Land management at Riveredge consists of maintaining prairies, forests, riparian habitats, and a variety of wetland complexes. To maintain this wide array of habitats, RNC staff and volunteers use best management practices to keep the high diversity of native species and to keep the invasive species at bay. The two primary categories of managed habitats include prairies and forests; however, we do manage specific habitats such as the habitat where the endangered swamp metalmark butterfly exists and the WI State Natural Area that encompasses a large area of our sanctuary.
All of the established prairies at RNC (some more than 40 years old) are maintained through continual care by the Habitat Healers and RNC staff. Management activities include transplanting seedlings, over-seeding areas with low diversity of plants, prescribed burns, removal of invasive and other woody vegetation and various other land management tasks.
Prairies are one of the primary habitats that are managed at the sanctuary due to the pristine nature and importance of the ecosystem. Our prairies are burned, ideally, on a 3-5 year rotation. This allows organisms refuge in years that relocation is not necessary. Due to unpredictable weather conditions from year to year, some years we are able to burn more areas than in other years.
Besides burning, Riveredge has experimented with several other methods to slow succession; strategies include cutting and dabbing invasive and non-invasive woody species, managing aspen clones, and seasonal grazing by goats.
The emerald ash borer has reached as far west as Colorado; more locally, Dane County just announced that they have found EAB in Madison. Here at Riveredge, we have been dealing with the little green insect since 2008 when it was first announced that it had been found in Wisconsin. Due to the devastating effects of the emerald ash borer (EAB) on Riveredge’s ash population since then, a multi-year logging process has begun on the property. Adaptive Restoration, an ecological consulting organization that specializes in forestry management, conducts the logging using one of the least intrusive methods, draft horses.
Forest Management Planning
In addition to logging, in 2014, Riveredge was chosen as one of five nature centers in WI in a pilot program to help nature centers establish or update their forest management plans and implement land management practices in the context of enhancing environmental education programming. The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point obtained a grant through UW-Cooperative Extension from the USDA’s Sustaining the Nation’s Forest and Rangeland Resources for Future Generations: The Renewable Resources Extension Act (RREA) Program. Potential future projects include reviewing existing plans by outside experts and updating with recommendations, looking at educational opportunities for ash management, research/stewardship opportunities involving earth worms and the lack of forest floor regeneration, as well as some ideas about the aquatic habitats throughout the sanctuary.
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