DPW project bolsters forest regeneration

This area of Spesutie Island has been cleared and swept for unexploded ordnance to prepare for the addition of 300 trees per acre to the forest. The goal of the project is to jump start the regeneration of trees such as Oak, Poplar, and Hickory which will create a better environment for wildlife in the future.| U.S. Army photo by Lauren Finnegan, APG News

Over the past few months environmentalists with the Natural Resources Branch of the Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division have been trying to jump-start the natural regeneration of forested areas of Spesutie Island. According to Forester Scott English, much of the island has been consumed by Paw Paw, Locust trees, and various vine species that provide too much ground cover for seeds to naturally regenerate as they fall to the forest floor. And, any new growth that begins to germinate is quickly foraged by the deer population. English said the area became a priority eight years ago after an initial site visit.

“Because of the invasive species and the deer population, the natural regeneration of the oak needed a little bit of assistance,” he said. “That’s when we decided to write the prescription to enter this stand and removed the vines, the locusts… and create a little more stand structure.”

Forest on Spesutie Island that is covered in vines and debris looks similar to the area undergoing forest regeneration before being cleared. | U.S. Army photo by Lauren Finnegan, APG News

The clearance of vines, debris, and fallen trees over the last few months has provided the possibility for that natural regeneration process to take place, English said, adding the goal is for more desirable species such as Oak, Poplar, and Hickory trees to gain a footing in the area naturally and to aid in the stand structure by planting some trees as well. He said a bio-diverse forest will encourage a bio-diverse wildlife.

“We want to get the future set up as far as biodiversity – a place for the eagles to live 50 years from now,” he said.

The team started the program with an unexploded ordnance, or UXO, sweep of the area. The sweep made it possible for them to flag future tree locations.

“Here at Aberdeen we have over 600 million rounds fired since 1917,” English said. “Because of the ranges there’s a lot of unknowns… Like I tell people, we don’t do forestry, we do Army forestry.”

The hope is that during the spring one of three types of oak trees – swamp, chestnut or white, will replace the flags that are planted. The transplants, which will range from 3 to 7 years old, will be surrounded by a tube to protect them from deer browse and they’ll be staked to the ground to prevent them from falling over.

English said, “We want to get it up above browse line, which is a high as a deer can stand on their hind legs.”

The team has a 50-year forest management plan in place with specified times for re-inspection -including in 2028 and 2035 – to check on the progress of the forest.

“We’re going to be back… to check on the trees because if all 300 live, the forest, 30 years from now, will be too dense and we will have to pick some of [the trees] out,” English said.

The Natural Resources Branch will continue this plan of action in other areas down the road, he added.

“There are no more Aberdeen Proving Grounds to be found out there. We want to make sure that we’re doing the right thing. This will make sure the Army can continue to test here and train here for the next 100 years.”

By Lauren Finnegan, APG News

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