Forestry mowing, also referred to as forestry mulching or fecon work, has quickly become the industry standard for the management of woody vegetation and debris. Here’s why.
This process is faster and more efficient than the traditional method of hand cutting, dragging, piling, chipping or burning. Other methods, such as bulldozing, leave the soil bare and vulnerable to erosion, damage and compact the top soil, require special permits, and are more expensive.
Forestry mowing is ecologically friendly because it leaves the topsoil in place and returns the nutrients of the mulched vegetation back to the soil. Mulching the material in place with one process and utilizing only a single machine and operator means costs are less per acre than when compared to traditional methods.
Utilizing the latest generation of tracked machine, Wick Habitat Services can quickly mulch trees, shrubs, and stumps down to the surface of the soil. Trees and downed timber up to 8” and larger in diameter are quickly reduced to mulch that is evenly spread on the soil. The 20” wide rubber tracks minimizes ground pressure which helps to prevent soil compaction. The rubber tracks have a softer impact on the soil than steel tracked machines and do not rut the ground that wheeled machines are prone to do. Damage and disruption to the remaining tree root systems and the native seed bank is also kept to an absolute minimum. The mulch that is left on the surface helps prevent erosion, retains soil moisture by slowing and absorbing rainfall runoff, reduces unwanted re-growth, and builds topsoil.
Forestry mowing is a Wick Habitat Services specialty. Bob has thousands of hours of experience working in virtually any site condition the Midwest has to offer. He has served hundreds of private landowners as well as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, and The Nature Conservancy. Combining this experience with the latest and most powerful in its class mulching equipment, Wick Habitat Services provides a superior forestry mowing service.
Forestry mowing has a wide variety of applications and can be done any time of year depending on the site. If you think you have a need for forestry mowing, learn about the specific applications of forestry mowing that Wick Habitat Services can provide below.
Looking to clear vegetation for a wildlife food plot? Or maybe you have unwanted brush and trees in your forest, prairie or savanna? Is your grassland CRP non-compliant because of established trees and shrubs growing in the fields? Forestry mowing can quickly and efficiently remove them, allowing native, desired plants or food plots, to grow. It is also well suited to take care of invasive species such as buckthorn, honeysuckle, multiflora rose, or autumn olive. These are quickly taking over woodlots and fields throughout the Midwest. Invasive species do require an aggressive and integrated approach to their control, so a management plan should be implemented. Wick Habitat Services has the experience and methods to combat these aggressive invaders.
Established prairies, as well as prairie restoration, are ideal uses for forestry mowing. In the Midwest, prairies are fire adapted ecosystems that relied on the periodic wildfires of the past to keep brush and trees from overtaking the herbaceous vegetation. Today, prescribed fire is the management tool of choice to maintain these important ecosystems. Scattered brush and trees are easily set back as the thick grasses are burned. But, for prairies that have not had fire on a timely rotation, brush and trees can quickly take over. The leafy canopy that develops shades out the grasses and forbs, sometimes to the point when a prescribed fire will no longer carry through the unit or have enough heat to kill the woody vegetation. By forestry mowing the brush and trees, the grasses will fill in and provide fuel for hotter and more effective prescribed fire the following season. For restoring prairie, many sites may be entirely taken over by brush and undesired trees. Forestry mowing quickly converts these into mulch that returns nutrients to the soil as well as provides fuel for future prescribed burns. By clearing the unwanted woody vegetation, the site is prepared for future herbicide applications, native seeding, and tractor maintenance mowing.
The first step in this prairie restoration was to mulch the brush and trees that have taken over the fallow field.
Invasive brush and trees are becoming common throughout the Midwest. Buckthorn, honeysuckle, multiflora rose, and autumn olive are fast growing and prolific seed producers. They typically leaf out sooner in the spring and keep leaves later in the fall than the native vegetation. This big advantage allows them to out compete the natives and take over woodlots and fields. Not being native to this area, they also thrive because there are not as many natural controls such as insects and disease to control their numbers. Preventing establishment is the best course of action as young plants are easy to control with hand pulling or herbicides. Over time though, they quickly take over and in many cases become the sole dominate vegetation in the understory or field. Once they become established and create dense thickets, forestry mowing is a powerful and efficient tool to set them back and allow for effective management in the future. Some native species, such as box elder, prickly ash, and red osier dogwood, can act like aggressive invaders as well, taking over areas and reducing diversity. The thick growth that these natives and invasives create is difficult to manage by hand and this is where forestry mowing shows its greatest advantage in speed and cost effectiveness.
