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Permaculture ideas for wildlife habitat restoration?  RSS feed

 
Dave Miller
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Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
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Six miles from my home is a 1,000 acre wildlife refuge that is slowly being converted from its previous use (row crops & dairy farming) to wildlife habitat.  It is situated along the Columbia river in SW Washington state (the area south of the highway: http://www.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=&ie=UTF8&t=h&om=1&ll=45.563403,-122.294912&spn=0.048013,0.08523&z=14).  It has some decent sized wetlands and open water, but the majority of the land is open fields.  Some of these fields have become dominated by an aggressive non-native grass called reed canarygrass.  There are also patches of the ever-present Himalayan blackberry, canada thistle, etc. here and there.  The agency managing the refuge battles the blackberries through mowing, spraying, etc.  They do not do anything with the canarygrass.  They are fairly "old school" in their management, i.e. if it is invasive and you want to get rid of it, some combination of mowing and herbicide is the answer.  They also work with a cooperator to hay most of the fields in the summer, so that there are tender grass shoots in the winter for geese to eat.  In the past they have worked with a cooperator to have cows graze the fields (vs. mowing) however maintaining fencing is not high on the agency's priority list and is counter to "habitat restoration" so the cooperator got nervous after some of his cows wandered off the refuge near the highway.

In total there are about 300 acres that will be planted with native shrubs and trees, mostly using volunteers (which instills a sense of ownership of the refuge in the local community).  I lead many of these volunteer plantings, and I am involved with the planning of restoration projects (as a volunteer).  There is only 1 agency staff member for this and two other nearby refuges so most of the work is done by volunteers.  There is another agency office 25 miles away which provides some consulting (e.g. a biologist) and management.



The general approach we have been taking with the planting projects is:
1. Consult the Conservation Plan to see what type of habitat is planned for the area in question.
2. Inspect the site, note what is growing there, what is the soil like, terrain, etc.
3. Work together with the biologist and others to come up with a list of plants to plant at that site.  This includes everything from grasses all the way up to large trees.  All species must be native to the site and must conform to the Conservation Plan.  No exceptions.
4. Decide what to do about the existing vegetation.  It is unusual to have many native species present, so the usual decision is to mow, then spray (sometimes more than once), and perhaps disk the site.
5. If the site has been disked, we plant native grass seed in the fall. 
6. Once the grass begins to grow, we bring out volunteers to plant native shrubs & trees from 1 & 2 gallon pots.  We usually plant in rows spaced 10' apart so that the area can be mowed.  Once the plants get large enough to compete with the grass, we stop mowing and fill in between the rows.  We plant between November and April when the weather is cool and wet.  Note that we do not disk every site, so sometimes we are planting in dead grass.  We place a protective planting tube around each plant which is removed once the plant reaches the top of the tube.  A typical project uses somewhere between 300 and 6000 potted plants.
7. On some projects we have set up a temporary water line and done hand watering for the first 2 summers, but we have decided that is too much work.  Also we did not realize that our temporary water line (white PVC) was not UV-resistant and after the 4th year it has begun to break down.
8. The agency mows between the rows to reduce competition from the grass, blackberry, thistle, etc.  We have found that the canarygrass returns in a year or two, even after being sprayed.  If you are not familiar with reed canarygrass, it grows to about 6 feet tall and thus shades out shorter plants.

Overall this is working fairly well, but many of the plants are growing slower than expected, and the survival rate is not as high as we would like.  We (including the biologists) have studied the situation and the primary causes (of mortality and sluggish growth) suggested are:
- deer browsing
- insufficient water due to competition from canarygrass
- mole activity around the plant roots, allowing the roots to dry out
- voles girdling the plants near the ground (which personally I disagree with)

I would like to apply some permaculture principles here.  Has anyone done any projects like this?

Most of the people involved have heard the term permaculture, but none of us have put it into practice, though I am doing so in my backyard.  It is a completely foreign concept to the refuge manager, and fairly foreign to the biologist (though I'm working on that  ).  It is a bit more familiar to me and my fellow volunteers, though I am by far the most knowledgeable, i.e. I have attended toby hemenway's 1-day class, and have his book "Gaia's Garden" (and I hang out on this forum  ).

I have found a supportive tree care service who will deliver wood chips to the refuge for free.  I have spearheaded some mulching projects (i.e. put 2" of wood chips around the outside of the planting tube) to see if that slows the growth of the grass and also hold some moisture.  However the biologist (who is fairly new) has decided that "mulch attracts voles which are chewing the bark of the plants, so we should not mulch".  In reality there are few plants with bark damage, and there are already many voles living on the sites, mulch or no mulch.

