess measure! More plantings fail because of poor weed control and the inability to easily find plants than for any other reasons.

Weed and grass control. Weeds can quickly rise to heights well above young tree or shrub seedlings, preventing light from penetrating and using up moisture and nutrients. Sod-forming grass can he a threat even more serious than most broadleaf weeds. Particularly threatening are thick grasses like fescue and brome, which not only compete for moisture and nutrients but can actually inhibit growth by "strangling" the seedlings above and below the ground. In addition, fescue is thought to exhibit allelopathic effects on surrounding plants by releasing chemicals that inhibit other plants' establishment and growth.

Mowing, mulching (where practical), and applying herbicides can all provide excellent weed control. Where grasses are thick, elimination by herbicide plus subsequent tillage may be the best choice. And in sandy soils or in any site during a drought year, some shading herbaceous cover around a new tree or shrub seedling can actually offer protection by retaining ground moisture and slowing moisture loss through leaves or needles.

Moisture. It is usually impractical to water large plantings of trees or shrubs. But if an unusually long drought occurs and you do have the means to water, identify the healthiest plants and water as many of those as possible.

Animal damage. Depending on seedling type and planting location, animals can pose serious threats to stand success. Mice and voles will gnaw on bark, and rabbits and deer will snip off the tops of seedlings. A number of chemical and mechanical repellents have been researched and found to have varying effectiveness. IDNR can provide details on types of repellents. If animal damage is a serious problem, try doing a little less weed control or mowing weeds higher to help hide young seedlings from browsing animals. For a planting of several acres, you may have to accept animal damage as part of the natural mortality of any stand of seedlings. Illinois hunting land

Tubular tree shelters can protect tree and shrub plantings and boost seedlings' growth by collecting moisture and concentrating sunlight. Though expensive, they may be well worth their cost. An alternative that requires less money but more of your preparation time is to remove the tops and bottoms of plastic two-liter soda bottles and place those around new seedlings. Two may be stacked together for more protection. These will offer an early advantage but not the long-term protection afforded by commercial tubular shelters.

Burning and cutting are the two common methods of maintaining and improving woodland habitat for wildlife. They can be used independently or together. Your woodland needs to be protected from all other types of disturbances, and the minimum criteria of plant species diversity, successional stage or age class, and structural components need to be met. All of these standard; collectively constitute a practice. The following practice sections discuss the appropriate Use of disturbances, burning, and cutting for woodland harvest and thinning objectives.

Woodland Protection with Selective Thinning

A woodland can benefit from selective thinning when it does not have a desirable mixture of trees, when too many trees are competing for space, or when it contains invasive exotics. Selective thinning may be used for wildlife crop tree management, where desirable trees are protected or released from competition from neighboring, less desirable species. Crop trees may be any species but often include softmast species such as persimmon, plum, and crabapple, hard-mast species such as oaks and hickories, and cavity formers such as sycamore, American elm, and post oak. For areas where shrubs are desired, such as shrub thickets, shrub borders, and wildlife fencerows with a shrub component, selective thinning should be used to control succession by removing competing or invading trees.

There are three methods of destroying targeted trees and shrubs: girdling, cutting, and herbiciding. These methods can be used together or separately. Illinois hunting property for sale.

Girdling involves cutting into and through a tree's bark to cut off the transfer of nutrients. This kills the tree standing, which can be desirable because it creates a snag. The tree will topple in time, but the process more closely mimics a natural situation. Girdling is generally used for stems more than ten inches in diameter. It is also the preferred method for thorny species like honeylocust because the thorns decompose with time, resulting in fewer "cleanup" problems.

Simple cutting is another way to eliminate unwanted woody species. Stems smaller than six inches in diameter are better cut than girdled.

Herbiciding can be done independent of girdling or cutting with shrubs and seedlings or sapling-size trees, usually as a foliar spray. But take extreme caution to prevent drip or drip or drift from killing non-target plants when conducting foliar applications. Where vegetation surrounding and under the undesired tree or shrub is substantial, the risk of herbicide destruction may warrant cutting down the tree rather than applying a foliar spray. Herbicides also often need to be applied to the cut or girdled surfaces of woody plants to prevent resprouting. Avoid cutting during nesting season and midwinter using the trees for nesting or overwintering. Whenever you cut, try to determine beforehand if larger trees contain bats, squirrels, owls or other roosting species. If animals are using a tree, monitor their presence and cut once the animals have permanently left.

If snags are lacking in your woodland, consider creating some by girdling or injecting herbicide into trees more than six inches in diameter.

A good use of materials cut down during management activities is to build brushpiles. Chapter 7, "Special Features," gives more details.

When planning your objectives for selective thinning, follow the guidelines in "Management Considerations" on disturbance, plant-species diversity and,mast production, successional stage or age class, and structural components.

