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Publication Teaches Landowners How to Support Oak-Hickory Ecosystems

Oak-hickory forests, which are comprised of a variety of different tree species, shrubs, grasses, sedges andAn oak-hickory forest understory filled with oak and hickory regeneration the summer following a spring prescribed fire wildflowers, as well as wildlife, including songbirds, are important to Indiana’s biodiversity. Learn how you can support oak-hickory ecosystems on your property through a new publication, “Forest Stewardship for Oak-Hickory Ecosystems in Indiana,” produced by Let the Sun Shine In - Indiana.

“The goal of this publication is to provide woodland owners with information about the stewardship practices they can use to sustain and enhance oak-hickory ecosystems on their land,” said co-author Jarred Brooke, Purdue Extension wildlife specialist. “Having this information will help them make informed decisions about how to manage their land to meet their forestry and wildlife objectives.”

The publication discusses various methods landowners can use on their properties, from midstory removal to overstory thinning, prescribed fire, supplemental planting, controlling deer browsing, crop tree release and invasive species control. It also details options for timber harvest, which can be used to regenerate the next generation of a forest. Additional resources from forestry and wildlife professionals as well as other publications discussing current research and management tips also are included in this document.

“Oak ecosystem management is confusing,” said co-author Dan Shaver, state forester for the Indiana Natural Resources Conservation Service. “This publication provides easy to understand basic concepts to help landowners see where their property fits in the oak restoration process. It does not answer all questions or provide all the technical details, but it will help reduce confusion and foster better communication and understanding between landowners and foresters.”

The publication is co-authored by Brooke, Shaver and Kyle Brazil, Central Hardwoods Joint Venture coordinator for the American Bird Conservancy.

“The oak-hickory ecosystem of southern Indiana is incredibly important to birds, other wildlife, and overallAn oak-hickory forest understory filled with oak and hickory regeneration the summer following a spring prescribed fire biodiversity,” Brazil said. “Unfortunately, it’s continued persistence isn’t a given. Lack of management, and specifically lack of fire, over the past century has left it in peril. Restoring the oak-hickory ecosystem will require a concerted effort and private landowners are a key part of the solution. This publication is intended to help landowners understand how to manage oak ecosystems on their properties, and give them a roadmap for getting started.”

Woodland owners who are curious about oak restoration or improving their woodlands for songbirds can reach out to their local IDNR forester, the Let the Sun Shine In - Indiana organization or Purdue Extension to find out how to get started.

Let the Sun Shine In – Indiana is a collaboration of several organizations with a shared goal of maintaining oak-hickory ecosystems for the benefit of the people and wildlife of Southern Indiana. 

“The LSSI IN collaboration utilizes education and outreach opportunities for landowners, to inform them of the imperiled Oak-Hickory Ecosystem,” explained Judi Brown, coordinator of the Let the Sun Shine In - Indiana. “Part of this outreach includes providing the Oak Hickory Stewardship Guide to landowners. The Stewardship Guide explains common forest management concepts that they can utilize on their properties, and encourages the growth of oak and hickory trees from the acorn or nut into the forest canopy.”

The primary method of distribution of the Stewardship Guide is through the Indiana DNR district foresters, but the guide also is available online. LSSI IN is providing metal gate signs to recognize the stewardship of forest landowners who are actively managing their forest land.

Support for the stewardship guide was provided by the Central Hardwoods Joint Venture, the American Bird Conservancy, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry, Let the Sun Shine In - Indiana, Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources Extension, the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service and the United States Forest Service.

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