Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Oak-Grassland Restoration Demonstration Areas at Land Between the Lakes, Kentucky

Restoring a lost ecosystem

Land Between the Lakes (LBL) is a long narrow strip of land that lies between Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake in western Kentucky. This inland peninsula was formerly owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). In 1998, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) took over ownership, and LBL is now a National Recreation Area operated by the U.S. Forest Service.

Boating, fishing, camping, and hunting (in season) brings many visitors to LBL. LBL also has an elk and bison reserve, a telescope and a planetarium, an 1860's farm ("The Homeplace"), a nature center, historic sites, and more. There is a significant bald eagle population.

Oak-grasslands restoration planned

Two Oak-Grassland Restoration Demonstration Area (OGRDA), are now being planned and developed. Over 8000 acres will be restored. One area will be located in Tennessee near The Homeplace and the other area will be in Kentucky near the elk and bison range.

When restoration is complete, the oak-grasslands will "create habitat for wildlife, improve forest health, and provide recreational and environmental education opportunities." This promise is quoted from an informational pamphlet published by the USDA Forest Service: Oak-Grassland Restoration Demonstration Areas, Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area.

The open forests of the past

Today, the upland area included in Land Between The Lakes is mainly a dense, solid-canopied forest. It was not always so. According to old writings and other ecological evidence, the forest was much more open at the time Europeans came to the area. The canopy admitted enough sunlight that a wide variety of grasses and wildflowers covered the ground between and beneath the trees. Areas of open forest were interspersed with grasslands.

Fire was the primary agent that kept the forests open. The American Indians and early settlers deliberately burned the woods on a semi-regular basis.

How the oak-grasslands will be restored

In OGRDA, LBL will re-create the following pre-European conditions:

On upper slopes and ridges across the area, grasslands (less than 10 percent canopy closure) and open oak woodlands (10-60 percent canopy closure) are interspersed in variable mixtures. Understories are dominated by native grasses and wildflowers. Most mid- and lower-slopes support open oak forests (60-80 percent canopy closure), with understories containing regenerated oaks in sufficient numbers to provide for sustaining oak on these sites over time.

Source: PDF document: Abstract for an oral presentation, Tennessee Native Grasslands Workshop, January 24, 2007

First, the trees will be thinned to re-create an open woodland where grasses can flourish. Timber will be harvested with the goal of leaving behind scattered trees of various ages, especially oak and hickory trees. Some trees will be cut and left, to simulate the natural treefall that would occur in a oak-grassland.

Foresters will burn the oak-grassland areas on a regular schedule (every 2 to 12 years) to maintain the balance of trees, grasses, and other plants.

Benefits to plants, animals, and people

As the restoration procedes, it will help up to 40 species of native plants and animals that require a grasslands habitat.

These open conditions will benefit rare of declining species such as Barbed Rattlesnake Root, Barn Owl, Prairie Warbler, Northern Pine Snake and Northern Bobwhite Quail. Other species that will benefit include White-tail Deer, Fox Squirrel, and Wild Turkey.

Source: An informational pamphlet published by the USDA Forest Service: Oak-Grassland Restoration Demonstration Areas, Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area.

It would be nice if a population of prairie chickens could be re-established in the OGRDA.

The White-tail Deer in LBL don't need any help, in my humble opinion. The area is overrun with them. At one campground where we spent several days, young deer lurked in the woods near the campsites, apparently hoping to find food. At night, big herds of deer milled around the picnic tables and restroom facilities beside the lake.

Hiking, birding, and interpretive trails through the oak-grasslands have been promised. The trails will be an excellent educational and recreational resource.

Partners of the Oak Grasslands Restoration Demonstration Area

The following agencies and organizations are working together on the LBL oak-grasslands restoration project:

Read more about LBL and the oak-grasslands restoration

Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area (official website)
Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area (Wikipedia entry)
PDF document: A 2006 informational letter about the proposed oak-grasslands project in LBL

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3 comments -- please add yours:

Beverly Hammonds said...

The only thing I see here that is not just a repeat of the Forestry Services propaganda is your disclaimer which clearly states you are no expert. I find no value in your opinion because it is not really yours, it is just a repeat of what the local Forestry Service is trying to get people to believe. This is an important matter to many people and they, like me prefer to make an educated decision based on real experts. I do not expect this to be published as you have the approval rights. I will however, save a copy to enlighten anyone who may bring up your name as reference to the LBL situation.

Genevieve Netz said...

Beverly Hammonds, whenever someone says he or she knows I won't publish their rude comment, I ALWAYS do.

You must find the internet very frustrating and irritating. There are so many, many things written by people who are not "real experts."

When I wrote this blog post 8 years ago, I was reporting on tree news in my part of Kentucky. It was a government project on government property, so most of the information I was able to find came from the government. I do not apologize for that.

The government (in one form or another) has owned and controlled the land in LBL since the 1960s. I realize that the government seized the land and the landowners were displaced. However, I don't understand why it would be "an important matter to many people" now if LBL restores a portion of the land to its original oak-grasslands vegetation type.

And just to help Google find your name in case anyone searches for it in the future, I'm going to repeat it again: Beverly Hammonds.

Genevieve Netz said...

A woman named Bevery Hammonds posted this link to the public on her Facebook page on March 23, 2015 -- a few days after Beverly Hammonds dropped by this page and left the comment above. The link leads to a document and a website about changes to the landscape in LBL that are opposed by members of the group, "Coalition for the Preservation of Land Between the Lake." It helps answer the question of why Beverly Hammonds came here in 2015 and felt it necessary to insult me for something I wrote in 2007.

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Enrich your life with the study of trees.

"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

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Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

Photos and text copyright © 2006-2010 by Genevieve L. Netz. All rights reserved. Do not republish without written permission. My e-mail address is