We still have hundreds of acres to plant, so we need to figure out some best practices that can be done by volunteers and which are not too demanding in terms of labor and money.

I am going to propose that we design some experimental plots into our next project, and have posted my brainstorm list below.

Finally, my question: Using permaculture principles, can you think of any other experiments that I should include in the list below?

Thanks for any insights or suggestions you may have!

Here are the experiments I was thinking of.  I would only do this on plants that we expect to thrive in a certain location but have not been thriving.  No need to do it for plants that are doing well or that are obviously not in their element (and which should never have been planted there).  The "control" for each would be to do the opposite.

1. Mowing grass around plants.  I am fairly certain that mowing is attracting deer to the site.  It may be slowing the growth of the canarygrass somewhat.  And it was certainly helpful when we were watering.
2. Spraying grass around plants.  The big disadvantage of this is if the shrub has sent up any suckers and the suckers get sprayed, you have killed the plant.
3. Mulching:
3.1. Sheet (i.e. wetted newspaper with a layer of mulch on top.  The mulch could be hay which was cut on the site)
3.2. Straw:
3.2.1. loose
3.2.2. mat ("flakes" from a bale)
3.3. Wood chips:
3.3.1. fresh
3.3.2. aged
4. Hugelkultur:
4.1. Place decomposing wood chips in bottom of hole
4.2. Place decomposing log/branch vertically in hole next to plant
5. Protective tubes:
5.1. solid vs. mesh
5.2. various colors (blue seems to be in vogue)
5.3. various diameters
5.4. various lengths:
5.4.1. 1 foot
5.4.2. 2 foot
6. Companion planting.  In nature, it is very rare for a native shrub to sprout up in the middle of a grassy field all by itself.  The idea is to plant not just the shrub, but some companion plants as well.  These could be in the same pot (e.g. via seed), in seed balls dropped around the shrub when it is planted, or in potted plants planted very near the shrub.
6.1. Permanent:
6.1.1. Perennial forbs that encourage the growth of the shrub and/or discourage the growth of canarygrass by growing aggressively, fixing nitrogen, accumulating nutrients, etc.  Examples are vetches, flowering bulbs, yarrow, clovers.
6.2. Temporary:
6.2.1. Annuals that encourage the growth of the shrub and/or discourage the growth of canarygrass by growing aggressively, fixing nitrogen, accumulating nutrients, etc., and which do not aggressively reseed.  Examples are (TBD)
6.2.2. Fast-growing trees that encourage the growth of the shrub and/or discourage the growth of canarygrass, and which are easily killed after they have served their purpose (e.g. by girdling or cutting).  Examples are alder, cottonwood, fir?  The shrub could be encouraged and the grass discouraged by cutting off the branches only on the shrub side of the tree.  Other habitat restorers do this sort of thing by interplanting with firs which are then girdled, but the refuge manager has resisted planting firs thus far.  This would also probably protect the shrub from deer damage since they would browse/scrape the tree instead of the shrub.


Some photos:

Volunteers doing a plant survival survey (this is the same site as the photo above, in September).   The tall grass is reed canarygrass, about half its mature size.


The same site, in January 2009, removing planting tubes.  The grass had been mowed in the summer. 


Volunteers planting at another site.


Watering in August.


Planting in November 2006.


"You planted these for me, right?"


January of this year.  We planted this site in the winter of 2006/2007 but many of the shrubs are still pretty stunted & scrawny.


Typical wildlife (Great Blue Heron, Cackling Geese)


Looking out from a remnant Quercus garryana (Oregon White Oak AKA Garry Oak) stand into a recent planting of more Oregon White Oak.  We have learned that the best way to plant these is to just plant the acorns.  We planted the grass in the foreground which is native, of course - though the refuge manager forgot to see how tall it got - it shaded all the wildflowers we planted.  The area under the oaks was originally solid blackberries 10 feet thick.


The same oak stand, showing the planted grass & shrubs.


Quercus garryana, looking good.


Pacific chorus frog.  These guys love the planting tubes.  So do paper wasps.


We plant wildflowers too.


Awesome scenery from the refuge - Mt. Hood & Crown Point in Oregon.


Looking up the Columbia gorge from the refuge during a March rain storm.
 
