The Pike Lake Springs

I love springs.  They’re pure and simple, shimmering musical, bubbling forth life and hope; just what I need.  So it was serendipitous that Pati and I decided to hike the Ice Age Trail in the Kettle Moraine State Forest Pike Lake Unit, where we discovered that the lake is fed by numerous springs along its eastern shore.

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The Rubicon River flows through the lake on its way to the Rock River, providing refreshing circulation.

In 2001 a 60′ observation tower was built at the top of Powder Hill that provides a unique perspective of the the surrounding Kettle Moraine topography.

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The highlight of the extensive trail system is the Black Forest Nature Trail, which takes you through a remnant of Southern Dry-Mesic Forest that includes spring-fed wetlands.

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We are definitely going to visit this beautiful place again as the seasons change.

Back home at The Springs, I had another great week thanks to a little help from my friends.  On Martin Luther King Day, I was joined by my old friend from Northwestern Mutual, Mark Mamerow, who helped me for many years to clean out the Bark River and make it navigable for canoes and kayaks from the Village of Hartland to Lake Nagawicka.

Before I dive into our modest accomplishments, I want to call your attention to An Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King, by William F. Pepper.  While the nation was distracted by the O. J. Simpson trial, the family of Dr. King was successfully pursuing truth and justice via a wrongful death civil trial against Loyd Jowers.  The jury deliberated for about an hour before delivering their verdict:

THE COURT: In answer to the question did Loyd Jowers participate in a conspiracy to do harm to Dr. Martin Luther King, your answer is yes. Do you also find that others, including governmental agencies, were parties to this conspiracy as alleged by the defendant? Your answer to that one is also yes. And the total amount of damages you find for the plaintiffs entitled to is one hundred dollars. Is that your verdict?

THE JURY: Yes (In unison).

There is overwhelming evidence that James Earl Ray did not shoot Dr. King and that others, “including governmental agencies” were involved.  Yet, every year on Martin Luther King day, the nation’s collective amnesia is “refreshed” by the total blackout of this important information in the main stream media.  This is the kind of thing that drives The Buckthorn Man crazy.  You can listen to William F. Pepper tell the story here.

I met Mark at the DNR parking area above the Hotel Spring and we headed to the area north of the old barn site along Hwy 67, where I have been working recently.   Our goal was to burn the brush previously cut and continue clearing the buckthorn from the hillside below the highway.  Here are a few shots taken after we got the first fire started.

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We allowed time and energy to take a tour of The Springs afterwards and I got to show off all of the cool things we did last year.  Thanks Mark!

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Last Thursday I was joined deep in the Buckthorn Alley by Chris Mann and the Kettle Moraine Land Stewards (Brian Brandt and Austin Avellone.)  We are clearing the north side of the trail, which, now that you can see, consists of rolling uplands interspersed with wetlands.  Here is how it looked before we got started (the views are looking east, north and southeast.)

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Lunch break update.

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The results far exceeded my expectations!  Brian Brandt really kicked ass, putting Chris, Austin and The Buckthorn Man to shame.  I think he might even be able to give Ben Johnson and Lindsay Knudsvig a run for their money!  Below are the same three perspectives shown above.

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Finally, on Saturday, taking advantage of the mild weather, I headed over to the east shore of Ottawa Lake to burn some brush piles that Andy Buchta stacked this past Fall.  Thanks again Andy!

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Mark Miner joins us when he can, and I really appreciated his help on Saturday to watch and tend the brush piles after I got them lit.  We had a safe and effective day burning piles along the lake shore all the way up to the east side of the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA.

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Views from the campground, site #380, where I parked my truck.

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Views from the east side of the fen.

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It’s a load off my mind when I can get brush piles burned!

A couple of closing shots from our adventure at Pike Lake yesterday.

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See you at The Springs!

The Fish Hatchery Springs

It was a heart warming week at The Springs both physically and emotionally.  Old Man Winter loosened his grip…

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and, instead, I felt again the embrace of my loving soul mate, family and friends.

