Not long ago, we received a delightful visit from two local friends, one of whom is an ecologist and the other a tender of oaks on their property not far from Liberation Park.
Our sense that the various eco-zones of our little coulee are in pretty good shape was reinforced (in line with what prairie restoration & wild flower friends have told us). We were given pragmatic advice on how to nurture our oak populations and be friendly to critters, too.
Oaks have been dwindling in Wisconsin since the European invasion began. The natural fires that are part of prairie, savanna, and oak forest ecologies were repressed for the sake of domesticated crops and livestock. Without fire, other species — maples, birches, aspens — fill in the understory and shade out the oak seedlings. Though there may be majestic adult oaks present, their offspring cannot grow to take their place. Thinning the competing species — we have plenty of maples, birches, aspens — and controlled burns should enable the oaks to thrive in our coulee, if not the rest of Wisconsin.
Midst the more sun filled spaces around the oaks grasses and wild flowers can also thrive. A beautiful ecology that belongs here!