Toby Hemenway
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This one is going to take a lot more time than I have now to read, analyze, and say something half-way intelligent about. I'll try to get to it tomorrow.
 
rose macaskie
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great pohots, I like the deer in amonng the young trees .
How would you fit permaculture in?
  wwhat are the climatic problems aren't permaculture ideas often an anseewer to problems with the climate . How is the soil that is another thign that permaculture tries to remedy exhausted and badly treated soils.
    Maybe cutting down and cutting down again the canary grass for mulch would be one way to be permaculture. Weaken it stop it seeding and and get mulch all at once.
      If voles are attacking the trunks or maybe aren'tyou could take a photo of the damage, maybe some one would recognise it and then you could argue with the biologist with more or less evidence at your back.
      Then you could have fun making sepp  holzers whitchy brew to keep animals off young trees.
      Maybe you have to find a strong local marsh grass to overcome the canary grass.
I bought a himalayan black berry and then decided it would maybe kill local blackberries and took it back to madrid, i reckon it won't do much harm in the middle of a city. You have experience of its effect. i don't know anything about it, tell more please.
  The biologist  may just not like mulch and the best thing would be to find out why not, its hard to argue with people when you don't know whats eating them and they usually don't tell you whats eating them, you can die without getting to know what exactly your sisters even, opinions are, it is hard to ask if they don't like it but interesting. agri rose macaskie.


     
 
Dave Miller
pollinator
Posts: 416
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
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I just got a bit more info from a recent "field trip" out to the site by the biologist, the refuge manager, and a couple of others:
The biologist also noted that mulch had caused root rot on some plants due to too much moisture and says that if plants are in suitable areas they shouldn't need mulch.   At the meeting we discussed how much voles love to use thatch as nesting material and it's ability to hide mice also. Thatch should be pulled far away from plants.


The "thatch" is actually oat straw.  We have used both wood chips and straw for mulch.  But it is only used on plants with tubes, and never inside the tube, just around the tube.  The tubes are 4-6" diameter.

One thing I forgot to mention in my original post is the soil.  The site in most of the photos above has fairly sandy soil that becomes rock-hard when it dries.  This area used to flood every spring until the river was dammed (Bonneville Dam) and a dike was built along the river.  This photo was taken about 1930, from Crown Point:



I have seen very few earthworms in the soil at this location.  There are other sites on the refuge with very rich, black soil and some with very sandy soil which have absolutely no earthworms.  I dug a big trench and never saw a single worm.  As I said most soil on the refuge becomes rock-hard in the summer - is this due to silica or something?
 
Toby Hemenway
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I was trying to figure out if this site is the former 78th St Poor Farm; if it is, a comprehensive permaculture plan was prepared for it by Deston Denniston, and it was pretty much rejected by the county. But I think it's too far east for that.

In general, I'm just not a fan of large restoration projects. They are great feel-good exercises for volunteers, and rally people round an ecological venture, so in that sense they do a great deal of good. But most of them have very poor success rates as far as actual survival of species and conversion of the site to a new ecosystem. The herbicide and tractor use in these projects rivals that of industrial farms, so they are hugely energy intensive. And the "natives only" policy at nearly all of them makes no ecological sense; they are ignoring succession and current conditions at the site (which you point out: grass with a few shrubs in it is rarely found in our region), hence the failure. My recommendation for most of these projects is simply to leave the land alone for a century or five. But no one wants to hear that; they want to go out and "save" the land. And the agency types want the money.

If people really want to do something there, I would cover crop the whole place for two or three seasons to get fertility up and put carbon in the soil. (Without seeing the site, of course, I've got no business recommending anything at this scale.) Then I'd plant native shrubs and wait 30 years. Then I'd plant native trees, if the natives-only thing is still in vogue then. Or I would burn the site and plant oaks, and burn it again when the oaks are established. There have been some pretty successful restoration projects using burning. But I don't think either of those ideas would be accepted.

As far as the specifics in the post are concerned, indeed, mulching that close to the trees is going to bring voles right to them. The recommendation for mulching is to stop the mulch about 18 inches from the tree. But I still think mulch around trees increases vole damage. It's just one of those compromises we make. And I think the biologist is right about root rot; many natives here want a dry summer and die if the soil stays moist. Mulch is for crop trees. Friends in Spain have noticed that mulch in Mediterranean climates inhibits growth of native forbs and shrubs. The "first we mulch everything" mindset in inexperienced permaculturists (and some who should know better) shows how deeply the magic-bullet idea is rooted in us.