I might be his biggest fan, so the pleasure was all mine this past Monday when I helped Scott Finch harvest some black locust firewood for the cozy living room stove over his recording studio in Milwaukee’s hip, Riverwest, neighborhood.

I took a leisurely walk around the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail before Scott arrived,

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and was happy to take the call from my sister Cathy, “Heh, will you give us a tour of The Springs?”   We made a date for Tuesday and I finished my walk contemplating the fun we would have.

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While Scott, his buddy Mr. Snoodles, and I, loaded our trucks with firewood, Chris, Brian, Austin and Phil, from the Kettle Moraine Land Stewards, continued cutting and burning on the north side of the Buckthorn Alley.  Nice work!

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On Tuesday I was very pleased to be joined on the trail by 5 of my 9 brothers and sisters (Cathy’s husband Tom, a 35+ year veteran of the U.S. Forest Service was there too, and took the picture of us shown below.)  I deflected their compliments by explaining that working out at The Springs is the only thing that is keeping me sane.  It’s the only time I get to win.  With my trusty chainsaw, and a razor sharp chain, I win the argument with Mr. Buckthorn every time.   I know — it’s pathetic.

I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did!  Below from left to right: Joe, Margret, Paul, Pete, Liz (in blue) and Cathy.

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On Wednesday, I took care of business at home cleaning the house in preparation for the return of my loving mate, Pati Holman, from her second trip to Uruguay.  Meanwhile, Chris, Austin and Phil broke through the buckthorn thicket on the north side of the Buckthorn Alley to reach some massive red oaks.

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Thursday, I returned to get some licks in myself, but first I had a sign to put up.

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I mistakenly named this previously anonymous haven for birds and bees The Hatching House Springs, after Lindsay Knudsvig uncovered them by some intense brush, cattail and phragmites clearing.  When I saw this map that Ron Kurowski preserved, I realized that the Hatching House had actually been located much closer to the Hotel Springs.

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Shortly thereafter, Jim Davee and Melaine Kapinos positioned the new signpost #9 in the correct location.

So… what to call this unique set of springs in the heart of the valley?

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Ron suggested the Fish Hatchery Springs and Anne and James from the Kettle Moraine State Forest — Southern Unit soon had the sign ready.  I brought out a 20lb bag of charcoal, and was even prepared to use my torch, but, like I said, Old Man Winter had loosened his grip, and I had no problem digging a hole for the post.

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I took a minute to secure the 4′ deck we positioned where the Fish Hatchery Springs join the river, by toe nailing the deck onto its support beams.

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By 10:00am I was repositioned north of the old barn site to work on the last stretch of buckthorn along Hwy 67 in the Scuppernong Springs Nature Preserve property.

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There was a nice brush pile left over from the last time we worked in this area and, as soon as it was lit, I commenced to cutting buckthorn.

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I think we’ll be able to finish this area with one more workday.

My sweetheart Pati came home on Friday and we took a very nice walk on the Ice Age Trail in the Loew Lake segment.  I must say, I feel pretty lucky to have had a heart warming week like that in the dead of winter.

See you at The Springs!

We Are A Conservation Force For Good

It might have been the U.S. Navy that introduced the “force for good” meme 5 years ago with their imperial recruiting slogan, “A Global Force For Good”.  And my former employer, Northwestern Mutual, modestly limiting its reach to the world around them, quietly claimed to be merely a “Force For Good” (this thought directing campaign was nestled between the very popular “Be One” and “Embrace Change”.)  Even the alternative “B” Corporations have gotten into the act claiming that they are, “using business as a force for good.”  I’m going to double down on these usurpers and make the bold claim that people who commit their lives to taking care of the land are A Conservation Force For Good!

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Yesterday I had the pleasure of working with DNR Conservation Biologists Jared Urban and Nate Fayram, and a team of State Natural Areas Program volunteers led by Zach Kastern and Ginny Coburn, as we cut and burned buckthorn at the Whitewater Oak Opening, which is part of the Clifford F Messinger Dry Prairie & Savanna Preserve SNA.

