Spirit Lake Stewardship

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Written by John Azpell; Marquette University High School Science Teacher 

The Spirit Lake Buckthorn Removal outing on Saturday was a success. It took place on the 155 acre Ozaukee Washington Land Trust preserve near Mequon, WI .  The Spirit lake preserve contains a one-half mile tributary that flows to the Milwaukee River, upland hardwood forest, lowland hardwood forest with ephemeral ponds cattail marsh, fresh (wet) meadow, and a small, restored grassland. The Marquette High group removed buckthorn, honeysuckle, and other invasive species from the edge of a forest near Spirit Lake.  The goal was to make sure the deciduous forest growth under the canopy were saplings of Oaks, Hickories, Hawthorns, and other trees.  The thick amount of buckthorn shrubs was preventing this understory of the forest from growing these native trees.

Before we arrived at the site, a group working with the Land Trust had cut down buckthorns with chainsaws and handsaws.  They continued to work while we were there.  Our job was to move the buckthorn into piles to be burned later this fall or winter.  The boys were very efficient in clearing out the buckthorn and piling it up.  When we were finished we were able to see much more light hitting the forest floor than before we had started.  This light penetrating is crucial for small woodland wildflowers and floral biodiversity. 

At the end of our work day we ate apples picked from an apple tree nearby and we took a quick hike on the Spirit Lake Preserve and looked at the beautiful oaks and hickories in the forest.  We also checked out an area where an ephemeral pond had been and where frogs and salamanders prosper in the Spring. It was a good day!

To learn more about Ozaukee Washington Land Trust and their Preserves Click Here

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