The following article offers a glimpse of the good work that happens after DNR awards grants through its Weed Management Area – Private Forest Grant Program (WMA-PFGP). Dick Ballou, the driving force of the Cedar Lake Buckthorn Project, takes us through his efforts to raise awareness of that forest scourge -common buckthorn- and control its spread. The next application deadline for WMA-PGRP grants is April 1, 2018. More information on applying for the grant can be found here.
Imagine the frustration of eagerly awaiting your opening day of deer hunting, having your stand in a perfect location and learning at daybreak that the woods around your stand are not as you expected? Several years ago, I prepared for bow hunting and found a perfect location for the deer stand, except for one small problem, a 20-foot tall tree full of leaves. Thinking the tree’s leaves would be gone by mid-October, I placed the stand nearby and went home. Returning in October, the “perfect” location was seriously compromised by the same tree – full of leaves – obstructing my view. Later, I learned the tree was invasive common buckthorn that currently threatens woodlots from New England to Wisconsin and beyond. This experience led me to start the Cedar Lake Buckthorn Project and create this video on buckthorn control.
I learned from DNR’s Ryan Magana that buckthorn was indeed a major concern and while present almost a century, it experienced a recent surge. Fast growing, it soon crowds out native plants and creates a ‘wall of trees’ up to 30 feet high. While not immediately affecting mature trees, there is no room underneath for other plants, including tree seedlings to grow. Moreover, the dense growth soon makes travel impossible for man and deer. Buckthorn’s negative impact on valuable land used for forestry, hunting or nature walks is soon evident.
Next, I decided to learn about control methods as buckthorn had taken over many woodlots in our little town of Mikana. Ryan Magana spoke to the lake association and there was immediate interest in somehow getting help. Apparently, I volunteered! Donations went into a Buckthorn eradication account the town board created and a ‘tool shed’ at the town shop was stocked with equipment and supplies for buckthorn control. With help from a grant from DNR Weed Management Area – Private Forest Grant Program (WMA-PFGP), workshops were conducted over the next few years. Now 150 landowners control buckthorn and the issue has gained attention from Whitetails Unlimited, Quality Deer Management Association and The Ruffed Grouse Society.
It was soon apparent that quality training materials were limited to a few short videos, commercial advertising and some brochures. Encouraged by Ryan Vanlanduyt, the director of Rice Lake Media; Jeremy Peterson, a teacher from the Northern Lakes Regional Academy; and another WMA-PFGP award, the Cedar Lake Project set to work developing a training video for buckthorn control.
The video was a school year project for high school juniors Abril Jimenez-Alcaraz and Liam Nelson. They created the outline and narrative for the video while learning the video production, participating in buckthorn eradication training, taking hundreds of pictures of buckthorn in all seasons and matching them to the narrative during several revisions. Ryan Vanlanduyt, Jeremy Peterson, Ryan Magana and Rod Olson, a buckthorn colleague, helped me oversee the project.
Landowners looking for information on buckthorn identification and control methods can easily access the training video linked above or visit the DNR website for common buckthorn.
Written by: Dick Ballou, volunteer with the Cedar Lake Buckthorn Project.
Author bio: Dick Ballou grew up hunting and fishing in southern Vermont which led to a deep appreciation of being in the woods. A favorite job during and after high school was being part of a tree crew working in a futile effort to maintain stately American elm trees on private property in the face of Dutch elm disease. After college, Dick enjoyed a career as a school psychologist and special education director in Kansas and Wisconsin. He continues to enjoy hunting and fishing as well as his new volunteer job with the Cedar Lake Buckthorn Project. His goal is to raise awareness of the negative impacts of buckthorn on all woods, especially those dedicated to hunting. He wants his children and grandchildren to enjoy the woods as he experienced them.