by Brady Lichtenberg, Missouri Department of Conservation

We’ve received some questions about the tree removal projects we’ve been working on for the past few years at Eagle Bluffs CA, so I am hopeful that this article will help to answer the common ones.

In pool 2, we removed mostly cottonwoods and some willows because waterfowl were not utilizing the habitat in that pool. The trees were getting taller every year making it more difficult for birds to navigate between them and the trees along Perche Creek. These trees also provide nothing beneficial for water birds and serve as hawk perches which doesn’t allow ducks to feed and rest comfortably. The trees were also casting a lot of shade and stealing nutrients from the open marshy areas which reduced the productivity of the moist soil plant community, causing poorer habitat quality for migrating birds that rely on these areas.

Toward the very south end of the area, on the south side of the pools 14 and 15 levee we removed some trees that were getting large enough to potentially compromise the integrity of that levee. Tree roots can grow through levees and cause water leaks as well as preventing mat forming grasses from growing that serve as a tarp and allow water to flow over levees during flood events without causing much erosion. As some of you know, many of the levees on Eagle Bluffs CA have very large trees growing on them that are now too large to realistically remove, so we are trying to be proactive in preventing this from becoming the case on even more levees.

In pool 8 we are working on removing some willow and cottonwood trees as well. Similar to the reasoning in pool 2, we are removing trees to increase moist soil plant community production and make the area more easily usable for waterfowl.

In the north part of the area, before you get to any of the wetland pools, we did a thinning in a tree planting along the road. In 2008 a mix of sycamore, bur oak, pin oak, and pecans were planted. Sycamores grow much faster and aggressively than the other species, which was stunting their growth and limiting their potential. Also, all the others are mast producers (something that EB does not have much of). For these reasons we cut/killed roughly half of the sycamores in that area to open up the canopy so the other species can receive more sunlight, water, and nutrients. There are still some “weed trees” (eg. Boxelder, Callery pear, Eastern red cedar, etc.) that we plan on removing to further promote the mast producers. The downed trees also serve as good cover for small animals, deer, and ground nesting birds.

In the northwest region of pool 1 and west of there toward the Missouri River, Nelson Tree Service was hired by Ameren who owns the powerline right-of-way. They are going to do some repair/replacement of the big powerline support that’s right there so they are cutting some of the trees that are in the way and encroaching toward powerlines.

All in all, the trees that grow on EB are some of the most common species in MO. There are thousands more on EB along the river and Perche Creek, and within other pools, so any critters that rely on those species don’t have to go far to find what they need. A lot of what we do in the realm of wetland management on EB is based around replicating historic conditions (prior to river channelization and extensive levee systems). Historically, areas of moist soil habitat that would flood in the fall/winter and dry out in the summer did not have many trees if any at all. Wetlands are the same as all other habitat types in that too many trees and trees in the wrong place cause more issues than the benefits they provide, so cutting trees is a very important part of habitat management.

If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact me via email at brady.lichtenberg@mdc.mo.gov