A forest management plan will be implemented at Lake Wapello State Park during 2020, Park Manager Ron Moore said last week.
Moore and Park Ranger Chad Horn played a role in developing the plan to improve the stand of white oak trees at Lake Wapello. They were assisted by state foresters and wildlife, fishery, and watershed experts.
Moore said the group walked the area, conducted stand counts, and developed a plan to manage sites ranging from two acres to 80 acres in size.
“Each site has a specific plan written for it,” he said. “Our priority areas are for the white oak species, which has a lifespan of 125 years. To keep that species going, areas need to be cleared. Acorns need to have sunlight to grow.”
Moore and Horn have selected trees of lesser value to be harvested, leaving the better ones to grow and produce acorns. “We’ll also cut down the under story (any type of tree growth that is getting too dense) to open up the forest floor and allow seedlings to grow,” Moore said.
“After a few years of establishment, we’ll go in and do a clear-cut of white oak trees to allow sunlight in so the seedlings can really grow.
“This is the 125-year plan coming to fruition on this site,” he said.
Moore said foresters and wildlife, fishery and watershed people are working together to determine what sites will be clear-cut and when.
There are 800 acres in the 61-site area at Lake Wapello that are being managed. “It’s because of the decline in the white oak species that we are doing this,” Moore explained. “We need to cut white oaks down or we won’t have the white oak forests we have now. Other species will crowd them out — they are not shade tolerant.”
Moore said the forest management plan for Lake Wapello State Park was developed in 2009 and some beginning work is being done in the way of harvesting and selling “junk” trees.
“We are now working on an 18-acre site,” M oore said. “Foresters go through and document the trees and their size and put them out to bid to a state-contracted timber buyer.”
Before any cutting takes place, Moore and Horn make sure there are no endangered species in the area, such as Indiana bats. If there are, trees of certain diameters and species may not be cut.
The next step is holding an informational meeting for the public. “After the educational component, we usually don’t have any objections from the public,” Moore said.
Once the DNR approves the action and the ground is hard enough to support heavy equipment, the selected trees can be harvested.