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I new it was going to be a great day when I spotted a gloriously bold and free, Bald Eagle, in a tree above the Scuppernong River, just below the Hotel Springs where I had stopped to get some water.

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These birds are awe inspiring and I recalled that the last time I saw one in the Southern Kettle Moraine Forest was more than 10 years ago, when I took my parents, Al and Elaine Mozina, to visit Brady’s Rocks.

Jared Urban spends half of his time with the DNR nurturing and coordinating volunteer efforts at State Natural Areas in the southern half of Wisconsin, and we could sure use a few more like him to coordinate efforts in the rest of the state.

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Jared lays out the plan for the day.

The brush piles were relatively fresh and buried under a couple inches of snow, so it took a little extra effort to get them lit.

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Scott Farrell delivers air to the fire.

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Some of us worked on lighting the piles while others cut fresh buckthorn and threw brush on the fires.  We managed to get 8 piles burned and expanded the perimeter of cut buckthorn in their vicinity.

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Scott and Herb worked for a few hours after lunch and Zach hung out with me until we had consolidated all of the burning piles.

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As we tended the piles, Zach told me about the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, and specifically about their support for the State Natural Areas Program.  He told me about the Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan and promised to send me the links.

I was amazed and impressed at the depth and quality of the scientific analysis and the comprehensiveness of the plans.  The maps in the Wisconsin’s Wildlife Action Plan (2005-2015) are outstanding.  Here is an example:

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I’m looking forward to reviewing the results of these plans, a decade after their conception, that I’m sure the DNR will publish.  Well, to be honest, I’m more than concerned: I feel like George Tenet, former CIA Director who said before 9/11 that, “my hair was on fire!”.  Can “we the people” succeed in reaching the conservation goals outlined in the DNR documents linked above if the current funding levels are not dramatically increased and we don’t get a much more substantial volunteer contribution across the state?

Take a look at the 2013-2015 and 2015-2017 Biennial Budgets for the Wisconsin DNR and compare the average $570 million annual allotments to the amounts we have spent on our Intelligence Agencies alone since 9/11.

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And the proof is not in the pudding as all this money spent has actually increased the number of terrorist attacks.

I’m getting all riled up here, lets calm down by the fire and just talk.

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See you at The Springs!

Ugly Buckthorn

Winter is a great time of year to appreciate just how ugly buckthorn is.  Contrasted with a majestic oak or stately hickory, the buckthorn’s lack of grace and beauty is readily apparent.  It grows like a cancer, stealing nutrients, water and sunlight from the healthy flora it invades, and some research indicates it has an allelopathic impact as well.  It’s polluting our forests and obscuring the natural beauty of the landscape.

I try to make the best of the opportunity I have to work at The Springs, and that means getting out year-round to do battle with the buckthorn.  But, it is definitely harder to motivate when the temperatures drop and the snow begins to accumulate.  After bailing out last Sunday, I did get out a couple times this week and I’m getting used to winter again.

Tuesday morning fetching some water at the Hotel Springs.

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On my way to signpost #2, I stopped to check out the work that Chris Mann, Ben Johnson and the Kettle Moraine Land Stewards did on Sunday.  That was a nasty day that The Buckthorn Man wimped out on.  They made good progress pushing back the wall of buckthorn on the east side of the trail as it leads to signpost #1.

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I stirred up the coals and warmed up before heading to my destination near signpost #2.

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I picked a spot where a huge aspen had fallen, and there was lots of dead wood to start a fire, and was soon joined by Andy Buchta.

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After a few hours cutting, my chainsaw was running rough and I had to stop and figure out what was going on; there was a part loose rattling about somewhere inside.  There is always something new to learn about chainsaws and, apparently, when I replaced the muffler a few months ago, I did not tighten the screws properly.  Fortunately the saw is designed to capture the screws if they work themselves free and I simply had to screw the muffler back on.  We got modest results and dispatched some very ugly buckthorn.

