After completing phase one of a 10-year stewardship plan designed to remove invasive eastern red cedar trees and restore the glade habitat in a large portion of Roaring River State Park's wild area, staff members conducted prescribed burns in 650 acres of the wild area this year.
"We are currently in the clean-up phase," said Tim Smith, Roaring River naturalist. "The cedar trees have been cut and burnt. Now we are going back and stacking the cedar remains, or cedar slash, and burning those."
In November of 2011, staff members began walking through the wild area collecting slash in and around the 171 acres of glade area where the cedar trees were cut over the last few years. Smith hopes to see all of the slash cleared from the areas by mid-April.
"Now that the cedar trees have been eliminated from those areas we will be able to let fire play a role in maintaining the ecosystems," said Smith.
The wild area around Roaring River was once a glade area. As more settlers moved into the surrounding area, fire became more controlled, which eliminated its role in maintaining the natural ecosystem, said Smith.
With all of the eastern red cedars removed from the designated areas, Roaring River staff members will conduct prescribed burns in the areas each year in order to maintain the glade ecosystem.
"We have divided the areas into three units," said Smith. "Each unit will be burned every three to five years. We will work on a rotation schedule, and some other units will be mixed into that rotation."
By maintaining the areas with fire, the park will eliminated the need to cut invasive species of trees and shrubs from the area in the future.
"We hope that once we get the designated areas cleared we will be able to expand to other areas in the park that need glade restoration," said Smith.
At one time, the entire White River Hills area, which is the area that serves as drainage land for the White River and includes the wild area surrounding Roaring River, offered glade and open woodland ecosystems.
Glade areas traditionally offer steep, rocky slopes and ridge tops. Woodland areas are categorized as having moderate slopes with good soil. Those areas offer trees that are well spaced and ground covers of grasses and wildflowers.
"If we are able to remove all of the cedars from inside and outside the wild areas, people will see what the area looked like in the 1830s when the first settlers came here," said Smith. "It will be a lot prettier landscape."
The Roaring River staff began cutting eastern red cedars in the wild area in 2004. Staff members had removed all of the cedar from 21 portions of land in the park's wild area by the winter of 2010.
Working under the 10-year stewardship plan, Roaring River State Park is scheduled to complete the wild area management by the spring of 2014. Volunteers will likely be needed to hit that goal.
"The Boy Scouts have come out and helped stack cedar and assist with the clean up," said Smith.
The wild areas where the cedar trees were removed and the slash is currently being cleared are located in remote areas throughout Roaring River State Park. Staff members must walk an hour and a half to reach some of the designated areas.
Park staff members must also complete a burn plan that outlines the objectives for the burn. The plan must be approved by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources' fire coordinator before the burn is conducted.
Staff members monitor the humidity, temperature, wind speeds and other factors when scheduling and conducting a prescribed burn.
The 10-year stewardship plan, which was approved by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources in 2003, includes several other objectives in addition to glade restoration.
Other objectives of the plan include: increasing awareness of the wild area; developing and maintaining trails; developing scenic views and viewing sheds; maintaining and increasing the biodiversity of the gene pool; maintaining water quality; protecting the biological integrity of exotic species; partnering with adjacent private and public land owners; and increasing and improving training for staff.
For more information on the wild area management plan or glade restoration or to volunteer to help with restoration efforts, call Smith at 847-3742.