Invading multiflora rose and honeysuckle removed by forestry mowing. Take back your land from these aggressive and habitat degrading species.
Maintaining and creating habitat for endangered species is made easier with the use of forestry mowing. Endangered species such as the Karner blue butterfly and Kirtland warbler require specific habitat. Habitat loss is one of the main reasons for species such as these to have population declines. Sites that are suitable for restoration are converted to the proper habitat by carefully removing unwanted or overgrown woody vegetation. Thinning existing vegetation or creating pockets or openings is easily and precisely done with our equipment. Additional enhancement can be done by overseeding or interseeding with native plant species.
Another habitat application is regenerating young forest habitats. These communities have been declining over the decades as they transition into older successional stands.
The Young Forest Initiative is a program that encourages early succession vegetation through disturbance. By mowing off older vegetation, this encourages early succession trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants to grow. This provides highly valued habitat for a multitude of species, especially deer, woodcock, and ruffed grouse. You will notice an increase of animals and birds that will come with the growth of new young forest. Sites are selected based on location and proximity to other habitats, plant species present, and the wildlife goals of the landowner. Remember: the more diversity your landscape holds, the better it is for wildlife.
Oak savannas were once widespread across the Midwest. Today, less than five percent of this desirable ecosystem remains. If your oak savanna has transitioned into a thicket full of brush and undesired trees, forestry mowing can be the first step in restoring this rare habitat. This fire-adapted ecosystem can be restored by removing the overgrowth, and that allows leaf litter and fine fuels to accumulate on the forest floor. This permits the effective use of prescribed fire. Depending on the amount and species removed, herbicides, prescribed fire, overseeding, or a combination of these, can be planned to ensure success in the restoration.
Grasslands/ Important Birds
Important Bird Area habitat health includes brush and tree management. Depending on the songbird habitat needed, the amount, age, plant species, and even the shape of brushy areas are critical characteristics for maintaining highly productive habitat. Invasive species such as honeysuckle and buckthorn should not be tolerated. Prescribed fire is an effective tool for maintaining grassy areas, but when restoring overgrown areas, prescribed fire may not have the intensity to control the woody vegetation. By using forestry mowing to set back the brush, prescribed fire can be brought back once again as an effective management tool. In the case of invasive species, herbicides can be used as a follow-up for control.
Autumn olive removed from tallgrass prairie to maintain critical bird habitat.
Wetland restoration also benefits when forestry mowing is used to remove woody species such as red osier dogwood and willow. These native species can grow aggressively, out competing and replacing the desired herbaceous vegetation and thereby reducing the valuable diversity that wetlands offer to wildlife. By timing the mowing during frozen conditions, wetlands that are inaccessible most of the year, can be renewed and restored.
Brush removed from wetland. This will allow herbaceous vegetation to grow to add diversity to the wetland.
The compact size of the forestry mower gives it an advantage when mulching brush, trees, and logging slash in standing timber. Removing invasive species and underbrushing are common applications. Timber stand improvement can also be done by removing damaged, diseased, and deformed trees or thinning trees that are too closely spaced. Removing the undesired trees and shrubs removes the competition for the remaining trees and helps them thrive. Water, sunlight, and nutrients are now more available to them, allowing faster growth, larger size, and a healthier vigor. In woodlots and savannas, encroaching vegetation on desired trees can reduce crown density. Removal of unwanted vegetation will ensure healthy and full tree crowns. We have extensive experience in working in these environments and thorough silviculture knowledge. Mowing can take place any month of the year as we can accurately identify trees and shrubs without the need for leaves.
Many woodlots in the Midwest are transitioning from an open understory of forbs, grasses, and sedges to woodlots choked with brush and undesired trees. Many areas were used in the past for pasturing livestock and this helped to keep brush set back and herbaceous vegetation to remain established. When this ended, brush quickly filled the understory. This brush halts herbaceous vegetation growth and also prevents new native tree seedlings from becoming established. It is not uncommon to see previously dormant natives start to appear after the brush is removed. Underbrushing, or forestry mowing the brush, releases the mature trees from competition and also allows the young seedlings and saplings room to grow. As older trees are harvested, or lost to age or storms, these young trees will be there to be the mature trees of the future. With the ability to identify trees and shrubs when leaves are off allows forestry mowing year round. This allows the mowing to be conducted during the optimal conditions for any site, increasing productivity and efficiency and getting the most out of your land management budget.