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Below, looking west, then east.

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I took my gear back to the truck and returned to hang out by the fire.

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Thursday proved to be a bit more challenging; Andy informed me that it was -4 when he arrived, and snow was forecast for the afternoon.  I was joined by Chris Mann, Austin Avellone, Phil Hass, Drew Ballantyne and Andy Buchta deep in the Buckthorn Alley, where the trees were hideously misshapen after years of falling over themselves and resprouting.  The views below are looking west, north and east from where I parked my sled.

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Drew keeps our drinks from freezing.

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We sent many odious buckthorn to hell that day.  Below, mid-day, looking west and north.IMG_4736

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Wrapping up for the day.

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Compare this view west to the first look aboveIMG_4739

and, likewise, this view looking north.

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Thanks again to Chris, Andy, Phil, Austin and Drew; you guys rock!

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See you at The Springs!

The U. S. Government is a Pyschopath

The Buckthorn Man enters 2015 swinging a chainsaw and a torch in the hopes that you will see the lay of the land.

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Walk this trail with me:  Start with an abstraction called government and make it real in your mind (reification); then anthropomorphize it with the worst of human characteristics i.e., psychopathy and you get the metaphorThe U.S. Government is a Psychopath.

Jan Irvin showed me this trail in his recent podcast entitled: “Remedy Roundtable 05 – Prof. Jay Courtney Fikes, Lydia & Royce White Calf – “The Lakota, Naropa Institute, and Wounded Knee – From Gen. Custer to Carlos Castaneda.”  I’m embarrassed sometimes by my lack of recollection of history and resulting inability to put current events into context.  When reminded of the way the Lakota were treated by the U.S. Government following the signing of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, and the way they are being treated now, in the context of the Keystone XL Pipeline debate, I know we are dealing with a psychopath.

It didn’t take but a few years for the U.S. Government to strip the Lakota of the vast majority of the lands, “…set apart for the absolute and undisturbed use and occupation of the Indians herein named…”, as declared in Article II of the treaty.

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(Map sourced from OWE AKU International Justice Project)

The U.S. Government has physically, culturally and financially terrorized the Oglala Lakota, or Oglala Sioux, people since they first met.  The latest abuse is the continued ignorance of their legitimate ownership claim to the lands ceded to them back in 1868, which, inconveniently, would give them veto power over the proposed path of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

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(Map sourced from TransCanada)

The debate in congress focuses on man-made climate change, and the potential for a spill on the pipeline route to pollute the Oglala Aquifer.

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But, missing in the debate in the mainstream media and congress, is the context that the proposed pipeline would pass directly through territory ceded by treaty to the Lakota: a treaty the U.S. government abrogated within 8 years of signing.  The Lakota people are the only military opponent of the U.S. Government to capture it’s flag 3 times and they are not done fighting!  They have refused to be bought off and they stand united to protect the earth and assert their legitimate rights.

I described the double bind I’m in volunteering at The Springs in a recent post i.e., I Hate Government — I Serve Government, and I tried to resolve it by suggesting that I’m really serving The Creator, not the the temporary owner of the land.  And so I carry on…

The snow is swirling and blowing outside as I write this and I’m really glad we focused on burning as many brush piles as we could at The Springs, before they got buried.  Thursday I was joined by Chris Mann and his team from the Kettle Moraine Land Stewards including: Andy Buchta, Austin Avellone and Phil Hass.  Our goal was to burn all of the piles near the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail parking lot on Hwy ZZ.

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We did that and a whole lot more.  I really enjoy working with these guys!  The audio on this clip is drowned out by the wind at times, but you’ll get the idea.

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Chris and Phil returned after dinner to listen to The Buckthorn Man rant.

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I was in the neighborhood, fetching some water at the Parry Road Spring on Friday, and took advantage of the lack of snow to add some gravel to the beginning of the trail where water tends to puddle.

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Here are a view perspectives of the areas we burned on Thursday.

