Into the Woods
Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chapter Begins Long-Term Woodlands Restoration
Under an April early morning sun, a large band of Bethesda-Chevy Chase (Maryland) Chapter members fanned out across one of the fields on the chapter’s 523-acre property. By that evening, they had planted more than 1,000 young trees. This effort was just the start of a long-term stewardship plan for the chapter’s Poolesville Farm property. It also represents the chapter’s forward-looking goal of creating a responsible conservation program that will serve as a model for sustainable natural resource management of woodlands in central Montgomery County, Maryland, and elsewhere.
Earlier in the month, chapter members cleared brush and fallen trees from the fields in preparation for the planting. One four-acre field had never been quality farm land due to very wet conditions that prevail in its southern half. The goal for the northern border of another field was to expand and extend wildlife habitat. The chapter planted a random mix of native tree species that naturally thrive in this area and can tolerate both the wet and dry conditions in the fields. When mature, they will provide habitat and forage resources for wildlife. The “wet” species included Swamp White Oak, Swamp Chestnut Oak, Green Ash, Red Osier Dogwood, Sawtooth Oak, and Pin Oak. “Dry” areas were planted with Hazelnut, White Oak, Chestnut Oak, Persimmon, Red Oak, and Red Bud.
Each young tree was carefully planted with nutrient supplements to encourage growth and covered with a plastic deer guard that allows sunlight to reach the tree. The species of each tree was listed on supporting stakes, and every tree was individually numbered and cataloged in a computerized database so the survival of each tree can be monitored and the overall success of the trees evaluated as they grow. Lessons learned from this planting will guide future efforts to restore and manage wildlife habitat on the farm.
The chapter purchased the trees from the Maryland Forest Service’s tree nursery, which produces tree and shrub seedlings for reforestation and other plantings across Maryland and Delaware. The chapter also applied for cost-sharing from the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP), a program that encourages the restoration and ecologically sound management of wildlife areas.
While we were planting these trees, many of us mused on what the original owners of the land would think of our efforts. No doubt in 1825, the families of Robert Dick and Jesse Hyatt spent a great deal of time and effort clearing the then Piney Hill Farm land of trees so they could plant their crops! In their day, farming was the management practice, but times have changed. One hundred and eight-five years later, we have come full circle, and we are now are striving to ensure responsible stewardship of the land and wildlife by replacing the trees they removed.
— Steven Swartz, Conservation and Education Committee chair, Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chapter