The experiments sound worth doing, except maybe trying different tree tubes; there's lots of data on tree tube trials. I'd definitely look at hugelkultur and buried wood swales, if the material for them doesn't have to be carried in from far away. Tthe energy involved in hauling that stuff will render this project a net CO2 producer for about 50 years. Plus all those volunteers driving to the site. You see why I don't like this sort of project?) The mulching would give some useful data, although mulching 300 acres is out of the question. And it's always going to be a challenge keeping water on those plants in the dry season. Nature sees about a 90% loss rate (or higher) on seedlings, so it's a lot of work to do much better.

A permaculture approach says "what can we do to restore ecosystem function" and not, "how can I get my chosen species to survive." Really, thinking permaculturally about this sort of thing, to convert it to "wildife refuge" is going to require lots of work for many years. One way to do that would be to put a few houses on the site, contract the owners to do high-value crop production on an acre or two, and mandate that they oversee the restoration project on the rest of the land in exchange for their tenure. They might also include some timber or other economically valuable species among the wildlife plants (shelterbelts, hedgerows) so that there is a reason to maintain the tree plantings, thus insuring success rather than abandonment. And hunt the deer heavily until the shrubs are established. Just declaring "now it's a wildlife refuge" ignores succession. The current plan will run out of money before long, be abandoned, and revert to canary grass pretty quickly. You need to get people involved long term with a stake in the place. That means, of course, compromising the natives-only policy, which I see as the largest impediment to the project's success. It means this land will only be drain on resources for years to come, and we won't be able to afford that kind of loss for long.

This is probably not the answer you were looking for, and may seem depressing, but I've been burned too many times looking for small solutions inside a large project only to realize later that the whole project was fatally flawed.
 
rose macaskie
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  Yeah, permaculture combines curing soils with trying to make enough food for people to be self sufficient and that means variety and growing food is not growing what lives there already so the ideas of two types of ecological people conflict, those who want natural habitats saved and those who want a healthy earth and food.
      If adunca is making them conscious of the lack of worms that is a goood way to attack the use of herbicides. Its great having a permaculturist there.
      If adunca can report on the lack of worms for example it is also great. that may bring better systems to these projects.
 
Permaculture is important.
    It is important for land to be economically viable and healthy because it is important to be able to say look you can eat off the land without poisoning it.
Permaculture also talks of finding a satisfactory method of having a lively hood for people, this is not a theme that comes in to saving parks much.

  Local habitats are also important.
      Here, for example, they like to have all the northern european trees and despise the southern the ones natural to here and even worse as far as unmodern goes to Marocco. It is silly, they don’t even know the names of local trees and  local trees are beautiful and better adapted to the climate.
      I have known a person who wants to have only the local and is so ignorant about the local that he kills off all plants but the elms and juniperus thurifera on his land. So those who are local crazy can reduce things to a very poor selection of the local. 
  Local habitats are the refuges of local animals my book on local woods, all works on local things, talk of  the accompanying flora and fauna, plants and animals  the deer antelope strange plants, mushrooms, birds, insects, that accompany a type of wood. Turn everything permaculture and you will lose,insects mushrooms etc.
  There is a bit of permaculture that talks of having a patch of your exploitation for the wild, a place you only enter with a sort of please accept my prescence i willl not touch you prayer before entering it so there is a place for the natural in permaculture philosophy.

  It is very usefull to have a permaculturist in the group, wont adunca be able to spread ideas about not using herbicides about a better treatment of water wet lands and such. Spreading the word is as important as making this site healthy. Maybe it will be easier to spread the word among non professionals than with the biologist. It Depends on the biologist. There are a lot of good ecological workers among farm experts I believe.
i put in a photo of a beautiful local plants or two here, a  absolutely beautiful bit of wood of the juniper of mir, juniperus oxycedrus, Guadalajara between  Retiendas and Puebla de Vals. agri rose macaskie.
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rose macaskie
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here a photo of another mediteranean plants that is very pretty that grows in olive grooves and vinyards and its seeds serve as alemon does if you save them and they use them to flavour water. zumaque de lebanon. these grow into big bushes. agri rose macaskie.
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rose macaskie
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  Another local plant that is beautiful.pistacea terebinthus o atlanticus. this is not the pistachio htat produces nuts, i don't know if it bares anyrelation . this is a plant wiht small round berries and bigger gals the gals are atractive it has red leaves in cold springs and the barries are shocking pink in autumn and the leaves yellow it is very decorative.
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Dave Miller
pollinator
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Thanks Toby & Rose for the thoughtful replies.  I was on a wildflower hike yesterday and will be planting all day today so I'll be back on tonight or tomorrow.
 