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I continued clockwise on the trail through the old buckthorn alley until I arrived on the east end and surveyed the areas we recently burned there.

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I’ve been working well into darkness for the last couple of weeks so I really enjoyed seeing The Springs in the daylight.

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When I arrived at the Emerald Spring, the water was cloudy and disturbed and I suspected a creature had just vacated the premises.  In this video I jump to the conclusion that a turtle is making it’s home in the neighborhood, but I think it might be a muskrat.  What do you make of this?

Turtle caves?  Muskrat dens?

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See you at The Springs!

Fire Works at The Springs

We’ve been celebrating the end of 2014 at The Springs

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with fire works of our own.

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It’s been a great year, and we’ve accomplished a lot — some of which is really good.  Visit the Archives drop-down list, on the right side of the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail Home page, and pick a month to scroll through.  I did just that, and added my favorite moments of 2014, one for each month, to the Posts I Like section of the Home page (scroll down and look on the right side.)  I hope you have enjoyed your journey on The Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail with The Buckthorn Man in 2014 and that you will continue with me in 2015!  I welcome your comments, suggestions, clarifications and corrections.

There is one thing that buckthorn fears more than The Buckthorn Man: FIRE.  Buckthorn will fight you until you subject it to the flame.  When you’ve been offended, slapped, pricked, tripped, mocked and poked by buckthorn, like The Buckthorn Man has, then you will understand how satisfying it is to cut, poison and burn this vermin foliage in a few hours time.

Usually we wait for snow cover before burning brush piles, but this Winter has been wet enough that I considered giving it a try.  Our first burns at the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA were safely conducted and very productive.  It saves a tremendous amount of time and effort when you can throw freshly cut buckthorn onto a raging fire, as opposed to piling it to burn another day (when it may be buried under 6″ of snow.)

Last weekend I began burning brush piles along the northeast rim of the loop trail.  I tried, and failed, to light some of these piles last year, and was glad to get another chance at them sans snow.

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I’ll never get tired of saying ‘it was a great day’!

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Andy Buchta came out to help me and mentioned that he had finished piling the brush we cut, and did not burn, at the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA.  Thanks Andy!

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On Sunday, I had a date with Chris Mann and the Kettle Moraine Land Stewards and we continued where Andy and I left off on Saturday.  But first, here are a couple of “the day after” views of what we accomplished.

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The slope from the wetland shown above, east to Hwy 67, transitions from mostly buckthorn to mostly black locust.  The black locust has been harvested but many of the buckthorn were simply pushed over.  The ones that were cut did not appear to be poisoned.  The combination of battered buckthorn and slashed black locust resembled a war zone, and I wanted to clean up the mess.

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Chris, Andy and Austin joined me as we re-cut and poisoned the buckthorn stumps and fed huge fires with buckthorn and black locust slash.  We cleaned up the lower portion of the hillside, leaving the rest for a contractor that the DNR hires.  They grind everything up, which contributes fuel for a prescribed burn, but it is necessary to come back and poison the resprouts from the undamaged buckthorn root systems.  On the other hand, our technique leaves much less fuel for a prescribed burn but kills the buckthorn the first time.  It will be interesting to see how fire carries through these areas if the DNR is successful at executing a prescribed burn here in 2015.

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The conditions for burning brush piles are still very good, so I’m going to try to burn as much as I can before the snow finally arrives.  We got out again yesterday and continued on the west side of the wetland shown above, approaching The Buckthorn Alley.

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It was a cold day and the fires felt real good.  Andy, Chris and Austin standing before a huge blaze.

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One of my favorite things to do is hang out by a fire on a cold winter’s night.  I propped myself up with a pitch fork and watched the smoke trailing up from the embers and through the trees into the moonlit sky.

Happy New Year and I hope to see you at The Springs!

