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A "Whack" for the Future at Mingo National Wildlife Refuge
Midwest Region, October 1, 2012
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A carpet of oak seedlings waiting to become the next massive oak tree.
A carpet of oak seedlings waiting to become the next massive oak tree. - Photo Credit: B. Pendley/USFWS
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff mechanically and chemically treated soft mass trees within the treatment area at each point.
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff mechanically and chemically treated soft mass trees within the treatment area at each point. - Photo Credit: L. Landowski/USFWS

A forest assessment project with the Missouri Department of Conservation last fall led to a forest restoration project in 2012. The flood in the spring of 2011 led efforts to assess the effects of long-term flooding on bottomland hardwood trees, such as oaks and hickories. It was discovered that the flood had removed some of the organic litter layer, which allowed numerous pin oak seedlings to take root and sprout around the base of massive oak trees. In order for the seedlings to become future acorn-producing trees for wildlife, it must compete for sunlight. The understory canopy must be “opened” to “release” the growth of the seedlings. Some of the understory trees are soft mast trees which consist of maples, ash, sycamore, sweetgum, and sassafras.

In the study area, a total of 393 trees were marked and GPS’ed last fall. At each point, a crew ranging from volunteers, interns, Youth Conservation Corps, and staff, mechanically and chemically treated all soft mast trees in a 60-foot radius from the main oak tree. All soft mast trees less than 6” diameter breast height would either be bent by hand or had marks “whacked” into the tree with a hatchet and then squirted with a small amount of herbicide. This method is known as “hack ‘n squirt.” It is another forest management tool that can be used where heavy equipment may not be the best option to achieve the same effect of opening the canopy for sunlight. The treated trees will die and open the canopy for the carpet of seedlings ready to take flight and become the next generation of mighty oak trees for wildlife.


Contact Info: Lindsey Landowski, 573-343-4268, lindsey_landowski@fws.gov



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