Paul Cereghino
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The restoration industry is a funny thing... but I have to disagree with Toby.  I don't think us "agency types" want the money.  Some of us "agency types" have funny stories playing in our heads that prevent us from understanding the role we are playing within a system.  Also, keeping an agency program alive in our system certainly is nasty difficult business that can distract a person from the purpose and nature of restoration.  I'd propose that restoration industry is like permaculture in that it is just another manifestation of our desire to restore our connection to other living beings and each other.  We each need as many allies and clear conversations as we can muster.

A guy named Dr. Haard who is one of the brains behind Fourth Corner Nurseries near Bellingham did a field trial and found that many native trees and shrubs compete very poorly with grasses.  A single planting that attempts to achieve forest composition has little basis in any field ecology.  Again, Toby is right, in that just because you want a species in your forest doesn't mean you plant it in an open field.  A native plant in full sun growing at 4" a year is as good as compost... wrong plant!

I'd focus on getting the trees right... finding the right species for the the right situation, the right stock size, the minimum level of protection and hedging (Fukuoka says figure out what you don't have to do).  You have moist soil, so cottonwood or alder?  I have never seed Ash trhive without nice soils.  Your conservation plan may be pushing you towards hard to grow trees that may not be adapted to establishing under the specific conditions you are facing.  Consider a native companion other than grass adjacent to your trees.. Lupine? Rumex obtusifolia?  some kind of Vicia?

I think Toby's idea of cropping to build soil is good.  I consider red alder a very fine cover crop for a forest.  Consider planting smaller stock, more densely in better prepared ground.  I have had alder from 4ci tubes get to 6 feet in a season where soil moisture was adequate, and competition limited.  Come back in 15 years and sell access for cord wood, leave the slash and roots, and create canopy gaps, THEN plant for diversity.  No reason the master plan needs to manifest in the first planting.

I don't think the economics of planting 3-5gal pots to try to get above the RCG pencils out against better site prep combined with using weedy trees to hold and improve ground.  Bare root 1-0 alder run $0.50 apiece, you can carry 200 on your hip, and plant them at several hundred an hour.  Compare that to a $6-15 pot that you need a truck to haul that takes 10 times the time to plant!  Who cares if the voles kill a few?  Tree tubes cost something like $1.50.  Why not just plant 4 trees?  I think the only thing stopping you is inadequate site prep, and lack of an appropriate companion planting for your first wave forest species..

Consider ripping and planting near the rip line.  Recommendations for you difficult sounding soil situation is difficult without being on site and digging lots of holes.  If it is Columbia river floodplain it could be very complex soil patterns - worth learning about.  Dig lots of holes and keep looking for signs.

The topic of tenure and tenancy on conservation land deserves much more coverage.  I think there is an unrealized mutually beneficial relationship between conservation interests and a new generation agro-foresters.  There are some institutional and legal barriers, but it is clear to me that this needs to be one of the cutting edges of regenerative land management.  Much of the detail that needs to be worked out is in the legal instrument recorded with the deed that gives the agency control over land use... switching a few paragraphs around would do it.  Some agencies specialize in giving away public assets to corporate economic entities -- its not like there is no precedent.  The bottom line is that... (Toby's right again)... we need people living on land who have a stake AND a land ethic.  One of the troubles is that rural people have often (perhaps intentionally) been made slaves to the commodity markets, to the point where they have difficulty providing good stewardship.  Who pays for the regeneration?  What is the solution to the tragedy of the commons?  What is that chapter 14 of Permacutlure about anywhay?


 
Dave Miller
pollinator
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I have a minute to jot down a few thoughts, I will add more later...

- No, this is not the 78th St. Poor Farm but I have heard a bit about that project.  The "permie" landscape designer that we hired to design our backyard food forest/wildlife habitat did some work on that project.

- Many wildlife refuges are established to provide refuge for certain species that are in trouble.  The refuge managers will try to restore complete ecosystems on the refuge, but the focus is more on the preservation of the specific species than on the perfect recreation of specific native ecosystems.  These certainly go hand in hand, but if the species are in real trouble, the refuge managers will do whatever is necessary (natural or otherwise) to get the species back on a path to sustained existence.  I should note that this particular refuge was established as mitigation for construction work at Bonneville dam (construction of 2nd powerhouse); not for the protection of any specific species.  However there are a number of projects on the refuge focused on rare specific species (purple martins, native salmon & steelhead, certain ducks & geese) and habitats (Oregon white oak savanna).  Thus for example they have artificial nesting cavities for purple martins, they hay most of the fields to benefit the geese, etc.  Here are the management goals for the refuge:
Goal 1. Protect, restore, and enhance the natural diversity of floodplain, upland forest, and grassland habitats representative of the lower Columbia River ecosystem.