The Ottawa Lake Fen Scientific Area

Perhaps it was a reaction to my post about the Bluff Creek Springs, where I lamented the inability of the DNR, given the funding available to them, to adequately manage the state-owned lands under their care, that prompted Jared Urban, the coordinator of the State Natural Areas volunteers, to send me the Wisconsin’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program 2014 Annual Report.  The report explains some of the complex issues the DNR faces, as they try to manage 673 State Natural Areas encompassing over 373,000 acres with a budget under $5,000,000.  I have only respect for the hard working, dedicated staff of the Natural Heritage Conservation Program.

Philosophically, I’m in a bind.  Government is literally and etymologically: mind-control.  It is a religion based on the dogmatic belief, programmatically instilled in us from birth, that it is OK, even possible, for people to delegate rights that they do not have to an association of people that they call government.  People calling themselves “Government” assert rights they do not have, that no human being has e.g., torture, taxation etc., and they take away rights we all inherently possess e.g., prohibition, licensing etc.  So long as the vast majority of people continue to believe it is OK to do business and force your services on people at the point of a gun — if you call yourself Government — there will be no awakening of consciousness and immoral acts done in our name will continue.

Whether or not I think or believe any government: federal, state or local, is legitimate, counts for nothing when it comes to the reality of the challenges humanity faces if we choose to accept responsibility for preserving and protecting the flora and fauna on the planet.  Right now, entities we call government, control vast and diverse lands encompassing the treasures of the natural world and they are NOT prioritizing the effort to take care of them.  The amount of money spent on the Natural Heritage Conservation Program in 2014 is obscenely trivial compared to the amount required, or the amount spent on the military, industrial, security complex (to keep us safe, of course!)

I’m choosing to cooperate with government by volunteering my time and energy to help take care of the land it controls, but I’m sorely conflicted:

“A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.”

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

In the past month I have been focusing, with the help of the Kettle Moraine Land Stewards, on the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA.

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Chris Mann, and his team from the KMLS, have made a huge difference, reminiscent of the way Ben Johnson super-charged our efforts at The Springs this past year.  Thanks again to Ron Kurowski for hiring Chris and to the Kettle Moraine Natural History Association for funding his team.

As we progressed clearing the buckthorn from the tamarack grove and along the north and east sides of the fen, I imagined a trail all the way around the fen connecting with the boat launch on the southwest side of Ottawa Lake.  I asked Anne Korman, the Assistant Superintendent of the Kettle Moraine State Forest — Southern Unit, about it and she entertained the idea.  I got an email the next day from Eric Tarman-Ramcheck, a long-time land steward recently hired by the DNR, containing The Ottawa Lake Fen Scientific Area Report.  This fascinating document, from 1975, provides a window into the management strategy of the DNR at that time, and includes this very interesting map of the fen.

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The dashed (——) lines could easily be mistaken for a trail system but they actually demarcate the different plant community zones.  Imagine what it was like back in 1975 when the buckthorn was not an issue and the bird watching tower and canoe accessible boardwalk were in place.  40 years of hands-off management “to maintain area in wild condition”, allowed the degradation of the land by invasive species to progress.  It has taken the effort of one who “loves his servitude”, to The Creator that is, to reverse that trend.

This past Monday, December 21, Chris Mann and Austin Avellone helped me finish clearing the buckthorn from the east side of the fen, just north of the walk-in campsite #334.  Here is how it looked before we got started.

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The rain held off until the afternoon and then the gentle drizzle did not damper our spirits.  We had a very productive day and I returned the next morning to document the results.

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I made a date with Chris and company to meet me at The Springs, just down the trail a bit towards signpost #1, to burn some brush piles we made in late 2013 and cut the nearby buckthorn orchard.  Here is what we faced as the sun tried to peek through and a strong breeze from the southwest help dry out the wood.

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Jake Michaels joined Chris, Austin and myself and we had a field day!

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As I took the video below, two deer crept up behind me, blending in almost imperceptibly with the landscape.

I am amazed and, dare I say, overjoyed, by the progress being made since Chris and the Kettle Moraine Land Stewards joined the fray!

See you at The Springs!