One of the final steps in the Corps’ Environment Management Program Pool 8 project began April 20 with the last season of tree plantings on islands south of Brownsville, Minn.
The Corps, in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or USFWS, will plant more than 4,900 seedlings this spring on islands created during the past few years of environmental rehab on the Mississippi River. Within Pool 8 there are more than 125 acres of islands providing habitat for a wide variety of species. “Through this project we’ve done a complete makeover of the river,” said Jim Nissen, USFWS Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge district manager. “It’s really been a great success story.”
With an eye toward the future, the district’s foresters developed the island planting pattern with a focus on future growth, while addressing the lessons learned from the past. Bobby Jackson, district forester, said, “We determine what species are planted, and their location based on the [island’s] elevation.” Understanding what trees do best in low-lying areas helps increase the survivability rate of the trees. Jackson said, every one of the 10 different tree species being planted this year can survive up to 30 consecutive days of flooding. He added that he hopes to have at least 75 to 80 percent of the trees survive.
Randy Urich, environmental section manager, said, one of the reasons that he’s excited about the survivability rate is because they are adding more tree species to the islands to include a very unique American elm tree.
Urich said the elms they are using are Dutch elm disease tolerant. He said the U.S. Forest Service originally found six different variations of Dutch elm tolerant parents, and they have developed cuttings that are now available to plant. He added that these elm trees are also tolerant of shade and can live with limited sunlight while taller trees grow and die. “The elms can wait and begin the second generation in the forest.”