The Rivers Project Office in West Alton, Mo., is conducting its first timber sale and harvest in order to promote the establishment of early successional floodplain forest along the Mississippi River. The objective of this project is to improve forest health and enhance habitat for a variety of wildlife. Bids are now open to the public.
How does cutting down trees improve forest health? Well, we first need to understand a problem that is affecting much of our floodplain forests: decline in the diversity of forest communities, like cottonwood and sycamore. These forest communities are critical to the survivorship of many wildlife species of concern, mainly Indiana bats and nesting colonial waterbirds and bald eagles. Cottonwood-sycamore forest communities rely upon disturbances and removal of forest canopy in order to regenerate. A forest can be defined by its layers and the ages of its trees. We have an abundance of native trees that are in the late successional stage (maple-ash-elm), meaning they are older and have a developed canopy.
We are using the timber sale to conduct a seed tree harvest. Essentially, a defined area of the forest, called a stand, will have all its trees cut except for a few mature, healthy trees of the species we would like to regenerate. By cutting down trees, we open up the forest floor to sunlight – an essential requirement for tree seedlings to grow. The trees left behind in the harvest act as a seed bank. The thousands of seeds they produce will land in the areas cleared by the harvest. These seeds have a significantly higher chance of germinating and growing due to increased access to sunlight, and because we leave behind only trees of a certain species, there will hopefully be an increase in the seedlings of those species.
This improves habitat for wildlife species in many ways. Cottonwood trees grow big and fast and don’t live very long. Their height and size prove excellent habitat for the rookeries and nests of a variety of colonial bird species such as blue herons and egrets. Large raptors such as bald eagles need large nests and trees that can bear the weight of these nests. Dying cottonwoods also provide important roosting trees for the endangered Indiana bat. This species has suffered greatly due to habitat loss and the spread of White Nose Syndrome.
The timber will be sold through a bidding process, and the bids are open for comment to the public. Once the bid winner is announced, they will work with our foresters to harvest the timber on the select stands. Funds will come back to the Rivers Project Office and will be used to improve forest and wildlife habitat.
To see more information about the bids, follow these links: https://www.mvs.usace.army.mil/Portals/54/docs/regulatory/FULL%20IFB.ST.%20LOUIS.MO.DACW38-9-20-45.pdf
If you have any additional questions or comments about these timber sales, please contact Rivers Project head forester at: (636) 899-0074.