Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
Lumberjacks for a Day
Midwest Region, November 22, 2009
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Not many things keep us off the Missouri River, however a river chocked full of ice will put a halt to our sampling.  After a couple cold weeks this January, the main channel of the Missouri became an ice-sheet superhighway and the wing dike pools were frozen solid.  Fish sampling was simply impossible.  Since river work wasn’t an option, Wyatt Doyle gave Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge (NWR) a call to see if they needed any help.   It turns out that they had plenty of invasive cedar trees on the refuge that they would love to see cut down.  This invitation provided Columbia FWCO the opportunity to repay Big Muddy for all the help they have given us with field sampling over the years    

Wyatt, Andy Plauck, Joe McMullen, and Colby Wrasse loaded up the trucks and made the short drive to the Overton Bottoms Unit of Big Muddy NWR.  Since none of us had the necessary DOI chainsaw training, we would be using only hand saws, our muscles, and the sweat off our brows to take down the cedars.  These invasive trees were not hard to find, being the only green on the brown winter landscape.  They were pretty much everywhere, sprouting up like unwanted weeds in a vegetable garden.   Removing trees from a wildlife refuge may seem strange to some people, but cedar trees can become quite invasive and will outcompete beneficial native grasses.

 We worked at a feverous pace, attacking these trees with all we had, determined to show them who was boss.  Some of the smaller trees were felled within seconds, while the larger trees put up an exhaustive fight.  After three days, we had removed nearly all the cedar trees that we were asked to take out.  We estimated that we cut down over one thousand of these invasive trees.  At the end of the day we were tired, but also proud of the work we had accomplished.  With the removal of these invasive trees, desirable vegetation will stand a better chance of becoming established on the Overton Bottoms unit of big Muddy NWR.   We also learned some valuable lessons along the way; for example, you can still get a bad case of poison ivy in January.

Working cooperatively is nothing new for Columbia FWCO and Big Muddy NWR.  In fact, Big Muddy refuge was an idea shared and fought for by founding project leader of Columbia FWCO (Jim Milligan) over 15 years ago, and although our offices are separate, our vision has always been to conserve the terrestrial and aquatic communities of the Missouri River Valley.


Colby Wrasse

Wyatt Doyle

Andy Plauck

Contact Info: Colby Wrasse, 573-234-2132 x30, colby_wrasse@fws.gov
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