Timber Harvests and Logging Slash
Timber harvest operations benefit from forestry mowing. Creating access trails and clearing log decks are common applications, but mulching slash left over after the harvest allows for easier replanting and faster regeneration of the stand. The mulch layer helps to suppress weed growth and breaks down faster, releasing the stored nutrients back into the soil for uptake by the seedlings. A cleaner site also allows for easier follow up in-between row mowing and herbicide band spraying.
Logging slash mulched to facilitate easier seedling planting and management.
The single process advantage really shines when it comes to removing standing vegetation in utility right of ways and on commercial campus sites. Unwanted woody vegetation is mulched to the soil, allowing future management with rotary type brush hogs feasible. Applications also include survey sight lines cleared, access trails and property lines opened, and retention ponds and waterways that are overgrown with dogwood and willow cleared.
Utility Right-of-Way cleared of sandbar willow. Follow up can include herbicides or annual rotary mowing.
Presentation and Access
An overgrown lot is difficult to sell when prospective buyers have a hard time visualizing the lay of the land and the condition and size of the “good” trees. On some lots, prospective buyers see only a literal “wall” of vegetation. Help them realize the potential of the parcel by clearing the unwanted vegetation, leaving a carpet of mulch in its place. On bigger acreage access trails enable the potential buyers to explore the land to get a better sense of its potential. For lot clearing, reducing the vegetation to a mulch to be hauled off lowers clearing costs because it requires fewer truckloads compared to hauling unmulched tree tops and brush.
Street view of an overgrown lot before and after mowing. Which one is more attractive to buyers?
Aesthetics and Landscape
Over the years, a view that you once enjoyed from your home is maybe now blocked by brush and trees. Perhaps you once had a view of a lake or stream. Maybe a distant range or hilltop is no longer visible. Or your woodlot or oak savanna is choked with brush and all that remains to be seen are the tree crowns. Forestry mowing can mulch the unwanted brush and trees, leaving a park like setting while restoring your view. Whether clearing land for a building site or allowing better enjoyment of the surrounding landscape, forestry mowing is fast, economical, and provides immediate results.
Obstructed view improved with removal of unwanted brush and trees. The lake is able to be seen again.
In areas that are prone to wildfires, reducing the fuel load and ladder fuels in the vicinity of buildings and timber stands can be an investment that saves thousands of dollars down the road in losses. Flammable vegetation and dead, dry material can be mulched in place, reducing its capacity for ignition and high intensity fires. Out of control and devastating crown fires can be prevented by thinning the brush, vines, and trees that can carry ground fires upward. Fire breaks can also be mowed in strategic areas to allow access for fire fighters and to help contain fires should they happen. Don’t leave your valuable timber and structures unnecessary exposed to a risk of wildfire. Contact us to find out how we can keep your property safe.
White pine thinning in oak woodlot for wildfire prevention. This woodlot surrounds landowners home.
Pasture and Farming
Pastures that site idle for a few years can quickly be overtaken by unwanted shrubs and trees. Box elder, black locust, and ash are prolific seeders and spread relatively quickly. Shrubs, including autumn olive, gray dogwood, prickly ash, and honeysuckle, invade the once open areas to form impenetrable thickets where neither man nor livestock like to venture. Forestry mowing reduces standing vegetation to nutrient rich mulch that actually helps to build topsoil. Grasses will soon fill in, and with management, pastures can be returned to productive grazing land or hay fields.
Overgrown horse pasture renewed with mulching of invading brush and trees. The mulch will actually improve the topsoil over time as it decomposes.
If you are a farmer, you already know all too well how the encroachment of trees and shrubs can take over edges of crop fields. Forestry mowing those edges gets back acres of tillable
land, reduces damage to expensive farm equipment from overhanging limbs, and does so with no tire hazards from chainsaw cut stumps. Removing old fence lines that are not needed anymore is made easier when adjacent vegetation is removed. We’ll skillfully mulch material right up to the old fence, allowing easy access for its removal or repair.
Hiking, ski, horseback, or utv/atv trails are easily constructed with forestry mowing. Access trails makes it easier to get to different areas on large acreage. This helps with management, recreation, and just plain enjoyment of your property.
With the ability to grind the trees and shrubs down to the soil, there are no tripping or tire hazards from stumps to worry about. For larger stumps, Wick Habitat Services can grub or grind them out. Light grading, excavation and culvert installation can also be done. Having this variety of services allows locating the trail where it is most useful and safe while taking the best advantage of the lay of the land. Trails established along fences or property lines will provide a clear marking of the lines location.