Goal 2. Protect and enhance populations of native flora and fauna with an emphasis on State- and federally listed threatened and endangered species, species of conservation concern, and their habitats.

Goal 3. Reduce the impacts of nonnative and invasive species on native flora and fauna.

Goal 4. Provide management-based research opportunities and conduct Refuge studies to investigate ecosystem dynamics, wildlife and habitat relationships, habitat use patterns, and human impacts.

Goal 5. Develop and encourage public understanding of and support for the purposes and visions of Steigerwald Lake, Franz Lake, and Pierce National Wildlife Refuges.

- From http://www.fws.gov/pacific/planning/main/docs/WA/cgorge/final%20ccp/1%20Chapter%201.pdf


- Soon after I started volunteering at the refuge, I was discussing the topic of sustainability with the refuge manager.  He had never heard the term.  In fact I have found that many people near or above "retirement age" are not familiar with the concept.  I have moved them somewhat, but it is an ongoing effort.  I haven't even used the term 'permaculture' on them yet (though several have heard the term).  But the refuge is not trying to grow food for people, so I think that term would be a hard sell.  So I am just looking to adopt some permaculture principles to meet refuge goals.

- There is not an intense sense of urgency to create the desired habitats, in fact the conservation plan predicts that it will take 50 years or more to complete the restoration work.  I am not exactly sure how the refuge manager is measured, but I know that volunteer hours is a key measure.   I suspect that progress on the conservation plan is also a key measure.

- I agree with much of what Toby said.  However getting the agency employees from their current mindset to a permaculture mindset would be a monumental task.  I am hoping that they will let me do some experiments using permaculture principles and if they are successful they will agree to use those principles more widely.

- The conservation plan does in fact call for the use of fire for maintenance of some of the habitats.  However when I've spoken to the refuge manager about this he basically said "not while I'm here".  The refuge borders a relatively urban area and I am sure he has nightmares about burning down the whole town if something went awry with a controlled burn on the refuge.  I have pointed out to him that there are many controlled burns in Portland (e.g. Powell Butte, Cooper Mountain) but he is steadfast in his resistance to the idea.

- Toby's idea of a tenant caretaker is I think a good one, for a number of reasons.  First, there is often already a house on the property purchased by the agency.  They see houses as a big liability because 1) they add to the purchase price of the property (sometimes by a lot) and 2) they provide no value as wildlife habitat (though they are sometimes used as office space, which is the case at this refuge).  Every refuge has an "approved acquisition boundary" which includes all the land around the refuge that the agency would consider purchasing if the property were to come up for sale.  If the property has an expensive house on it, the agency is less likely to purchase it.  However there are a number of other parties (land trusts, refuge friends groups, etc.) who have access to other funding sources who might be able to purchase the land and sell it to the agency later (perhaps with the house excluded from the sale).  If the caretaker's goal is to restore the soil while making a living off the land in a sustainable manner, that could be a win-win for all.  However the caretaker would probably experience extensive losses from the wildlife next door.

More later...
 
rose macaskie
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 I suppose part of permaculture is the really fast recovery of soils and that is relevant to reestablishing habitats.

   For this they use nitrogen fixing plants and ducks or hens for their droppings.

     Earthworks to better water filtration or to store water. Hold up your water as high as possible as long as possible. ponds on high ground facilitate using the water in a dry season without pumping it.
 
       Plants with roots of different lengths to work the soil at different levels. repairing the soil sooner and bringing up water from some depth in dry weather and roots help to increase drainage to let the water through the earth instead of having it sit on the surface. This can be good for the water table. Tall plants to give shade.

      Plants also do other things to help each other, like they say mulberry is an accumulator of nitrogen, stores it in its leaves so the leaf litter of mulberry is full of nitrogen which it on the surface and mulberries are good accelerators they produce lots of auxins, plant hormones produced by the tip of the branch to inhibit the growth of buds below them, if all the buds grew the tree would look like a hedge hog, they also stimulate the growth of roots. That’s why they accelerate the growth of plants.
      There are more aspects to companion planting  and all this could be useful to the quick recovery of soils so important to the restoration of parks or wild areas.
 
