As a way to increase the potential of the natural resources at Treasure Lake, we employ numerous techniques to enhance ecological niches so that creatures of all sorts can abound. Whether its felling trees into the lake or developing diverse zones of habitat, this property has been managed over the years to promote biodiversity. Seeing the wildlife of the eastern decidous forest or hooking our native fishes is quite a rush and we passionately dedicate ourselves to this development.
With our rebuilding of the lake in 2001, we created an earthen impoundment that covers around 15 acres of land. It snakes around the valley creating a diversity of habitat through its irregular shaped coastline and varying depths. To enhance this, we have utilized the habitat enhancement technique known as edge. Creatures demand niches and by creating this edge, a transition zone from one space to another, creatures find the shelter, foods, and optimal conditions for their life cycles. This edge mainly comes through woody material being added to the lake to give them cover and you better fishing opportunities. Furthermore, we stock the lake to replenish fish populations and bring fish in that wouldn’t normally persist in these waters like Channel Catfish. We do plan to create spawning conditions for these soft bellied, shark-like fish so that their numbers can reproduce through breeding in cavities.
With our mainly wooded hillsides that surround the lake we have optimal conditions for selecting numerous trees out each year to fell into the lake. This is a stepped process, one that evolves over time and allows for a natural rhythm of opening of canopy and its eventual closing happening at a pace that is sustainable. We choose trees on selected knolls that will fall deep into the lake while others give cover in coves. Freshwater fish need “coral reefs” to flourish and these trees in the water give a 3-dimensional edge to for both predator and prey. The slides below show this process and the fishermans reputed success near these structures keeps us going slowly year after year.
Another form of this is to cut brush and small trees and pile them on the lake when it is frozen. To reach the space away from the bank to enhance fishing conditions, material is drug out onto the lake during cold winters. It is piled and interlocked so that when the lake unthaws it falls in place or moves slightly with the underwater contours. As it sinks, edge is created and fisherman can enjoy fishing both from the banks or boats towards this fish attractors.
With so much diversity in animal world including reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals, the lake and its surrounding forest and fields are a magnet for this beautiful gift of this particular ecosystem: the eastern deciduous forest, mixed mesophytic oak hickory forest type. When managing for wildlife in the forest,we try to leverage exactly this, the mixed nature of the forest and its inherent layered approach to abundance. Indeed the overstory is Oak and Hickory and because we have rich bottomlands we also encourage the black walnut. These mast trees form a rich protein source for mammals like squirrels, waterfowl like wood ducks, and the prehistoric looking ground bird of the Wild Turkey.
To facilitate this diverse overstory, we have felled trees both from these species types but also beyond. Our forest, due to poor past land management, are completely overstocked and to push the old growth feel we must select trees out each which we have been doing for the last 15 years. To achieve true densities of old growth in terms of trees per acre, we have slowly been cutting some of the trees from all the different layers. Some are sold
for timber, some are felled into the lake for fish habitat , some are cut for firewood, while others form brush piles. We are working diligently to reduce the competition from non-native species like bush honeysuckle and multiflora rose. We choose to see them as assets in building a carbon rich soil so over the years we have been choosing not to burn them or poison them. Instead cutting them and making brushpiles in big circles, usually involving other down trees to encourage wildlife, or we place them on contour. The later helps to slow water descent through the forest thus supporting an even more rich fungal dominated soil. Some invasives are kept as they are good wildlife habitat and the original intent behind their planting. They do regrow and we do go through the labor intensive process of cutting them back but with good sharp hand tools its not too much different than weeding a garden in our jungle like forest of Kentucky. They tend to come in waves and as we cut the honeysuckle back, the multifora rose comes through strong. However, over the years we have seen a marked increase in paw paw thickets and patches of spicebush to name a few.
