Easter Lake South Shore Woodland Restoration Project

Easter Lake South Shore Woodland Restoration Project 2020 - 2024

Polk County Conservation and Iowa DNR unite to conduct timber stand improvement (TSI) on 43.6 acres of hardwood timber on the south shore of Easter Lake. This area is overgrown with multiple invasive species (honeysuckle, oriental bittersweet, green briar, and garlic mustard). This project will include several practices to restore this woodland including removal of invasive species, crop tree release and prescribed fire over the span of 4-5 years.

1930’s aerial photos were analyzed prior to the woodland inventory. The inventory looked at invasive species pressure, species composition and size. Crop trees that will be saved were then selected (Bur oak, Red Oak, White Oak, Shagbark Hickory and Walnut. These crop trees are typically high-value mast-producing specie that have superior structure and will provide food for wildlife and seed for future generations of crop trees.

The targeted area of woodland has been divided into various stands, each with a specific management goal and a prescription to meet the overall goals of:

  • Improving infiltration of storm water due to increasing a healthy native herbaceous understory
  • Reducing nutrient load into Easter Lake
  • Improving wildlife habitat and use, subsequently increasing opportunity for public to view wildlife
  • Improving public use opportunity for wildflower viewing, mushroom hunting, etc.)

Point Of Contact

Cassie Cook cook@polkcountyiowa.gov & Amanda Brown amanda.brown@polkcountyiowa.gov

Fall 2020
South Shore Timber Stand: Before Woodland Restoration

This 43.6-acre area is overgrown with multiple invasive species such as honeysuckle, oriental bittersweet, green briar, and garlic mustard. The dense thicket of invasives reduces the quality of wildlife habitat and prevents sunlight from reaching the forest floor to invigorate a healthy understory. This results in a forest floor with bare soils that are easily washed away into nearby Easter Lake during rain events.

Forest Mowing & Stump Spraying
Winter 2020 - Summer 2021
First Winter Forest Mowing

During the first winter of the project, a forester mower cut down invasive & undesirable species in targeted areas that were under 6" diameter at breast height. Stumps were then immediately sprayed with an herbicide. The following summer, a second mowing was conducted to cut down any resprouts followed by another herbicide spray on stumps.

Manual Removal, Mow and Spray
Fall 2021- Winter 2021
Man and Machine Working Together to Tackle The Thicket of Resprouts

Polk County Conservation and staff united manually to tackle the last of the invasives in hard-to-reach areas and areas of regrowth. It took a combination of saws, loppers, a lawn mower and mulcher to get the job done! If you would like to be involved in future woodland restoration opportunities, check out our EVENTS page for upcoming volunteer dates!

Picturesque Progress
Spring 2022
First Spring of Regrowth After Invasives Removal

The spring of 2022 boasted stunning rewards for all the effort PCC Staff and volunteers invested into this 43.6-acre site. Reducing invasives in this area allowed for gallery of beautiful spring ephemerals to be enjoyed along Easter Lake's woodland trails. Phlox, Turtlehead, Virginia Spring Beauty, and Burr Oak seedlings carpet the forest floor. Check back in next spring to see what new flowers we find growing!

Crop Tree Release
Winter 2022
Making Room for the Future Generations

Upon removal of smaller (less than 6" dbh) invasive/undesirable trees and shrubs, crews will be dispatched to complete removal of invasive/undesirable species and to selectively remove all competing trees around "crop" trees. Crop trees are typically high-value mast-producing species (oak, hickory, walnut, etc.) that have superior structure. These specimens provide food for wildlife and seed for future generations of crop trees. It is important to note that oaks, hickories and walnuts are shade-intolerant species and consequently germination will be poor or nonexistent in areas with heavy mid-story component.

Tune in soon!
Winter 2023
Prescribed Forest Fire

In order to maintain control of invasive species and less-desirable shade-tolerant tree species, a prescribed fire will be employed at regular intervals to promote the recycling of nutrients bound up in leaf material while also. Increasing soil temperature due to removal of shading and blackening of soil surface; this favors woodland wildflowers/spring ephemerals to germinate and emerge. Removal of down dead wood will also allow easier access for future management, however PCC will leave a sufficient amount of dead wood to preserve the diversity that depends on its existence (insects, fungus, etc.).

Limitations on burning due to the sites urban location may necessitate the use of alternative to prescribed burning such as grazing and/or mowing.

Check Back In to See the Final Product!
Spring 2024
South Shore Timber Stand: After Regrowth of a Healthy Forest Understory



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