     Food for the wild life must be a question in such an area, grass seeds so don’t mow the grass and fungi provide food and juniper berries, the fruit of junipers here in Spain ripens in winter one tree in one month and another food for birds and animals all winter, holly also ripens in winter. Nuts, olives I should think feed birds. Pulses feed birds and maybe other animals. Vines probably cover dry land and produce forage and fruit. So a food forest is also of interest to the fauna and so to restoring a wild area.
       

 Being conscious of the importance of mulch can help restore a wild area. It means such things as looking for plants that produce more organic matter leaf and stalk and such instead of maybe  keeping them down to favour plants you prefer for some other reason.
    It means knowing that weeds can be the fastest way to a lot of vegetation and the recovery of the soil being the plants that don't mind growing in whatever lousy soil you are rehabilitating.


      Permaculture advises against chemical fertilizers. Using fertilizers except with a light touch can burn you soils and that does for the life in them and that life is very useful to plants.
       Fungi which are part of the life in soils is important for breaking down rocks so they release their phosphorus, Paul Cereghino. Deeston Lee, talks of rocks being full of phosphorus.
 Natural way of producing nitrogen plants can use.
       If bacteria is killed you do for the natural way of changing the molecule with nitrogen of animal and plant waste into a molecule plants can take up.
 There is nitrogen in the air In form of N2 or N2o, but plants can’t normal use that nitrogen. It does get washed in to the soil in rain drops and then can be used. “Eddafologia y Fertilizacion agricola” Fernandez de la Hoz and Rafael Garcia del Caz .    Animals leave nitrogen in the soil in there excretions and dead bodies in form of NH4+ ammonium a form that plants can’t handle and bacteria in the soil or in nodules of plants of the legume family turn this molecule of ammonium containing nitrogen into another molecule NH3 ammonium salts or NO3, nitrate  molecules whose nitrogen plants can access. So, doing for the life in the soil makes it hard for things to function the natural way. The scientists on the formum must  correct me if I am wrong, I have not been into this, trying to talk about molecules, for long enough to be sure of what I am talking about.

      Other reason for wanting soil full of bacteria algae fungi mites etc. There are bacteria in the soil that protect plants against parasitic fungi
    and fungi exude antibiotics that stop bacterial infection in the soil.
  Some bacteria stimulate plant hormones and increase plant growth rates and enhance nutrient uptake,
     Killing soil life by burning it with too strong a solution of fertilisers or using herbicides and pesticides is of questionable use to plants. It retards recovery of the soil.
 Fungi hypha, hpha is to the fungi what roots are to plants, carry water from places with too much to places with too little on the horizontal plane, trees pull water up from deep levels and leave it on shallow soil level, change its place on the vertical plane.
    Fungi and redistribute nutrients from plants with lots of nutrients  to plants without many. (Simard et al.1997) and Kristin Arnebrant and others (1993) paul stamets “Mycelium Running. Plants give fungi elaborated foods such as sugars to plants in exchange for fungi handing them water and minerals. The net work of hypha is bigger and more absorbent than that of plants roots so they are better at picking up water and minerals than plants are, but they dont elaborate their own food as plants do and fed off rotting plant or animal matter and what organic nutrients plants hand over for them.
     Fertilisers kill the life in the soil so do herbicides pesticides and fungicides. And permaculture methods take this into consideration and this helps them with the very quick restoration of soils as exemplified in the work of geoff lawton greening the desert. Documented in his video -greening the desert-.  
I post a photo of the nodules on a clover plant that hold bacteria that change molecules with nitrogen in them to a form that plants can take up.
agri rose macaskie.
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Emerson White
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Wonderful photos
 
Dave Miller
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Since Paul had a link to this thread which referenced brush piles, I'll include some photos of the brush pile projects that I have spearheaded at the refuge:





Note the rocks at the corners:






When we deliver branches to the site, we just dump them out of the trucks as-is. On the workday, the volunteers pull branches & logs from the dump piles to the "constructed" piles. It is of course most efficient to just build the pile as you remove the branches from the truck, but that would not allow the volunteers to participate. Although in theory you could round up a fleet of pickups/trailers full of branches and have them all meet the volunteers at the site. It is just way easier for me to bring out loads of branches one at a time ahead of the workday.




Note the large branches sticking up & out:




An oak seedling sprouted in the pile (planted by a squirrel) so I put a plant tube around it. This pile is about 3 times this size now, after I added more to it.