Woodland Protection with Timber Management

While many people think that logging or cutting for wood products is never compatible with wildlife management, this isn't the case. The activity is harmful only when there isn't enough optimal woodland wildlife habitat or when wildlife considerations have not been carefully woven into the timber-cutting plan. To ensure wildlife needs are met, keep the following points in mind when cutting for lumber or firewood:

Time your cut carefully. Avoid harvesting during the prime nesting se son of April through July. Fall and late winter are the best times to cut, but many wildlife species overwinter in trees. Before harvest, determine if larger trees scheduled to be cut contain bats, squirrels, owls, or other roosting species. If possible, do not cut the tree until any animal using it has left. If harvesting the tree is unavoidable, try to encourage the animal to leave before cutting. However, be aware that disturbing most animals during hibernation or roosting will typically stress them seriously-often causing death.
Maintain at least seven den trees and snags per acre. Standing dead trees are often of little value as firewood or lumber, but they are of great value to wildlife.
Do not clearcut. Selective harvest is the method acceptable for many landowners. Clearcutting fragments and alters the infrastructure of the forest, causes the soil temperature to rise, and increases soil erosion in the watershed. However, if your aim is to encourage oak regeneration, selective harvesting of individual trees may not open up the canopy enough to let in sufficient light for oak seedlings to thrive. Group cutting may be in order here; a small group of several trees are cut to allow more light penetration. Contact an IDNR district forester for guidance.
Leave enough existing trees of all age classes and species to provide a continued variety of habitat and food sources for wildlife. Also be sure to leave some select "parent" trees, especially of highly important species like the oaks, as a future seed source.
If possible, designate a portion of your forest as "old growth" and leave it permanently unharvested.
Remember to follow the guidelines in the earlier "Management Considerations" sections.
If you're working with a commercial timber harvester, sign a contract that specifies the terms you want and which trees are to be harvested. Incorporate language that ensures minimal damage to remaining trees and the forest floor. Otherwise you may find your woodland severely damaged. Using an IDNR forester is highly recommended. These foresters provide timber harvest advice to Illinois landowners at no cost.

Woodland Protection with Prescribed Burning

Current studies and historical research have shown that fire benefits most Illinois forests, especially the oak-hickory communities. This does not contradict what we have been taught by Smokey the Bear to prevent uncontrolled forest fires. The key here is controlled, or prescribed, fire. Before European settlement, most Illinois landscapes were shaped by periodic fire. But more recently, fire has been suppressed by the elimination of the high-fuel habitats like prairie and by widespread campaigns against "wildfires." This has resulted in ecological changes in our plant communities, including many forests, which need some fire to thrive. The reintroduction of prescribed fire into some forest ecosystems has yielded very positive results.

Savannas in Illinois were completely fire dependent. Without fire, the savanna would often eventually succeed to a closed-canopy forest. Restoring or re-creating a savanna requires periodic burning.

Since fire disturbance is by prescription, it shouldn't be conducted without a purpose. Prescribed fire should be incorporated into an overall Illinois land management plan; your objectives will determine the location and timing of the burn. Burning can be used to benefit woodlands in three ways: to control- invasion of exotic species, such as bush honeysuckles, garlic mustard, and Japanese honeysuckle; to thin stands of maple and other shade-tolerant species while making conditions favorable for regenerating oak seedlings; and to regenerate herbaceous forest-floor species such as woodland wildflowers. In savannas, fire maintains the herbaceous ground cover, which is often composed of prairie plants. Prairie also needs fire to thrive (see chapter 2).

Prescribed burning requires preplanning and fire management training. For guidance on how to plan and conduct a prescribed burn, see Conducting Prescribed Burns in the suggested reading list.

No more than half of a woodland should be burned at anyone time, and burning should be done only from late October through early April to avoid the prime nesting season. In the southern half of the state, wildflowers begin to emerge in March, so burning activities may need to end earlier than April. When planning your objectives for prescribed burning, follow the guidelines in "Management Considerations" on disturbance, plant-species diversity and mast production, successional stage or age class, and structural components.

Sometimes woodlands can benefit from interplanting – the introduction or addition of desired plants, either alone or in conjunction with selective thinning, timber management, or prescribed burning. Seedling trees, shrubs, or woodland wildflowers and forbs can be interplanted.

A woodland that has been grazed or originated from an abandoned crop field or pasture may contain numerous plant species that do not provide optimal wildlife cover or food. It may also lack the important wildflower component or contain mostly disturbance tolerant species like poison ivy or exotic, invasive species like garlic mustard and Japanese honeysuckle. A site like this will need to be "opened up" by removal of undesirable trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants. You can eliminate unwanted vegetation with the methods described earlier. If you are leaving trees in your planting area, be sure not to plant new trees close to the existing ones. Shading and nearby root competition both can hinder the growth of the newly planted trees. Once there is physical spa e to intr9duce the new plants, determine what is needed to improve the plant-species diversity of the site. Be sure to use only native species appropriate to the site.

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