We also plan to plant in more natives and mast trees. The chestnut once dominated our eastern forests and the natives of north america also did this selective thinning. They highly encouraged the chestnut as its nutrition and wildlife fattening are fabulous. Europeans are still fattening livestock such as pigs on chestnuts but now that the Chinese chestnuts have come to the states, we are looking to develop edge plantings. Other edge plantings will include more native soft fruits and nuts such as Serviceberry, grafted paw paw, persimmon, hazel, mulberry, sumac and hawthorn.
Diversity of habitats:
With the lake being such a prominent feature and its proximity to the Ohio River, we again are blessed by such a splended variety of wildlife. To further encourage this we try and maintain several stages of succession to fully encourage a complete lineup for your viewing. Succession refers to the landscapes push from grasslands to scrubby brambles, to small trees and eventually grand forests. Thus we maintain fields with mown grass, higher grass and forbs, bramble edges, and forest ages of several types. Further extending a few forest clearings from our light timber logging in 2012 will help create more edge, which the deer and turkey are sure to love.
Non timber forest products:
Currently we do practice several techniques for the betterment of non timber forest products and plan to expand this dramatically. First is the production and preservation of medicinal herbs. Our eastern forests contain some of the most potent in the whole botanical world and need to be stewarded more and more for this quality and the inherent bio-diversity it calls for. Currently we have threatened plants like bloodroot, which is delightful sight in early spring with its ancient leaf from and elegant white flower. We hope to get patches of edibles like ramps going as well as medicinals goldenseal and cohosh. We would try ginseng but with all the trouble and risk of others digging it up before its ready, we will wait some years on that one.
Other obvious NTFP’s include recreation and biodiversity in general. The yield of wildlife is an obvious advantage to properly stewarding forests. With the plentitude of fruits, nuts and seeds that the forest produces, wildlife abound from this seasonal rhythm of bounty.
We plan to also implement mushroom cultivation to further our old growth and biodiversity aims. We are completely overstocked with red maple and plan to turn our 4-8 inch, super tall, already delimbed trees into mushrooms such as shiitake. These mushrooms have become popular in American cuisine and are often found at health food shops and more and more farmers markets. This tendency of forest to be overstocked with maples limits our paw patches and forest undergrowth because of its dense colonization. In other words it grows like an invasive although it is indeed native. We like to utilize our invasives as resources, as we embody “work with nature rather than against”, and plan to do so with this species as well.
We aim to incorporate livestock into our landscape one day to replace some of the mechanical and human power to maintain later stages of succession. Currently we expel energy in keeping grassy areas open for aesthetics and recreation opportunities. This could of course also be done by sheparding sheep through as their tight grazing would give a similar look to the lawnmower. Goats also can help us to manage the invasive honeysuckle and multiflora rose. As we have been cutting the honeysuckle back, we do so at hip or knee height with the aim of goats have an easy forage in the future. They will help us maintain edges around the lake and sheparding the goats with the sheep will give us a good balance of disturbance but not pollution through using biological resources. Meat or milk is a great by product and it allows us to capitalize on all of the hard work we have been doing over years to maintain succession.
We also plan to incorporate pigs into the forest and fields over the years. Our forests abound with nuts and it can be like an ice skating rink underneath the hickory trees in the fall. Thus using electric fence and rotational grazing at this time will allow us to fatten pigs and lightly disturbed the ecosystem. This light disturbance can actually help to increase biodiversity as new seeds are brought back to the top and much needed organic matter is added back to the soil.
In our planning and management efforts we are also using a technique called Permaculture Design. Developed by Australians in the 70’s in response to changing local climates, environmental degradation, and the fuel shortage, David Holmgren and Bill Mollison developed a planning tool based on ecological principles. These principles come from their innate understanding of how ecosystems inherently work. They can be seen as space and time patterns that form symbiotic relationships.
Above all it is a design tool that seeks to bring energy efficiency and abundance of yield. Thus we are leveraging this modern day planning process for the development of the property. It has lead us to forest farming, forestry, access planning, earthworks, and tree crops. Along with permaculture comes integrated animal systems, organic gardening, and living off the grid as much as possible.