Winter 2019-2020 Serpentine Ecosystem Restoration Wrap-up!

Invasive Virginia pines are "girdled" to prevent their spread inside SDNEA
At long last, here is our final wrap-up of the 2019-20 Winter Restoration Season!  Although we had to shorten it a bit, we were still able to accomplish quite a lot, and we had a little help from a small wildfire.

This restoration season, 26 volunteers donated 261 hours toward the restoration and maintenance of the serpentine oak savanna. 171 hours were spent lopping small pine seedlings along the serpentine trail and in openings on the southwest side. Lopping the small seedlings is vital to keeping the grassland openings open. Until we can remove all the seed sources, i.e. larger pines, lopping is our best method for clearing possible piney intruders on a yearly basis.

The remaining 90 hours were spent with our "power" team; no, they are not more powerful than non-team members.  They just are certified to run power tools (chainsaws or string trimmers/brush cutters) on public lands.*  The power team girdled a LOT of large pines that are just too big to run through our aged chipper, which has since gone to the chipper graveyard. Girdling will kill the seed sources to prevent new seedlings. The dead trees also provide habitat for cavity-nesting birds and the insects they love to eat.

An additional unplanned restoration day occurred on January 21 when a small grass fire broke out on the east side of the property, near the powerline.  It burned slowly and did not impact any of the forest. The Baltimore County Fire Department was called and contained the fire, using hand tools and bladder bags. About 10.8 acres burned. Check out the friends group's webpage for more details:

The good news is that this fire was the type of fire that the grasslands evolved to handle. Many young pine seedlings were killed, maintaining the opening. And the grasses are already coming back just fine. Hike to where the red trail meets the orange trail near the powerline and you can see for yourself.

So... despite a few setbacks, we managed to reach the majority of our restoration goals this winter. Well done, YOU!

We are working on some additional projects for the coming restoration season in December. Additionally, there is the matter of the invasive wavyleaf basketgrass that will need some attention in late July and early August. Stay tuned for more on that hot topic!

Many, many thanks to all who came out and killed trees for conservation! We cannot do this without you. Your efforts, both physical and metaphysical, are valued beyond the mere hourly rate we can claim as match for government grants. Knowing that there are citizens who will give of their time and effort to restore  rare ecosystems like Soldiers Delight means we are not alone in recognizing the impact this place, and all natural places, have on our health and well-being. When we work together with common purpose, we can protect our natural world for future generations. And to those of you who brought your kids, big thanks for passing on the sense of worth and wonder that comes with being a part of nature.

Til we meet again, wash your hands and be well, at a distance!


* If you are interested in joining our power team, you will need to complete a training course in the use of chainsaws, either through MD State Parks or through Wildland Firefighter training, or some other training program that meets government specs.  Interested?  Let's talk.

Paula Becker
Outreach Ecologist/Volunteer Coordinator
MD Wildlife and Heritage Service
Department of Natural Resources
580 Taylor Ave., E-1
Annapolis, Maryland 21401

(410) 260-8568 (O)
(410) 897-7523 (M)
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