We experimented with a super huge pile - about 20 feet in diameter, 12 feet high, laid out in a spiderweb pattern.




Gathering branches to bring to the refuge. Hauling branches is kind of a pain due to their bulkiness.


We had a local college student ask to do a research project on the refuge, so we had him do a brush pile wildlife usage survey. He put in a lot of hours observing wildlife usage of 4 of the brush piles and also 4 nearby "control" sites consisting of shrubs. He observed mainly birds using the piles, and birds were seen in the brush piles almost twice as often as in the control sites. He noted that smaller birds preferred to roost & forage inside the pile, while larger birds preferred to roost on large branches sticking up out of the pile. So now when we build a pile we include some long branches sticking out at various angles.

We build the piles as follows. The goal is to make lots of open spaces inside the pile, as well as some larger roosting branches sticking out of the pile.
- Place some large rocks or piles of rocks at the corners, for the logs to lay on. This keeps the first layer of logs off the ground a bit, and provides good sun-basking sites for garter snakes & etc.
- Lay logs and larger branches log-cabin style in a criss-cross pattern up about 3-4 feet high.
- Lay and "weave" in branches until the pile is at least 8 feet high.

On one pile we had a rabbit run out of a nearby field into the pile as we were building it! The volunteers got a real kick out of that.
 
Dave Miller
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Found one more photo, showing the first few layers of a small pile. This is the pile in photo #10 in the previous post.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Beautiful brushpiles! I wish my neighbors could break their habit of burning brushpiles. Piling brush is an activity of our Wildlife Management Plan and we don't find the appearance of piles objectionable.
 
Dave Miller
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It has been unusually dry here since July. Last weekend someone driving on the highway threw a cigarette out the window and started a fire which burned 140 acres of the refuge:










It was quite windy at the time so the fire spread quickly.

Most of the burned area was reed canarygrass, but the fire also burned a boardwalk which will keep the refuge trail closed for quite some time.

Does anyone here have experience with burning reed canarygrass? Did burning slow it down at all or did it just come right back? I suspect the latter.

Also does anyone have any experience with planting something besides non-native grass after a grass fire?

The long term plan for this area was to plant about half of it with cottonwood and Oregon Ash. We had not planned on doing that for a while, but now that the land is in effect cleared, we may put some cuttings out there this winter.

I have actually been planning some restoration experiments for that area, I'll see if I can finish writing those up and perhaps I can get permission to do some experimental plots in the burned area.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Your state native plant society can probably give suggestions and possibly help in planting appropriate natives: http://www.wnps.org/
 
John Polk
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Here are some good links for that area:

Native plants:
http://wnps.org/landscaping/herbarium/index.html

http://www.wnps.org/plant_lists/counties/klickitat/klickitat_county.html

And this one is a local guide for native pollinators:
http://pollinator.org/PDFs/Guides/PacificLowlandrx9FINAL.pdf

 
Bryant RedHawk
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The fire is actually a good thing, many of the native species dormant seeds will now have the opportunity to sprout (they are there and were waiting in the shade).

Here in Arkansas we have been doing controlled burns to get rid of choking undergrowth in refuge/ wildlife management areas. By doing so, we have returned what originally was open forest (100 years ago) back to that state. This has had the effect of helping the wild life populations return to good numbers.

Many times, conservationist forget that mother earth knows how to care for herself and they end up doing more harm than good, even though their intentions are noble. (that best intentions thing)

Planting trees, of the right species will do more good than trying to plant native grasses, if you are needing ground cover, use any of the clovers, deer love it and will most likely keep it trimmed for you (no mowing needed, most species don't grow that tall anyway). If you are deer population oriented, do not use red clover but rather the whites and scarlet varieties. Oats, soybeans, vetch, buckwheat, field peas, all are good nitrogen fixers/ground covers that can be chopped and dropped at anytime of the year. They will also give the native plants a helping hand at getting re-established. Really the bottom line is that the less you do, the easier it is for mother earth to reclaim her land and put it right.

The normal reclamation progression is; ground covers/grasses before small shrubs which give way to larger shrub type trees which give way to large trees which establish the new forest.

Here in Arkansas, we have been reclaiming a lot of prior farm/cattle land back to arboreal forest by mostly letting mother earth do her work. We just give her a little jump start by controlled burning and spreading cover crops that are nitrogen fixers. Lately we have also been giving the soil some mushroom spore support, since it has been shown these are a sign of healthy soil.

Good luck with your endeavor.
 
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