To keep pace with our growing acreage, the ACRES crew has invested more time and resources in managing, restoring and enhancing land.

In March, crews put a new forestry mulcher to work shredding acres of non-native invasive Autumn Olive. The forestry mulcher, a barrel-like roller attachment for a skid steer, crunches up the offending brush with its heavy tooth-like bumps, leaving a layer of chunky mulch behind.

What will grow in its place? This summer, the ACRES team followed up to see how the land responded.

Beechwood Nature Preserve

Trine University students enrolled in a spring semester conservation course began caring for the Beechwood Nature Preserve in an immersion in land management. In addition to class time, students worked the land, covering more than 14 acres on foot, cutting smaller patches of Autumn Olive brush by hand. Conservatively, ACRES estimates the students contributed at least 120 hours of labor, a $3,000 value.

The ACRES team matched their investment, mulching an eight-acre thicket of Autumn Olive.

On returning to Beechwood in the growing season, ACRES found this land covered in garlic mustard, another non-native invasive plant, with a few hopeful native trees pushing through. The team fought the garlic mustard then seeded with a local genotype native seed mix, thanks to funding from NiSource that also covered other expenses associated with the Trine University partnership.

Wabash County

In Wabash County, on a 96-acre protected land near our Kokiwanee preserve, ACRES mulched a dense five acre patch of Autumn Olive, flagging trees to keep them safe from the path of destruction. Beneath the thicket of the invasive shrub, the land was almost entirely bare. The Autumn Olive had out-competed other plant life and taken over the area.

After crunching the invasive brush, the place looked like a wasteland, covered in two-three inches of mulch. The land donor grew concerned, reaching out to inquire, “was it supposed to look this bad?”

It wasn’t pretty, but this devastation was a critical part of the land’s healing process.

To our delight, this place is recuperating beyond all expectations.

“It’s miraculous,” says Matt Dunno, ACRES land management specialist. “It’s so cool how this land recovered, with so much native plant life coming back.”

The team reported native grasses and flowers filling in, more than a foot high in early summer. Here, native seeds in the soil waiting for the right conditions to germinate, burst forth, reclaiming the land.

At Beechwood, on the Wabash County land, in the Cedar Creek Corridor and beyond, ACRES summer land management interns, funded by the Olive B. Cole foundation, sprayed smaller non-native invasive plants.

End results?

ACRES protects land forever, so there’s no end in sight. Land will continue to change, and with community support, we’ll be ready to support it as needed. We prefer a light touch, but we’re seeing value in our new capacity to intervene more robustly as needed.

On these lands, the ACRES team and our supporters are participating in the initial stages of a process that will take as long as it takes. We’ll keep you posted.

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