Abandoned Field Reclamation
MassWildlife's Upland Program is attempting to reclaim early-successional habitats throughout the state by setting back succession on many abandoned field areas using machines such as the Brontosaurus, T-rex and other landclearing machines. The Brontosaurus and the T-rex, two appropriately named machines, can efficiently mulch or "eat" a standing tree up to six inches in diameter. Tree shears, machines that grip and snip trees off at the stump and lay them in piles, handle what the others can't.
Landclearing companies are generally contracted to perform this work. Even though much clearing does take place, not all trees and shrubs are cut from a project area. Many trees and shrubs that provide valuable food and cover for wildlife are specifically retained. Some of these include dogwoods, viburnums, serviceberry, cherries, and various oaks, among others. However, invasive exotic plants are specifically targeted for control.
Many shrubs and trees such as serviceberry (left) are retained for the wildlife food and cover resources that they provide. However, invasive exotic plants, including asiatic bittersweet (right), are specifically targeted for control.
Invasive Exotic Plant Control
Invasive exotic plants are those that have been purposefully or unintentionally introduced into an area where they are not native. Aldo Leopold, father of wildlife management in this country once said, "Good or bad is not a matter of species, it is a matter of numbers." This certainly holds true for invasive exotic plants. There are approximately 900 introduced plant species in Massachusetts. Most are benign and are enjoyed by many as landscape and garden plants. However, others spread rapidly, become difficult to control or eradicate, and degrade our natural communities by outcompeting native species for resources. European and glossy buckthorn, multiflora rose, Asiatic bittersweet, autumn olive, and purple loosestrife are just a few examples of invasive exotic species that are causing ecological damage throughout the state. In fact, invasive exotics have been implicated in contributing to the decline of 42% of those species listed as threatened or endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
This old hayfield in western Massachusetts is dominated by glossy buckthorn sprouts.
The Upland Program strives to control invasive exotic plants on all project sites. Various control options are weighed for each project site. In most cases, herbicides are used since they provide the most effective means of controling invasive exotic plants. Other, non-chemical techniques will work in some instances (e.g., hand-pulling of seedlings). However, when root systems become well developed, techniques like pulling become less effective and can even contribute to a worse invasion. Mature root systems are difficult to pull out entirely. If root segments are left in the soil, they will often times resprout. Additionally, the soil disturbance created after pulling out a plant, creates a perfect bed for seeds of invasive exotic plants to germinate. Check the "links" and "references" sections for more information on invasive exotic plants and how to control them.
Herbicide applications are typically done by contractors licensed and certified by the Massachusetts Pesticide Bureau within the Department of Food and Agriculture (MDFA). Only those herbicides approved by the MDFA and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection for use in sensitive areas are used. Sensitive areas include areas within 400 feet of a public ground water supply well, within 100 feet of a public surface water supply, within 50 feet of private water supplies, within 10 feet of surface waters and wetlands, and within agricultural and habitated areas. All other federal, state, and local regulations are also followed including the Wetlands Protection Act.
Photos by (in order of appearance): Bill Byrne; remainder by Jim Oehler.