It’s a good time for a walk in the woods

It’s a good time for a walk in the woods

In A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold calls the flight song of the upland plover “the final proof of spring” — after the dandelions have “set their mark on Wisconsin pastures.” We are uniquely blessed to be part of the flight path that brings so many species of migrating birds through the Killbuck Valley — though the plovers we get are more likely to be killdeer than sandpipers — and at least we have plenty of Holmes County dandelions in our yards and pastures to make sure we all know spring is finally here.

While many of us are grateful just for the longer days and rising temps, the springtime display of May in Ohio gives us as many excuses as we need to enjoy the outdoors. And though a Holmes County pasture may be postcard material and spring fishing may be the antidote to a winter cooped up indoors, the forests have a little bit of something for everyone. Whether you’re hunting turkeys, morels or the perfect photo of woodland wildflowers, an escape to the woods can remind us why no one migrates away from here in May.

However, like all land around here, our woods reflect how they’ve been treated. A well-managed stand of trees will exhibit a diverse array of species and creates habitat for a variety of wildlife while retaining and utilizing the rain that falls onsite. The soil in well-managed woods is very different than soils that developed under grassland conditions and is dark and full of humus and the small critters that cycle decaying leaves into nutrients for the plants above.

Unfortunately, well-managed woodlots are becoming more of a rarity. Our tree populations are under threat from a variety of introduced diseases, pests and invasive competitors. Soil erosion from trails destroyed by recreational equipment or after a timbering job can be just as bad, if not worse, than that from crop fields or construction sites if it is not specifically managed for. And as timbering goes, if the logger is not harvesting the trees with the goal of maintaining the overall health of that woods for long-term maintenance or improvement, you can quickly find yourself the owner of a site that no longer generates the multitude of benefits to people and the environment, but is a source of frustration and degradation that could take decades to mitigate.

Because there are so many woodlots throughout Holmes County, spanning the management spectrum, it has become a priority for our office to offer education and assistance to landowners who want to change the way their woods are managed. Our next forestry workshop will be co-conducted by David Hershberger from Hillcrest Lumber, as well as our partners at Tuscarawas SWCD and the Ohio Division of Forestry.

We have the opportunity to visit a managed timber lot just outside of Millersburg that has undergone a recent tree harvest. Hillcrest employs a variety of best management practices when timbering, and they will be on hand to discuss their process when working with landowners to deliver a satisfactory result for all parties. An ODNR forester also will discuss the possibilities for nontimber forest products or benefits, and your SWCDs will present on the importance of soil health from a forestry perspective.

This workshop is open to the public and will be held May 24 from 6-8 p.m. at 5850 County Road 333, Millersburg. There will be signage to direct you to the site, and please RSVP to the SWCD office at 330-674-2811 if you’d like to attend.

Karen Gotter is watershed coordinator for the Killbuck Creek in Holmes County with the Holmes SWCD. She can be called at 330-674-2811.

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