Fifteen Indiana BHA members turned out in the early hours of a cold January morning recently to partner up with foresters from Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources for an invasive species workday at Yellowwood State Forest in southern Indiana’s Brown County.
The hunters left their guns at home and the anglers left rods in their cases, opting to show up at first light outfitted with heavy work gloves, eye and ear pro, and a willingness to help maintain Indiana’s public lands.
The day was no small investment of time for any of them: member Jesse Cano traveled 140 miles north from Evansville and chapter treasurer Ben Stout drove 170 miles south from Huntington to be there and put in a day’s work. The early morning rendezvous found BHA members gathered at pandemic-friendly distance intervals, casting long shadows across the parking lot as they talked amongst themselves and with DNR foresters, awaiting instructions from Yellowwood Forest Resource Manager Mike Spalding.
“We’ll divide into teams of three,” Spalding said. “The sawyer runs the chainsaw and cuts the invasives, the swamper clears the cut brush, and the sprayer hits the stumps with a glyphosate-based herbicide from these backpack sprayers.”
Indiana BHA board member Sam Shoaf, a wildlife biologist by training, added, “We’ll be covering about 15 acres and taking out autumn olive, multiflora rose, bush honeysuckle, Chinese privet, oriental bittersweet, and Seibold’s viburnum.”
At a midday lunch break over pizza (delivered by Spalding’s wife Amy, herself a trained forester), Mike said, “These invasives were brought into the state from other countries, often for landscaping or in misguided attempts at erosion control. The seeds get spread by wildlife and, growing unchecked, they’ll crowd out native plants.”
Yellowwood State Forest and adjacent Brown County State Park are the only places in Indiana where native yellowwoods (Cladrastis kentukea) can be found. Active forest management and invasive species mitigation is showing success in helping this native species to thrive. A 1983 inventory found only 261 yellowwoods in the area. In 2019, Spalding (whose middle name is actually “Forest”) conducted a similar inventory and found the total number had increased to 819 yellowwoods.
“I oversee a total of 50,000 acres of state forest land, and invasive species control is extremely time- and labor-intensive,” Spalding said. “I’ve had this area on my radar for three years, but it’s remained in my backlog. The sweat BHA contributes on these workdays is immensely helpful in maintaining land that really needs the work.”